Nov 16, 2007

I've Been Eating Rice Again.

Jade's blog entry today got me thinking. First, whoever wrote the Nerd Handbook is dead on right and could've been living in my head. Secondly, how helpful it would have been if my parents had been able to understand this stuff.

From that second point, I made one of those leaps to greater self-understanding that only occurs once in a while. John and I were talking about my parents and how they always go to bed at the same time. John asked whether it had always been that way. As I was thinking back, a random memory came a'calling that really made me understand something about myself.

When I was in grad school, I often worked late in the photo labs because I'm most creative at night. I'd come home (I lived at home during grad school - NOT recommended to anyone) and, because I hadn't had supper, made myself a big bowl of rice because I was too lazy/tired/indifferent to make an actual meal and wanted something hot because, well, it was Upstate NY in the winter. I sat down at the TV in the backroom with my big bowl of rice to watch the 11 pm rerun of Scarecrow & Mrs. King on Lifetime. Apparently, my mother got up to go to the bathroom and heard me. She came in and you'd've thought I'd stolen the last can of beans from the soup shelter... no, more like the last can of beans out of the hands of someone who hadn't eaten in a week. She raised such a ruckus, she woke my father. He said something understandable, like "what is going on here?!" and she replies, "She's eating a big bowl of rice!!!" as if she'd been saying "she's murdering the neighbors!" or "she's fucking the dog!" For God's sake, it was a bowl of fucking rice; it wasn't like I'd suddenly decided to cook the sirloin from the freezer of something.

At any rate, in recalling this, I suddenly realized why I am so cynical. I figured it was just a Gen X thing and, to an extent, of course, it is but this was really groundbreaking for me. Of course you're going to be cynical if, no matter what you do, even the most innocent thing could get you in trouble because the rules keep shifting. John compared it to living under a miniature communist totalitarianism - the point is not what the rules are but that the authority owns you.

I wish for you all a big bowl of uncontested rice this evening.

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Nov 14, 2007

Balancing on Someone Else's Back

Well, it's for certain that John's firm didn't get a piece of the town attorney work. The partners are bracing for the downturn of work.

As anyone involved in real estate in New England (and, indeed, the entire northeastern US) knows, real estate has been very slow and they've basically been carrying the real estate paralegal position since June or July hoping they'd get the town attorney thing would work out. They're going to lay their real estate paralegal off. They're going to tell her this Friday, her last day will be next Wednesday and they'll pay her for all of next week. They're also planning to send her with a glowing letter of recommendation and are making calls to the local title insurance company execs to see if they have any work to offer her. She'll also be getting her Christmas bonus. John knows it needs to be done; they've been overstaffed for quite a while. But even though he brought it up to his partner (who was a bit relieved as he thought so too but was having a hard time addressing it), it's really bothering him. She's an excellent employee - the best real estate paralegal he's ever had - reliable, smart, relatively unflappable. This is the really hard part of having all excellent employees; how do you choose who goes?

It bothers me too. They've made the right decision for business, I know; the 2 other secretaries have specialities that are busy and real estate is dead. They are clearly overstaffed for the work they've got. It just sucks because I know her husband's a drunken sot who can't be bothered to find steady work. She has a school-age daughter. What gives us the right to make sure our mortgage is paid at her expense? Just because I logically know this is the right decision and that, as business owners, they have to look to keeping the company afloat, doesn't mean that my conscience is easily assuaged.

I was able to cancel the B&B weekend - helps to be friends with the owner - and get a full refund. We may go over the winter or in early spring if money permits. We have a gift certificate that we won a while back for a free night's stay (Sun - Thurs) and a steakhouse dinner at the local casino (http://www.foxwoods.com/). We'll probably try to use that mid-January for a minibreak. Doesn't really do it for me (not fond of casinos) but I think we need the escape even if it's just overnight.

I will be installing a clothesline as soon as I make it Home Depot to get one. I also am switching the lightbulbs over to the compact fluorescent. For what my folks' electric bill has gone down, I think it's probably worth the upfront money for the OMG-expensive bulbs. It's also good for the environment, which is nice.

I cut my 401k contribution from 15% of my paycheck to 7.5%. I don't want to cut that out altogether because it's our only active saving for retirement right now but this will give us a little extra cash in the month.

Voice lessons are done for the time being. My voice teacher was great about it and I will still be singing with her choir in December.

We've decided to go forward with our Christmas party anyway. This year, though, when people ask if they can bring things, we're going to say 'yes' (where, in the past, we've usually just said, "just bring yourselves!"). We figured we needed the cheer.

My boss ok'd the extra 5 hours a week and she's working out what I can do now.

Still working on cutting the grocery budget but we've refrained from eating out so far. I want my Starbucks decaf nonfat extra-peppermint mochas but you do what you've got to.

We have decided to keep our dinner date with friends this weekend even though it requires a babysitter - they're buying dinner as congratulations that we're pregnant. (At least it's one of the $5/hr babysitters, not one of the $10/hr ones.) The only kicker with that is that I am *certain* the guy, at least, voted for the republicans and he's not shy about talking about politics. I am hoping that I will not have to deal with his political rhetoric - instant agita not to mention a fair amount of personal angst.

Thank you very much, everyone, for all your support; it means a lot to me. Well, I have an OB appointment in a half hour so I'd best get a move on. Out of the first trimester now. Less nausea, less tired, not feeling the baby yet (probably at least another month at my size).

If you guys could keep the real estate paralegal and her family in your prayers, I would appreciate it.

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Nov 7, 2007

A Not So Brave New World

Well, we had an historic election here in Newington yesterday. The state requires a minimum number of seats go to the minority party. And for the first time since probably 1968, democrats have only the guaranteed number of minimum seats. The republicans swept the town. This has ramifications that go in all directions but let me talk a little bit about what led up to this from a political standpoint.

Two years ago, a former mayor ran against John (and creamed him) saying that under his watch taxes wouldn't be raised. Well, they were raised 6%. So much for campaign promises, huh? Well, this time, the republicans (for once) ran a campaign focused on a single issue - a 3% tax cap. Every thing they did focused on that tax cap. It was, clearly, effective. And, unlike the former mayor, they have the majority now and can pull it off. Unfortunately, the expenses in town, given oil and gas and so forth, are likely to go up more than 3% in a year. And, like most republicans, education is the lowest of the priorities. History has shown that good schools raise property values significantly and bad schools have the opposite effect. I can't believe the people in this town are that stupid. Actually, after last time, I should believe it.

Ok, so on to the personal ramifications.

1) We are considering moving away. Neither of us wants to bring our children up in a town that does not value education and where voters are so damn stupid. Any savings from a tax cap would not be enough to pay private school tuition anyway. I am not sure where we would go. It would have to be some place where the housing isn't godawful expensive (see point 2 below for more detail) and where education was important. I don't want to make a decision in haste but neither can we afford to wait until house values fall further.

2) The second ramification personally is that our income, which was already tight since John started his own firm, will be cut by about 30%. A little background here: after John lost the last mayoral election, he was surprised to learn that the guy that won had selected the "of counsel" attorney in John's firm as the town attorney (mayor selects the town attorney). The of counsel guy (a) doesn't go to court and (b) can't handle the volume so he paid John and his partner a monthly fee to go to court and handle the overages. Now, this would have ended no matter how the election went because the current mayor was not running again BUT John was in line to become the town attorney if the democratic candidate won. But, of course, she didn't. Thus, the decrease in income.

Ok, enough background... so I'm really glad John wasn't around when I found out the results. I ranted and railed and sobbed and yelled at God. November sucks in general (3 family deaths in November) and the last three Novembers have been awful. 2 years ago, John lost his mayoral election, last year, we lost our baby, and now this? I am, quite literally, just not sure how much more I can take without falling off an edge somewhere. I can't figure out why this shit keeps happening to us. We give back, we volunteer, we try to raise good and respectful children, we try to be good people. And still we keep getting whaled on.

I've started my "how to cut down" list.
  • Cancelled the Netflix account. We're already down to the $10/mo/so-you-don't-pick-up-anything-but-Fox-without-cable cable and since John gets few pleasures, I'd really like to leave him that if I can.
  • I'm going to stop my voice lessons - $40 every other week.
  • And, obviously, we won't be going down to eat; I figure that's another $200/mo.
  • I need to find a way to get John to eat his lunch at home instead of going to the salad bar at the grocery. Yes, it's only $5 day but x5 days in the week and x4 weeks in a month, that's another $100/mo. (see below on the trickiness of that though).
  • I have to cancel our New Year's weekend B&B reservation - excuse me, I have to deal with whining toddler; ok, back. - this morning; hopefully, I still can.
  • I am moving the heat from 65 to 62 in the main part of the house (we keep it at 60 upstairs and in the addition) - that's more a long term thing since we're on a budget plan.
  • We're already really pretty good about not leaving lights on in unoccupied rooms, etc. and making sure washes, etc. only get run if full. Ooh, I can get a clothesline - of course, it won't be warm enough to use it much longer but, hey, I'll save what I can.
Even harder than trying to figure out how to cut 30% out of a budget that had very little fat anyway is figuring out how to support John. He takes the slow growth of his firm very personally and judges himself by his professional and financial success. I try to redirect the conversation and put off decisions so that I don't have to say "we can't afford it" because I know he takes it personally. (Not that he thinks I'm slamming him, but he does blame himself that he's not providing all the nice things in life he wants and wants us to have.) I try to reassure him that all businesses take time to get established and that most businesses, according to the IRS, don't turn a profit for at least five years. I am really worried about the effect this will have on him. I am just not sure how to boost him up - which is essential for two reasons: mainly, I want him to be happy but, also, a negative person attracts more negativity and has a much harder time achieving their goals.

I am well and truly frightened, both financially and for John.

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Nov 3, 2007

Two Must-Dos Down

One to go - the ad book.

Today, I finished that bracelet *and* the transcription/arrangement of Quem Pastores (and got it sent off to the choir director at that!). Oh, and I got the Christmas draw slips prepped and mailed out *and* I finished all but one item on my Christmas shopping list - go me!

But I also lost my temper at my daughter, which upsets me no end - I always feel like such an awful mother when that happens. Why did I lose my temper? Sometimes two years old is VERY Two. And VERY Two is VERY trying. I know I expect too much and, really, regularly, I try very hard to control that. It's just that after being alone with her all week and then tacking Saturday on as well, I have thoroughly had my fill of a child who won't listen and blithely does whatever the hell she wants to instead of what I'm asking her to do.

God bless all the patient and loving childcare workers out there. They're saints. I ain't.

And, on the whole, it was a trying day. John was gone most all day knocking doors for the mayoral candidate, leaving me with Disobedient Girl, and then decided that a cold, windy, gray, and rainy day was a good day to open the windows and wash them. Lest you think that I asked him to wash the windows, I did not. Frankly, they weren't that bad in my book. But, no, he decided to make the house just as cold and damp as outside.

Now, he was gone a lot this week too - a couple of campaign meetings, late nights at work - and when he asked what I wanted to do tonight, I said, let's just get "grown up" food takeout and watch a movie - we haven't spent hardly any time together this week. He agreed, made a fuss about me picking which restaurant, and said he'd pick up the takeout at 8 if I'd do Katie's bath-n-bed.

So, it's 8 o'clock. He's still washing windows. I'm doing the bath-n-bed routine with Katie. It's 8:30, he's made no move to even call in the take out. I put Katie to bed. He decides to take a shower. It's 8:45, I make myself mac'n'cheese. He's still in the shower. I'm still freezing my ass off because the house is ice cold. It's 8:55, I've eaten my mac'n'cheese and washed the dishes. He's still in the shower. It's 9:05, he comes drifting down. "Are you sure you don't want take out? Do you want take out dessert?"

No, asshole, I wanted takeout when I came down from putting Katie to bed. Thus, the 8 p.m. time for you to leave. I don't want it now - it'd be at least 9:40 before you got back with it. What the fuck makes you think I want to eat dinner at fucking 9:40 at night??!! And, as for spending time together, it clearly wasn't a priority to you. Please go somewhere else. Now.

He says he'll watch Katie all day tomorrow. I'll believe it when I fucking see it. What that means, really, is that he'll wash more windows while she plays and won't notice when she toddles off to "where's Mama??" (read: make me fucking nuts again).

Men are just fucking unreliable.

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Nov 1, 2007

Too Damn Many Projects to Count

And, yep, that's my excuse for not having posted in forever.

Before I forget, JerseyTjej, you are off the hook with respect to my Pelikan as I found it over last weekend - whoohooo!!!! And, nope, I'm still not mailing it off to you to borrow.

Ok, back to the too damn many projects. I need to learn to tell myself, and others, no. There's so much I want to do (and we're not talking food here for once) and I just can't face the fact that I don't have enough time to do everything that (a) needs to get done, (b) I'm obliged (now) to get done, and (c) fun stuff I want to do.

This weekend, I need to: design an entire ad book for a dinner next weekend. The file is due to the chamber office on Monday. Yes, this is pro bono work. Dumb ass me.

I also need to: finish the bangle I'm working on for class - because it's going to be my auction donation for said dinner. Again, pro bono but at least this is multi-purpose and may have marketing benefits.

Oh yes, I also need to finish transcribing Quem Pastores - all I have yet to transcribe is the flute part BUT Finale is fighting me and I will then need to re-enter the whole thing from scratch to add the organ and flute parts because I didn't start with enough staves and, for some reason, the damn program keeps putting in returns for no apparent reason. I may go back to Noteworthy Composer for the final. We'll see. The choir director has Finale though and if she wants to tweak it, it would be easier to have it in that.

Oh, and prepare and mail the draw slips for the Christmas gift draw on John's side of the family.

And then there's the usual: update the website, clean the house, watch the kid, go to the library sale, clean my office, crazy talk all. I'll be lucky if I get the must-dos done.

On a completely different note but it could also be considered a project...
We had another ultrasound today. Little Person was wiggling all around - appears to have the requisite appendages (arms, legs, head) - and had a nice steady heartbeat. I am so lucky, my OB is absolutely wonderful. He asked that I come back in a month. I looked pitiful. He said, "You made it 3 weeks this time!" I said, "Yes, but it was a REEEEEEEALLY long 3 weeks." He said, "Want to come back in 2?" Man, I just can't say enough about the guy. If you're in Central CT and looking for a great OB, email me.

A good friend told me she was surprised I wasn't blogging more about being pregnant. I truly think it's because I'm afraid I'll jinx something. That if I believe it's true, that we're really going to be bringing home another live baby, that Katie will finally have a sibling, it will turn out to be my imagination. Opening myself to think about it, or hope, or believe, also opens me to a great deal of potential pain. I think not talking about it is a way for me to shield myself from the pain. I think I am finally starting to believe that this one is for real. Because Little Person was very clearly that - a little, and very wriggly, person. Somehow, seeing that makes it very real. We're going to have a baby. Wow.

Please keep us in your prayers that Little Person makes it all the way.

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