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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Once Again I Make Promises To Myself Based on the Arbitrary Passing of Time

It's nearly New Year's for all us non-Asian folks, so you know what this means: Resolution Time!  Every year I scoff at the resolution trend (after all, why does Jan. 1st matter?  If you really want to change you can start any time!), but then I secretly make resolutions anyway.  This year I'm coming out of the closet with them - here goes!  

1- I resolve to watch The Secret 5 times in a row, then force the Universe to fix my neck for me.   Because obviously the problem is that I haven't been wanting it fixed enough these past 7 1/2 months.
2 - I then resolve to then take some crazy martial arts classes (Krav maga, anyone?) so that I can go punch everyone who screwed up my disability paperwork in the throat and run away before they can catch me.  Oh, and every driver who pissed me off last year too.  I guess you would call me a serial throat-puncher at that point.
3 - I resolve to take my serial-throat-punching skills to the next level after that and go fix the programming in Hollywood.  (I mean, come on, Glee writers, I know you can stop throwing endless streams of "tribute" episodes at us and changing Sue Sylvester's job title/likability factor every other episode if you really want to.  Especially if you don't want your throat punched.)
4-  I then resolve to apply these throat-punching skills in the kitchen and figure out how to not only break eggs with one hand, but also to chop onions and dice garlic with my bare hands.  With these new-found skills I shall then impress the people at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school so much that they will let me in for free and teach me everything I need to know about world cuisine in a 4-week period.
5 - I resolve to find The Most Interesting Man in the world and get him to write a children's book about dolphins and dinosaurs.  (Not related to martial arts skills per se... just a cool idea.)
6 - I resolve to get a job with my new culinary prowess cooking for the loonies at Fox News and all their nutso Tea Party friends.  With my creamy sauces, rich spices and home-baked bread I will then subdue them into not being batshit insane anymore and thus make the world a better place.  
7 - I resolve to write to Henry Rollins to tell him of these achievements and, in his excitement at Ann Coulter's recent quiet cheerfulness, he will reunite Black Flag and I will sing the opening number.
8 - I resolve to use this "in" with the musical community to get Sadie a regular spot on Yo Gabba Gabba called "Sadie's Animal Noises!" where she can show off her favorite animal noises and teach everyone how to properly shake their groove thangs.  (Also, she'll get to wear DJ Lance's hat backstage, which is really just a bonus.)
9 - I resolve to put all the money she earns from that job into a cool new invention called the Taco Beam.  This will be some sort of an outer-space teleportation/matter-organizer that will allow the user to dial a number on their cell phone, order whatever type of tacos they want, then have them materialize in their hand within 10 seconds.  Additionally, for every taco delivered in this manner, there will also be a free taco beamed to a designated pick-up spot in an impoverished country, thus ending world hunger.
10 - And finally, I resolve to lose 20 pounds.  (Which might happen during the martial arts training portion of this anyway, but still... it wouldn't be a New Year if I wasn't starting off with body image issues.)


Thus concludes my list of resolutions.  Here's hoping I can pull it all off!


 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Counting My Happy Thoughts

It's been hard for me to think of an appropriate next blog entry after my nephew's death.  I don't want to just change the subject suddenly, nor do I want to keep dwelling on the depressing things I'm going through in my own life right now.  My blatant optimism has been shrouded by pain and annoyance lately, rendering me kind of a grump-fest.  (You try being happy when your neck injury from 8 months ago has put you on disability, your doctor has no idea what's wrong with you so he puts you on quadruple the standard dose of Oxycontin and keeps sending you for neck injections that don't work, and you get screwed over by that same doctor's office on disability paperwork leaving you penniless and using up your cell minutes sobbing at different people over the phone trying to get them to give you the damned money that was due to you a month ago.  I dare you!)  

So, here it goes, my attempt at looking on the bright side:
1- My boyfriend is amazingly supportive.  He's picked up as many extra hours as he can at work and even tried to get a second seasonal job just to help take more of the money stress off of me.  He also doesn't give me crap about the fact that I've watched a ludicrous amount of television (via Netflix) in my drugged-up state.
2 - My daughter is a constant source of sweetness and joy.  There's nothing like her giving me a giant kiss on the mouth when I'm having a painful day laying on the floor.  The other day she gave me a big ol' smack on the lips, then ran over to our tiny Christmas tree and gave it kisses too.  <3!   
3-  I have fantastic friends.  I may not see them that often right now because I'm a drugged-up hermit who can't drive stick shift without pain, but I know they're out there and sometimes they call me and cheer me up.
4 - We are able to live in Santa Barbara - the most beautiful place I've ever lived in - because Andrew's family has been generous enough to let us rent a house from them and all we have to pay is the mortgage (which, 23 years into a 30 year mortgage, isn't a lot).  
5- I want to put "my health" on here, but it seems silly with my neck being as messed up as it is.  The bright side to staying home all the time is that I don't catch colds at the rate I normally do this time of year!  
6- I can cook.  Yummy things.  And I have the kitchen gadgets to do a lot of that cooking without hurting my neck/arm too much.  
7 - None of my friends are snobby enough to be snide about the fact that they're getting cookies for Christmas from us and that's all.  
8 - Skype!  Now I have a reason to comb my hair once in a while!

I'm sure I'll think of more things and add them later.  But for now, at least I've put some happy thoughts out into the universe today - hopefully it will be nice to me in return.  :) 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Politics of Death

It's been one week today since Dominick left us.  I was finally able to drive home yesterday (with my one-year-old being surprisingly tolerant of  the 3-hour car ride) and visit with my brother's family as they hunker down at Rachel's sister's house, trying to avoid going home to the house riddled with painful memories or climbing into the big Suburban they bought just to have enough room for baby Dominick.  Although I'm here, I still feel helpless.  

When I asked what kind of help they needed, they asked me to help them order an urn and some vial necklaces online.  (And, go figure, after I spend 20 minutes convincing them that ordering online is safe and easy they end up getting double-charged for the urn.)  

They've decided to carry him close to their hearts in that way... they also found an engraver at our local mall who engraved Dominick's photo onto some necklaces both for themselves and the three girls to wear.  It's both incredibly sweet and sad at the same time, especially when their youngest daughter catches sight of the necklaces and proudly says, "That's my brother!" 

Will it ever get easier?  Will they ever be able to go for more than 2 minutes without being reminded of what they've lost?  At this point the sadness I feel is  more based on the anguish I see them in instead of my own feelings of loss.  I never wanted to see my little brother this upset.  (Even back when we were children fighting over the remote control, I would never want it to get to the point of tears.)

The coroner hasn't released the official report yet, but initial findings say that Dominick was anemic, was over-producing either adrenaline or cortisone, and had underdeveloped lungs.  So this begs the question: why on earth would the hospital allow them to take their anemic baby with known sleep apnea problems home (to a house at 6,000ft elevation, no less)  without so much as suggesting that they get a monitor that senses movement like those Angel Care monitors do?  I mean, forget the fact that Jon and Rachel were pushing for him to come home, it's the doctor's job to weigh the risks of taking a NICU baby home and say "No, I know you want him home, but this baby is not ready yet." 

My mother tells me that there were two NICU doctors at the hospital Dominick was in - one in the morning and one in the evenings.  The evening doctor had told them the day before Dominick was released that he was going to be there at least another 2 weeks (which would have been roughly when he was due - a typical deadline for most preemies), but the next morning the other doctor said told them to get the carseat out of the car and take him home.  Of course, they were overjoyed to think that their son could come home with them and trusted that the doctor knew what he was talking about.  When you get good news like that, you don't think to question it, you just accept it and are grateful to have your family together.  Perhaps the nagging voice in your mind says, "Wait, that other doctor said..." but you choose to tune it out because what you have wanted since your baby's birth is to bring him home with you and you are getting what you want.  

So what can this mean?  Was the doctor wrong or irresponsible?  Were there complications no one knew about?  Or was he simply trying to push a MediCal baby out of the NICU?  The thought that the latter option is even a possibility infuriates me to no end.  We live in a country where medical treatment is considered by many to be a privledge instead of a right, and if the state is the one footing the bill does that give anyone the right to say, "This baby is costing us a lot, let's just push him out of here?"     

Until the coroner's report is finalized I should probably try to calm down with these angry thoughts, but I'm realizing as I type this that I'm in the anger part of the grieving cycle.  These questions won't bring Dominick back, but perhaps Dominick's life can be used a lesson for anyone who's baby ends up in the NICU: make sure your doctors are being safe and almost overly cautious with their lives.  You may want to bring that baby home SO BADLY but you also want that baby to live and grown up to run and play and get in fights with their siblings.  Have patience and be sure that if you don't have great insurance that no one is running math calculations on your child's life.


Also, many people have asked about how much we've raised in donations: family, friends, and the generous people of the internet  have sent Jon and Rachel $1400 so far to help with the costs of Dominick's memorial!  After purchasing the urn and neckalces mentioned above and paying for the cremation that leaves them about $400.  Since they are hoping to find a way to afford to either move out of their house with so many painful memories or to buy a new vehicle that doesn't still have the impression of Dominick's car seat dented into the seats, they could certainly use more.  If there is anyone who wishes to contribute to this fund, here is the link:







 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Yin to my Yang

(As always, something to listen to while you read: This is Band of Horses' song "No One's Gonna to Love You")

A month or two ago, I began a quest to become a blatent optimist - someone who knowingly focuses on the good in life and tries to make the choice to be happy. 

Never before have I had such a hard time with this goal.  There are things, like the death of a sweet innocent, that shake you to your very core.  How can there ever be a bright side to this?  How can any living being hear this story and not feel a wave of sadness?


There are people who turn to God for answers here.  There are people who turn to St. Jack Daniels.  There are people who would go off the deep end and end up on top of a clock tower in Texas. There are some who would spend days sobbing in the bathtub listening to the same song over and over again. There is no "right way" to grieve, though - there are certainly ways that are more harmful than others, but there is no GPS for the highway of grief you must drive down. Sometimes it's just necessary to go find an isolated place to cry and scream and shake your fist at the sky.

My forays into studies of various religions while in college led me to read into Chinese philosophies of Zen Buddhism and Hinduism, and I have long identified with the Buddhist concepts of the Yin and Yang, Hindu concepts of of Brahman and the belief that we are all connected through cycles of creation and destruction.  My goal to focus on the good in life - on the happiness that children provide, on the beauty in the world, on the creation of things instead of the destruction - can thus be seen as determination to dwell on only one half of the spectrum of life.  No matter how much I want to cling to the Yang of life - the brightness, activeness, upward, strong and expanding processes of living - the Yin will always find a way into my life to remind me that dark, still, weak, downward tendencies exist and have just as big a part in shaping our world.  

Yin and Yang do no represent good and evil, for in Zen Buddhism everything is interconnected and has different levels of opposing forces at work within it, but there is no ultimate decider who says "This is considered good, this is bad" because the two things are dependent on each other for existence. The internet has yielded a great analogy for me to use here: "Dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin–yang, thus, are always opposite and equal qualities."

The death of my nephew is certainly causing huge ripples in the lives of everyone around our family.  We ride waves of sadness as we try to focus on the good still left around us - the three girls, the love and support of friends, family, and even strangers from the furthest reaches of the internet who want to give us virtual hugs with their kind words and donations for the family.  But like it or not, death is a part of life and some of us are only destined to live for a short time and it is the effect that these little lives have on the people that they leave behind that lives on.

I now move forward with a new goal: to help bring more Yang to my brother and his family to help balance the horrible pile of Yin that got dumped on them this Saturday morning. There will never be a way to make this right and good, but someday there will be a balance of emotions found and the sadness will no longer be cripplingly all-encompassing.  Someday there will be a way to achieve the Zen-like peace of a family that has weathered so much sadness. 

I know I can't wait for that day.

 

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Changing Tide of Grief



Two days later, nothing feels better.  The grief comes in waves - one minute you're fine, the next you're seeing a sympathetic email and bawling your eyes out.


This song (Flaming Lips' "Do you Realize") helps soothe the burn for me a bit - press play if you like:  











As a parent, you hope you never outlive your children and if you do you will find yourself in a lonely, desperate place.  No one will feel that loss the way that you will - no one will know about the dreams dashed upon the rocks of reality, will see the nest of hopes you snuggled your child in blown away in a violent windstorm, will hear the shattering sound of your world collapsing around you.

Looks just like Daddy.

As the aunt of this beautiful baby boy, I know my grief will never come close to the anguish my brother and his family are feeling.  I had planned to go meet him for the first time this coming weekend... and even though I am incredibly sad to have missed out on meeting him, I know this would be that much harder for me if I had held him and cuddled him like I wanted to.




With Big Sister Serenity (who called him "her baby")

The death of a child raises so many questions.  How do you go forward?  What do you tell the three older sisters who had awaited his arrival for 8 months and barely had a chance to meet him?  Do you protect them from the grief you're experiencing or bring them home and spend 5 days all snuggling in the same bed?  When do you clean up his things?  What are you supposed to do with all these people showing up offering to help?  What happens when you have to go back to living when all you want to do is crawl in a hole and cry?
There are no good answers here.  The cycle of life can be abrupt and cruel and grief affects us all in different ways. 





The one good thing that can come out of death is the sense of closeness and community that arises after a tragedy of this magnitude.  The outpouring of support has been heartwarming and I'll admit, nearly every time I get an email saying someone has donated to Dominick's Memorial fund I burst out crying.  When you lose someone I've learned it's best you pull the people you have left close to you and bear the weight of the burden together so that in time it will be bearable...  Everyone wants to help SO BADLY!  We all want to find a way to take away some of the pain that the family is going through and, as tritely sad and materialistic as it sounds, the only thing that can realistically be done is to help ease their financial worries while the grief cycle takes its toll.  As a family with three young girls with only one parent working (and making under $20k/year) financing a cremation, the medical bills for his NICU stay and, later, a funeral gathering is a seemingly overwhelming task. However, thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and community members we've been able to raise $400 so far to help Jon and Rachel and there was a funeral parlor who generously agreed to do the cremation for only $500 (apparently the cost is usually 4 times that).  
Here is a link to the PayPal donation site:










The funeral date has yet to be set, but I will post it the minute I know when it will be. 


Sleep sweet, little love.  <3

R.I.P., little man.  I wish I could have held you before you went. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Overwhelming Sadness

Today my brother's son died.  
Just looking at that sentence makes me tear up again.

Dominick Cole Bormann was born on 8-28-10 about 6 weeks early - he was kept in the NICU until last Sunday when he was finally allowed to join his family at home.  This morning, a mere 6 days later, he passed away around 6am, most likely due to complications with his sleep apnea from having been born so early (although there is no official report yet).  
With Mommy in the NICU

With Daddy in the NICU
With Mommy - finally home!



I can't imagine how hard this is on them, especially with three other kids to think about... this tragedy runs deep and will follow them for the rest of their lives.  I'm stuck here in Santa Barbara today feeling totally useless, so here is my attempt to help make their lives easier:



Since I've had a few people ask how they can help, I've created a Paypal donation account for Dominick's Memorial.  The funeral costs will be about $600 and their little family was living on a shoestring budget as it is, so any donation, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated.  Please click here if you wish to donate something to this fund (it's through PayPal so it's legit!):  








Edit:  An update is available Here 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Battle of the Bulging Disc

Someday I'm going to feel better.  My neck is going to stop shooting pains down my arms when I type or drive or sneeze or lift something and I'm going to go punch some lowlifes in the face just because my body is so awesome and working so well.

Someday. 

Someday makes me feel better.


Which is necessary on a day like today. 

Staying positive when you haven't felt your right pinky finger in 2 days is tricky, let me tell you.  Almost as tricky as working at a library and not picking up any books so things don't get worse. 

I'm referring, of course, to the disc I have bulging and pinching the nerve between my C5 & C6 vertebrae.  Let my pain be a lesson to you women out there: don't try to throw your 18lb child in the air and catch them the way your significant other does unless you are way, way better shape than I am.  I made that mistake back in April and here were are in September and I'm still spending a significant portion of my day laying on the floor so that the spasms stop. 





So now what?
As always, all doctors want to treat it the way that they know how. 
  • Urgent Care says, "Pain meds, ice, see your doctor."
  • Primary Care doc says, "Pain meds, ice, phyiscal therapy, referral to neurology.  Maybe try a chiropractor."
  • Physical Therapist says, "Huh.  Seems like you're in pain.  Lemme jam my fingers into it & give you exercises you're not allowed to do until you can go 24 hours without pain meds" (which never happens).
  • Chiropractor #1 says, "Come back 3 times a week so I can make things worse with my bad adjustment technique."
  • Chiropractor #2 says, "Come back 3 times a week & pay me $60/visit because your insurance sucks."
  • (At this point my bank account says, "Nuh-uh.")
  • Neurologist says, "After stabbing you and electrocuting you for half an hour we've determined that you are in pain.  Please go to a surgery center to get steroids injected into your spinal column & come back for my next available appointment in 3 1/2 months.  Also, muscle relaxants - take them."
  • Pain Center doc says, "Oh, didn't I mention this usually takes 3 injections to work?  You need to take all kinds of time off work you can't afford so we can stab at your neck and render you unable to lift anything more than 5lbs -including your one-year-old - for far too long.  Also, if this doesn't work, we're probably going to use the S word."

So as of today I have one more neck injection scheduled just so no one throws that awful SURGERY word at me again.  I also have chiropractor #3 on the horizon since the second injection did me basically no good and I'm not too hopefully about this next one.   In fact, it's cheaper for me to get these injections than to go to the chiropractor since my insurance covers all $2300 of each procedure but won't cover 80% of the chiropractors in town.

My biggest struggle here is simply getting through the day without moping like crazy.  To be completely honest I am a non-stop pity-factory inside my skull right now.  I watch Wipeout and think to myself, "I can never compete in this because of my stupid neck."  I talk about Disneyland with a friend and think to myself, "I can never go on Space Mountain again because of this stupid neck."  I lay on the floor for 2 hours a night trying to get up the oomph to work out a little and I think, "I can't work out, I'm in pain."
 
You see the pattern here. 

It's all-encompassing & I HATE IT.  I don't want to be that girl who's always complaining about physical ailments.  I don't want people to feel sorry for me (although if they help me lift something perhaps pity isn't the worst thing they could have for me...) or even really be aware that I'm in pain.  Dwelling on it won't make it feel better, after all, so why on earth do I have such a hard time getting it out of my brain?!?

God, I'm even sitting here blogging about it.  Can I even pretend that this post is anything other than self-indulgence?

Probably not.  Oh well.  I already edited graphics for it so I may as well post the damned thing.  >.<

Monday, August 30, 2010

On Becoming Blatantly Optimistic

Optimism is never something that's come easy to me.  Perhaps my penchant for reading Stephen King novels at the tender age of 12 has something to do with my tendency to mistrust people... or perhaps it was the merciless taunting that I received as a child at my religious private school that made me become guarded.  There is also the torrential downpour of reading that I ran through during my college years - Freud, Palahniuk, Welsh, Schopenhauer, Bukowski, etc. - which blends together into a potent combination of nihilism & angst and swirls through my blood whenever I go on a re-reading spree.  Whatever it was that made me this way, I struggle every day with feelings of awkwardness and self-pity and this taints my view of an otherwise rose-colored world.

However, it seems that recently my moods have taken a turn for the better.  I give full credit to my adorable offspring.  There really is no way to describe the feeling of utter happiness that comes when I get to show her the things that I find beautiful and wonderful in the world. With each wonderful book we read or park we go play in I find myself more and more able to lose the "In 10 years this won't exist anymore because global warming will suck us all up" voice in my head and just focus on the beauty and happiness that is in front of me.
This is her seeing Can-Can Dancers for the first time at our local French Festival.   
 







The problem lies not only in all the times that she's not with me, but also in the realization that basing your happiness on any one person - no matter how important they may be to you - is not true happiness.  True happiness is a lifestyle choice.  It's being able to set aside the pessimism, the sarcasm, and the downright nihilism that plagues your mind day in and day out and focus on finding the good and the beautiful every single minute of every single day.

This will be a struggle, but it's a challenge I think I'm up for. 
No wait... I AM going to do it.

(There, see?!?  Right there!)

I know I have the ability to see the good in people to a fault.  When I hire people that seem unusually nervous because I think to myself Hey, they could work out.  They're just nervous... and then one month later I've had to fire 50% of them because their nervousness was actually a sign that they couldn't read too well.  When friends fight I think Hey, it's ok, if we talk about these things and try to be rational and understand where each person was coming from it'll all be good again... and then a few hours later I've got to pick a team of friends to keep and a team to get rid of because nobody worked anything out.  But I also know that those times when that little voice is right - when the other 50% of the nervous folks I hired turn out to be awesome employees who save us in a pinch or when my friends do manage to let bygones be bygones and get the hell over whatever squabble they may have been having - those times are AWESOME.  It is my new goal to listen to that kind, optimistic voice inside me more and more each day. 

Two days ago I was driving home from the store with Sadie and I saw a man on the side of the road in a motorized wheelchair.  As I got closer I noticed that he was starting to lean over to the side a lot and didn't seem to be moving much and as I drove past and saw him in my rearview mirror I realized that I needed to pull over and help him.  I flipped a U the minute the road had space for me to do so and by the time I got back to the guy there were two other men who had stopped their cars and were helping the man right himself and get back on his way. 

Even thinking about this encounter now, two days later, my heart still swells with happiness.  Not because the man didn't need my help, of course, but because there were good people out there who would stop what they were doing to help another person in need.  Others who would take the time to say, "How can I make the world a better place today?" 

This needs to be my mantra.  And it needs to be yours too.

So, I post a challenge to the 2 of you who will read this: Spend tomorrow saying only positive things.  Try to eliminate the word "No" from your vocabulary.  (Yes, I recognize the irony there.)  The day after tomorrow we can all go back to our happy sarcasm holes and glower at the world, but for one day - just one - become blatantly optimistic with me.  I'm pretty sure we won't regret it.  (Damnit,I mean we won't regret it!) 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Abby’s Handy Guide to Getting a Job: Or, How Not to Look Like a Douche When You’re Unemployed.

It’s hiring season at my job again which means I have a whole bunch of job applications to look through and a whole new group of people to interview and, subsequently, mock mercilessly on this blog.  

As a disclaimer:  I work as a supervisor at a UC Library and am in charge of 32-36 student employees all at once, so many of these tips will be no-brainers for adults who’ve held career-type positions.  Since I am one of the people who hires people on the lower rungs of the job hunt ladder, that's who this is aimed at: those young folks just looking for a job to pay them while they drink - er- study their way through college.  (Of course, this is also advice that you can take to the next level of a career job hunt... but if you need this guide at that point you may have bigger problems than I can help with.)  For those people, these tips may prove both helpful and, in some cases, even shocking.  But in a time when jobs are tight and our state has double-digit unemployment rates, the market is increasingly competitive so either bring your “A” game or get the hell out of my applicant pool.
The Job Application:
1- This is the first impression anyone on the other side of the hiring table gets of you, so for god’s sake make it as neat as possible.  Use your “adult” handwriting if it’s a handwritten application (after all, if people can't read your name they're probably not going to call you) and if you mess up and spell your last name wrong, don’t scribble it out and keep going – kill a tree and start a fresh application!  Or use white-out!  Scribble marks on an application only show that you were too lazy to fix something you knew was a mistake.

2- Follow directions.  If the form asks you to circle only one thing, do it, don't circle three things and write a sentence above it explaining why you didn't do what they asked.  Most jobs want you to be able to follow written instructions for something – prove to them that you can read by doing just that.

3- Don’t ask the person giving you the job application if the company administers drug tests.  I mean, come on people, do you really think people who aren’t using drugs ask that question when they apply?
(Also: Employers are required to disclose drug tests as a condition of employment either on the application or during the interview so they’re not going to blind-side you with it, you stoned mofo.)

YES, all of these things MATTER.

 
The Resume:
1- Unless you’re applying for a career position and all your job experience is relevant, there is no reason your resume should be more than one page long.  I don’t care how many pizza parlor jobs you’ve held down since you graduated high school, trim that stuff down so that you don’t end up with two sentences on the useless second page.  Format these things, people!

2- Spell check is not god.  Pay attention to what your computer replaces your misspellings with, as having a job in “costumer service” may not be pertinent to a job where you deal with customers and not giant spools of tulle.

3- Your photograph has no business being on your resume, especially if the photograph is taken by a webcam while you’re in your PJs in your dorm room.   I don’t care how many times you watch Legally Blonde, being a cute white girl without a bra on should play no part in the hiring process (and if it does you may have just landed yourself a position in Sexual Harassmentville). 

The Interview:

1- If you shake hands with your interviewer, I don’t care what gender either of you are, don’t be a limp fish!  Your handshake says a lot about how eager you are to meet the person who’s hand you’re shaking and you should ALWAYS be excited to shake the hand of a potential employer. 

2- Dress like you care.  I know this is cliché advice, but if I have to chose between one person who wore a polo shirt and jeans and another who wore dress slacks and a button-up dress shirt, I pick the snazzy-lookin’ one almost every time.  Unless you wear a tuxedo or formal ball gown to an interview there’s really no such thing as over-dressing for a job interview at any level, so why not make it obvious that you dressed to impress the person interviewing you? 

3- Ladies, if I can clearly see your nipples when I'm not even looking for them, that’s a deal-breaker.

4- Show up sober.  And no, stinking like booze from the night before but not actually “feeling drunk” does not count as sober.  Neither does taking “only 3 bong rips” before you leave your house.

5- When you open your mouth to talk, have a plan.  Don’t ramble on and on without thinking about the question they actually asked you and for god’s sake, don’t go into painful detail about your previous jobs.  Using phrases like “filing, answering phones, and organizing” go a lot further than “I filed reports that people wrote up for the city and then submitted for review with our company, I answered the phones and transferred calls and took messages if the people they were calling for weren’t there, I organized their drawers of pens and pencils and put all the pens in one tray and all the pencils in another…”  Chances are that if you got bored just reading that last sentence your interviewer will get bored listening to it too.

6- Try to think like your interviewer and answer things appropriately.  For instance, if you’re interviewing for a position at a library, you might not want to stress how friendly you are and how much you love talking to people. 

7- If you were fired from your previous job, don’t start trash-talking your previous supervisor, unless you had a lawsuit against your prior boss and can prove that they were a total jerkwad.  No matter how wronged you may feel you've been at your previous job, the person interviewing you will always be thinking about how well you take supervision and admitting that you've argued with previous managers is like waving a flag around saying, "I like conflict!"  The phrase “A personal/scheduling conflict forced us to part ways” is your friend (and if they want more detail they will ask for it).  The phrase, “My manager had anger issues and wouldn’t give me the time off that I asked for” is not.

8 - Turn off your damned cell phone.  Texting during the interview = dealbreaker.

 9-  Do not scratch your nuts immediately before shaking the hand of the person you're about to be interviewed by.  Really, you shouldn't be scratching your nuts at all during an interview, but if you do have to do it, for god's sake wait until you're sitting down and can be more discreet.

I know what you're thinking, and yes, I have encountered each and every one of these things in my 4 years as a hiring supervisor.

Thus concludes my instructional guide to getting a Joe Job.  There may be more "don't"s than "do"s but it's important to take the time to learn from other people's failures.  You're welcome, world!  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Supermarket Obstacle Course Only Moms Know About


When you have a baby, going to a grocery store can be like wandering through an obstacle course where any number of people can turn your "quick trip to the store" into an hour-long ordeal. There you are, wandering up and down aisles with a list in your hand (assuming that A) you're that organized and B) your child hasn't demanded to play with said list merely because you don't want them to), trying to bribe your child into staying in the cart by giving them toys and/or food, when suddenly you're faced with someone who seems determined to bog you down until your child starts screaming. If you want to make it in and out of the store in a timely manner, these are the archetypes you absolutely MUST avoid.


The Lonely Old Person

You know who I'm talking about. The little old lady who likes to sit on park benches and strike up conversations with anyone and everyone possible, looking for someone who will hold a better conversation than her 4 cats do. The old man who insists on making exact change for every purchase at any store and tells the story of his "first Buffalo nickle" every time he dig for 42 cents. You never want to start out being mean or rude to these folks because, although no one likes to admit it, but we're all terrified that we're going to end up like them, prattling on about "the good old days when folks used to hold actual books in their hands."  But these folks are insanely hard to get away from if your child is at all friendly. With one adorable wave of your baby's hand in their general direction you've got a geriatric audience who, if you're lucky, will end up following you for the next two aisles. Most often you end up rooted to the spot, though, begging your child to stay in their seat as they attempt a swan dive out of the cart while you're distracted trying to politely listen to the end of the old gal's list of grandchildren who live out of state.

Your best defense: Don't make eye contact and do NOT stop your cart! If you must acknowledge that they have just had a "moment" with your child do so with a cheerful-yet-guardedly-busy smile and keep on walking. Even if it means going back down the pasta aisle later, just keep walking.

The Baby-Talker

Now, I'm not talking about the folks who adopt high-pitched voices and say, "Hi, baby!" over and over while waving at said baby like a clown-bobble-head doll, I'm talking about the people who have a conversation with you by talking to your baby. They'll come charging up to you (for some reason there are a high number of these people employed in warehouse stores like Costco), fingers wriggling in the air, cooing at your child and then it begins.

TBT: HELLOOOOO, little one! What's your name?
Mom: This is Baby.
TBT: HIIIII Baby! How old are you?
Mom: (S)he's 11 months old.
TBT: 11 months! Well you're almost one year old! Is your mommy planning a cool birthday party for you?
Mom: Yes.
TBT: Oooh, I bet you'll like cake! Is your mommy giving you cake?
Mom: Yes.
TBT: Goody! You'll be sure to put that cake everywhere, right?
Mom: *shifts uncomfortably, trying to move on* Baby, say bye-bye to the nice lady!
TBT: Oh, you don't want to go yet, do you? Don't you want to show me your teeth, little baby? 

You get the point. This can go on and on and on.

Your best defense: Don't answer for your baby. If your baby can't talk yet there's no reason you need to get rooted to the ground trying to talk for them - let them keep talking to your child until they start to feel the foolishness dripping off of themselves like olive oil on an overdressed salad. Stare at the person long enough with a bored look on your face and they'll get the hint a lot faster.


Other Moms

There are two types of "other moms" in grocery stores - the harmless kind that smile at you and your child and keep on moving, and the kind that have been stuck indoors, talking to no one but their babies and significant others for the past few weeks and are dying for some validation about their mothering practices. These are the dangerous ones - if you allow a short conversation to start up and discover that your baby is older than theirs you're done for. Suddenly it's, "Has your baby sat up/used a pacifier/ slept through the night/ had all of their shots/ eaten berries/ etc., yet?" and there's no end in sight unless one or both of your children start screaming.

Your best defense: At the first pause between sentences, fake a dirty diaper.  Sniff at your baby and say loudly, "Did you POOP?!?  AGAIN?!?"  Any mom, no matter how adult-deprived she is, knows that you do not want to have to change a poopy diaper in a grocery store.  Smile apologetically and make your way to the front of the store immediately.  (If you're nice you could also suggest a local mommy group she could join.)

The Crazies

Crazy people are always something I'm wary of regardless of whether or not my baby is in tow, but these days it seems like the crazies are harder to spot. Half the time you see someone angrily yelling at no one in particular the person will turn their head to reveal a bluetooth headset, thus revealing that the voices they're hearing their heads are the voices of actual people. However, unless you can smell the urine on their clothing before they sidle up to you and your grocery cart, the crazies are the hardest to shake. You can smile uncomfortably, you can say things like, "I really have to go," you can get in line even, and they'll follow you, talking to you about how to find out who your baby was in their past life, how the Illuminati is trying to cripple our economy by putting Wal Marts in China or how the government wants to kill everyone under the age of 5 with chem-trails. Babies open you up to a huge range of conversations with people and, if you're not careful, you could get yourself sucked into the ramblings of a nut-job.
Your best defense: Again, walk quickly, don't make eye contact, and try to find a store employee to ask a question. Often the crazy folks are wary of some authority figure and will wander off if you start asking someone who works there where to find things and ask them to escort you.
Of course, you could always try to out-crazy the person... but you never know if your claim to actually be Cthulu in disguise will make them more or less likely to continue talking to you.

Hopefully this guide will help some people out there somewhere, be it moms who need to get through the supermarket gauntlet or one of the childless folks out there who don't realize exactly how annoying it is when you talk to us through our babies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Animals, Working, and Balls

Song of the week:
Miike Snow's "Animal" (the Mark Ronson remix, specifically):  


Lately I've been struggling with motherhood and work.  Every morning I drag myself in to my job, waving goodbye to my daughter (who starts howling when I close the door) and thinking to myself, "Damnit, why do I have to do this?"  It's not the concept of working that bothers me - I've had a full-time job since I was 17 - it's the thought that if I'm going to be missing out on her most exciting and formative years, I'd really rather be missing it because I'm doing something I love.  I've been working the same job since May of 2007 (and I've worked in the same building doing different jobs since October 2005) and, although it is a job in a library and I like the working environment, it is nowhere near the career path I have tried and failed to get myself onto twice now.  (I'm in charge of staffing the Circulation Desk with student workers, but I desperately want to be working as a Children's Librarian either at a grade school or a public library.)
The month I discovered my impending motherhood was exactly one month before I was due to move to Boston with Andrew and start a dual master's program at Simmons University - I was going to start in January of 2009 and at this point in my life I would have been nearing the completion of both a MLIS and an MA in Children's Literature.  Staying in Santa Barbara was the obvious choice because Andrew's family was able to help us out housing-wise (and we will be forever grateful for his Mother's willingness to move out of the place that she's called home for 17 years so that we could stay here), but now I find myself living in a beautiful place, stymied on my career path and having a directional crisis.  I applied for an online program through one of the two schools in my state that offer any library science degree and was all set to jump headfirst into that this Fall, but I was "automatically rejected due to the program quota being filled" and have basically had to sit here, twiddling my thumbs, staring into cyber-space and figuring out the best way to get out of having to go back to working 40 hours a week in September (I do 30/week right now).  

Every day I sit at work and daydream about being home with my daughter.  I think about what new and exciting thing she might be doing, what she might be growling at, what Andrew is feeding her, how far she might have walked, what words she might have uttered or colors she may have learned to identify.  When I reach the point where I feel like crying I'll send a frantic text message home to Andrew asking for a photo update... he's almost always able to oblige, but it's certainly nowhere near adequate baby-time to make me feel ok about slaving away at a job I am bored to death of while baby is at home growing up without me.  

Animals have instincts - to watch over their young, to protect them from predators and to bring them the best food they can find.  I have all of those instincts bottled up whenever I leave the house for my job - I have to force myself to let someone else take care of the care and feeding of my offspring (even if I'm lucky enough to have that someone else be Andrew right now.)

 Which brings me back to my song of the week (which you are hopefully listening to while reading this drivel.) There's a line in the song, "In your eyes I see the eyes of somebody that could be strong" - and it sends shivers down my spine each time I hear it.  I know that if I were given the opportunity to switch gears - get back into school while taking time off of working so that I can start on an actual career path - I would be the strongest, best student mom out there.  I'd buckle down and do my online assignments on time while the baby slept at night and I'd cook things like lentil soups and make sausages from scratch while she napped.  I'd cloth diaper full-time, expand my garden and learn how to optimize its produce and give my daughter raspberries all over her tummy any time she wandered over after having happily taken her own shirt off.  

But instead you'll find me, hunkering down in the bowels of an orange-and-purple university library, asking the student monkeys politely to stop flinging poo at the patrons while endlessly making schedules for people who will inevitably show up hungover to their Saturday morning shift.  



This is balls, I tell you.  Sweaty, zit-infested, old-man-wearing onion-skins-while-running balls.
This has to change. 

This will change.

But in the meantime, "I change shapes just to hide in this place but I'm still, I'm still an animal."
 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

$1 x What?

Someone gives me $1 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- A taco al carbon from El Pollo Loco.
 
Someone gives me $10 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1-A bottle of wine.  Probably a Cabernet. 

Someone gives me $100 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- A haircut.
2- Shoes.

Someone gives me $1,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- A haircut.
2- An awesome toy for Sadie.
3- A dress I actually like.
4 - Paying off debt.

Someone gives me $10,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- Pay off remaining medical and credit card as well as a chunk of student loans.
2- A dress I actually like.
3- One of those sweet playground set-ups for our back yard.

Someone gives me $100,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- Pay off all debts.
2- Go through grad school while not having to work.  (My version of HEAVEN!)
3 - Move our family somewhere we can better afford to live in.

Someone gives me $1,000,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1-  See 1-3 of previous question.
2-  Buy my brother and his family a new car.
3- Sending Sadie through a private school.
4- Tacos al carbon for everybody!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reasons My 11-month-old is Classier Than You

1-She has servants 24/7 whose job is not only to clean up any messes she makes, but to wipe her ass for her too.
2 - She is not afraid to be picky with her food.  Don't like the seasoning on those green beans?  Why not send them back to the cook with an exclamation of "BLUUUU!" for emphasis on how un-yummy they are?  Classy folks know how to get what they want out of a dinner service and they don't care if the people at the next table think they're being "too mean" to the waitress.
3She will subtly let you know when your shirt makes you look fat.  She'll grab your arm, pull you close, then wipe her snotty face on you just to emphasize this point.
4- She's more than happy to lend her opinion on your jewelry as well.  You just have to let her yank it off you first.
5- She's VERY polite about her pooping and won't even interrupt dinner if she has to go: she just lets it fly, then finishes off her meal before she excuses herself and has her servants clean her up.
6- She'll lend you money when you're in a tight spot.  
7- She never curses - just growls.
8 - She knows that she doesn't have to listen just because someone is telling her "NO!"  Who cares if they think toys in the fireplace aren't "art?"  She inspires other to success by teaching them not to let things like dirt, bugs, or "NO!" get in the way of truly getting what you want out of life. 
9 - She realizes that the war for official "first word" between the Mommy and Daddy people can be manipulated to get her yummy things (grapes) or fun things (someone's cell phone.)  With the slightest hint of "mama/dada" babble they'll scramble to positively reinforce the saying of those sounds, thus giving her THE POWER.  Power, of course, is essential to being classy. 

My "I Hate" List

After watching last week's episode of Tosh.0 I was inspired to create my own little hate rant (See here for reference.) Rather than gumming up the works on youtube with a video no one will see, I've decided to do an "I hate list" here.  Just because I can.
 
1) I hate it when chicks think they're too good to sit on the damned toilet seat.  It's called a paper cover, ladies - sit your ass down on one and stop spraying down the seat for the rest of us.
2) I hate when people try to merge on the freeway while they're going 45 mph.  I especially hate getting stuck behind those douchenozzles.
3) I hate when people stare at a sign and then ask me the question that the sign answers.
4) I hate when I get stuck in an elevator with someone who's eating Funyons.  Almost as much as I hate getting stuck there next to someone wearing Axe body spray.
5) I hate that my parents both forward me every Republican propaganda email they every receive.  I also really, really hate that they think the term "Mexican" is synonymous with "illegal immigrant."
6)  I hate that my genetics didn't predispose me to losing all the baby weight within the first couple months of having my daughter.
7)  I hate when people say "LOL!" or "WTF?" out loud.  Or, even worse, when they say, "I heart this song!"  Internet typing shortcuts are not actual words, people, and you sound like a lazy retard when you try to talk like that.
8)  I hate that no one wants to pay me just to stay home with my baby.
9)  I hate when people throw up the "metal" horns and stick their tongue out, mistakenly thinking that it makes them look more hardcore.
10) I hate when my boyfriend leaves his dirty clothes on the bathroom sink instead of throwing them in the laundry hamper that is 2 feet away from the counter.
11) I hate when my teeth get that scuzzy feeling and I don't have a toothbrush around.
12) I hate when fat chicks say that they're single because they're "too picky."  You are lying and we all know it - why not just not comment on it at all?
13) I hate when people I didn't like or even talk to in high school try to "friend" me on facebook without explanation.  If I didn't like you then, chances are I'm not going to have changed my mind in my 10 years of not talking to you.
14) I hate when skinny people complain about how "hard it is to lose the last 10 pounds."  Or when they complain about how "big" all their clothes suddenly are.  Thanks for gloating, asshole, now I feel like a whale.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scars

Lately I've become obsessed with this Basement Jaxx song:


And lord knows there's nothing like a good song to get my brain churning and bubbling like a cauldron of noxious chemicals.


     I have a series of scars all over my body.  Each of these have come to mean something to me later in life that I would never have thought of when I got them.

     Let's start at the top.  First there is the 1/2 inch scar on my forehead that was the result of my 3-year-old playtime in a big, empty box which tipped over when I tried to "make it bigger" so that my Grandpa could come into the box with me. It sent me crashing into my parents' fireplace and earned me 3 stitches.
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     This scar can represent several different things for me depending on how deeply I want to analyze it.  The super-deep meaning: When you are looking for fun in things that are empty, you can waste a lot of time trying to make them more than they are and end up with nothing more than a headache.
The not-so-deep meaning:  I'm glad I have a thick skull.

Then there is the scar on my hand.
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     This is actually from when I was only a day or two old - I was put into the NICU and the nurse who did my IV did a bad job of putting the needle into the vein.  My whole hand swelled up with fluid and had to be sliced open to relieve the pressure.

     This scar didn't have a meaning to me until the year 2001 when I read Fight Club for the first time.  The book quite honestly changed my life and gave words to frustrations that I didn't know how to express - frustrations about rampant materialism, the feminization of our culture and the meaninglessness of wanting to buy pillows to decorate a bed I never made.  There is a scene in the book where Tyler Durden kisses the back of the narrator's hand, then pours lye on it to give him a chemical burn and force the narrator to realize, "[Y]ou have to that someday, you are going to die.  Until you know that, you will be useless."  Ever since the first time I read that I started looking at the scar on my hand as if it were Tyler Durden's kiss, there to remind me that things will never make me truly happy.  It's a lesson I have re-learn every time I walk into a store like Bed, Bath and Beyond needing a salt shaker and coming out with 5 beach towels, 3 scented candles and a gadget to separate egg whites for me (forgetting the salt shaker.) 

There's the scars on my knees from my bike accident and surgery in 2007:


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There are two lessons to be learned from these scars.  1 - Don't ride your bike next to a skateboarder.
2- Don't abide by doctors who prescribe you Vicodin within the first 30 seconds of you telling them what's wrong.  My first two visits to urgent care for this knee injury resulted only in the same doctor telling me the to ice it, elevate it, and take the pain pills like a good little girl even though after 1 1/2 weeks it still wasn't getting any better.  Had this doctor told me then to go to physical therapy I probably could have avoided surgery, but because the injury healed wrong I had to go under the laser. 

Then we get down to the nastiest looking scar of them all: my c-section scar.
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This was definitely my most well-earned scar.  41 hours of labor all to have her extricated from me by someone with a scalpel.
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     It was definitely worth it.  :)

     What did I learn from this scar?  I am damned glad that we live in the age of technology.  All throughout my pregnancy I would picture myself having to work as a pregnant farm-woman back in the 1700s: having to quite literally hoe for my life and kill chickens to eat and only stopping to pop a squat in the field for a few hours to have the baby.  Now, of course, I know that I would have been one of those women who died in childbirth back then, but at the time I was pregnant it was the thought of my foremothers squatting in fields that made me get out of bed in the morning without coffee and stop complaining about my sciatica to anyone that would listen - if they could do it, so could I!
     Um, not quite.
     So thank god for modern medicine, because it allowed me to actually become a mother instead of a dead person.

     Thus concludes our tour of my scar tissue and my mind.  I hope you've enjoyed seeing this grossness.  :)