Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Good Place with Two

Lately, the contrast between the way I've raised each of my children thus far has come into sharp focus. Maybe being that we're unemployed right now and I'd expect to somehow find myself in a permanent funk, but instead to my surprise sometimes find myself feeling pretty much stress-less has caused me to evaluate the different stages of my life in the past years and ponder what I've done differently at various points.

Thinking back to the years when little Jimmy was home with me before starting school (as Kyla is now) I recall pretty much all day Mommy and son time. We did story time together. We took walks nearly every day. We visited all the local parks regularly. We played with blocks and Lego's and puzzles. We read LOTS at home. We ran errands. We did just about everything together. And while that's wonderful and beautiful in a lot of ways, it also caused me to frequently feel like I was totally losing my mind. Don't get me wrong - I LOVED (and still do) little Jimmy and being with him, but sometimes I just really needed some alone time. And yes, we did have the kind services of babysitting from various family members which was great; still, many days it felt overwhelming. I tried to join a YMCA when little Jimmy was younger solely for the purpose of my having personal time and space, but he was very much a Mama's boy, and I found myself frequently being called to the child care section of the facility to pick up my child who had screamed non-stop from the moment I had dropped him off. Within a few weeks of joining, I was forced to cancel the membership. It didn't help either that I didn't know at the time that he was totally allergic to milk (and I'm beginning to think gluten now too). Jimmy has a very strong will - a will that I believe served him well in coming through his premature entrance into this world, and a will which I fully believe will serve him hugely as an adult. But as a baby and toddler, it was challenging. The struggle of those first few years is certainly not solely attributable to him; I completely played the role of the overprotective mother. I coddled my little boy and sheltered him just as much as he would let me. I checked on him at least twice a night until he was four years old, and I think I even gave him a sippy of milk once a night until well past the age of two (I know! - that in itself is unbelievable. . . but if only I had known the milk itself was not helping anything at all). Frequently, I cooked three meals a day for him. I don't know that I ever left him with anyone aside from family (with the exception of our short stint at the YMCA). Long and short of it - he was my first; he was early and strong willed by nature, and I was worried and hyper-overprotective and also strong willed by nature.

And then Kyla came along. In my opinion, she's been a people-pleaser since birth; not really - she's just extraordinarily accommodating. She's cranky when she's sick or tired, and the rest of the time, she pretty much just goes with the flow. Whatever's happening, she goes with it. Granted she doesn't appear to have any crazy food allergies which makes life much simpler. She wasn't born prematurely and spending her first six weeks of life being poked and prodded in a hospital. No, by contrast, she had a very easy start. I was too exhausted from caring for Jimmy rather spastically for the past four years to devote that much obsessiveness to her - and she didn't want it either (go figure). Of course I still was up with her through the night as an infant, but once twelve months hit I let her learn to put herself to sleep. Now that's not to say Kyla has always been all peaches 'n' cream; no, she definitely has her own little personality that she shares with everyone. She's just a different person with a different temperament and different experiences. We do read and play and go to parks and run errands together - just not as much. I have a membership to another YMCA now, and I take full advantage of it; and yes, I do go to get a break from the constantness of motherhood. Sometimes it's just good to not have to respond to anyone at any given moment. We usually go to the gym in the morning after dropping Jimmy of at school, and then we come home for her nap time. When she wakes up, we have lunch and play a bit before picking up Jimmy. When we get back from picking Jimmy up, it's Jimmy's homework time and Kyla's coloring time. And then it's playtime, and they play together wonderfully (usually). Yes, I play with them too, but they really can do a great job on their own which frees me up to make a decent dinner.

It's just struck me how easy this phase of life is as far as child rearing goes. Somehow I feel like I should feel guilty for how simple it is. But should I really? The kids are happy, and I'm reconnecting with some levels of my own sanity (note that I said some). And I like it like this. Kids are great and all and I'm thrilled to have this experience (and to have survived it thus far), but in my perspective at least, they're easier when they're not infants. At last both of my kids are old enough to articulate their feelings or wants or needs; do you have any idea how huge that is, and how much whining and crying that eliminates?! I don't even need to tell you that a child crying may as well be nails on a chalkboard to me, do I? Even a child that's not my own. If I can hear a baby crying at Wal-Mart per se, I will intentionally shop in an area where I am out of range of hearing that - it disturbs me. I feel compelled to *fix it,* but given that it's someone else's child, I know that my efforts at appeasing their little one will go fully unappreciated (just a hunch). I also love that I only have one child in diapers who will soon be out of that phase completely too. Again, don't get me wrong - there's not much cuter than a child toddling around the house in a diaper; but really, it's fecal matter and urine people. . I'm happy to not deal with that repeatedly all day.

I remember before Kyla was born asking some friends who had two kids when they were going to have their next one. "We're not. . . Just wait, you'll see. . " I have to say, at the time I honestly didn't believe them, and that was even as I was in the thick of raising my first. But there's been a lot of water under the bridge between then and now. I get it. Raising kids while being the most rewarding job, is also easily the most exhausting and frequently the most unappreciated job. In a nutshell: I like my sleep - A LOT. I've enjoyed reconnecting with the me who is well rested.

Once more, I can't reiterate it enough: I love my kids as much as it's possible for one human to love another. . but I don't want anymore. In August, what ended up being the week the company Jim worked for closed and the week he lost his job, Jim got the old snip-snip. It was a little touch and go there as to whether or not the insurance would be active at the time of the surgery (as the company closed on Wednesday and the surgery had been scheduled for Friday) but in the end we were both very relieved to hear the insurance would still be active. What a relief to no longer have the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy. And while I'm sure a vasectomy is unpleasant (it is surgery after all), I believe the men should be more than willing for this type of procedure after all the pain their wives have endured in bringing their child/ren into the world. I was so pleased with the whole thing being taken care of and done with that I made Jim a little cake in the shape of scissors to commemorate his bravery for the sake of his wife's constitution.

Have I regretted the decision at all? Not a once. In fact, when I see other mom's with their infants or hear about newly expecting friends or family, I actually feel a tinge of pity. Of course expecting a new little one is a happy time and all, yet there is so much work in the whole process and so little sleep. All of that to say, I'm glad to be where I'm at. I sleep, and I think more rationally. I have time for such frivolities as blogging and Facebook (gasp!). I can use the bathroom any time I feel the need. I get to read WHOLE books. I can cook real food regularly. I shower every single day! My life is not consumed with doctor's appointments. It's a nice place to be really. Ya, we may not have found a job yet after several months of searching, but that doesn't mean there's not a lot to be thankful for, and having two great kids and no more is one of them!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nasty, Nasty, Nasty

When I volunteered to help my sister finish with cleaning out her home in order to rent it, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn't that the house was filthy or in wretched state of disrepair. No, quite the opposite. In fact everything was going along really nicely with finishing those last little bits of cleaning and repairs here and there UNTIL we made that flippant and, looking back now, foolish decision to drop off a few bags of garbage at the dump. We could've just waited; she could've just driven over the evening before garbage day to set the bags out by the curb, but no. Feeling a bit too overly eager, we decided to just get the job done straight away by driving it to the dump.

Really we weren't even going to the dump, but rather to a transfer station. It was right up the road; couldn't have been more than a ten minute drive. . simple, right? Wrong. . . dead wrong. I'd never been to a dump or a transfer station until last Tuesday, but I totally underestimated the entire situation. Completely. I was not mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared for what I was about to experience. My husband, who had also been helping with the final repair and clean up of my sister's house gave me no warning either. Having previously owned a property care business, he had plenty of experience in making drop offs at the dump. Since he had visited such places as this so regularly, I assumed it would be no big deal (and you know what they say about people who assume, right?) and he didn't indicate otherwise.

We loaded our dad's truck which we had borrowed for the day with anything we could find that should be disposed of: old blinds, garbage, scraps of laminate etc. The drive was brief and entirely uneventful. As we pulled into the station where you show your ID or pay, we decided it was best to just turn off the diesel truck as it was so loud we couldn't hear what the attendant was saying to us. We provided the necessary info and then proceeded to follow her directions up some ramp. . except - we had to turn the truck back on again first. . .this meant waiting for the allotted warm up period for diesels. . . all the while garbage trucks and recycling trucks were passing us, and we were beginning to feel just a bit out of place (at least we weren't driving my sister's Prius.)

The truck finally started and we turned onto the ramp. The ramp. How weird is that? It's not like we were merging onto an overpass or something; no, we were simply entering the ginormous warehouse-looking transfer station. Feeling somewhat awkward and strangely nervous, we sat in line waiting for our turn. At the front of the line we observed MOUNTAINS of . . . poo. Really, it could've just been actual poo; that's how bad it stunk at least (and that was before we rolled down the window). We watched as garbage trucks backed in and added to the mess followed by some huge nasty floor sweeping machine that swept the sludge and garbage more closely towards the mountains.

When the attendant at the top of the ramp noticed us sitting there awkwardly, he approached *laughing* (maybe he sensed our state of shock and awe) and told us where we could "back the truck in" when he gave the cue. The cue came quickly and let me just say there was no backing in; neither my sister or I had any interest in trying to get as close as possible to the garbage heap so as to avoid spreading the mess any further. No, sorry; they would just need to come through with the nasty sweeper machine after us and push all of our garbage into the rest of the collective heap.

Feeling pressured to be quick (given the line of commercial vehicles waiting at the doorway of the elevated warehouse) we both jumped out as soon as the truck was parked. I had only two scant days previously treated myself to a pedicure, and here I was wearing my flip flops inside the most repulsive place on the planet. A thick coat of grime and sludge and gunk made the floor very slick. My sister and I both separately envisioned our utter demise should a wrong step be made. I walked carefully towards the back of the truck, but was forced to stop when I came to a deeper segment of muddy sewage. I decided instead to try to reach over the side of the truck to grab whatever I could and then, using my brute She-ra type strength, thrust the debris as close to the mountain as possible. My poor sister; this meant that she was left doing most of the work and traversing through all the gore beneath our feet. At one point, I managed to get a hold of some sliding door blinds and was able to use my amazing javelin throwing abilities to pitch the whole thing approximately six inches from my feet. To say that we were completely out of our element is easily the understatement of the century; not that anyone could be in their element there, but clearly others there we less horrified and more prepared for the repugnance of the transfer station than we were. I actually noted the garbage truck drivers and even the attendant within the transfer station laughing maniacally at us; these weren't little chuckles either. These were out and out making-fun-of, sincere belly laughs kind of laughs. . .

When the debris in the back of the truck was unloaded we both eagerly climbed into the cab of the truck to prepare for our hasty departure. I carefully removed my flip flops at the far side of the floor by the door so as to detach the most highly contaminated portion of attire from my being. My sister had no choice (with sneakers on and the rush to leave) aside from simply getting in and driving. Of course, there was the issue again of having to wait for the the diesel engine to be ready for us to drive after turning the key. . . . How can a few short seconds seem so painfully long? When the light finally went off and we were free to leave, my sister managed to sort of peel out (which isn't a difficult thing to do given the scum on the floor). We then both commenced noting the feeling of numbness in our appendages which *may* have made contact with ANYthing in the facility. Surely it was all bio-hazard-sludge-acid that would likely give us a quick and severe case of leprosy.

The next stop on our list of errands was Home Depot. Climbing out of the truck in the parking lot, we were surprised and disgusted to see the *mud* (if only it was just mud. . just plain old dirt mud. . but we knew better) spattered across the side of the truck. Not anticipating the smell of the dump following us around, I was fully unprepared for the scent that greeted my nostrils as I walked away from the truck, and I'm not joking: I gagged. . I nearly vomited at the smell of the truck. We weren't even at the dump and the smell on the outside of the truck was still that strong. As we walked in, we both noted that the other smelled like a dump, so we chose to head strait to the bathroom to wash our shoes and feet and hands with soap. I felt a bit like what I imagine a homeless person might feel like with a one foot and then the other sudsied up in a public restroom sink. Still, it made a huge difference in our odor to simply wash our shoes and feet. Later we took the truck to a car wash which helped some but did not completely eliminate the odor that lingered over us and the truck for the remainder of the day.

I have never in my life experienced such abhorrent filth. I didn't know a place that horrific existed in our state. As amazing as it sounds, that was just one of many transfer stations where garbage is collected before it's driven out to the real dump - which I'm presuming is far bigger and grosser on many levels. I have a new found respect for garbage collectors; that is some nasty work, and I'm really glad I don't have to do anything like that every week. I asked my husband about not warning us of the horrors of the transfer station, and his response was basically that he thought we'd been before and knew what to expect. Um, ya - NO; that will never be happening again. The experience has made me surprisingly conscientious of how much garbage our household produces, and also eager to implement more recycling and reusing. And it's definitely high time biodegradable materials were implemented into every possible consumer product made.

I'll leave with this final and parting thought on garbage collection sites in general: Yuck-o.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Knowing the Consumer Well

I really appreciate that Ford is meeting us at our need. Their Super Bowl add is bound to clear the car lots of these puppies!

Ford Unveils New Car For Cash-Strapped Buyers: The 1993 Taurus

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Letter to Employers

I know this is a terrible thing to do here, but for three months we've endured such amazing injustices as far as the job hunt goes that I feel it's my duty to bring attention to the matter and call a spade a spade. To all employers *considering* hiring now or ever: You are NOT all that and a bag of chips. While I know I should continue existing in a faux state eager readiness and excitement at the prospect of ANY employment, it's just not happening any more.
For starters, I am 100% fed up with the false advertising of businesses. As hard as this may be to believe, there are actually businesses out there falsely advertising positions which do not exist. By that, I mean that these are positions which they hope to exist some day when they get that new account or when they start having the common situation of money flowing out of their ears. TWICE now, Jim has done interviews which seemed to go relatively well, until the point at the very, very, very end of the interview wherein the interviewer stated something generally to the affect of: "Well, IF the position becomes available, it won't be until JANUARY." Emm. . Excuse me? Your telling me that this position, which supposedly you (the interviewer) are handling right now (along with three other positions) won't be available until JANUARY? And emmm. . is that because you're hoping for some inordinate amount of money to somehow manifest itself within the company at some magical date in January? Great - thank you for wasting our time. My husband, he just really enjoys preening for people; it's his idea of a good time to sell himself; he likes demonstrating all of his knowledge when requested on the spot. . And he even more just LOVES acing an interview for a position which very well could NEVER exist. That's totally his idea of a real good time. Or what about the other interview he did just last week wherein he divulged all kinds of info about himself to prove what a 'very useful engine' (to coin Thomas the Tank) he was, only to have the HR lady on the other end of the line (who up until this point had seemed extremely pleasantly surprised and satisfied with Jim's answers) inform Jim that should their company acquire 'X' account, they may give him a call. . Well, thanks for all that! And of course Jim wouldn't feel like a used up whore or anything. . Of course he wouldn't! Really, I feel like this practice of conducting interviews for positions which at present (or possibly ever) do not exist should be criminal. And the fact that in both of these cases, the employer dropped that rather notable and critical bit of info at the VERY last possible moment in the interview just speaks volumes to the companies' integrity. Talk about being led on. It's on level with being invited to a fun pool party only to show up and have the host present 'the plan' to become a sales rep for xyz multi-level company. It's dishonest and disheartening.

Another amazing little factoid that I've come to be utterly disgusted with is the fact that employers simply will not accept the fact that you are willing to accept a pay cut. Again, it's been three months. . We would really appreciate some gainful employment at this point. Jim's not the type who would get hired on someplace, and then start sulking around because he's not getting paid what he got paid previously. And it appears this little issue of pay is a sticking point. People just will not accept the fact that you could be happy getting paid less - ever. News flash employers of America: every unemployed person in this country who has spent any quantity of time searching for a job has come to the realization that a pay cut is inevitable, and they have accepted it. . and it's HIGH time you people figured that one out too!

And for all the super neat-o managers out their with an inferiority complex, let's set the record strait for the unemployed folks: We don't want your job. That's great that you have a high and mighty position wherever, but we're not competing with you for your position; we're simply interviewing for the job your company advertised. While many of us are in fact far more qualified than you are for the work which you are doing, that does not mean we will be trying to edge you out the door. No, again, we're simply looking for employment - so quit being on the defensive. . it makes you look insecure and shallow.

My last gripe regarding prospective employment has to do with the manner in which people are informed of not getting the job. I received a letter in my inbox a couple weeks ago from an interview which Jim had completed at least six weeks previously. As soon as the interview was completed, though we both new it was a bad fit and just wasn't going to happen, we went ahead and sent a "thank you for the interview" card (how prompt and special of us!). I had pretty much long since forgotten about that interview until I received this special email informing us regretfully that he had not received the job. Again, we picked up on that when one of the interviewers began preparing to leave for lunch before all parts of the interview (as Jim had been informed) had been completed. . . That was our first hunch that it just wasn't looking so good. But to six weeks later get an email. . . an email? The level of utter stupidity of this is just mind-boggling. They couldn't even defer to the concept that their letter had somehow gotten lost in snail mail; no, it was an email. When an organization is that slow at simply sending out post-interview informative letters, it speaks volumes to their level of competency. Receiving the email made me realize just how close Jim could've been to getting that job (even if it wasn't totally up his alley); I mean, with time anyone can learn and accomplish anything, and clearly this little group seems to think that time is not a factor at all. Really, at that point it would have reflected much better on this group if they just didn't bother with sending out the notices at all. It should be noted that this was a position with one of the governing institutions here. WOW.

For right now, I don't plan on naming any organizations who have exhibited these extraordinary traits. But I would really like it (since I know this blog is read by lots of big employers) if the people doing the hiring and interviews could be a little more considerate to their prospective employees. Don't get our hopes up for nothing. Accept that we can accept you and your pay. Don't fret that we're going to take over the world (or your company or your job for that matter). And don't be rude. That's fair, right? If you can handle that, then you're hired!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Frightening Assumptions

Wheeewwww. . . Pheeewwwwww. . . Sigh. . Breathing again over here. I just had a very disturbing experience for which I'm now on the other side of and enjoying the relief of it all. Phew. Still glad to be breathing.

It all started when I dropped little Jimmy off at school this morning and headed off to the gym and to run some errands with Kyla. As I was coming home around 11:30, the thought actually crossed my mind that his school does not have either my husband's or my own new cell phone numbers. I thought of all the reasons both simple and complex for which they'd need to contact me during the day, and fully had in mind to promptly call the school just as soon as I got home. When I did arrive home I saw a message flashing on the machine. Checking it, I was utterly horrified to hear it was the Dean of Students at his school. "Calling to speak to the parents or guardian of James Britton. If you could please give me a call at your earliest convenience." Oh. my. gosh. I of course immediately called back and was forced to simply leave a message. . . Just let the gravity of that sink in for a moment. . . I was having visions of horror and shame and fear - nightmares really, and I was left to leave a message.

I put Kyla down for her nap, and I showered as quickly as is humanly possible (not wanting to miss the phone call). I checked my emails ever so briefly and thoughtlessly. And then I stewed. I checked the school schedule online to see when the kids would have their lunch so I could call again, and if I couldn't speak to the dean I could at least speak to his teacher to find out what had happened.

So while waiting, thoughts kept overtaking my mind - literally hijacking my brain. Bad thoughts. Sinister thoughts. I pictured little Jimmy having been sitting in the dean's office for the last four hours while the dean glared at him for his baffling behavior and wondering why in the heck James' parents were so inept at returning a simple phone call - surely this was the cause of James' behavior today. . .

I envisioned Jimmy shoving other innocent children. I pictured him sitting in his desk with his arms crossed obstinately refusing to do any work. I saw him telling off his teachers. I imagined him back-talking the dean. And then my thoughts took a turn. What if he had been the victim? What if some other kids had bullied him? What if he had been injured? What if he had been life-flighted to the nearest hospital? I googled his school to see if any breaking news clips showed up (fortunately there weren't any). And then just as quickly as it had come on, I snapped out that one. Obviously the dean wouldn't be calling me if that was the situation - probably I would have heard from his teacher, and the hospital, and the principal. . ya, there'd be more than one message on my machine if anything really terrible had happened.

So I returned to my stewing over Jimmy's behavior. I tried to think of good punishments for the sort of behavior that would elicit a call from the Dean of Students. He'd be cleaning the bathroom and sweeping the porch; he'd be doing dishes and fixing meals too for that matter. Still, I couldn't help but feel my attempts at more serious punishments would go unnoticed. I remembered back to the days of my own elementary school. There were children who were notoriously naughty (at least for that time) - kids who knew the principal a little too well or who had even been sent home on occasion. I tried to think of what these mothers did to encourage their children to behave, and alas, I could think of nothing truly special or notable. Ya, the mom's of the *naughty* kids from elementary school had finally earned my sympathy.

Finally it was lunch time at Jimmy's school (emm. . . yes, this was actually only ten minutes later), so I called back. Much to my relief and dismay, the dean picked up. "Oh, ya. Hang on just a minute." She seemed so casual as she placed me on hold - like he was just one of a list of offenders for the day, and she needed to pull his file to remember exactly what he had done to earn himself a trip to the office. "Yes, we're showing five excused absences and five unexcused absences for James for the month of October." Silence. My heart began beating again much the way most other living beings does, and I simultaneously realized how completely and utterly wrong I had been in all my assumptions. I casually explained how he had missed five days for the flu, and five days for our single family vacation planned for the last year, and how I had worked it out with his teacher and all his work had been completed. And that was it. "OK. Thank you. I completely understand." And that was it. . .

Yes, I know that mother's tend to worry, and I know that I in particular have an extraordinarily overactive imagination; but the bottom line is this: you know what they say about people who assume. . .

Monday, November 2, 2009

Organically Grown Locally

There is absolutely nothing quite like really fresh, locally grown produce. And when I say fresh, I mean "I just pulled this out of the earth" fresh. My favorite farmer is just a scant drive away from our home, and I take great delight in purchasing organic fruits and veggies from his stand. Not only do they taste amazing, but they also cost next to nothing. For absolutely NO effort on my part of trying to grow a garden in my back yard, I have all the advantages of just that.

Fernando is an amazing farmer; previously employed in the construction industry, he found himself out of work when everything came to a grinding halt a couple years ago. That's when he decided to begin growing his own food and open a little fruit and veggie stand. He's grown to love his work and says even if the construction industry ever comes back, he still plans to stay put at his little farm growing fresh produce for himself and all the locals here who love him for it.

I appreciated the reporting by Tom Brokaw on NBC on the importance of buying locally and from farmers who carefully consider their work; a beautiful piece of reporting describing how we, the consumer, can actually fix the food system by simply choosing carefully where and what we buy. . Choosing small local farms that don't use chemical pesticides or fertilizers means that we get a higher quality end product. We get a product which will serve the intended effect of nourishing our bodies - not harming them. I believe it's very important that we as the consumer make our voice heard: our health counts, and that means the food we eat should be grown conscientiously. Just because we can buy scads of uber cheap produce from government subsidized farms thousands of miles from our homes, does NOT mean that is the way we will be spending our money. I say the health of our nation's citizens is more valuable than saving some lose change to get a cheaper product. And while some local, organic produce may cost more, in many cases it doesn't. Fernando's Produce prices are very competitive, and frequently cheaper than buying elsewhere. Not only that, but he gives me any veggies that are on their way out free of charge to feed to my chickens; talk about smart recycling!

To Fernando of Fernando's Produce in Summerfield, thanks for making this possible in our area. We truly appreciate your efforts in supplying our community with thoughtfully grown organic produce.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Best Barbershop in Belleview

Big Al's Barbershop really is the best. Their shop is always full, but the service is always quick. Yet just because they're quick doesn't mean they don't give the hair cut you request. No, in fact, for nearly no wait and a scant $6, you can actually get your hair cut the way you request it! Imagine that! I find this very novel because so many times I have taken Jimmy to get his hair cut, and he walks out looking like he's ready to enlist (obviously this was not the style his mother requested). Other times, I'm rather horrified to see just how many crooked or jagged lines are created - and for a cut that ended up costing three to four times as much as Big Al's! Now I know little Jimmy is by no means an easy customer, but the fact that Big Al's could give him the haircut I requested AND make it look nice with no real wait for SIX DOLLARS. . . well they're definitely on my good list.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fall has Fallen!

We wait all summer (OK, half the year) in Florida for days like these last few - days where you can go outside for periods of time exceeding 30 seconds and not break into a full on sweat. It was wonderful to enjoy the cooler air yesterday, and even more wonderful to wake up this morning to sweater weather. It has been gorgeous outside to say the least! Though we are relishing these pleasant days of real fall weather now, we can't help but marvel at our own strength and fortitude in surviving the Long Summer (very similar to the Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but the opposite season of the year).

Here are some pictures of Jimmy and Kyla enjoying the non-sweat and possible snow (per Jimmy's beliefs) weather.

Little Jimmy opting to climb over the front of his vehicle to pick a dandelion.

Pretty baby.

You can only imagine the fart jokes being told to elicit this sort of laughter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Flu Week Thus Far

So, I'm sitting here feeling the effects of the flu attacking my body, knowing that sometime tonight probably my immune system is likely to succumb to the barrage of germs swarming my being. I feel like I've gone to great lengths to keep this thing away from me for the last week or so, but dang-it, sometimes it's OK to call it a good game and admit defeat.

This whole flu, SWINE FLU, thing has been circulating in the media for quite a while, and we could all see it coming. We heard about schools closing - WHOLE schools! And we heard about classes without teachers or students - just empty classrooms. And then my son woke up on Saturday with a sore throat. We'll just say there was at least one eyebrow raised in his general direction when he first admitted to having a sore throat. I was suspicious, but I tried to ignore it because, hey, it's just a sore throat, right? That's definitely not the flu or anything crazy. . . Right?

Sunday morning he woke up complaining of a sore throat and headache. A headache. It's hard for me to even put into words how odd it is to hear my son complain of a headache; it just doesn't happen. Ever. Obviously I couldn't pretend the words he said were just a fluke or some little verbal mishap, but I didn't. We checked his temperature, and sure enough he registered at 101. Well poo. So this is where I undertook my super-human ability to ward off illness. I cooked up a big batch of fresh soup, and pulled out the humidifier. I found the vix vapor rub and an extra pillow to prop him up in his sleep.

Unfortunately, despite all my preparation, there was to be no sleeping that night. The fever got a little too high for comfort or sleep. It was around 104 coming down only to 102 at best about an hour or so after giving him the fever reducers. I was alternating Tylenol and Motrin every three hours, which I now realize I had wrong (you're actually supposed to rotate them every four hours, but I was doing it every three hours - so should my child have liver and/or kidney problems as an adult, we'll all know just when the organ damage started). Anyway, suffice it to say there wasn't much sleep for any of us. Jim headed to Wal-Mart at 1:00 AM (yes, you read the right) to get some medical supplies (think Tylenol Cold, Kleenex and Gatorade).

The next day I endeavored to keep Jimmy from spreading his germs around to everyone else. There was lots of hand washing, vacuuming (not that that would get rid of germs or anything - it was just mentally soothing) and scrubbing. That afternoon with Jimmy's temperatures still not dropping below 102, I decided to call his doctor who recommended he come in the next day just to make sure all was well. She also informed me that had I come in earlier, if he did in fact have the flu they could have given him Tamiflu; but as it stood, if I wanted to get the drug within the first 48 hours of his fever, I'd have to find a walk-in clinic or something that night. Feeling far more confident than I should have, I decided to forgo a walk-in clinic and just schedule to see the doctor in the morning simply to make sure there was no infection or anything. Just FYI, this next sentence is where my optimistic, I-can-conquer-the-swine-flu attitude kind of took a nose dive. Being unemployed, we had just been confirmed for medicaid. . and my doctor doesn't take medicaid. . so I'd have to go somewhere else.

Again, there is really no way to express in writing the horror of this statement. You see, I'm picky about pediatricians. Really picky. I've developed a rather judgemental attitude towards pediatricians, largely because I've seen that there are some that are just REALLY good at what they do, and then there are lots that are just REALLY bad at what they do. There's not a whole lot of middle ground or gray areas as far as pediatricians go.I don't like my pediatrician; I LOVE my pediatrician. I don't think I could count on more than one hand the number of times there has been a single. Other. Patient. In the waiting room. They don't overbook themselves - and for this, I am a devoted follower. The doctors are kind and understanding, and they don't overbook themselves. They actually hear what I say as a mom and they VALUE it, and they don't overbook themselves. They're sweet and affectionate and empathetic and engage my children, and they don't overbook themselves. I have been to some practices where the minimal wait time in the packed waiting room (picture kids and snot mingled together in a room that is vaguely reminiscent of a cattle car) is at least an hour every time; of course this is not something that's advertised, but it's a quick and nightmarish realization when it is discovered. So suffice it to say when I find a pediatrician that I like, I stick with them forever til death do us part (or we move away).

I asked the nurse on the other end of the line if she knew of any doctors in the area that did accept medicaid. She rattled off a few names, and when pressed, even mentioned one that she thought was "OK." I called that one and was quickly reminded of other disappointing pediatricians I'd seen previously. "Hellopleasehold" a woman answered without waiting for a response. When she returned to the line, she was unapologetically blunt and brief. Ya, that place just was not going to be happening anytime in my near future if at all possible; we'd just rough it and go without seeing a doctor.

Over the course of the day, I had compiled a list of a few more cold/flu items that I needed, and headed to the store in the evening to get them. Halfway home from my excursion, Jim called to inform me that we needed Feverall. . . 'Nough said. . . Jim didn't realize with his one comment he had fully wiped out any remaining bit of strength and hope I had of surviving the flu with my sanity intact. Feverall. It's a low point for any parent when their kid needs it. As they advertise blatantly, it's the 'only brand of acetaminophen in suppository form.' In other words, my kid couldn't keep down the Tylenol we were giving him to keep his crazy fever down, so we needed medicine we could stick up his rear to keep the fever down. I returned to the pharmacy I had just left in search of Feverall, and they were out. .

So I hit another store just up the road to see if they had Feverall. I looked around, and not seeing it on the aisle, approached the pharmacy counter - loudly coughing and jingling my keys to get the pharmacists' attention (you know how they all always do that. . that thing where they pretend like your not there and there's just no possible way for them to even glance over and say, 'I'll be over in second'). Fortunately, one of the women was pretty quick to respond. I told her what I needed, and she cheerily turned to the shelf behind her commenting "Yes, we do. . . . . . . Umm. . Where's the Feverall?" she called to another woman shaking up some medicine. "Oh, we must've sold it all. We had some earlier." Another uber low moment. There's a pandemic, and all the Feverall in the area has been sold; the gravity of the situation was surreal. At the same time, I saw some Motrin Cold on the pharmacists' little shelf of hidden goodies. I didn't mince any words in questioning why the Motrin Cold was hidden back in the pharmacy when I had been looking for it for the last two days, and "No one told me people were hiding it in the pharmacies these days! " The woman responded that it was a drug which had to be signed off on to be sold. "Oh, that's great! So I've got a sick child at home, and I can't find the drugs I need to help him because there's a bunch of drug addicted crazies out there!!!". I was fully and unabashedly venting at the pharmacy ladies because I was frustrated with everything in my life. And you know what they did? They did the best thing in the world at the moment. They empathized. "That's exactly right! YOU are the one whose punished because there are crazy people in the world. It's not right! It shouldn't be that way. What does your child have, may I ask?". Well, now that we had reached this level of flagrant emotional honesty, and she actually asked the question, I didn't hold anything back again when I sob-sassed my cynical run-on response back to her "He has the swine flu. And my husband's out of work, and we don't have insurance, and the stupid medicaid isn't working, and it's not set up, and I don't know what to do!!!!". And again, I love that they leveled with me on this and empathized with me as a human being - not just another customer. "Well. . you could always go to the health department; they'll probably at least put you in a room if they know that's what you're there for. . . Or you could go to the ER. Heck, that's covered by medicaid! Ya, they'll figure out something to do with you there too!". All of their responses were offered with a tone disgust which matched my own for a broken system that's too complex and frustrating to be useful (think of submitting papers requesting medicaid for your children on the basis of NO INCOME and then having that request kicked back THREE separate times for varying, time-wasting, useless reasons). So I'd like to say to these wonderful ladies at the pharmacy 'thank you.' Thank you for really getting my outrage and fear, and thank you for offering your wonderful solutions that sounded more like solutions my girlfriends would suggest to me. Thanks for not making me a number, but for actually acknowledging my humanness.

Fortunately, we didn't end up needing the Feverall. Jimmy was able to keep down his fever reducers after that one incident. So I resumed the sick protocol in our house: writing down the times and name of each medication administered along with temperatures (we don't always remember what was given or when it was given as you may recall from previous blogs), sanitizing everything all the time, pushing liquids, and quarantining ourselves in the house. A few days later Jimmy seemed to be feeling a bit better though with a very runny and raw nose, still hanging onto a low grade fever, and coughing pretty much nonstop. It was today as we sat next to one another and he coughed and something landed on his leg that I realized the utter lameness of my attempts at scouring this endless onslaught of germs and sickness away. A little later I observed Kyla, who now had a low grade fever too, sipping out of Jimmy's cup. And then a little later I observed Kyla, who now had a real fever, sitting on top of the bathroom counter brushing her teeth with her brother's toothbrush. Ya, the germs were obviously communal within our home at this point. No amount of cleaning or cautioning was going to overcome the impending illness.

It was noon today, and I had just put Kyla down for her nap when it dawned on me that she now officially had the flu given that she had a fever and I guess that's the official start of the flu - after which you have 48 hours to treat with Tamiflu or suffer through the whole nasty thing unaided. I thought of the next week, and I thought of the week I'd experienced up to this point. Ya, um, no. It's just not going to happen again. No way on earth am I going to just deal with the flu. I called up the pediatrician (ya, my pediatrician - the one I unabashedly love) and found out how much it would be to pay for a visit cash. For around $100, I could find out if Kyla had the flu and get a prescription written up for her if she did. I thought of saving the money and trying to get in to one of the medicaid doctors, and then I thought of my sanity hanging narrowly in the balance and decided to go ahead and take that single remaining available appointment for the day.

Sure enough, Kyla does have the flu. And the doctor even volunteered to look at Jimmy too to check for signs of infection (which he doesn't have). And the doctor offered to to right a note for Jimmy's school to excuse him. And the doctor called in the prescription for Tamiflu. And the doctor gave both of my kids stickers and a squirt of hand sanitizer. Once again and this time to the kids' doctor, THANK YOU for your humanity. Thank you for offering your help. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for actually caring about what you do. Thank you for being more concerned about kids than about lawsuits.

I left with my sanity intact and my faith in humanity renewed, and picked up the prescription which medicaid did pay for (Thank you too, medicaid. You do serve a purpose, thought it's not without a lot of jumping through flaming hoops and pleading and a complete loss of dignity). Yes, so here I am now - feeling like next week will be a better one. I may be sick, but at least my kids will be feeling better, and that will make it all much more bearable.

***Update: I've just discovered that for liability and legal reasons non-medicaid participating doctors can NOT see persons who carry medicaid. I guess I was just lucky to get in to our doctor by some error. I have a feeling our next visit to a pediatrician will be a very different kind of one.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fearful Fancies

I have had the privilege in recent weeks of observing my son's burgeoning awareness of his surroundings - particularly the scary parts. Things for which he never really cared about one way or another before, he's suddenly developed a sense of reservation and caution about. While little Jimmy has some pretty standard six year old fears, he's also got a fairly active imagination (I have NO idea where that came from). To me, this combo translates into a lot of laughs privately, and a lot of motherly guidance for my son.

One of Jimmy's new phobias is bears. He's afraid of a large number of bears chasing him. . . (ya, just let that one sink in for a moment). I think this little nightmare was concocted after a trip to Blue Springs a few months back wherein we observed FOUR (yes, you read that right, FOUR!) bears in trees over the boardwalk down by the boil; there were three baby cubs and one Mama bear. Feeling like the bear-whispering Florida natives that we are, we took a few moments to coo and awe over them before heading back to the swimming area. Unfortunately the thought of these bears somehow tracking our return to the picnic area or worse yet, our home, stuck with little Jimmy. And I'm sure it didn't help that I shared with him the story of how his Nana as a child was chased by an angry Mama bear and scarcely evaded a certain mauling thanks to her quick thinking Father who scooped her up and swept her to safety just in the nick of time! Phew! This was one of my favorite childhood stories of adventure which I begged my mom on a nearly daily basis to retell. So ya, a fear of being chased by bears seems kind of normal for this six year old to me.

Jimmy's also admitted rather shyly to me that he's also afraid of the 'D' word: the dark. This also strikes me as a very typical misgiving of a six year old. Every night he reminds me to shut his closet door because his closet is even creepier and darker than his bedroom at night; the closet is more or less a blackened abyss with no beginning or end in sight, which gives no forewarning of just what may be lurking within and about to come come out and attack. (For the record, no, little Jimmy has never seen Little Monsters, and at present I'd like to keep it that way). But really, I think the fear of dark is something we all have to one degree or another - at least figuratively speaking. No one really wants to ponder what atrocities may lie just around the next corner of life - or just out of the realm of sight. I think we all face the darkness of the unknown with a bit of trepidation.

Another genuine fear my son has, which actually brought tears to my eyes when I realized just how serious this fear was, is his fear of my old baby dolls. When I was helping my parents move a while back we found a couple of these antiquated plastic dolls my sister and I used to play with as kids. They were great mainly because they were made of plastic, and you could take them in the tub and bathe them just the way any little Mommy would bathe a real baby. One afternoon in search of some activity to occupy a single 15 minute block of the day, I put the kids in the bathtub along with one of the plastic baby dolls much to Kyla's delight. Jimmy didn't see the baby doll at first as he was busy filling up cups of water or attempting to create a waterfall or something to that effect. But when he realized the scary baby doll was in the tub with him he was outta there in no time flat. "No, Kyla! Put that scary baby doll out of the tub!" he yelled at her while climbing out of the tub at lightning speed and keeping a steady eye on the horrific plastic creature cradled in her hands. Kyla has come to understand her brother's angst over her new dolls, and it isn't in the least bit uncommon for her to terrorize Jimmy with them. Just this morning Kyla was chasing after Jimmy and giggling delightedly as he ran away from the doll screaming "NO, KYLA! That baby doll's eyes are scary! They're all messed up!"

And while baby dolls bear some resemblance to their human counterparts, there really is nothing quite as alarming as an actual live human being who's unintentionally scary for one reason or another. Such was the case when we were shopping at a children's resale store about a month ago. I first noticed the person of topic when we exited the dressing room. She was a super skinny younger woman (possibly a teenager) who wore a shirt that scarcely covered her bra (assuming she was wearing one); her belly was pierced and adorned with some rather eye-catching piece of body art, and her teeny tiny shorts were cut well below the belly bling so as to fully display the piercing and anything else she might want to show off in all its splendor and glory. I have to say even I was shocked when I saw her; I actually inadvertently did a double take, and then forced myself not to gawk. As I continued searching the racks, I could hear some snip-its of the bizarre conversation that was ensuing between the woman and the clerk, and it struck me that this person was likely on drugs of some kind. I felt bad for her, but at least I had a better idea of how she may have selected her wardrobe. Jimmy and Kyla were playing excitedly with their newly selected Halloween costumes while I hunted for the elusive slim OshKosh pants that little Jimmy wears, when Jimmy ran up to me in a frenzy. "MOMMY!" he whisper-yelled. "That lady isn't wearing ANYthing! She forgot to get dressed! And she has metal poking out of her stomach!". His shock and fear were palpable. I tried my best to calm him down without chuckling audibly, but he was most definitely disturbed by what he saw.

There's a lot of scary stuff in life. Some of it fully warrants our leeriness, and some of it is more within our imaginations. Either way, it's interesting and comical to observe a child's mind coming to grips with all the frightening possibilities which surround it. Life through a child's eyes is a beautiful and frequently amusing thing - even the scary parts.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A New Perspective

Since this whole job loss thing has begun, I've had a big change in perspective - maybe even a change in my world view. I've realized just how easy it is for people's lives to take a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse. I used to think that people were where they were in life largely as a result of their own choices - which is true to a degree; but to a greater degree, it's not totally true. Sometimes life just happens - and situations beyond your control put you in places you never thought you'd find yourself.

Take Jim losing his job. He did nothing to merit losing his job. It was strictly the result of poor decision making within the company at the very upper levels. Jim worked hard and strove to surpass expectations; he was aiming for a raise when the whole company shut down. Despite the atrocity of it all, we've found ourselves to be in a very fortunate situation. We have family that lives nearby and is very supportive and capable of helping us, and we've had the ability to accumulate a small savings for just such a rainy day. While we'd rather not be in this situation period, it's a wonderful thing to know that we're okay - fine really.

But what has struck me over the last five weeks has been the thought of what happens to the people who don't have the support we have been privileged to have. While unemployment compensation is a great idea, it would by no means cover the cost of standard living expenses. And it's pretty much a complete waste of time to even try to reach them via phone as all their lines are always full due to an exceptionally high call volume (I sent them an email suggesting they go ahead and relieve some of Florida's unemployed by hiring a few more people to answer phones). It was one full month almost to the day before we received the compensation that we had applied for immediately upon receiving word of TBW's closing. If we didn't have the support we have, we would have been in the food pantries of local charities humbly asking for a hand out. And what about health insurance? Forget about health insurance for the adults - what about just insuring the kids? We're still waiting to see if the state will approve our kids for KidCare, so we're hoping nobody falls severely ill or breaks anything. Some people aren't so lucky though and their kids do get really sick or injured at just the wrong time. Many people today here in Ocala find themselves in just these precise precarious situations - by no fault of their own.

Ocala has always had it's fair share of homeless people, but lately there's a lot more. They're not just at that one intersection I always saw them at before; no, now it seems like they're everywhere. And yes, I'm aware that they all may not be fully homeless, but they're obviously struggling to get by in a time when jobs are scarce. And what happens to the people who are out of work and out of health insurance who medically need high cost prescription drugs on a regular basis to function? Surely they should just come up with $1,000 or so every month so they can become insured independently with all of their *pre-existing conditions* (as a side note, I think the state of our nations health care is shameful. . the cost is absurd, and the coverage for people who need it most is even more so). And lest we forget, approximately 25% of the nations homeless people suffer from some sort of severe and persistent mental illness. They didn't choose that, but it's obviously affected their lives to the point where they now sadly find themselves at the mercies of another's discretion and hopefully their generosity too.

It would be fair to say that I have a lot more empathy or understanding for people who find themselves on hard times. It's sad that it's taken me this long to realize how cruel life can be even to nice people or people who work hard or who have families to support. So from someone who finally sees both sides of this coin, I'd suggest generosity, empathy and a lack of passing judgement on those who find themselves in unkind places in life.

It's too easy to slip through the cracks

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fun with Homemade Clay

A friend of mine who is going to be a kindergarten teacher this year was preparing for her upcoming year when she found a recipe for homemade play-dough online. She made it at home, and her kids loved it. Now normally, I wouldn't consider myself to be the type of mother capable of such an amazing feat, but somehow I was inspired by her blog about the whole thing. The next day I was taking little Jimmy to school in the van when he commented sullenly that there was no 'spearmint station' in his new first grade classroom. Of course I immediately thought of the play-dough recipe and promised him that we'd do some fun experiments at home even if there weren't any at school this year. Curious as to what type of experiments we would do, I had to explain to him just what we would be making. Obviously a light bulb went on in his head when I mentioned homemade play-dough, because he then asked if there was any way to make clay at home too - for permanent artwork. Well, after searching around online, I found you actually can make homemade clay! Crazy the stuff you can do with roughly $3 worth of standard pantry items.

This whole thing was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. For the mom's out there leery of such undertakings, it's really quite simple (trust me - I'm usually the leery one). And the mess isn't bad either - though I would suggest anyone who attempts to make and especially PAINT the clay, put down an old vinyl shower curtain or tablecloth to help with the ease of clean up. In the end, the kids were really proud of their creations, and Jim and I had some fun with it too.

1 cup salt
2 cups flour
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
water-based paints

Place dry ingredients in a bowl, add the water and oil, then stir until blended. Once the dough holds together, it's ready to be shaped!

Bake at 250 degrees until hard (for one to two hours).

Once cooled, paint with water-based paints if desired, or glue on glitter using white household glue.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Survival Mode

Stress. I find that I'm not really good at dealing with it. In fact, I'm flat out horrible at dealing with it - which is particularly sad given that I find myself to be still in a state of living and thus coming up drastically short of one of the most basic necessities for survival these days. When I say I'm bad at dealing with stress, I'd like it to be noted that it's the modern day stress that I'm bad at. I feel my natural responses to stress would've been perfectly acceptable and even necessary were I living a few hundred years ago and was regularly forced to outrun or fight off rabid dogs and angry mama bears. But now in a modern day setting, my natural responses to stress really serve no purpose aside from making me feel strangely weird even in my own skin.

My ability to feign strength and logical reasoning when confronted with an overwhelming situation is very short lived. More often I find what little reasoning or intelligence I might normally exhibit takes an unannounced sabbatical roughly ten minutes into finding myself amidst the said overwhelming situation. I'm kind of like a deer in headlights except worse, much worse. I don't just freeze, but rather I watch the slow motion process of the vehicle heading straight for me and foresee my quick demise and the demise of the vehicle at hand as well as any other random bystander or vehicle who might cross my line of vision, and I see my poor little Bambis at home all forlorn as man enters the forest. . . You get the picture. My husband references this habit of mine as 'predicting' and he hates it - largely because I'm frequently wrong in my predictions and succeed in not only spazzing myself out even more, but also any others who are gullible enough to buy into my vision of doom. Ya, add a little stress and I'm a full on the-glass-is-half-empty, Negative Nancy kind of girl.

I think part of my inability to deal with stress is the fact that so often I'm looking at the larger picture. Something bad happens, and I don't just see it for the burden of that day, I see it affecting my life and my family's lives for months and years to come. And then I think of all the events leading up to *the big one.* It's this whole time line thought that bothers me the most.

Take this whole horrid event of Jim losing his job as an example. The time line for this one starts two years ago, just a few weeks after Kyla was born. It was at this time that Jim realized he hated his lawn business. I had hated his lawn business for a long time and was all about him getting pretty much any other job on the planet (trust me, it was a LOT more work than one might imagine from the outside - a lot of bookkeeping, a lot of taxes and filings, a lot of crabby customers, and a royal ton of work all day into the evening/night and weekends). So when Jim made this announcement, I quickly posted a resume and began a job search for him. He had several valid offers for employment within just a couple weeks. In the end he selected this job here in Ocala because the work appealed to him more and appeared to be very stable. We moved here and were getting settled when a few months later Jim's Dad died randomly. After that we were forced to move again when the value of the house we were renting with the intent to purchase decreased drastically, and the owner offered no compromise on the price. (Have I ever mentioned that I despise moving? It's just a ton of work for a long time and it's very disorienting.) Nevertheless, we were getting settled. Jim's work was going well, and he was working a bit extra to earn a raise. So here we are all nice and settled and actually living our lives when this whole new fiasco strikes.

Can I just say, it irks me. I know that it was a good job while it lasted, and we actually were able to enjoy THREE whole vacations in less than one year (gasp!) - something which had never before happened. But honestly if I had known the rug was going to be pulled out from under this whole operation just as we were getting settled, I never would've even considered this job. My aim in life is stability. For as much as a human needs water to survive, my personal desire is just stability. I don't like drama, and I don't like change. I know everyone reading this is right about now thinking to themselves, "Well fat chance of finding stability. Life's hard, get used to it - and it changes a lot too by the way!". But the problem with this is that I look over my life and those that I've known, and I've watched as people have made one stupid mistake after another and have somehow come out from all of their stupidity OK and even kind of stable. My question is, why, for all the smart and strategic planning and hard work, could it not work out for us just this once. I'm not wanting something bad or evil. It's not like I'm a drug user or pusher. I'm not wanting to be rich or famous. All I want is stability for my family - nothing more. I want to set my mind to a task, accomplish it, and then have that be the end of it for a good while at least.

And yes, I know there is a huge standard quantity of change that happens to everyone all the time. I get that. Cars break and people have to find ways to pay for new vehicles or find alternative transportation - that's standard stress. Kids are sick for months on end and end up needing surgery to have adenoids out and tubes in - that's standard stress. The dogs get out and eat the neighbor's rooster and bunny and then proceed to begin herding their goats throughout the neighborhood - again, that's standard stress. All of it annoying and distressing - but on the level of standard. What I'm sick of is the upheaval - the continual upheaval. Right now Jim's out of work, but that's just one aspect to this whole mess. His company truck was taken away so he had to find alternative transportation. We banked through Lee's bank which now appears to be also complete with fraudulent activity too, so today I went and withdrew in cash form what money remained there to deposit at a new bank. We have no health insurance at all, and the way everything went down, no one can even get on cobra (we're hoping to at least get our kids on KidCare). Our homeowners insurance and auto insurance were with Lee's insurance company which also went down - so that needs to be changed. Our mortgage was held with TBW which also obviously changed (and the new company that's received all this work is so flooded that they can't be reached by phone at all. Ever.) We've filed for unemployment, but haven't received a dime (this is 3 weeks later people, and all their phone lines are conveniently always busy too).

Quite honestly, I don't want to deal with any more change. These are the type of stressors that should occur when you move and have to set all this stuff up, not when you lose a job in a small *city* (I use that term very loosely) which already had an unemployment rate over 12% prior to the other half of the town being laid off. And given all that's happened, it's not totally beyond the realm of possibility that we'll be having to move again and do all this stuff again. And did I mention my mother's doctors have found a 'mass' of dense tissue in her liver which they're looking into. . just as a side note. .

Ya, so I'm not the strong one. I'm not the pillar in this family. I can try to be upbeat and helpful in searching for jobs and claiming "Sure, it'll all work out." And I really hope it does, but basing my expectations on past experience, what exactly does that mean for it to all work out? Don't answer that. . . It means that life is hard and unpredictable. It means that you can work really hard and smart to achieve, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. For right now, I'm left finding myself occasionally just not breathing. That's right; I find that I sometimes subconsciously hold my breath. And when I am breathing, it's like I'm in a permanent state of having some sort of panic attack. My hands shake, and my stomach is often upset, and I don't always sleep well. Again, all of these stress responses would be perfect were I hunting my dinner hand to hand with the Lion King hundreds of years ago, but for now it's flat out ridiculous, and it leaves me exhausted and needing to go to bed. Ya, you could say I'm kind of incompetent at this stage of life.

What's worse is I can't seem to do anything about it. I can't make myself get a grip. I can go for a run or try to remember to breathe deeply, but invariably deep within the dark recesses of my thinking, my mind is not at all fooled and is still in the 'hunt or be hunted' mode. I think it's that ominous and vague abstract quality to this whole thing that further perpetuates my stress level. There's not really an end in sight, and I'm not sure what all else I'll have to change or fix or deal with before any kind of resolution is discovered.

So if I sound just a smidge keyed up or cynical, now you know why. It's not you, it's me. . . Really.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities

Anyone who's ever done any measurable amount job hunting, particularly for any kind of government position, has faced a serious dilemma in the filling out the application. I'm not talking about the length of the application (which is in itself baffling), but rather the tediousness of the questions. One set of questions in particular that I've come across several times has caused me to wonder who wrote the application in the first place.

The said question begins something like this: "Describe all knowledge you have which will assist you with the position." So, in paragraph form I of course wrote out a detailed explanation of Jim's knowledge. Given that he doesn't have a doctorate or anything, most of his knowledge has come from experience and the school of hard knocks - the 'live and learn' kind of knowledge.

Feeling pretty successful in thoroughly describing all the knowledge he'd acquired over the years, I then went on to read the next question. "Describe any skills you have which will assist you in this position." I actually had to read the question several times thinking it was some kind of typo or something. And then I found the one. single. changed. word. Skills. Emmmmmm. I think I just pretty much answered that question. See above paragraph. Obviously though, that would not be the thing to put on a job application, so I commenced writing my next paragraph explaining Jim's skills. Pretty much it was the 'knowledge' paragraph repeated and reworded.

Again, feeling like I'd conquered the application, I moved on to the next question. "Describe any abilities you have which will assist you in this position." At this point, I'm not joking in stating that I seriously considered just turning the computer off on the spot - application incomplete and all. They had repeated the SAME question three different times in three different ways. Based on principle alone, I wasn't about to repeat the same paragraph again in a mildly different form, so I think I put down something to the effect of "I work hard, learn quick, and I like people." Ok, maybe it wasn't quite that simple, but I really felt like they were messing with me - OVER THE INTERNET. I can see someone thoughtlessly concocting this type of questioning at a live interview, but OVER THE INTERNET? REALLY?

The next day, still bothered by my first encounter with the knowledge/skills/abilities questionnaire, I stumbled across it again for another government job (this time though, I knew what was coming when the *knowledge* question came up. . .) That was it - the straw that broke the camel's back. I was forced me to look up the difference online. As it turns out, a LOT of people have looked up this very same question. Now to me this indicates that it's a stupid series of questions to begin with and someone should rephrase the questions. But there's also the aspect that someone in the psychology department probably decided this question would offer the employer insight into whether or not the potential employee would bother to research the question - and whether or not they really wanted the job.

I'm not expecting the creators of these applications to be moved by my critiquing to rework their applications, so instead, I'll just explain it to you. Knowledge: Emm. Well, I guess this is what you know or have learned. . . (OK, I really didn't look this one up; it was more the skills and abilities one that totally flabbergasted me). Skills: Stuff you've learned through practice that you didn't start out with (now doesn't that make more sense?). Abilities: Things (for lack of a better word as I'd hate to interchangeably use the word *skills* here) you're innately good at - from the beginning without any training or knowledge (this could be something like people skills/things).

In the process of deeply pondering these words, I was reminded of the movie Napoleon Dynamite wherein *skills* was quite the hot topic.
Pedro: Do you think people will vote for me?
Napoleon Dynamite: Heck yes! I'd vote for you.
Pedro: Like what are my skills?
Napoleon Dynamite: Well, you have a sweet bike. And you're really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you're like the only guy at school who has a mustache.

So of course, all this talk of skills has caused me to ponder what skills I have to offer. For one, I'm really good at the Eager Beaver Adventure Park game on my son's Webkinz site. In fact, I'm so good at it that I've actually BEATEN the game. Who beats the game, I ask you??? WHO? Me. Yes, I'm a word making fool. I'm also really good at performing Houdini-esque stunts in order to appease my children. My mother was both dumbfounded and horrified when she rode with me a couple days ago and observed that I was able to, while still focusing on the road and driving cautiously, reach my arm nearly 360 degrees around backwards while searching through the diaper bag for a peace pipe that I was hoping to extend to Kyla who was screaming in the background. And speaking of searching through the diaper bag, that's another skill I've got: being able to identify objects solely with my hands. Remember the party game where you're blindfolded and the host brings out a basket full of random items that you have to identify with your hands and then remember? Well, that's my game (not so much the remembering part though). In short, I feel like if I'm ever blind, in a lot of ways I could do alright.

While I've got a lot of great skills, I don't necessarily know that any of these would be the clincher for an employer looking to hire. Still, maybe there's a special job out there where people are looking for just these skills. Should you come across a job that I could shine in, let me know; I'd be happy to put my skills, abilities, and knowledge to good use in exchange for a paycheck.

Kid Quips

The commentary coming from my children's mouths lately has just begged to be documented. They each are at such different stages of development, yet they both manage some pretty unique and profound thoughts. These are the thoughts I like to ponder at night before I drift off to sleep; they're funny thoughts and calming thoughts, and they give so much insight into what their little minds mull over each day. So for your pondering pleasure, I present to you some of their current profound thoughts.

-A couple of days ago we were all in the car, and little Jimmy was in the back seat saying to Kyla, "Kyla, say female; say it. Kyla, say feeeemmmmaaaalllle." Then she would try to repeat it in her own special way, and Jimmy would cheer wildly as though he'd just conquered the universe. Curious about his knowledge on the said subject, I asked him if he knew what 'female' meant. Disgusted that I would question his intelligence in any way, Jim chidingly responded, "MOM! It's a type of bird!". Priceless.

-Given that Kyla is two, she has developed a fascination with all things poo or poo related. Today we were putting a little puzzle together in her room when our kitteh, Tagger, wandered over the puzzle board. (Bear in mind that Tagger is a clean cat and there's nothing wrong with her - at least not physically. . .). I petted her and crooned over her expecting Kyla to do the same, but Kyla could only respond to one thing: Tagger's tush. "Na-tee, Taga, na-tee poo-poo butt." And then she ran over to grab a wipe with the obvious intent of cleaning Tagger's tush while repeating the same thought over and over again. This on the tail of my having just changed a real na-tee bio-hazard-type diaper from Kyla. Irony.

-Little Jimmy had just gotten dressed for school this morning when he came into the bathroom where I was brushing Kyla's teeth. He was pulling on his shorts in the back and jumping around. In disgust and anger he declared: "Mom, I hate these shorts! They're making my underwear seep into my butt." Just his phrasing on that struck me as very vivid and perfectly descriptive. I was able to sagely inform him that that's something we refer to as a ' wedgie.' Imparting wisdom.

-While at Wal-Mart this morning, Kyla decided to ride in the part of the cart intended for the bulk of the groceries as opposed to sitting in the little seat up front. The cart was getting pretty full, and I'd just added some frozen chicken to the mix when I had to remind Kyla to sit down before we'd move again. Inadvertently, she sat down on the frozen chicken I'd just put in there. She scooted over and commenced apologizing to the chicken for sitting on it: "Sa-wee, chicken. Sa-wee, chicken." Over and over again - as though the chicken were somehow hurt by her sitting on it. Innocence.

Their little discoveries and announcements are perfect. They provide an endless source of amusement. While these two can drive me insane at times, I wouldn't trade raising them for the world. We just learn so much from one another.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Sweet Summer

Another beautiful summer is coming to a close. We've vacationed and visited; we've shared time with family and friends, and we've had lots of play time, just us - our little family. We've scheduled lots of play dates and library trips and park visits; we've planned beach days and spring days and swimming pool days. And now we'll be settling back into more of a routine and less of the spontaneous-on-a-whim decision making.

Because I'm not one who likes people to gloss over things and make their special little lives appear more magical and perfect than anyone else's, I should point out this summer was not without it's fair share of struggle and heartache. There's been lots to overcome and lots to reckon with, but on a whole I don't think those experiences necessarily define the journey our family shared that was summer.

I guess I'm coming to realize this little grain of truth about life: it's never perfect (I know - I'm just a bit slow here at picking up what's being laid down.) We can never plan for or predict what's going to be thrown at us next, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the moments that make up our existence just the same - despite and around the hardships we find ourselves amidst.

Over the summer I've found that whenever I get to the point of taking myself too seriously and obsessing or dwelling on *issues* too long, it's a sure thing that either Jimmy or Kyla will be around soon enough to lighten the mood and remind me of the funny and happy experiences that still sprinkle each day - no matter the extenuating circumstances.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Job Hunt

It's been two and a half weeks since the Taylor, Bean and Whitaker lay offs, and in that time period we've been busy.
  • We've submitted approximately 20 resumes (many with ridiculously long accompanying applications comparable to what I'd expect when applying for a job with the CIA.)
  • We've called pretty much every large farm or estate in our area just to check for openings (and there are a LOT of these in the Ocala area).
  • We've become familiar with the varying levels of government which list their job openings independently on each of their websites (cities, counties and state), and we've found most government websites to be rather inept; we've also have suggested in some cases that IT persons be hired to polish up their websites a bit while also providing much needed employment for some skilled individual.
  • We've uploaded the resume to a large variety of online search engines for companies looking to hire.
  • We've also constructed a number of cover letters each advertising the vast grandeur of my spouse in general, and each also stating how much he would just LOVE to work for them and how their company is just the creme de la creme and how he'd be the perfect candidate for whatever opening it is they have.
Through this experience I've discovered that I'd make a pretty great marketing rep. or advertiser; I really feel like I could market just about anything to anyone. Despite my feelings of success and accomplishment, the desired end result of a job has not yet been achieved.

And though I feel like I'm really honing my 'advertising craft,' I just don't enjoy it. Quite frankly, I'm sick of it. Maybe if I were advertising some inanimate object or service, I'd still be relishing a love affair with a marketing career, but given that I'm advertising my husband - it's really lost it's thrill quickly. The first couple of days - even week - I tried to temper my excitement each time the phone rang or we got in a new email, optimistically expecting it to be someone calling for an interview. I'd say that was the 'waiting period.' At this point, having exerted this much effort, and having received only one credible offer (yesterday) for a job interview, I'd say I don't feel so much like I'm waiting anymore. Now I'm just existing. It's a strange thing to exist in this sort of permanent state of limbo that stretches on before us indefinitely. There's really no call backs, or responses or any sort - just silence. So in that time we try not to imagine what we'll be doing in two months if we're in the same situation; instead, we just kind of hang out expecting it will be different and hunting for more jobs and submitting more resumes and applications.

Fortunately, as I stated, we did receive our single callback yesterday to schedule a job interview in the beginning of September. That was encouraging - a shred of hope amidst the stillness that otherwise pervades. As the woman on the other end of the line explained some of the responsibilities of the job and the interview process, there was one rather odd clip-it that stood out to both of us. She suggested that if Jim had any "media clips" he should bring them. . . Of course I immediately pictured the local media coverage in our area over the last couple of weeks of newly laid off employees touting their disgust and horror for all things Taylor, Bean and Whitaker. "Ya, I think we're good. Nobody taped us at the employment workshop or anything" I told Jim still a bit confused. Jim responded "No, I think they're wanting some sort of media clip - like something that I've stated representing a company or something - an intentional planned statement on behalf of someone. . . " Oh. Well, that's a different story.

We both thought hard about it for a few seconds, searching through our memory banks for any brief moment of fame that we could have somehow dismissed. Jim recalled that he was pretty sure the top of his head was in the back (center) of a photo featured prominently in the local paper from the employment workshop. We also remembered his weatherman gig in our back yard from when Tropical Storm Fay hit last year (now that was some intense reporting). You can see it here if you missed it the first time around (scroll to about 5 min., 45 seconds to see where weatherman Jim takes over.)

Unfortunately, this is pretty much all we've got as far as media clips, so I guess he probably won't be bringing any to the interview. The woman on the other end of the phone said that it was no big deal if he didn't have any as lots of their candidates didn't. So I guess we'll just hope the rest of the interview goes as close to perfectly as is possible and that maybe a few of the other prospective candidates accept other work before the scheduled interview day.