Another Happy Holiday

It’s Easter for us Papists (and the Western-rite Orthodox, and Protestants). This year my sister and I and our families met up for a holiday lunch at Fogo de Chao downtown to celebrate. As the night deepens and the time for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” approaches, I feel confident in declaring victory. The conditions for a successful holiday have been met. To wit:

  1. No one gambles away the grocery money.
  2. No foodstuffs are thrown.
  3. No one storms out of the house in a passion.
  4. No one visits the ER.
  5. No one makes me cry.
  6. No one calls the police to my home.

(OK, actually I can’t claim victory if I haven’t fulfilled the religious obligation of the holiday. I am really pleased about the other stuff not going wrong and with the way the rest of the weekend went – I mean, I didn’t eat any Easter candy! I exercised! I took a machine-sewing primer at Stitch Sew Shop! We had a really pleasant afternoon with extended family! But nope.)

 

After Enjoli

Images of 1970's Idealized Salary Mom

At the start of the week, I read an Inc column by Suzanne Lucas listing 10 things every working mom needs. It made me want to write a post in response. Only now that I am writing it do I realize that she actually published the column in May 2016. So I will have to amend my first item on my list of 10 Things Every Salary Mom Needs.

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  1. Time to write own posts (and check the publication dates on other people’s before deciding to pen responses to them). I wish that time were something one could purchase as a Mother’s Day gift. If only I could put the rest of the world in suspended animation for a couple of hours at a time, just so as to get caught up or a little ahead of the game! It is just as well that I lack this power. I can see it degenerating quickly into me stopping the world to melt with, I don’t know, instructions for preparing digestive bitters or orthopedic shoe catalogs online. Pretty soon I would be pining for more time.
  2. Learn how to build Twitter threads. This thought first occurred to me from the point of view of time management – it’s probably more efficient to pop out ideas in a series of Tweets than to craft a narrative, even a listicle. In a broader view, I don’t want to forget how to chew my own food. New gadgets aren’t going to do me much good if I don’t know how to use them. It’s a short slide from not knowing how to take screenshots on my iPhone or thread tweets to forgetting how the cable remote works, then you’re the person at work who can’t remember how to use the digital sender and other people are silently fuming as they feed your 30 pages of stuff into the machine for you because it’s faster than explaining to you again how office machines work. On the day that I’m hollering down the hall asking some helpless subordinate how to get my e-mail to work again, I beg OPM to grant me immediate Discontinued Usefulness Retirement.
  3. Prepare for the zombie apocalypse – or retirement. For some reason I conflate these events when I imagine a future that doesn’t involve pivoting tables in Excel or crafting bureaucratic treatises. No, I’m not at all worried about the economy collapsing, why do you ask? Add retooling for a next career or taking off with the family for a week of survivalist camp to my Salary Mom wish list. I’ll pass on the electric wine bottle opener. (That Tile thing sounds like a good idea, though.)
  4. More labor-sharing from the other members of the household. Nothing against some of the labor-saving gadgets that Lucas lists. After almost two years with our dog, that Roomba is starting to look like a good idea. But what I really, really want is not to be the one thinking about what’s for dinner or whether the kids are doing their homework. Just because I said I could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan does not mean that I agreed to be responsible for bacon-frying in perpetuity. (The title of this post comes from these funky poems I found when searching for a still version of the famous Enjoli ads of the 70’s and 80’s. Thanks, Jenn McCreary.) The more I have introduced labor-saving doodads into the domestic equation over the years, the more I have cemented my role as the family’s all-purpose Labor-Saving Device In Chief. I am told that there are marriages where the parties consciously decide how best to share domestic responsibilities – how nice! My best results in getting better labor-sharing have come from occasional acts of sabotage (like hiding game controllers and taking the cable modem to work in my purse, or changing account passwords) and feigned obliviousness to mounting piles of laundry.
  5. Wash and Fold Service. The year we lived in an apartment without our own washer and dryer, I dropped our laundry off at Duke’s Lavanderia three times a week and got it back the next day washed and folded. I felt good about using a family-owned business in my area and also about having neatly folded laundry.
  6. More Communal Services in General. What I love about laundromats, other than the aforementioned wash-and-fold, is that you can walk in and pay to use machines that work way faster and better than the ones in most homes. Using the laundromat en famille kind of sucks, though, so I’m waiting for someone to open a combination laundromat/fitness center/sauna or laundromat/coffee shop/indoor playground. (I once saw a laundromat/bowling alley in a dream, which would be a great business for a college town.) On the food front, my sister’s family found a place where they could pay to do all their meal prep for the week in a professional kitchen. Me, I would happily subscribe to a cafeteria meal plan for my family if I could. We’d probably waste a lot less and do a better job of accommodating our divergent tastes and nutrition needs. This is one for the Salary Mom Cosmic Wish List.
  7. Store pick-up and delivery options. I am personally sick of Amazon trying to shove Prime down my throat. Also – not that other delivery services are necessarily better – Amazon’s labor practices have a bad reputation. Plus there’s that whole “at home” part of getting things delivered. Peapod has good physical packaging for delivering perishable groceries when no one is home, but it seems like you have to order your stuff days in advance. So far my favorite is the online order and drive-through grocery pick-up at Harris Teeter. If they would combine that with dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up, it would be grand.
  8. More Walking. When I lived overseas 25 years ago, my local grocery store had a set-up where you could buy what you needed and then have your purchases delivered to your home later that day. The option of walking to the store gets a lot more practical and attractive when you don’t have to reckon with carrying all your groceries home. I could really use more options for integrating basic physical motion into my day.
  9. More Social Interaction Offline. Make me go see my friends and extended family or invite them over instead of forever screwing around online or stewing in my own despair. It’s good to have some human contact that doesn’t involve work or domestic logistics. I will complain that I am tired or burned out, but it’s for my own good.
  10. Flowing Jedi Robes. Could we please agree on this as a unisex professional wardrobe option? Alternately, I would accept professional clothing constructed and marketed like men’s business wear, especially if there were some improvements like adjustable waists and darts to accommodate size fluctuation. And pockets.

Words With Friends

One of my cousins got me hooked on Words With Friends on Thanksgiving 2016. It is not a coincidence that my blog went on life support at about the same time. Most of my blogging impulse was already being spent on Facebook and Twitter, which served a role somewhere between creative micro-outlet and slot machine yielding occasional jackpots of external validation. Playing internet scrabble with my cousin took writer’s bloc and the idea of Personal Branding completely out of the equation and left me with a perfect and almost mindless occupation to fill my evenings and weekends, one unlikely to launch family feuds or violate the Hatch Act. I have 18 matches running right this moment with five people, and it’s fun – as long as I don’t pour hours into it at a time. It’s certainly been a great time-killer while I recover from foot surgery! But when I look back at how much I wrote 10-12 years ago, I realize that the game and social media in general have sucked away a lot of time that would have been better spent almost anywhere. I don’t socialize in real life anywhere near as much as I did before I got a smart phone. Heck, I don’t even do as many side-hustle writing gigs as I did when I was blogging regularly.

I’ve been telling myself that I’m burnt out from work, but in reality I’ve short circuited myself by cycling between Hootsuite, Facebook, and Words With Friends as though coins might pour out of the USB slot on my iPhone any minute.

(I am back in the office now and back in an orthopedic boot now, two weeks after having the cast removed. I just graduated from using two crutches at all times to only needing one, and I go to physical therapy twice a week. Maybe the uptick in activity is what’s making me realize how stuck I’ve been mentally. Now if it would only help me realize that I should go to bed before midnight to have more energy by day …)

Breaking Out

My cast comes off the day after tomorrow. It started to itch like crazy a couple of days ago. This coincides roughly with the beginning of the power outage we experienced as a consequence of the Bomb Cyclone, aka Windpocalypse. I guess the absence of distractions will do that. Happily, the power was restored this morning, shortly after midnight.

The great plus of Windpocalpyse for me was the incentive to try again with a book I’d previously abandoned as too stilted. I finally got into The Turn of the Screw. I wouldn’t have sought it out, but it was what got delivered from the basement when I asked Dino Spouse for “a thick old Russian novel” after running out of Kindle battery and downloads.

Primetime

Last night Dino Spouse and I watched the U.S. premiere of “McMafia” with TeenBot. I enjoyed it for the pure trashy escapism. TeenBot clearly identified with the hero and his estrangement from things Russian. Dino Spouse was unimpressed but allowed as how the Russian actors were good Russian actors.

TV People: blah blah my son doesn’t speak Russian blah blah blah

TeenBot: Whoa, the struggle is getting too real already! I can relate to this! The grown-ups speak Russian and I only sort of understand them.

Dino Spouse: (to me) We should start to speak only Russian from now on!

TeenBot: You guys don’t come with subtitles.

TV Dude: You remember how I embarass you at school? You want to shake hands, I kiss you on both cheeks! You want to speak English, I speak Russian!

Dino Spouse: (face brightens, turns expectantly to TeenBot)

TeenBot: No.

Me: I can come to school wearing a kerchief and speaking with a fake accent if you want …

TeenBot: …

We’ll be watching again next week.

(The surgery I had was to replace a torn tendon in my left foot and ankle and rebuild my exceedingly flat foot so the new tendon won’t also tear. Now in week four of six in a cast and largely confined to the living room, I am teleworking full-time except for biweekly physical therapy sessions and the occasional journey for follow-up appointments with surgeon’s office. When I am not keeping my foot elevated, I shuttle between couch, kitchen, and half-bath on my knee scooter 12-15 times each day. In my off-hours, I do my physical therapy exercises, binge-watch many things, and knit. I have become profligate in my online book purchases.)

Whatever Works

Things that apparently help in writing a federal job application package (resume and KSA – Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities – statement) for a return client include:

  • Seltzer water
  • Coffee (time for a refill at ten minutes ’til midnight)
  • Lightly snoring dog
  • “Bhangra Smash Hits” on Apple Music
  • Lap blanket for working in disproportionately air-conditioned basement
  • Internet for looking up context on stuff in client’s work history

Things that do not help:

  • Internet for everything else

The Goodest Boy

We got a dog. He’s eight years old and his name is Chief. He appears to be a mix of English Setter Spaniel and Golden Retriever. Resplendent Respaniel. We were supposed to start shopping the local shelters for Dog last weekend with the goal of adopting one in October, but by the Sunday of the long weekend, Mouse and I were already in love with Chief.

good-boy
This guy here.

What I enjoyed about the process of visiting the shelters (Animal Welfare League of Arlington and Animal Welfare League of Alexandria) was watching my teenagers, who increasingly behave like adults when they aren’t acting cooler than mere adults, briefly turn back into excited children. They were playing. They were expectant. Out of nowhere, it took me back 10 years. (Now it’s taking me back 10 years in other ways, like monitoring the toileting habits of a 60-lb mammal while figuring out what he’ll eat, what’s that spot he keeps scratching, and how Dino Spouse will react if left alone with him. The excited children part was nicer, I admit.)

Chief came home with me on Thursday night. TeenBot and Mouse loooooooove Chief and have so far been responsible dog siblings. They are back to being regular teens, but TeenBot did text me to inquire whether Chief was in fact still being “the goodest boy.” The big challenge for today will be making sure that (a) Chief will tolerate separation from us on Monday morning and (b) Dino Spouse will tolerate the idea of Chief being left alone in the house without being crated. Chief hates the crate. On the other hand, he shows zero interest in chewing on non-food items or toileting indoors.

Back At It

The school year has started. TeenBot is apparently happy to be back in his element. Mouse is a bundle of nerves. They* are sufficiently in touch with and in control of their feelings that they could tell me about what made the day nerve-wracking, and that’s a major improvement over this time a year ago. It’s still painful to watch the horrors of adolescence unfold without being able to help, though.

* “They” are Mouse, who rejects the gender binary and has adopted “they/them” pronouns accordingly. I already mentioned this usage a couple of posts ago, but it still sounds weird to me when I see it written down.

(I got Mouse into therapy last year because they were missing so much school from anxiety that our family was on the verge of being referred to Child Protective Services. I know I was supposed to do it as a responsible parent to help them be healthier and happier, but I think I really bit the bullet and did it because (a) we were attracting attention from The Authorities and (b) it’s important to Mouse’s future livelihood that they be able to keep functioning through whatever storms their psyche stirs up. That imperative to keep at it is so much more persuasive to me than the idea of achieving a sense of personal well-being! My poor child.)

Plugged Back In To Matrix

Never have I so jonesed for a smart phone as I did for my refurbished iPhone 5s after the Blackberry died. Accordingly, my phone was the only one of the four that were mailed to us that couldn’t be left at the doorstep by the mail carrier, and I forgot to take the pick-up slip to work with me the following day, and then I forgot to take the SIM card with me back to the office so I could activate the new phone after my lunch-time sprint to the post office, and then I forgot to bring a paperclip or something similar with me so that I could open the SIM slot and put in the card while I was waiting to pick up TeenBot from his job, and then the lead from the pencil I used to open the slot broke in the phone when I was trying to get the card back out so I could write down its number (the phone refusing to serve up this info until I could offer it wi-fi or a cellular connection to the world). I was in such bad shape that my 16 year-old rightly chastised me for being overly dependent on my smart phone. Happily, I found a paper clip in my car while waiting for my dinner partner to meet me at the Red Lobster last night, and thus I was reconnected to the zeitgeist.

(I trust it will not violate the Hatch Act if I say that I got all weepy listening to the coverage of Hillary Clinton being nominated by the Democratic Party. I genuinely believe I would have felt the same had she been a Republican. I guess it’s like my reaction to reading about women being admitted to combat roles in the military – it just touched a raw spot and made me sob out of nowhere. It feels good to see those doors opening after a lifetime of knowing they were closed.)

Tomorrow I’ll be going to an open house for would-be election officers. The city of Alexandria is offering us “patriotic refreshments.” I assume they don’t mean corn whisky or hard cider, but I’ll go anyway.