Pop Tart Psychology

Posted: January 23rd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate | No Comments »

A few years ago when we were in Connecticut visiting Mark’s sister and hubby they had Pop Tarts in the house, and in the course of the visit we had them for brekkie. So when we got home Mark got some at the grocery store–two packs since they were a BOGO item, i.e. “Buy One Get One” free. (This is what you learn from having a grocery store client for as long as I have.) I lamented that we shouldn’t eat those. They were a special “when we were at someone else’s house or up in Tahoe” treat. (For some reason when you go to Tahoe you’re allowed to eat like a 12-year-old latch child.) Then I polished off both boxes before I think Mark even got one.

We went for a spell without getting them. I put my (much fatter) foot down and managed to convince Mark that cinnamon toast was just as sugary.

Well I looked in the cupboard a couple days ago and what do I see but two gargantuan boxes of Pop Tarts. Brown sugar–not even my flavor. I prefer blueberry. Though that didn’t stop me from snarfing them up in the past, nor did it this time.

And so I’m sitting here with a cup of Earl Grey decaf and now my second Pop Tart and thinking this gastronomic decline just makes perfect sense right now. Everything else in my world seems to be coming a bit more unglued than I’d like–though I did check in with Mark recently to see if I was just being dramatic and/or hormonal. He kinda didn’t answer….

Yesterday morning we finally had our pitch. A response to an RFP to keep an existing client. Their bean counters (I assume) have all vendors bid or re-bid as it were for the work every several years to make sure they’re getting the most bang for their buck. And while I don’t blame them, bidding to keep work you already have is the worst. Losing hurts more than losing to a client you never had. And winning really just gets you back to where you were before you devoted weeks of stress, extra work, and new gray hairs to it all.

That said, pitching at a publishing company does beat pitching at an agency. I mean, this wasn’t a 25-person roller coaster ride from hell that involved experts pulled in from offices in other time zones and executives who two days before the pitch determine all the work that’s been done is in the totally wrong direction, and ‘y’all should probably execute against this strategy now.’

Weirdly, I was the exec in this pitch. Not that I haven’t been a Big Girl on these things in the past, but at least then I was one in a team. And now it’s just kinda me and other people who don’t seem to have tons of experience pitching who intermittently seem to get it, then suddenly do something leaving me fretting that they don’t get it at all.

Self-imposed stress can be the worst of it all. As long as someone else more senior than you tells you what you’re doing sucks, you’re confident in that assessment. But when it’s you telling you, you can’t help but wonder if maybe what you’ve been slaving over is really okay, or even kinda good, and you’re just being hard on yourself. Then, moments later, you are utterly convinced of its suckingness.

At any rate, there were no endlessly long late nights. Nor excessive weekends of work. But my brain was totally co-opted by thoughts of this so even Kate Time occasionally felt slightly tainted by work thoughts. Which is not The Plan. The Plan is to have the job that I do when I do it and not obsess over it and have it affect my sleep, and make me snap at the people working with me since I wish they had more experience pitching, and decide to go into the office on my work-from-home day, so not be able to drive Kate and the nanny to Gymboree and then feel guilty that my work is seeping into places that are not in The Plan.

For all this I had to be in LA overnight. Kate did a great job of making me feel even worse about it all by getting a cold and being especially sad and Mommy-clingy. And it was all about me just getting home after the pitch and then I’d have the rest of the week and weekend with her, but my bag got lost and I ended up sitting in the airport fuming and waiting for the next plane to land. An hour spent waiting for your bag to turn up sucks in any scenario, but one in which you are desperate to get back to the baby you’ve been fearing you’re been short-shrifting, makes it intolerable.

At one point, with only 20 more minutes to wait, I considered getting in my car and driving home to see Kate, and just getting the bag another day.

Of course, while waiting I had umpteen work calls and several of them indicated I might need to do some work the next day (my day off). This sent me into the stress stratosphere.

Thankfully by Friday morning it became apparent that the meeting I thought I might need to have wasn’t going to happen. I might get my day off after all. And the clouds–like those white fluffy ones in the opening sequence of The Simpsons–seemed to part and some rays of sun made their way down to me and my self pity. I resolved that next week I’d take my work-from-home day from home, and to take my day off off.

And if that wasn’t good enough, when I did check work email later that day (despite my best intentions—clearly I am part of the problem), I discovered that something I’d been working on for weeks that had been caught up in corporate red tape had suddenly slipped past the goalie and my mission was accomplished. It was one of those things that I was resolved to get up my dukes over and suddenly and anti-climactically the problem vanished. Poof!

It’s so weird when you are in a mental groove and then you’re spit out the other end of it. It was like my psyche was still crunched up in a grumpy stress ball and was having trouble shaking it off and going to the light.

I can have work-life balance. I can spend time with Kate and Mark and still have a satisfying career. I’d still be getting this new crop of gray hair even if I was home being fed peeled grapes. If I keep chanting it, it will all be true, right?

Perhaps I’m approaching the recent appearance of Pop Tarts with the totally wrong attitude. Maybe I should behold them as a celebratory indulgence that’s suddenly there for the takin’, not the specter of poor nutrition that’s symptomatic of temporary poor life management.

Either way, they sure do toast up nice.

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Tomorrow’s a Brand New Day, Right?

Posted: October 2nd, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Miss Kate | No Comments »

Oy vey. This week has just got to be better than last week. If not, someone please send me a cookie bouquet or something. Sheesh.

So the job seems like it will be good. Smart and funny folks. And everyone is crazy friendly. At times I’ve felt like I’m back in the groove–asking the right questions, making insightful observations in meetings, and even looking natty in my new work clothes. At other times I’ve sputtered out the totally wrong word (voicemail introducing myself to client saying “See you at the lay-off meeting” instead of the “layout meeting.” D’oh!) And then sometimes I get in that kinda sleepy, slap happy mode of being too familiar and jocular with people who instead of having fun with me seem to be mildly freaked out that I’m their new boss and I suddenly realize I should cinch my personality girdle in a bit tighter.

The nanny. We’ve clashed once already when I called to say I was stuck in traffic and would be 5 minutes late and she told me in a not so friendly manner that she just couldn’t stay. She had things to do and somewhere to be. I mean, I appreciate her life and respect her time but it was the second day with a new commute and I was still trying to figure out how long it would all take.

So, in a panic I called four local friends getting voicemails all around and leaving desperate pleas could they please call me if they got this and maybe go to the house and sit with Kate for a few minutes until I screeched into the driveway clutching the steering wheel with sweaty palms and a throbbing headache? No one was home. No one called back. I called the nanny again and really what ensued is too annoying to even go into but suffice it to say I wasn’t left with the warm fuzzies for how she and I will relate under duress.

But thankfully it was a three-day work week since Mark’s cousin Dan was getting hitched in Louisville (pronounced Loo-vul), Kentucky. So Thursday morning with the new-work-and-new-nanny part of the week behind me my alarm clock went off at 4:15AM and I greeted the day by dragging excessive luggage to the car, waking up a sleeping baby and schlepping to the airport in the icy dark morning. Once there I was making a bee-line for the gate since it was boarding time, but looked at my seat number (17A) instead of the gate number (3), so ran the length of the terminal with baby on hip, stroller loaded with large carry-on and carseat strapped to back chanting internally “one foot, the other foot, making progress, I can do it” only to arrive at last at destination, exhale with exhaustion, realize my error and turn around, sweat trickling down my chest, to run back to gate 3 twice as fast since I was really late then. (The argument with the gate attendant about why I couldn’t take the carseat onto the plane for Kate, even though there were free seats, was just gilding the lily.)

In Houston we met Mark. And boy was I crazy happy to see him in that misery loves company or at least loves to complain a lot to someone you really love way. In our second flight he unburdened me of baby, luggage, and most importantly the daunting feeling of doing it all alone (hail to you, single parents!). He really stepped up for much of the weekend too.

And Kentucky was fun at times. The Miller clan is always a hoot to hang out with, and many of Aunt Terry’s Lexington posse we’ve come to know a bit. And Kate had some babies to play with, and grandparents to adore her. Three nights of parties (BBQ, rehearsal dinner, wedding) were all fabulous and social, but really I would have been well-served to sit at home with greasy hair blankly staring at the TV and feeding myself Dove Bars. Since that wasn’t in the cards I did a sort of body cleansing by inbibing excessive amounts of bourbon. Not what I needed to feel rested and geared up for Week Number 2 of New Job, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Time to sleep since I’m already cutting into my much-needed 8 hours. And I know it’s all going to get so much better, if I can just wake up for it.

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Things Not To Do

Posted: September 25th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate | 2 Comments »

Do not start a new job and leave your daughter for the first time with a new nanny who for all you know could be an axe-murderer in the same week when your husband is away on a business trip and on Thursday you’ll already need to take a day off and be all packed and get yourself and your baby onto a 6AM flight to go to a family wedding.

Do not get your period the morning of your first day of work and have miserable cramps. And don’t forget to take Advil before you leave the house and spend the whole day hoping that you’ll magically find some in your office in the 30 second breaks between your back-to-back getting-to-know-you need-to-make-a-good-first-impression meetings.

Do not wear a pink dress shirt under a black dress on your first day of work, thinking it looks cute until you arrive at the office and realize you look like an overgrown girl in a Catholic school uniform.

Do not take on management of a community event when you are starting a new job and your husband is away on a business trip.

Do not freak out that the nanny that you hired is possibly terrible and that your daughter no longer loves you after one day left with a total stranger who you hope she will come to like someday, but not too much.

Do not get lost on your first drive home from your first day of work and ultimately sit in extra traffic and have to call the nanny and tell her you’ll be late and can she possible stay longer–establishing yourself in her mind as irresponsible (and as having a bad sense of direction).

Do not cry on the phone to your husband after feeding and bathing a crying overtired baby who didn’t take an afternoon nap, making him feel terrible about being away on a business trip.

Do not spend an hour updating a spreadsheet for your community event planning (which you have foisted off on your benevolent friend) when all you want to do is space out and watch TV, then have your computer crash and lose all your work.

Do not underestimate the many emails and calls you got from friends asking how your first day of work was, sending heaps of encouragement, and making you feel somewhat validated that this is indeed a big transition and worthy of stress, exhaustion, and anxiety but given time could turn out to be just fine and maybe even very rewarding.

Do not give into the temptation to ask your husband to come home from his business trip early just because you miss him madly and feel bad that he feels bad that you feel bad. Do go to sleep grateful to have him and looking forward to how happy you will be to see him in the Houston airport on Thursday.


The Cranky McCluskys

Posted: September 5th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Husbandry, Miss Kate | No Comments »

Yesterday, man, were we cranky. I’m not sure who started it but Kate was not herself. Maybe teething, maybe just asserting an uglier part of her personality that thankfully has been dormant for much of her existence. And she didn’t take a morning nap and then I was jangled because it didn’t give me a break and then I was snappish with Mark and/or either he or I or Kate started it all and it unraveled from there. At any rate, there was not a lot of merrymaking at this house yesterday. Nothing too terribly miserable either–just cranky.

At one point we took Kate to a local kiddy park that a kind of crazy person in the ‘hood always talks about, and once we were there and Kate was on the swings for 3.5 minutes Mark and I looked at each other and wondered what else to do. Sometimes you just forget what to do with the baby and the time before her bedtime stretches on infinitely, like when you’re watching the clock at a temp job.

And during this jaunt to the park, in which we spent a sum total of 8 minutes (but were at least grateful for having used up that much of time), Mark said something about the four-day weekend and running out of baby-entertainment ideas. Even though I was right there with him–baffled as to what to do with her, with all of us, next–it was an interesting insight into what it’s like to have a job and not just do the Kate thing day after day.

This is of particular interest because I now have a job. Well, I got a job and I guess that means I “have” it, though it hasn’t manifested itself into something that I go and do yet. Right now it just exists in the abstract, and my attention is focused on telling my friends and family the “I have a job” story, and looking for a nanny.

I met a nanny today who I’d held out irrational hope for as being a perfect Mary Poppins. She was the first person I interviewed and even though she was smart and sweet and seemed to be someone who would be responsible and maybe even fun with Kate, I didn’t feel like she was The One. She didn’t sufficiently flip out over Kate’s beauty, intelligence, and charisma. And the fact that I didn’t love her, and either apparently did Kate, left me feeling like I might get to a place of feeling desperate or scared or having to make a childcare decision that doesn’t rock me to my soul with right-ness. Though really, I know Mark and myself enough to know we would never do that.

Today Kate exhibited more nap-refusal and crankitude that made me start thinking like Mark was yesterday. Soon there will be a day when I know that even if she’s having a rare grumpy day or even just an episode, I’ll have another place to go/thing to do tomorrow, and somehow that will make it easier to endure the fuss. (Of course, even having that thought made me feel guilty…)

It reminded me of the thing that you do when you’re moving out of New York City. (I did this, but I assume anyone who leaves there does it too.) So, when you move out of New York, in the time that you know you are moving but you haven’t yet gone, you let all the totally crappy things about living there seep into your consciousness. Actually, you not only let them seep in, you celebrate them:
No more urine drenched subway tunnels!
No more $17 omelets!
No more having your feet in your shower stall when you’re sitting on the toilet because your bathroom is so damn small!

Well, you get the point. There is no place like New York. The place you are going won’t have anywhere near the energy or the opportunities or the 4AM Indian food delivery. But you need to rationalize hard about how you are making the right decision.

With my return to work date looming, I’m trying to trick myself into this very headset. So I will be away from Kate for 30 hours a week. Well, I’ll have fewer stinky diapers to change! I won’t be calling Mark at his office when she’s cranky and I just need to vent for a sec because I won’t be there either! I’ll…

God, the fact is, it’s hard to even come up with the reasons why it’ll be good to leave her. So instead of thinking of all the things that suck about NYC, I think I need to focus on the good things that await me in the place I am going to.

And hopefully, I’ll have a much greater appreciation for all manner of stinky diapers, toddler meltdowns, and long days before bedtimes when I get them.

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One Year Clean!

Posted: August 26th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion | No Comments »

Today marks one year that I have been out of work. I haven’t not worked for this long since high school, or possibly before then. I feel like I should be getting a pin in some ceremony in a church basement where other stay-at-home moms clap and cheer on my progress.

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The People in My Neighborhood

Posted: August 22nd, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Friends and Strangers, Misc Neuroses | 1 Comment »

So I’ve been interviewing for jobs (yeah yeah, haven’t even skimmed the surface here of all my thoughts on that). And I go to this one interview for a job and I’m feeling some interest and then they tell me about this other bigger, better job that gives me that whole “I still got it!” adrenaline rush and next thing you know I’m driving home thinking about hiring a full-time nanny and moving the whole family to the other side of the Bay.

Of course, when I woke up the next day all these thoughts had me breathing into a paper bag and I was hugging Little Miss Kate and kissing her head as if I’d just sold her on eBay and immediately needed to hand her over to her new owner. So, I stopped and thought (thanks to much great advice from Mark, Lisa and a host of other friends), let’s just take this one step at a time. I don’t even have an offer yet, and if I get one, maybe we don’t need to move. Ah…

Well, that lasted for 3 minutes until I bounced back into a frantic housing quest on Craig’s List while compulsively asking myself, do I like living in Oakland enough to commute? Do I like our house? Am I happy? Is chicken parm really my favorite dinner?

All this was exhausting. And so as I was sitting at the very desk where I’m sitting now, checking email and conducting other such electronic busy work, I saw my neighbor walk out of her house with her yoga matt tucked under her arm and realized that was exactly what I needed. It was evening, Kate was asleep and Mark was home. So I stumbled into the kitchen while pulling off my jeans and wondering where my matt was and asked Mark if he’d mind if I ditched dinner for a dose of physical and spititual well-being. Within 7 minutes I was unrolling my matt at the fab yoga studio that’s a block from our house and chatting with my neighbor. I was settled in on my sit bones and breathig deeply by the first Om.

After class my neighbor and I walked home through the tree-lined streets and I felt like I was floating–a totally different human then two hours earlier. How great that we live here. How great that my neighbor is a friendly yogini. This is something I might not get somewhere else, right?

Sunday I went to a meeting to help plan an event at a local kiddie park. They’ve added some new things–swings, picnic tables, etc.–and are having a community party to unveil it all. Another neighbor has been entrenched in this project from an architectural/design standpoint pro bono for years. So I sat in some woman’s cool family home–a beautiful Craftsman that I’d admired on walks before–and ate grapes and cookies and drank tea and met some other cool people who really love and care for and work hard on making Rockridge a better place to live. The spirit was contagious.

At the meeting’s end, the hostess walked us to the door and said to me and my friend Jacqueline (whom I’d enlisted) how good it was to have a new crop of young mothers working on this family/community stuff. She’s been involved since her now-15-year old was a toddler.

I am happy to carry the baton for the next generation! I pledge my allegiance to all things Rockridge!

And Monday. The night before Kate was up three times, which sucks because that means I was too (and will she EVER sleep through the night?), but also because I was having a, say, stomach affliction that had me running to the bathroom between tending to her. The next day I was pale and still sicky. I had no plans (unusual), and a baby who I’d be hard-pressed to deal with if she started to get fussy. The most distraction I could muster for her was a walk to Safeway, and as I’m slowly getting us ready to go out into the gloomy day, the doorbell rings. It’s Architect Mama Neighbor who smiles and hands over an armful of cute baby clothes for La Kate–hand-me-downs from her toddler. Our 5-minute visit was neither an intense bonding sesh, nor super interesting in any way, but it was a perfectly timed drop-in on a day when I was convinced there was no one else in the world but sicky me and little Kate. Hooray! If I continue to live here I may not ever be one of those people who dies and is discovered weeks later just because of the stench.

Yesterday, my kumbaya experience was capped off by Yoga Lady Neighbor who I saw at the schmancy local market. She was in a hurry–off to get home and eat before heading to the corner coffee shop where her knitting group meets weekly.

Do I knit? Or would I like to learn how? It’s a really fun and mellow group. Or, if I didn’t want to learn there, she’d’ be happy to teach me another time one-on-one. She has a bunch of extra needles I could use.

Well, as evidenced by my lame-assed attempts to contribute to the afghan that friends and family made for Kate, I don’t know that I’ll ever be a knitter. But I will be happy knowing that on Monday nights there is a group of friendly woman who are a’knittin’ and a’perlin’ just a stone’s throw away, who’d welcome me even if I were to walk in and profess my utter ineptitude.

So we are here. We live in Rockridge and it’s our home. For a while, I was lured into forsaking it, but then it became clear to me that there are so many reasons–some that I don’t even know yet–that it’s good and right to be here. So if I take a job that’s not in my backyard (or at this very desk!), I drive a little bit to get there. At least at the end of the day I’ll come home to the all the great people and places in my neighborhood.

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Maternal Career Crisis #683

Posted: August 11th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Miss Kate | 2 Comments »

It seems like nearly every Mama I’ve spoken to these days has been wrangling with the whole work and kid issue. Or more likely I am, and I’m projecting.

The How to Be a Mother and Have a Career Struggle™ is nothing new, God knows. And it’s like heartburn. It’s an incredibly common ailment, but once you have it yourself you want to curl up and die. You are the first person ever to have heartburn. It sucks.

All mothers working or not struggle with whether they’re doing one or both jobs well enough, whether their mothering will suffer if they work, or their career will suffer if they don’t work. Or they feel guilty that they aren’t working and don’t want to, or feel bad that they can’t imagine ever not working. And no configuration of work and parenting ever seems to strike the right balance for terribly long. At least, this is the case for many of the women I know.

I am the former workaholic maniac who cried for two days a couple weeks into Kate’s life that I couldn’t do this and we needed to get a nanny. I felt a sudden crushing need to flee back to the stringent, stressful halogen-lit, mother ship agency where, even though I’d complained about it incessantly at times, I was secure and comfortable and competent to perform the tasks given to me. Despite the pressure and the politics I did experience intermittent adrenaline rushes of job satisfaction, mixed with smugness that English majors really can make a lot of money. Being at home with a crying newborn did not provide any of those things.

But the two days I cried over fear of the unknown as a new parent were infinitesimal compared to the crazy, painful, and at times terrifying love that I had for this little human Mark and I made. Any panicked desire to run back into the arms of my old job was followed by a tsunami of anguish over the thought of someone else caring for Kate. It must be what it feels like when you are hypnotized to quit smoking. You still get that habitual urge, but then you’re overcome with sudden, strong negative association to barf, or cluck like a chicken, or whatever thing it was your guarantee-to-quit package bought you.

So Mark and I decided that for whatever amount of time made sense financially and emotionally for us, we’d instate Kate as my new boss.

Aside from the fact that she was sweet and beautiful and smelled like buttered toast and I was overcome with crazy mama-bear love, my new gig was not without its hardships. Being a new mother has an ass-kicking learning curve that kept me on my toes. And I love a good challenge, so I jumped into the new role with gusto.

I set the bar high, and usually met my goals. I showered every day. I kept the house OCD tidy. I stayed on top of the mountains of laundry. I wrote thank you notes, bought groceries at Costco, Safeway and the farmer’s market, lunched with friends, and even baked for my mother’s group. And of course I nursed, and loved, and diapered, and burped and kissed little Miss Kate on a relentless round-the-clock schedule. There is a culture shock to having a baby that no friend, no matter how gifted their powers of communication are, can adequately express to you. There is a lot to do, you feel like you’re operating in a hazy alternate universe where everyone’s voice sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and there are no scheduled coffee breaks. (In fact, coffee, which you need now more than all your exam weeks combined, you fear will keep the baby up so you avoid like the plague.) All this said, I love my new mama life.

Anyone from my past work life who asked me over lunch how it is being at home I’m sure went back to their offices and made gagging motions when describing to others how I’m doing. My new job with Kate has exceeded my expectations in every way, and I’ve felt the urge to shout it from the rooftops. I know it’s obnoxious, but I can’t help myself. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in a life that’s been characterized by unfailing happiness. (I think that makes me meta happy.) Shocking as it is, I’m the poster girl for staying home with your baby. I’m the consummate Happy Homemaker. I even had a dalliance with scrapbooking that I’ve since abandoned, but still. Scrapbooking! Me!

So just when I have a handle on this new life, I’ve recently been experiencing these little urges to get back to doing some kind of work. I mean, it kills me that I even have these thoughts, because I’m still so happy being home with Kate. But they have kept cropping up, and I can’t repress them. It’s made me at times a bit schizophrenic.

A typical scenario: I frantically scour Craig’s List for jobs while Kate is taking a nap. When I go to get her out of her crib when she wakes up, I look down at her smiley cuteness and practically sob and clutch her to me like a deranged wild woman. I feel like Help Wanted ads are my secret lover. I am cheating on Kate with Craig’s List.

But can’t there be some kind of balance? [Insert Motherhood/Career Balance Quandary Rant ™ here.] Can’t I start to contribute to the financial health of the McClusky family, lessen the moneymaking burden on Mark, find satisfaction in using my brain in the way that my parents spent $80K on my college education for, and still be an excellent mother who somehow gets to always be there every time Kate wakes up from a nap? I mean, isn’t there a way to do this without resorting to a phone sex operator career?

Sacha, my dear mother’s group cohort, and one of the few of the 11 of us who didn’t return to work post-baby, just accepted a job and is putting her money on making the mom/career balance work. Her job sounds amazing and enriching and rewarding and fun even, and I wish her the best of luck in making it work. I think it can be done. I want her to make it work for her sake and for Baby Owen’s and for women everywhere. But I also selfishly want her to be around for me so we can take the babies swimming together on weekdays, and plan myriad other when-the-babies-wake-up jaunts, and continue to share notes on our Neo June Cleaver family-focused existences that nearly a year into our children’s lives are no longer quite so novel.

On the other hand, because I’ve now started to explore some intriguing job options of my own, maybe Sacha and I will just move onto a new and different level of comraderie, emotional support, and friendship. I never imagined that an office would be a strange, foreign realm to me. My next challenge might just be reacquainting myself with that once-familiar place—most likely in a fashion that’s far different from my past work life. In the same way that I needed a team of women to help me process making the leap into motherhood, I imagine I’ll need a similar support group for wrangling with re-entering the workforce while keeping the home fires burning.

If that is what I decide to do, hopefully Kate will understand that my need to set one toe back into the work world doesn’t mean I love her any less, or won’t desperately miss always being the one to get her out of her crib when she wakes up from a nap.


A Luxury I Can’t Afford

Posted: May 26th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Miss Kate | No Comments »

What do you do when your baby is crying unless you’ll hold her, your stomach is growling for a long-overdue breakfast, and you have to pack for a long weekend–including gathering BBQ food, wine, baby food, and clothes for you and the wee one, and somehow get it all into the car so you can pick up your husband from work in two hours? Write in your blog, that’s what! I don’t have the disposable income I once had, nor do I have the unfettered time to check email or get into more than 3 pages of a book at a time, so writing has become my Calgon-take-me-away bath. Even when I should be doing a million other things. (Mark, assume I’ll be late to pick you up.)

I’ve been thinking a bit about communities lately. For many many years one of the most dominant ones in my life was the office. The people I worked for and with, and who–big-girl as it seemed–worked for me. By virtue of simply spending so much time in that world, and being so tired after departing it each day, it was my default community (family, Mark, and friends aside of course). And sadly those folks often did become parenthetical when work demands occupied my psyche.

Like a dinner party where you invite people who don’t know each other and everyone hits it off, it’s nice when someone from one realm of your life makes the move into another. Work is becoming a distanter and distanter memory (a grammatical joke the likes of which my father and I make), but yesterday I had the pleasure of having lunch with someone from that world.

John can not only order sushi in a really good Japanese accent (though, what do I know), he’s a kick-ass creative director and all-around good guy. We didn’t work together for all that long, but did get thrown into one of those understaffed, impossible-deadline plumbs of an account together. And amidst the mayhem, John was always a joy to work with. This is a guy who has not only redesigned and revitalized websites for dozens of Fortune 500 corporations, he’s also a Buddhist monk who has fasted for weeks at a time, and, more incredibly, not *spoken* for several-month stints while meditating. It’s not often that you’ll find these qualities housed in the same human. So, John is also no longer working at The Former Agency, so we were able to talk about Life After as though we both swam across a river full of leeches and got to the other side without a single one sticking to us. Our lunch was essentially us double high-fiving each other on the banks of the new shore, and thumping each other on the backs. Hooray! I am happy that John is now on this side with me. The Former Agency had a lot of issues, stresses and politics, but it also had some extremely talented, smart and funny folks. I’d hate to lose them just because my new job doesn’t require me to have a building security badge.

In my moving-to-Oakland-after-13-years-in-SF, leaving work, and having a baby time (when I go for change, I go all out), my need for new communities was nothing short of desperate. The one that has saved my emotional hide, welcomed me with bleary eyes, and been a haven of humor (and food) is hands-down my Oakland mother’s group. (Hello mamas! I salute you!) This is one extremely fab group of women who Kate and I have spent at least one afternoon a week with since Kate was 3-weeks old. It’s made up of 11 baby-mama couples, and there’s not one rotten egg in the bunch! And I realized a while back that we’re comprised quite amazingly of all straight women, who are even married to the men we had kids with. Did I mention we are in the SF Bay Area? This is astounding. Not that it’s better or worse for us to be this way, just *weird* in these parts. Hell, we could all pick up and move to San Diego or something and no one would bat an eyelash at us. Well, maybe some Republicans would. At any rate, it’s wonderfully affirming to have a group of people you feel comfortable enough around to talk about cracked bleeding nipples (not mine, thank God), the challenges of career and parenting, and the wonders of so-and-so’s head circumference being in the 95th percentile. Whatever your concern, quandary or need for celebration, these women have your back. THANK GOD I found them.

The other community I’m proud and happy to say I found is at Chaparral House–the nursing home Kate and I hang out in on Wednesday afternoons. It’s home to Kate’s wonderful adoptive Grandma Rose, Gladys, and Dorothy, the other volunteers, like Janet, who have so much respect and interest in the residents there, and a caring nursing staff–especially the Tibetan nurse who whisks Kate out of my hands the second she sees her and says, “Tell Mama bye-bye. You come with me now!” This week as we were walking out, I peered into the activities room to see that Sandi was custom-making sundaes for everyone. “Come on in! What topping would you like?” Why, don’t mind if I do, I thought. The grocery store and Kate’s overdue nap could wait 10 minutes. As I ate my sundae with Kate grabbing for the spoon, I looked around at some women in wheelchairs and a volunteer setting up a large-print Scrabble board (who knew?) and realized how at home Kate and I were there. Four months in, Chaparral House has become a super-cool new place that Kate and I are lucky to be part of. Thank you volunteermatch.com!

So here I stand on the far banks of the river barely able to see The Former Agency any more. And the bonfires on this side are blazing. I’m holding on my hip the most important young member of my new life, sweet Kate. At one fire the super-cool mamas and the babies from my mother’s group are gathered. At another the gang from Chaparral House are hanging out in their wheelchairs, with Rose admonishing them to not give Kate the evil eye. And by my side is the love-of-my-life, the one I’ve been luckiest to manage get on my team, Mark.

I’ve made it to the other side, and it rocks here.

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Bagel Day–Not

Posted: April 21st, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion | No Comments »

One of the things that’s hard about not working in an office is waking up hungry on a Friday morning and facing the reality that, for you, it’s not bagel day. Noone has delivered fresh bagels and cream cheese to my kitchen this morning. I am left alone to forge for my breakfast.

As distressing as this is, it’s not enough to get me back into the rat race. Almost, but not quite.

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