I have to teach the Level 1 Atrium (Sunday School) class this weekend.
What better time to go shooting my
mouth keyboard off about religion.
I have to teach the Level 1 Atrium (Sunday School) class this weekend.
What better time to go shooting my
mouth keyboard off about religion.
It's a good day when the phone doesn't ring.
When I return to my desk and there are no messages on my cell phone, I breathe a sigh of relief. I've been here three weeks and already I've gotten....
This is __________ Elementary School, I know it's 15 minutes before school gets out, but your (younger) son has a fever and someone needs to pick him up and take him home (I got that message 20 minutes later, they sent him home on the bus).
This is __________ Elementary School, your (younger) son is having trouble staying awake, is there anyone who can take him home for a nap for a little while? (Uh, no.)
This is __________ Elementary School, your (older) son missed the bus, someone needs to come pick him up (The babysitter came and got him).
This is __________ Elementary School, your (younger) son is not behaving on the bus. We need to have a little talk (Uh, yeah, we need to have a loooong talk about Pumpkin).
It's gotten so that I dread seeing that number pop up on the screen. This is the tough part about working. I'm an hour away from home. It's a brand new job. I just can't take off, and without family in the area, it is very hard to secure backup.
In a couple of months, I will be able to work at home more and I will be more available to the school and the kids. Because this is a permanent job rather than a contract position, I have less immediate flexibility, but more time to build up credibility as a reliable employee. I may be all over the place, but the work gets done. The good news is that there are also a number of women here who are in higher positions and they are also parents. I can remember working in publishing 10 years ago where all the high-level women were divorced.
On Monday afternoon, the phone rang and the school's number was on the screen. It was Pumpkin's teacher. She just wanted to call and tell me that Pumpkin had had a fabulous day at school and she wanted to let me know. She didn't want all the calls I got to be negative. Bless her, she's wonderful.
At home Monday night, the phone rang, and the school's number came up (yes people, teachers work longer hours than your kid is in school). This time it was Tigger's teacher (also wonderful). He'd had a really tough day and was there something going on at home?
Sigh. The pattern continues. This happens with Tigger every year after the novelty wears off. We'll work through it.
And a couple of cheap CD players.
Traveling may have just gotten easier.
We still have a rental, so there is no third-row seat in our life yet. I did exchange the Forrester for a bigger car. They did have a Durango with a third-row available, but it was HUMONGOUS and I didn't think I could handle it after two years of being relatively low to the ground. We wound up with a Chevy Trailblazer. I don't really like it. It bounces way too much. Piper wasn't even in the car 20 minutes and he was getting carsick.
But the point of this post was that the three-hour road trip to New Hampshire, and almost all of the three hours back, passed relatively painlessly because I spent 30 minutes before the trip tracking down the cheap CD players, batteries, and working headphones for each of the boys. It worked like a charm, even if Tigger was listening to the same Beatles song over and over again. Hey, he was wearing headphones, I didn't have to listen to it (actually, I love the Beatles and I'm happy that he likes them too).
I am very happy that this works. But like the debate over the dreaded car DVD player, I'm a little sad that this is what it took.
I was a teenager when the Sony Walkman first came out, and I remember the lament about how society was becoming more isloated as a result of all these headphones. At the time, that was fine with me. The World of Walkman was a world that I created depending on the cassette tape (remember those?) I put in. the music took me to places I couldn't physically go. I could tuck the player in the inner pocket of my (illicit) denim jacket and be one of the tough kids, the ones who no one messed with - from preppy and privleged to punk. Even if it was only in my own head.
I do worry that the only way to keep the boys from fighting is to keep them separated. On the other hand we could all use our own space now and then. Just this weekend, my MIL told me the story of a couple who had installed a sheet of plexiglass in the middle of the back seat to keep their toddler from constantly poking the baby. Whatever works, I guess.
So in Piper's opinion, taking the boys to the Highland Games didn't totally suck. It's hard for me to gauge, because I hardly ever see other parents looking as harried as I feel. If they have children my kids' ages, the kids are generally walking with them, waiting in line, not fighting with each other. Somehow Tigger has it in his head that he's the brother police, and that it is his job to physically stop the Pumpkin whenever I call for the Pumpkin to wait for us. You can just imagine how much the Pumpkin loves that.
In the grand scheme of things though, I never lost sight of Pumpkin as I so often do as he's ducking and weaving through adults in the crowd, the boys never got so far ahead of me that I thought they were going to fall off the mountain. Tigger helped me get the lunches to our table and everyone thoroughly enjoyed our gondola ride to the top of the mountain.
It was a completely different day than we would have had by ourselves. We heard the bagpipe bands only in passing rather than in competition; we didn't sit for the harp or fiddle playing. Still we had a good time.
While Piper and I are still only fantasizing about taking them to Seattle, Toronto, San Diego; we are, at last, making progress.
I think I've just had about the creepiest experience of my entire life.
Since my car has been totalled, I had to go the the lot where it was stored and retrieve my plates (tags, for those in other parts of the country) as well as anything in the car that I wanted to keep. I practically lived in that car, so there was plenty - CDs, books, Legos, a notebook or two of Pumpkin's, a watch of Tigger's. I searched in vain for an earring I had lost. It's gone now.
I asked Piper to meet me there, and I'm really glad I did, because I knew I didn't want to be there myself with just the kids. For starters, the lot is far away from the highway, behind an abandoned strip club, and then it only gets sadder. My car, totalled though it may have been, was in the best shape of any there. Parked in front of it was a large SUV that had popped its airbags and blown some glass out. Next to that was the remains of a minivan that had clearly been in a rollover. If anyone got out of that alive, it was miraculous.
The kids were very excited about the whole thing. "Look at all these broken cars!" said the Pumpkin, over and over again. Tigger, no fool, picked up my feelings right away - "Did lots of people die in these cars?"
I kinda glossed over that one, talking about how cars had seatbelts and airbags to protect people, and look, I had had an accident, and I was still here. All the while, I was hearing car crashes in my head and imagining these poor people in their final moments.
Of course, the next words out of eagle-eye Tigger's mouth were "I didn't expect to see a skeleton here!"
It turns out that some twisted individual had nailed a
skull Halloween mask to the outside of a nearby storage shed. Boo! It will not surprise me if Tigger has some kind of nightmare about this place.
Cleaning out the car was sad. It always is, even when it's a normal trade in. But the people I know who have Subarus have them forever, and this one should have had a much longer life.
Meanwhile the kids were running around looking at everything, in spite of my orders to stay in the car. I kept hissing "don't touch anything!" like it was a public restroom. The detritus from dead cars was everywhere; tires, glass, pieces of bumper, license plates, assorted trash and something else really, really, weird.
Just as we were about to leave, one of the boys said they saw a knife. And there, on the ground, was indeed a large (but cheap) chef's knife. And a rubber glove.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
It's official, my car is dead.
I got the call this morning that they were declaring the Subaru a total loss and that they would need to pay off the loan. Now I have no car, no trade in, and no down payment.
As much as I was enjoying both shopping online and the prospect of buying something with a third row seat, I was a little sad at the news. I really did like that car, and it was perfect for my commute. It had just about anything I could have wanted in a car for myself including heated seats (oooooh, heated seats), perfect for my poor back. If only it had that third row seat - or separate child pods, yeah, somebody needs to invent boundary enforcing child pods for cars.
What I really wanted, when I bought the Subaru, was a Toyota Highlander - hopefully hybrid. Unfortunately, at the time not only were the hybrids more expensive, they were really rare. Now, two years, later, that is still the case. In fact, now in September, there isn't a 2007 Highlander (hybrid or no) with a third row seat to be had for love or money. Actually, I did find exactly one that is just about a perfect fit, but it's over an hour away.
So I find myself looking for an alternative. In the craziest moments of yelling and screaming and fighting fury between the boys, I actually considered a minivan, but now that the opportunity has presented itself, I'm
backing running away. I had a whole ranting post written on the subject of minivans, but I never published it. I will throw in that there ain't nothin' funnier than a NASCAR "3" on the back of a minivan, but I'll leave the rest of it unsaid. Minivans are just not my thing.
Before we had the Subaru, I drove a Ford Explorer. We bought it second hand, "wicked" cheap and it was 11 years old before it finally died a head gasket death, leaving us, once again, without a trade in. I loved that car very much and would have bought another one if the Bush administration hadn't gutted the CAFE standards that Clinton put into place before leaving office.
And now, with Highlanders so hard to get, Subarus not being quite big enough, and Explorers using too much gas (If you can put the hybrid engine in an Escape, why can't you put it in a minivan or a midsize SUV)?, I"m now looking at a Ford Freestyle. It is shaped a lot like the Explorer, but lower to the ground and more like a wagon. It has a third row seat (some seem to face backward, some forward - what's up with that?), and sometimes even a DVD player (yes, I swore I would never do that, but I just can't take the fighting anymore).
Does anyone out there have one of these? How do you like it and what did you drive before you purchased it? It's not a hybrid, but what is the mileage like?
Ugh, I don't really want to do this. I have a job and a family, and plans to go to the big bagpipe party next weekend. I don't have time to car shop!!!
This morning on my way to my third day at the new job, I was in a four-car accident on the highway. Fortunately, we weren't going all that fast and no one was hurt. Nobody's airbags even went off. My car might be totaled. It might not. I can't tell which one would be worse.
On the one hand, as much as I loved the Subaru, It really wasn't working for us. I bought it as a commuting car, but it is also the primary car for me and the kids. When I bought the thing I envisioned happy and cozy road trips to New Hampshire and Maine, a Thule capsule clamped to the roof. I completely spaced that Tigger is utterly incapable of keeping his hands to himself. And on those rare occasions when his hands are on his lap and his feet are in front of him, his mouth is going with little words or noises designed specifically to torment the Pumpkin until he is thrashing in his carseat with hands and feet flying. This happens any time we are in the car for more than ten minutes. There's not enough space between them, we are in desparate need of a third-row seat. I keep thinking they are going to cause me to get in an accident.
They are not to blame in this one. I was alone in the car, no talking on the phone, no putting on makeup, or playing with the radio. The two cars in front of me stopped short, I swerved to avoid them, but was rear-ended myself. When all the crashing and banging stopped, I called the police, my husband, and my brand. new. boss.
Of course, everyone was very understanding, but man, how embarrassing!
I still managed to get towed, get a rental (an even smaller Subaru), and get into the office by 10. I was thinking that getting rear-ended had aggravated my usual hip and shoulder strain (back problems run in my family), but I'm fine now. I noticed driving home that I'm a bit jittery on the road, and that worries me more than anything.
Something that makes me look less-than-reliable always happens when I start a new job. Also, on this, my first week of work, my younger son has come down with a fever and cannot go to school tomorrow. Thankfully, Piper has saved up copious amounts of vacation time for just such an occasion and he will be taking Pumpkin to the doctor tomorrow.
I'm trying not to beat myself up over this, but it's hard. I work at leaving that Dilbert DOOM cloud behind, but it found me this week. It's up there raining "can you handle this? can you handle this? can you handle this?" all over my parade. Nah, what it's really telling me is that I have no right to be so damn happy about this job.
I am really, really pissed that I feel guilty about working already. I like this job, I may even love it. I waited a long time for it and I feel for the first time as if I'm at the level I'm supposed to be. I'm pissed at society for saying that I'm supposed to sacrifice all that; that I'm only supposed to work if I "have to;" that enjoying my work and wanting to live in something bigger than a six room Cape is "selfish."
Shut up, already!
This is not how I wanted to end my 40th year, which, overall, has been a pretty good one. Tomorrow (Thursday) is my 41st birthday. I probably won't post, because with any luck, I'll be shopping for a new car.
I used to fantasize about this day each year before the start of school. The last weeks of August would find me looking ahead to that first day of waking in the grey light of morning, listening to the cry of the seagulls mourning the end of summer. There would be a chill in the air as I rose to dress, but not enough to close the window, to shut out the salt air and the sound of the waves.
Downstairs, I'd suffer through whatever breakfast was being offered while listening to the ringing of the halyards against aluminum masts in the harbor. As September progressed, there would be fewer boats out there rocking and ringing, until they were all gone, wintering over in some marina, or sailed to Florida with the migrating birds.
Shouldering my backpack filled with new notebooks and pens, I would head for the bus, on time and calm, instead of the usual running and struggling. And all the while I'd be thinking, "Maybe this will be the year..."
Of course, back then it was all about finally having a boyfriend, or seriously getting my act together with my schoolwork, or finding a way to break free from the overprotective cage I lived in throughout high school and really start having a life. None of those things ever really happened, and in the 20 years since, I have come to understand more about why (Hint: they are all related). And though those years were full of disappointment and adolescent, end-of-the-world drama, there's not much I would change. Every year at the end of August, I still look forward to the crisp newness of September. I still dream about the possibilities.
This year, those possibilities are wrapped up in a new job. I start today.
It's telling that once the agonizing about boyfriends was resolved, the haphazard journal entries of my late 20s and early 30s were consumed with the uncertainty of my so-called career, searching for a satisfactory definition of life's work, agonizing over job jumps that didn't work out well. Though most of my jobs have been good ones with good experiences and good people, some of them have been real disasters.
Having children has necessarily changed my ideas about life's work, but so has travel and now writing.
But I still seek what is possible.
I've never been much of an opera fan, but listening to the excerpts of Luciano Pavarotti during the numerous NPR tributes to him, gave me the chills. I don't think you have to be an opera fan to appreciate that kind of power and emotion.
But all that singing drowned out the news that Madeline L'Engle also died Thursday. She was a favorite author of mine and one of the few I have met. She came to do a reading/signing at our tiny little local bookstore several years ago at the request of someone who spent summers here, but knew her in Manhattan. I remember cutting an evening class I was taking at the time to attend the event. It was a magical October evening, the room was compeletely packed, and I was impressed at how encouraging she was of the children in the audience, many of whom expressed a desire to be a writer. How lucky I would have been to meet her at age 10.
As a teenager, It took me a couple of readings to get the full message of A Wrinkle in Time, but as the oldest and perhaps least secure child with an unbreakable father-daughter bond (even in death), I saw a lot of myself in Meg. I also got my first memorable glimpse of a working mother in Mrs. Murray, conducting experiments in an at-home lab and cooking over a bunsen burner.
But I came to really know L'Engle as an adult through her Crosswicks Journal series, named after her home in Connecticut. In them, she shared her experiences trying to get published, her experiences raising a family while trying to write, and minding a general store with her husband Hugh Franklin, her life after losing her mother, and then her husband, and reflections on her relationship with God.
It is not mentioned in the New York Times tribute and barely in the Washington Post, but she is often referred to as a Christian mystic; someone who has experienced God. It was L'Engle's writings that persuaded me to try the Anglican/Episcopal Church when I was looking for somewhere more welcoming of my humanity than the Catholic Church.
Her relationship with God was not without its struggles, and although I have read many, many of her spiritual explorations, it is this quote from the first Crosswicks Journal, A Circle of Quiet that sticks in my mind and best defines my own journey:
"...I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts."
Thank you Madeline, for being so gracious, for sharing your struggles as a writer, mother, and believer.
An older, but more complex discussion of Madeline L'Engle can be found at Half Changed World.
The countdown has begun in earnest. Next Monday, I will wake before my kids, hop in the shower right away and don business clothes. If I'm lucky, I will have time to make a travel mug of tea, and grab something portable to eat. If not, I will try out the coffee shop between the parking garage and the office after at least an hour commute. The earlier I leave, the shorter the drive time.
This is a novel idea now, but soon it will become routine. Hair left to air dry in the car ride down, no matter what the weather, minimal makeup applied on that last stretch of Route 1, at a standstill at the merge. NPR for company.
For the first time in four years, I will be going into an office, regularly. Every day, five days a week until I've been there long enough for my new employers to make flextime arrangements with me. I'm excited, I love working, I love being part of a team, but I'm nervous, because I have been out of the game for so long.
It's the big things - like the babysitter situation, and the little things like the propect of shoving my normally Teva-clad feet into real shoes every day that I think about when I contemplate how this is going to change us.
When Tigger came home and unexpected factors led me to not return after my maternity leave, I told myself I would take a year off and figure out what I wanted to do next. Well, one child turned into two and one year turned into four and though I've explored a few other things, I've returned to doing pretty much what I was doing when I put my career on hold. There will be more interesting projects and more responsibility, but the career has not changed.
Who knows what will happen, but at the moment, I am thinking of this as my last full-time job. I'd like to be there for a while, do well, get promoted, and reacquire that level of expertise I had at my last job (the technology's moved on since then), but whenever I leave there, whether it be in five years or ten, I want to do something else - teach, write, travel - combination of both.
I'm pretty sure I made the right decision here, now we have to make it work.