I did something crazy this week. I met with an extended education advisor and registered to take classes as a non-degree seeking student. I plan on starting with one class in the fall.
This poem was inspired by the escapist fantasies I had when I was a child (and still have sometimes).
I mentioned earlier that I have two kids: a seven-year-old daughter (Isa) and a son who will be two in the fall (Rory).
Isa is our unicorn child. Although her babyhood was tough (she got all her teeth early and at once; literally ten were coming in at the same time), toddlerhood and early childhood haven’t been that difficult on us as parents. She’s a conscientious kid. Empathetic, sensitive, mostly well-behaved, smart for her age…yes I’m bragging, but I’m also trying to set the tone for a comparison.
Rory is a handful as a toddler. His babyhood wasn’t as hard as hers, but now that he is mobile it seems like he feels a magnetic pull toward anything and everything he isn’t supposed to have. Electrical outlets, light switches, lamps, dangerous toys, chemicals, sharp things, high things… A large part of raising Rory is following him around, removing him from the latest dangerous situation, and then comforting him when he screams his baby-rage to the heavens because you’ve thwarted him from killing himself for the 8th time that day. He also likes to throw adorable tantrums: picking up toys and throwing them, shoving things over, and stomping through the house on his chubby little legs.
He’s adorable and snuggly, too, so that helps a lot. But I’m guessing that his childhood will be tougher than his sister’s. I can already see him at preschool drinking the paint and deftly shoving craft materials into outlets.
Some people chalk this up to boys versus girls, but I don’t buy that. I have it on very good authority that female children can also be challenging. Neither of my kids can compare to their mother when it comes to behavior. Yes, moi. You know that age-old joke (or wish) where your parents say “I hope you have one just like you”? That happened to my mother, and I just hope Rory never reaches my level.
I thought I’d share some stories about my childhood antics since they are pretty amusing. I don’t even remember being the subject of some of them, but I do remember bits and pieces, and the rest I know from my mom telling them. I’ll start with some of the more innocuous ones.
I’ve been in scholarly publishing for almost 18 years (nearly all of them in production or management), and one reason I enjoy it is that there is always something new to learn. This article has a nifty list!
Right now I’m still learning about my new job and doing a lot of hands-on production work, management, and user support for our publishing systems. In the past, I did a little of everything involving management, production work, author and editor education/support, training everybody and their brother, enforcing standards or trying to real hard, rights and permissions work, art processing, and various other odds and ends.
Even though I’ve never felt like publishing or management are my “calling,” it doesn’t get boring, and if it does, it doesn’t stay boring for long. The other bonus about the job is that when you have downtime, you’re surrounded by stuff to read.
Since my last post, thankfully, things worked themselves out. Our landlord is turning out to be a super guy. He offered the would-be tenants and their dog another place he manages; it doesn’t have a fence so he is going to build them one. So it’s great news for us; we can stay indefinitely. He told us he would not rent to a family with pets as long as we’re living there.
When it comes to allergies, everyone is different, but people seem to fall into two camps: those who get better due to exposure, and those who get worse. The ones who get better are the ones who might get used to their own pet, or can handle a certain breed. Or maybe they grow out of their allergies in adulthood. This doesn’t happen for the ones who get worse. They just…well, get worse. Exposure makes them miserable and can eventually damage their lungs, or set off other allergies.
I got some bad news yesterday about our living situation. We moved into our current rental, which is a duplex, in October. The family on the other side were just moving out, so it’s been empty since then. Our original plan was to rent at least a year, and ideally until early 2019.
Two things happened yesterday: The landlord was having some work done on the other side, and it filled our side up with smoke. When he came to investigate (because it was so bad Dan thought our furnace might be out again), the landlord informed us that a nice couple with a large hairy dog is moving next door.
I love dogs, but we can’t live with them. Dan has severe allergies. If it were a poodle or a husky or one of the more hypoallergenic dogs, we might have a chance, but according to the landlord the dog is a mix of two breeds that are more in the “deadly to allergic people” category. Continue reading “Heading into a tailspin”
Writing about Glenna and Paul reminded me of this poem I wrote about Paul several years ago. I’ve tried a few times to write a poem about Glenna, but it never seems to come out right.
I grew up on a family plot of land in West Virginia. To get to our house from the one main road that went up Armstrong Creek Hollow (pron. holler), you took a left at the hump and went down a dirt road over a creek. The road ran along the creek and then turned left again. Fields and gardens stretched out to the left, ending abruptly in a mountainside. There was a plot with a trailer on it that my grandpa rented to another family, then there were the four houses that made up our little family community.
Between vacation and work being a bit slow, I’ve had too much time to think lately. Aside from reading novels and half the internet, I’ve been considering my next educational move. One of the bonuses that came with my new job is the possibility of going back to school.
I can’t do this immediately, which is part of the problem, because now it is hanging over my head like a big juicy orange carrot. I can practically taste the crunchy sweetness. I daydream about the wonderful stress of struggling to complete readings and assignments on time while I balance a full time job and being a mom to two kids.
I turned 40 last year and started to feel the urgency (even more) of the question “What do I want to do with my life?” Like so many of the good people in publishing, I never set out to make it a career. Which is pretty silly, considering the fact that I started out with two related undergraduate degrees and I’ve been working in publishing for going on 18 years. It reminds me of something my dad said once: “Find a good job you hate, and stick with it the rest of your life.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not dissatisfied with my new job, and I fully intend to stick with it for the foreseeable future. But I also intend to take advantage of that educational benefit at some point. I had planned to wait until Rory was old enough for preschool, but then the obsessing started, and I keep feeling the need to do something.
What the “something” needs to be is figuring out where to go from here. I tried that book What Color Is Your Parachute? before and I kind of hated it. All that introspection just drove me batty. I can see the value of it. But I didn’t have time to sit down and churn through the book in a week or a month. I was taking my time poking along, as one does when one is constantly distracted by “get me a glass of milk” and “play with me” and “put me to bed,” and I started to realize that the answers I diligently wrote out a month ago for exercise A no longer applied, and now it was time to build on that for exercise B, which was screwed because now it was inauthentic and outdated.
I’m in a weird place of my own making, and while I wouldn’t have it any other way, it does complicate things. I waited until I was older to have kids for a very good reason: I wasn’t ready to have kids in my 20s. I did go back to school in my 20s and I very much enjoyed getting my master’s in liberal studies, but it was for my own enrichment, and didn’t go very far toward answering that million-dollar “What do I want to do with my life?” question.
Does anyone actually answer that question, or is everyone just bumbling along like me? After feeling stuck for so long at my old job, now I feel a bit like an indoor cat who has finally dashed out the door and doesn’t know which direction to run toward first. Hopefully not straight into a passing car.
I do have some leads, and I think I need to focus my energy into taking some baby steps toward exploring those leads. But the “hurry up and wait” part is hard, and sometimes I feel like there are so many obstacles: taking more time away from my kids when I feel like I’m missing all the good stuff, taking financial risk when I’m the only one working, and of course, committing to something only to realize it was yet another passing obsession.
I think my 2018 mantra needs to be “I’m good for now.”
The past year was a big one for me and my family.
Things had been going downhill steadily at my old job for a while. When I was out on maternity leave in late 2016, the situation got even worse. I didn’t really want to go back when my leave was over. So at the beginning of 2017 I was stressed, dreading each work day, and really down that none of the applications I’d submitted while on leave had amounted to anything.
I made it to the second interview round at one college I really wanted to work for, but no further, and that left me in a funk for a few months. Then I dusted myself off, revised my resume again, and got back at it.
My friends and family kept me going during that time. My friends listened, gave me advice, met up for lunch or drinks, encouraged me not to give up, and discouraged me from lighting anyone’s office on fire (I jest!). My kids have always brought me joy cloaked in their delightful insanity. My husband and my mom were there to listen to me rant for the billionth time and to support me in my job search.
At work I was being micromanaged nonstop, and on top of that, the people who worked for me were being treated like crap by the organization at large. There was this ugly cultural shift over a span of years where people were just devalued, treated like replaceable parts, and disrespected. When we complained, the response was always some variation of the theme “You’re lucky to have this job.”
I tried to do what I could to help, but there was only so much I could do without backlash. Many of my close colleagues were in a similar state of paranoia to mine, and some of us spent nearly as much time documenting the dysfunction (to cover our asses— it didn’t actually improve anything) as we did getting work done.
All my passwords at the office were things like 9thRing0fh3ll and Pl@n0f3gr3ss and Justfuck@lly@ll.
I was willing to take any job that would pay living expenses, but I had to have benefits. When a family member has life-threatening allergies, access to an emergency room is a must-have.
When I finally did get a job offer, though, it wasn’t just any job. It was a great job. I felt like I’d won the lottery. I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling I had when I realized I was being offered the job on the phone. I felt so much lighter I thought I would float up off the floor, and I was grinning so hard my face nearly cracked. Dan saw me through the doorway and he knew before I got off the phone.
Suddenly we had a couple months to fix up our house and sell it, find a place to rent, hire movers, pack up over a decade’s worth of accumulated stuff, and move three states away.
I had a week to unpack, settle in, and find my way around a new giant city and campus before I started work.
It was stressful. But it was nowhere near as stressful as staying put. Running like hell from a bad situation was motivating enough, but I am so grateful I found a better situation to run toward.
I didn’t believe it was real for a long time, either. I was a ball of nerves until I got my offer letter. Then again until my references went through, my background check was complete, the lease was signed, the movers arranged…all the way up until my first day at my new job.
I miss all the friends and coworkers I had to leave behind, but I am so much happier in my new situation. Work stays at work. I can relax a lot more. I’m learning a lot, and I will even have the opportunity to go back to school eventually, but that’s crazy-talk until my baby is older and more independent.
It was a good year to shake the ant farm. I’m looking forward to learning my new job and settling into my new city in 2018.