Oh, Great… New Guilt (flavored with Gratitude)

(the following haiku must be spoken in your best wrestling announcer voice…)

It’s a G word fight!!
Guilt v. gratitude… cage match!
The victor? Stay tuned…
………………………………………………….

I work full-time and my husband stays at home with the kids (one in school full days, one in half days). He manages the household – laundry, cooking, grocery, a little cleaning, home and car repair. I bring home the bacon, manage the finances, do some yard work and also clean house when I’m sufficiently motivated (e.g. when company is coming).

This set up has been working for us for about 7 years. In those seven years, I’ve become thoroughly experienced in a variety of guilt:

– how much I like my job
– 7am conference calls that mean I don’t see the kids in the morning
– 8pm conference calls that mean I tuck the kids in at bedtime
– That between 7am and 8pm conference calls, I don’t give Frank as much attention as he deserves and I want
– How I don’t contribute very much to the non-financial aspects of this family
– That I can’t recall the last time I made it to a dentist appointment for the kids
– That the kids more or less like him as much as me now
– That he doesn’t get much time with people over 4 feet tall
– That when I get home from work sometimes all I want to do is hide under the bed and not talk to anyone or do anything, which means he never gets a break.
– Working out since I’m already not seeing the kids much

Well, friends, I have something new to feel guilty about, and it is an interesting role reversal guilt: Frank has gotten a job.

We’ve always known this would happen. Long ago we decided that once our youngest started full-time school, Frank would return to work. We need the income to support some choices we’ve made (namely private school). And it would be nice to take a vacation to someplace other than my parents’ house. And our savings account is quite dusty… You get the idea.

But now the time has come. He job hunted, found his engineering skills still very marketable, and has a great new job starting in a month. The kids know that he is going back to work. Here is just a sampling of what I’ve heard them say over the last few weeks:

–         But who is going to take care of us (because clearly we are now going to just leave them home alone…)
–         But I’ll miss daddy
–         But daddy has always been the mom
–         But I don’t want him to go back to work

So now on top of all the other guilt that I’m experienced in, I now get to add the “I don’t make enough money to fully support us and now the kids are sad because dad has to work” guilt. Wow, that’s a fun one. Now, no one is making me feel this way. Frank hasn’t overtly said: hey, would you please make more money?  But would he rather not have to get a job that makes $XYZ and instead do something that makes some ill-defined amount of money and is super flexible? Sure he would.  And the funny thing is, I would too. These last few weeks, as we’ve managed kid and adult sickness, job interviews, extra yard work, new spring activities for the kids, doctor appointments, etc etc., it has become very clear to me how much I’ve come to rely on his flexibility and the work he does around the house.

I’m also feeling a wee bit guilty about the nugget of resentment I’m realizing I have because him going back to work is going to mean more “work” for me, too. (that has to be the most bizarre sentence structure ever) I’ve truly benefited from him handling the daily stuff and now I’ll have to handle some of it too.  Laundry, picking up around the house, grocery shopping, post office visits, and on and on.  (Again, I’ve always “known” how much he handles at an intellectual level, but the last two weeks I’ve felt it “real time”.)  The concept of taking what little discretionary time I have in the evenings and dividing it up across more chores is not a thought I enjoy lingering on.

Part of me keeps snarking at myself: you have a great job that you love, your kids are healthy, your husband is a saint; boo hoo hoo, you have to work around the house some more so you can have your private school/vacation cake and eat it too; cry me a river.  I get that. I respect that. All good points.

That’s why I’m pleased the majority of me has been realizing how much gratitude I feel for Frank.  He graciously, and with almost no debate, pulled himself from the workforce to do right by the kids and our life during the last 7 years.  He doesn’t complain unreasonably. When I’m beat and want to hide under the bed when I get home, he diverts the kids’ attention so I can do just that. He reminds me that we are a team… I have my role and he has his, and together is how it all gets done. And now that he is the one having to change it up (again!) he’s been totally cool.

So I think it is time to end the G word versus G word battle raging in my head these last few weeks, and remind myself what my friend Lynette told me many years ago – guilt is a useless emotion. (I’ve also really enjoyed reading Becky and Susan’s posts over at Working Moms Against Guilt about their recent transitions – very inspiring; so nice to know I’m not alone.) Instead, I will keep gratitude high in my awareness and enjoy watching this family explore new routines and responsibilities (the kids have no idea that they are going to get tapped to do more around here… announcing that should be fun…). We’ll figure it out.

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I Strongly Dislike Paleontologists (#2 in the Bastards series)

Complex dino names
Roll off his tongue like ice cream
While I stammer, lost…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am mother to the most adorable, sweet, kiss-filled 5-year-old boy in the entire universe. Yes, he is just like your 5-year-old boy, just a wee bit better. (I must confess that last week he showed his boy parts to the entire playground on a dare, so he is way more normal than my first sentence might lead you to believe. For those of you who don’t believe this is normal boy behavior, you are either parents to only girls or not familiar with my son’s father, whose history includes chasing his cousins and sister around, boy parts in hand, threatening to pee on them… last week when he was a kid… so, you get the picture. Apple, tree, blah blah blah.)

Back to my son.  AB is completely enamored with all things dinosaur. Right now, he is watching one of the 7,000 Netflix series on dinosaurs – Walking with Dinosaurs, Eating with Dinosaurs, Stalking Smaller Prey with Dinosaurs – Reptile edition, and so on.  These all include very realistic, computer generated dinosaurs that simply walk around looking for things to chomp on. Oh joy.

This fascination with dinosaurs started ages ago, and for some reason I have yet to recall, I purchased an enormous book about dinosaurs entitled The Complete Guide to Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Reptiles, “a comprehensive look at the world of dinosaurs with more than 250 superb illustrations,” by Chris McNab.

Complete Guide To Dinosaurs

image from Amazon.com. Look at the cool green guy with the enormous claws - he's my favorite!

Let me start by saying this is actually a very, very good book. It is readable (although given its size, not very handle-able). AB understands the concepts it presents about how life began, evolution, and the theories about why the dinosaurs all died. (When I say “understand” I mean he doesn’t pester the crap out of me with questions.) Having read it through now, or at least looked at the pictures and names and details of all the dinosaurs, many, many times, I can say that it is still interesting and I notice new things each time.  This isn’t my issue.

My issue is with the paleontologists – the SOBs who named these beasts. What in the hell were they thinking? Is there some secret pact they all take whereby they promise to name the things the most ludicrous, hard to pronounce, obtuse selection of letters possible?  Let me illustrate:

Ericiolacerta (eric-ee-oh-LA-cherta). First off, where is the “saurus” in this name? Rule #1 – all dinoSAURS need to have a SAURUS in their name, right? (I’ll allow for -ceratops as well since those are pretty cool.)

Coelurosauravus (SEEL-oh-ro-SAWR-ah-vus) Coel = SEEL? Then spell is that way, why don’t you.

Planocephalosaurus (PLAN-oh-KEF-al-oh-SAW-rus) I kid you not, his name is longer than his body if the pictures are to be believed.  Rule #2:  the name has to be shorter than the body. And it must not exceed 5 syllables (Rule #3).

Eurhinosaurus (YOOR-i-no-SAW-rus).  Again, eurhi is not a combination of letters found in the real world. If you must resort to dead languages to put together a decent name, then you are working too hard and need to stop.

Dromiceiomimus (droh-MEE-see-oh-MEEM-us).  Too many vowels. Rule #4 – a limit on the number of sequential vowels.

Saurornithoides (saw-ROR-ni-THOI-deez). This is just a freakishly hard name for me to pronounce. Mr. Paleontologist, do you understand that each time my son asks me to read this I stutter through this word like I’m concurrently having a stroke, until I give up and turn the page? It’s embarrassing.

Opisthocoelicaudia (oh-PIS-tho-SEEL-i-CAWD-ee-a).  Too many syllables and again, where is the “saurus”?  Rule #1 and 3 opis-ed away.

Leaellynasaura (LEE-el-in-a-SAW-ra). No comment. They hate me.

Psittakosaurus (si-TAK-oh-SAW-rus)  Rule number 5: no silent letters. Period. If you cared enough to name it something, say it all out loud.

Tuojiangosaurus (toh-HWANG-oh-SAW-rus).  This one makes me giggle, at least the pronunciation guide does. It sounds like something Bevis and Butthead would snicker about, or drunk men would take to mean something else:  “Did you see me toh-HWANG-oh-SAW-rus that blonde? She won’t soon forget me!”

Related, I’d like to commend the following, for these people used naming conventions that I fully support:  let your kid name it, name it after where you found it, name it after your job or yourself and make it pronounce-able.

*

Albertosaurus – Albert Smith found a saurus. When he did, he said “oh”. Well done.

Rhabdodon – Rabbi Don Issac found this specimen in the limestone near his Temple, many years ago.

Bactrosaurus – Not many people know that Alexander Flemming not only discovered penicillin but was also an amateur paleontologist, digging in the fields near his home in his spare time.

Lambeosaurus –  Jessica von Meyer, a well know Canadian paleontologist, allowed her toddler Mary, a fan of nursery rhymes, to name the last dinosaur she ever found. Bravo.

Silvisaurus – Silvia Readdy, an English women who lived on a large manor near the coast, dug this up in her garden and took the easy route to naming it.

Montanoceratops – Jeffrey Millery, a rancher in – you guessed it – Montana, thought one of his bulls had died. He was wrong, but he got to name a dinosaur instead. Easy. Done.

*

None of these violate any of the rules, except for the syllable count in Montanoceratops, but given its easy naming convention, I’ll give it a pass.

So a word to you paleontologists out there.  I’m begging you, please, the next time you dig something up, call it Bob. Or just number it – Dino #493. I know it seems boring, but the whole “name it such a complicated thing and prove my prowess as a bad-ass digger” is just so last century.

I would be forever grateful.

PS: Alas, I must admit, everything between the two *’s, other than the actual dino names, is completely made up.

Shoemakers are bastards (nothing personal)

There is no better
Soul salve than 20 minutes
on Zappos dot com
………………………………….
I think Zappos.com is one of the most wonderful places on earth. It isn’t because I’m a shoe person. I’m not. I’m the opposite of a shoe person. I hate shopping for shoes. That’s because I have the hardest foot to fit in the world (it’s true, I’ve asked around, everyone agrees with me).

My mom claims my first baby shoes were as wide as they were long. When I was a little older, we’d go into the local shoe store (Kite’s Bootery on Ingleside Avenue) and the owner, upon seeing us, would hang his head and shake it briefly, a small tear running off the end of his nose. We’d be there for hours trying to find something that would fit and usually walk away with only one pair of boys sneakers. And for the last 20+ years on my own, I’ve struggled to find shoes that would fit that weren’t also featured in a catalog with shower assist bars and bunion pads (if I see a single comment about housecoats…).

It’s been really hard. I even had an orthopedic doc tell me that I have what’s called “partial club feet” because of their width and interesting curvature. Nice. All I need now is a lisp and a hump and I’m ready to go.

That’s why I love Zappos.com. In three clicks I can find 50 pairs of shoes sized 7.5, W/WW/2E. Free shipping both ways. Informative videos of the shoes. And some of the shoes are really, really cute. They make my feet look like, well, feet. Not svelte feet (they don’t sell magic, after all), but somewhat stylish, interesting, decidedly not one bit old lady- or Quasimodo-ish.

But something has happened. All of a sudden a 7.5 W/WW no longer fits me. It’s been a little gradual, so I’ve been denying it. But the evidence is now clear. Case in point. I ordered $852 worth of shoes (13 pair) from Zappos recently (stop gasping! I never intended to keep more than a few pair; with feet like mine, you browse a lot and browsing at Zappos means bringing them home). Guess how many of those 7.5 W/WW/2E fit. Three. And one of those pair were Crocs, so they don’t count.  Two pair. That’s it. And they both were casual.

The rest were too narrow (actually, 1 was butt ugly, the other 9 were too narrow). I’m not talking a little narrow. I’m talking can’t-even-get-my-foot-half-way-into-the-shoe narrow. I expect this to happen – it isn’t unusual to have width variations, right? But 75% of the W/WW being too narrow, like by a lot? Something has changed. Somewhere, some rat bastard shoe maker has changed what a “wide” means.

And I’m pissed. In today’s world of technology advancements; when we can make a robot cheetah run on a treadmill and Photoshop models and celebrities into perfection, why must we use 13-year-old girls from Tibet to determine shoe widths?  How many people have you ever heard say “wow, I wish my shoes were tighter…”? How many of you wear your work shoes at home? You change into Crocs or socks or flip-flops right? Because why???? Ding ding ding because they are more comfortable! So what is it about the breed of human being that becomes a shoe maker that keeps them so out of touch with the real consumer? Perhaps they aren’t human beings after all. Perhaps they have all been replaced by some sadistic computer program which calculates the best way to build a shoe such that is rubs and pulls and pinches just enough to keep you thinking about your damn shoes all day but not so much that you don’t purchase them? I don’t know…

So here I am at home, my little cave man feet (as Frank calls them for some reason) in my Relief Crocs (extra wide shoe box! even regular Crocs think the Relief Crocs are dorky), trying to decide if I’m just going to be the woman at work with unusually inappropriate footwear. If I wore the hot pink slides from Easy Spirit with, say, a long skirt and dressy top — but did it with confidence and my head held high — could I get away with it? Would it be career limiting, or be something I could build a reputation from (“You know Maureen – great ideas and funky shoes…”)?  I’m not sure. I tried one day with the hot pink slides. Felt like I was wearing bedroom slippers all day and everyone was looking at me (couldn’t get a handle on the “confidence and head held high” bit). So I’m not all together sure it will work.

So I’m stuck back at Zappos.com, browsing, buying, returning, complaining. And hoping that the shoe makers out there will hear my pain and perhaps, just maybe, resize the shoes back up and give the little Tibetan girl a rest.

More People Who Drive Me Nuts (IM Edition)

I miss mail bearing
my name, problems solved slowly,
hard copy rhythms.

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In a previous post, I highlighted the types of people I encounter in meetings who drive me crazy. I’m now turning my pen toward those colleagues who use instant messaging. Once again, if I work with you and you are reading this, you are of course above such behavior and none of these profiles are anything remotely like you. However, the following are the types of people I encounter multiple times each day. They drive me nuts.

1. Ms. Unhelpfully Brief.  Her IMs show up when I’m at my desk or away, but they always say the same thing. “Hi!”. That’s it. No further words of explanation. No indication at to the criticality of her need. Just a “hi” that requires a response for me to know more. She is such a tease. But I have a tactic for dealing with her. I ignore her. About an hour later, she adds “you there?”. Nothing more, just dipping the line the water but not willing to put any meat on the hook.  I continue to ignore her. I refuse to respond until it is clear to me whether this is a 2 min IM or a 20 minutes suck-the-life-out-of-you typing session that leaves me wishing for stone tablet communication tools. I tell anyone I’m working with: if you want me to respond, give me some more to go one.

2. Mr. Gives Me Too Much. Obviously the evil twin of the first person. He not only says hi, but then he begins to type. And type. And type. And when I try to wedge in some response, to stem the flow, he ignores me and keeps going. It’s like he has typing diarrhea and can’t stop until he is empty.  By this time (usually double-digit time has elapsed) I’ve left for my next meeting. When I come back, there are two final notes: “You still there?” and “Nevermind, I’ll send an email.”  Argh! That was where you should have started buddy! The good news is I can recognize these now so I don’t invest much, since he’ll usually run himself out and revert to email… without me having to do anything at all. Not too bad.

3. Ms. Multi Topic. She is cunning. Like the fox in some fable, she sidles in acting all friendly. Asks me a question right up front so I know what I’m in for and I willingly engage. And then she asks something else. This conversation is a little more complicated, and just as I’m about to finish that up she ping pongs onto another semi-related topic (when I say semi-related, I mean as related as semi colon and semi truck…), which again, now that I’m up to my knickers in her stuff, I can’t pull myself away from. Twenty minutes later, usually the only twenty minutes I had free in my whole effing day, I extract myself from her grip with a “sorry, I have to go” after which I shut down my computer before she can reply, turn off my office light and hide under the desk. What makes her so awful is that after all that, I’m the one who feels bad because I had to cut her off. She should feel bad, not me, but noooooo. That’s not how it works. I don’t like her. Aesop probably wrote something about her; I need to find it and leave a copy on her desk to see if she takes a hint.

4. Mr. Self Important.  “I need to talk to you about something” is what he sends me; no intro, no explanation. Yeah, I think, so what? (Bear in mind I work with a few VPs, and when they write this, I respond briskly and respectfully. This guy is basically the janitor’s sister’s cousin-in-law.) My response: “Send me invite to book time. My calendar is open. Bye.” I’m not doing your work for you.  Unless you follow your IM with a “so and so harassed me” or “I have a test tube and I’m not afraid to use it” then tonality gets you nowhere but the back of the line.

5. Ms. Slow Type. Oh my god, she makes me want to take my own life with a paperclip. She starts strong… clear question, right up front, easy to answer. But then she starts to write something else… I see the “…is typing a reply” indicator and so I wait. It goes away. Then it comes back. It goes away again. I start to click over to email or something else, but she starts to type again and this times manages to find the enter key. Her message pops up and here are only 6 words in the next message. Six freaking words. Took you 90 seconds to put that together sunshine? I sat here on pins and needles, indecisive about what to do next, for THAT!??! So I reply (I’m an idiot, this is clear) and she does it again. Now, I’m ready for it, and I instantly move to another task. But now that little icon is just sitting there flashing its little yellowness at me. I start to obsess about it. I’m not concentrating on my other work, so I go back to see what she wrote. Usually something universe altering like “oh well…”. That’s it. Well… what? Well… thanks? gotta go? see you later? GET ON WITH IT!  Later, at the awkward encounter at the salad bar, she usually says something like ” you just disappeared earlier, what happened?” I am forced into a little white stretch-of-the-truth like “sorry, someone came into my office.” She doesn’t need to know it was just the package delivery guy getting me to sign for the guy in the next cube who is on vacation, but any port in a storm.

6. The Stalker. This varmint can be either man or woman. They have no life except to sit at their computer watching my little button go from “offline” to something else. Within a pico-second (look it up, it’s smaller than a nano by a lot) of logging on, they are on me like Glen Close on Michael Douglas in an elevator. As I work in HR, there are situations where I need to respond immediately. However, when it really isn’t that important and you stalk me, well, then, expect nothing for at least 20 minutes.  I kind of enjoy watching you squirm. You might send me another little ping, or just start and stop typing a few times but I just let you sit there.  I admit this isn’t my best side, but I’m ok with it.

7. Ms. Wrap it up already. This is usually a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, or a colleague from another country where it is currently night-time. She pings me to check in, we trade some gossip and work chit-chat, and then the conversation slows waaaaay down. It is clearly time to wrap it up. And one of two things happen: a) she uses 10 messages just to say goodbye (well, it was great to talk to you; say hi to everyone for me; and enjoy your date night; you and Frank are so cute together; wish me luck on that presentation; take care; hugs; good night!; wait! it is still day there; enjoy the rest of your day; :-), :-P…).  Alternatively, b) happens:                                                                                 . Huh, I think to myself. Nothing. No typing. No good-bye. Just silence. This can be cool if numbers 1-6 are on-line. But this is usually someone I actually like. So I start to worry a little. Perhaps I send a pathetic little “you okay? I’m signing off now… take care” all the while wondering whether she’s been electrocuted, kidnapped or just had one of her moments and has no clue we were talking. Usually about 30 minutes later, if I am still on-line, she’ll jump on with a “had to finish dinner” or “the doorbell rang” but mostly it just ends and I’m left to wonder her fate until next time.

So IM’ers of the world… if you IM at work, please take notice of these tips. You will be far more successful in your information pursuits if you self identify here and work that 12 step program to recovery. I wish you all the best.

Bye!

Enjoy your day!

See ya!

XOXO

PS: I would be an arrogant ass if I didn’t admit to being each and every one of the people profiled above at some point in my IM’ing escapades. I just want to admit that before anyone from work points it out.

I’m Sick (or Why They Make You Take Vows)

Her head, heavy as lead;
Her throat, makes sounds like a goat.
South from there sucks too.

…………………………………………………………………..

I’m sick. (pathetic cough, grimacing swallow)

I have a headache – actually, anything north of my shoulder blades feels like it has been knitted together with steel wire. Stiff, pokey, extra heavy.

My sinuses have decide to expand to monumental proportions, and I’m quite confident they would have burst out of my face if it weren’t for the steel wiring.

My throat is currently home to… (I couldn’t find a word to adequately describe what feels like “my flesh having unsuccessfully met a cheese grater” so for inspiration I decided to google “images of sore”, at which point I lost my desire for further descriptive words. Don’t try that search at home, it will haunt you.)

And my fever, despite assaults by way more ibuprofen than the manufacturer thinks I can survive, has held on. 103 sucks. 103 for two days has left me gooey and useless. I spent all day yesterday in either the recliner or in bed.

To top it off, my son and daughter are also not well – fevers, infections — but they are well enough to insist on joining me on the recliner or talking to me approximately .0005 seconds after I finally drop off for a nap.   Trust me when I say that I continue with my not mother of the year streak.

Which leaves Frank. Frank the wonderful. Frank the sent from heaven. Frank the “I don’t deserve you”.

Today, Frank earned the “that’s why they make you take vows” award.  As if yesterday wasn’t bad enough (my inability to do more than lay down required far more attention from him than you might think), today topped it by a lot.  I’m not going to tell you what happened (What?!? Me not reveal something embarrassing and personal? Surely this is the antibiotic talking…). Just know that it involved me and required his help. Awkward help. God love you kind of help.

And he stepped up. Did what needed to be done without complaint. He could have made some jokes about situation, but he didn’t.  I love this man. I’d like to say that I would do the same for him. If I had a better memory I might recall such a circumstance in our 19 year history, but I don’t.  I also have a fairly horrible track record when it comes to patience for the sick. After about 36 hours you had better be well, because my attention and sympathy are waning. (This last sentence really applies to other adults, not so much for the kids; somehow the kids are blameless but the adults are faking lay-abouts…) All this adds up to some doubt on my part as to whether I would be as good to him as he has been to me. Nonetheless, I will hope that I, too, step up.

So this post is dedicated to my beloved.  Thank you thank you thank you for picking me. I’m a better person for it. I promise to do my best to never put you in a situation that nominates you for this award again.

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