Thursday, January 31, 2008

Recycle

In last night's post describing my efforts to get mom to find and provide to me my TIAA-CREF contract number, I got lazy after a while and skipped to the end of the story. I've decided it's worth sharing a bit more detail. Some people have asked whether I worry that mom might discover the blog; what follows demonstrates why I'm not too concerned:

Mom found the statement, and clicked on the link I'd sent (which gives detailed, illustrated instructions for finding the contract number on the statement).

Mom: That's for the enrollment confirmation, not the statement.
A.: The second half of the webpage is for finding it on the statement.
Mom: [Sigh.] Why don't I just read you everything on this statement?
A.: If you find that to be easier, sure.

And that is how I eventually got my contract number (with which I promptly logged into my account and changed the mailing address to my own).

It may also be worth noting that at some point yesterday, my mother said, "well, with your father undergoing surgery on Friday..." and I asked, "WHAT???" And she couldn't recall the exact name of the condition but offered some pronunciations; when none registered, she said, "well, you're just not familiar with the condition, then." My dad later told me it was for a hernia. I tried to get more details about the surgery, but mom would only talk about the logistics of getting dad around the house afterward. I'll keep you posted.

***
I was reading something... a New Yorker article about the French president... that brought back memories of my sojourn in France many years ago, the friend mom called at some obscene hour to ask where I was, even though I'd left her a message days before letting her know that I'd be traveling by rail to Denmark, stopping in Bruges and Hamburg along the way, and would not buy phone cards with which to call her until I reached Copenhagen. Imagine my surprise when I called from Copenhagen, only to be screamed at and told that she'd called my friend and almost had the Belgian police looking for me. Because I hadn't called.

It had been three days.

Anyway, that episode continues to rile me to this day, and I'm sure I've described in these pages the time that I left mom a message asking her not to call, as I was going to bed early and wanted to get a good night's sleep to fight off a cold, only to have her call me at 11pm my time and tell me she got my message.

So, what's my point, why am I recycling well-worn mom stories?

I had an epiphany as I recalled the Copenhagen episode. I've been guilty of a cognitive blunder, for which I'm sure there is a name (but I do not know it). I've long thought that my mother hears the opposite of what I say, but it now occurs to me that she doesn't listen, period, and just often happens to do the opposite of whatever I've asked her to do (or not do). She. just. does. not. listen. Words, sentences, go in one ear and out the other, perhaps because she is entirely focused on something else, like a Verizon letter. How else do you explain the accusation that I changed and sent the letter without consulting her, when I distinctly told her to read it after each edit, and also articulated to her the nature of the changes I'd made? It explains why she not only didn't contact the MA Comms Board until a half-year after I first suggested it, but also responded to each successive mention of the Board with, "what phone number on the bill?" as if she'd never heard of it before (even once after I pointed it out to her in person). It would also explain her habit of asking the same question multiple times, or perhaps why she thinks she needs to say things multiple times to get through to me. After all, it's understandable that she can project not listening onto her daughter, given the way she's somehow managed to project lecturing people at work about how to live their lives. It all makes sense.

Porexia

I thought it was just me.

on a more scenic note...

staying on the roller coaster

I'm now laughing at myself for thinking I wouldn't need three whole days off between jobs to take care of loose ends (and laundry). Just when I thought I had things under control, had all my financial and other information for the forms, I get an e-mail from stoner HR guy saying,

"You must submit an official copy of your graduate transcripts to verify that you meet the education requirements. If you fail to submit the required documentation to verify your education by your start date, you will have 3 work days to submit the documentation. If you do not submit the documentation within 3 work days, you will not be permitted to continue working."

Two business days before I am to start, I get this. I ran over to Georgetown and submitted a request for an official transcript; they said they could have it by Monday afternoon, as long as I came to pick it up. Anything that goes by mail is not guaranteed to be seen again. Luckily, the visa service I'm going through is in Rosslyn, so I could take care of that at the same time.

I found an official copy of my undergraduate transcript, in case they meant that, too. See, my filekeeping is actually pretty good. I ordered an extra one when I was applying to grad schools. I also had to have a few sent once I started at Georgetown; thankfully, I learned that "had to" really meant that they asked you to in case you would need them on short notice, because even though I paid for them (yes, the money-grubbing Smith registrar charges for transcripts) none made it there. I called Smith's registrar's office to inquire about them, only to have a rude student say, "tell them to look again." It's a wonder I ever gave another penny to Smith after that, but it wouldn't be fair to not support scholarship students because of one rude person. Not that my support counts for anything, especially considering that even after I'd made a donation last year, the advancement office continued to send me correspondence saying they missed my donation that year. I have much better feelings about the pecan sale, since that goes directly to students in this area and is managed through the Smith Club of Washington, which has its act together, puts together great events, and boasts some great people.

Now for my taxes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This does not have to be difficult

Once again, I feel like she's not listening to me. Yes, I know it's my fault for losing track of my own 403b, but it was a long time ago and I didn't think I would need it.

To give you a sense of the accessibility of the information I'm after, I present you with the very link I sent my mother.

Also keep in mind that the previous conversation ended with my saying that I had to go and that I'd call when I got home, around 8:30pm.

My phone rings at 7:30pm, when I'm in a homeless shelter helping to clean out its linen closet in preparation for a fire inspection. My hands are full and I'm focused on what I'm doing, but I figured it would be better to answer the phone.

Mom: You have one account with John Hancock...
A.: I know, I have a statement from that one. What about TIAA-CREF?
Mom: Yes, I found that statement. We get those statements.
A.: Yes, I know. That's why I'm asking you for the contract number.
Mom: Here's the name of the fund...
A.: I can't write anything down right now, could you send it to me in an e-mail?
Mom: They have a website, you know.
A.: I know. I can't log into it without the contract number.
Mom: What number are you talking about?
A.: Follow the link I sent you-- it shows you where to find the number.
Mom: Why can't you tell them to send the statements to your address?
A.: I will, once you give me the contract number and I am able to log into the website.
Mom: You have very little money in there.
A.: It doesn't matter. I have to report all my assets, no matter the amount.

This is akin to when my mother starts reasoning with me about something over which I have no control. When she gave me this Magic Bullet electric chopping tool, I suggested I would have trouble getting it through airport security because of the sharp edges. She started explaining that it would be difficult to weaponize it, as if I were the one who needed to understand that.

Mom: Oh, no. I don't know what number you're talking about.
A.: Could you follow the link I sent you?
Mom: I'll look, but I don't know.
A.: Okay, I have to go. I'll call you when I get home.

***
I just called.

Mom: Where do I get that number?
A.: I sent you a link...
Mom: Oh, you sent me something, to my e-mail??
A.: Yes, this is what I've been saying.
Mom: Okay, let me go look at it. I'll give it to you in a minute.
A.: It would be easier for me if you sent it by e-mail, if that's just as easy for you.
Mom: Where's the statement?
Dad: You just had it, a minute ago.
Mom: I know. I can't find it.
Dad: We'll call you back.

***
Woohooo! I have the information I need. And I've learned my lesson about keeping track of my own finances.

awww

Mom: Did you get the photo?
A.: Yes, thanks.
Mom: Mind you, you're not photogenic in it... but that's okay. You're not bad looking in real life.
A.: Thanks.

***
A.: Did you get my email about TIAA-CREF?
Mom: What??
A.: TIAA-CREF... my first ever 403B.
Mom: Oh, I think they still send you statements.
A.: Yes. Could you get my "contract number" off of one of them, please?
Mom: What are they called again?
A.: TIAA-CREF.
Mom: What?
A.: Look at the link I sent you. It has where to find it on the statement, too.

We went through a few more iterations of,

Mom: What are they called again?
A.: TIAA-CREF.
Mom: What?
A.: TIAA-CREF.

A free woman (albeit a self-employed and unpaid housekeeper and personal assistant)

I'm trying to figure out why I don't quite feel like a free woman. Maybe on my way to meet Gina, I'll blast Melissa Ferrick's "No Particular Place to Be" to encourage the mood. Sure, I have errands to run, laundry to do, the house to clean... but still, I have ten more hours a day in which to do all that. I'm in the midst of a lot of paperwork, but I look at having to provide information on my assets to my new employer (to ensure no conflict of interest with anything I might work on) as an opportunity to get my act together and consolidate my disparate 401k accounts and otherwise take control of my finances. I have yet to reap a sleep-in dividend, as I'm conditioned to wake up at 5am; Gracie is conditioned to start whining her little head off shortly thereafter; and the metro, VRE and freight trains that run a block away from where I live also become very noisy around that time. Meanwhile, the knowledge that I have no obligation to rise at that hour, together with a failure to consider the factors listed above, take away the incentive to go to bed at a reasonable hour, which makes me a still-sleep-deprived free woman. Part of me, in a sick way, hoped my last drive to and from work would be painful, as a reminder of what I was getting away from, but nary a deer or aggressive driver stepped up to the plate, and it was smooth sailing. I can't complain, though-- taking the first hour of the day to sleepily lounge around and read the paper is more relaxing than driving. It's probably more relaxing than metroing to work, too, so I should enjoy it while it lasts. And I should stop rambling and go to the gym.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reputation

Apparently I have a reputation for being a bit accident prone.

Several weeks ago

Allen: Can you recommend a doctor in the area? I think I've hurt my wrist.
A.: I can, but I don't think we have the same health plan. Why don't you check with [a friend], I think he also has Blue Cross.
Allen: He... he hasn't necessarily been to the doctor recently for something like this. I mean... you...
A.: I'm more accident prone?
Allen: Yeah.

Earlier tonight

Just before Gina called to discuss plans for getting together over the next couple of days, I had brought my laptop upstairs and plugged it into the outlet by my bed. Then my phone rang, and I realized the battery was very low, so I answered but plugged it in right away. Since I wanted it near my bed, I removed the cord for the laptop and went to plug it in on the other end of the room, but it didn't quite reach. Gina and I had already started talking, but I was still trying to get everything plugged in to the right outlets.

A.: Hi, Gina.
Gina: Hi...
A.: OH CRAP...
Gina: What??
A.: Oh, nothing...

I started to say a shortened version of, "I broke my power supply because my laptop fell (blame Gracie) and the power supply where it plugs into the computer broke the fall, so I ordered a new one but rather than pay $70 for a replacement, I ordered a compatible but not quite right power supply on e-bay for $10 plus shipping, and it works, but it's a bit shorter than the original one, so it doesn't reach that other outlet as easily."

A.: I broke...
Gina, in a horrified tone: Oh, no!
A.: Oh, nothing like that! Not a bone or anything... just the power supply to my laptop...
Gina, relieved: Oh, good! With you, you never know.

That last part could come off a bit snarky, but it was said without a trace of snideness. It was just matter-of-fact. And in her defense, she was there ten years ago... just about now actually... just a room away in the same apartment in Geneva, when I sprained my ankle by standing on my bed to reach something on a bookshelf and falling off (don't laugh; it was painful, and I never did learn to ski that year).

***
Over IM, later tonight

Gina: I have your trifle bowl and parchment paper, they're going in my car right now. me: I have your stuff in a box. I'm not putting it in my car because it might get broken into, but I'll put it in there before I leave.
Gina: "I'm not putting it in my car because it might get broken into..."
lol. I know people are vying for that garlic press...
me: you never know what people steal
goodnight
Gina: Night. See you tomorrow.
me: see you tomorrow
oh do you want more pecans?
Gina: Sure.
Gina: You're still selling those???
me: (I only have plain left)
Gina: Plain is what I need. I make that Tangy Pepper Pecan Brie at almost all my shows now!
me: awesome
Gina: How long does this sale go on for?
me: until they're sold
usually I'll buy up any that are left if it's just a few bags, but I'm trying to cut back. pecans are kind of a no-no...
Gina: I guess I'll take two bags. That should tide me over for a while. Although Andy does want me to make another pecan pie...
me: otherwise I put them in salad, etc.
last year I sold them all
wow, you're awesome
Gina: How many do you have left?
me: three
Gina: I'll take three, then.
me: you're about to be my favorite person ever. you're solving my pecan problem
Gina: lol
Well, that sounds good to me!
me: yay! mutually beneficial transaction
Gina: Well, we're getting a lot out of this trip.
me: we are
Gina: Exactly.
Okay, goodnight! Andy will be happy to hear I'm stocking up on pecans.
me: goodnight!
feel better
Gina: I will
Once more, goodnight!
me: goodnight!
me: at one point I will do a statistical analysis and calculate the average amount of goodnights at the end of our chats
Gina: Be sure to put that in your blog.
Gina: Goodnight.
me: goodnight.

Yankees Suck

They do.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What's going on?

Have I mentioned that I love this? The reason David's not wearing anything, is that he can't decide what to wear.

A plea to my fellow patrons

I've had a great weekend so far-- high on activities and culture, low on errands (if only the errands would run themselves, that would be even better. La Bayadere was excellent, beautiful, interesting to watch-- thank you JD for inviting me. Persepolis was excellent, and a testament of the effectiveness of a powerful story told artfully without expensive, in-your-face graphics. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the National Building Museum organized by the local Smith Club. It's a beautiful building inside and out, and I'll be working within view of it, so news of the tour struck me as a good omen.

You may be thinking, if she's had such a great weekend, what on earth is she going to bi&ch about? I'm getting to that.

Now, there was (vicarious) drama on metro ride to the Kennedy Center last night; there was confrontation, profanity; invocation of the emergency stop button; and relief when no weapons were drawn. I almost prefer that to the metro ride up to the Museum this morning. I was just sitting there reading my book, minding my own business, when a couple with a small child boarded the train and parked their stroller across from where I was sitting (and no, I was not sitting in the handicapped spaces). You'll never guess what happened shortly thereafter: the baby started screaming its little head off. And didn't stop. The parents made perfunctory efforts to comfort it, but didn't try... for example... picking it up. I decided to get off at Archives and walk, even though it was cold and I was not particularly early. It didn't take me that long to walk to the museum, but by the time I had, the horde of Boy Scouts that had congregated outside had started to make its way in, meaning more time in the cold.

By the time I got into the museum, I was a few minutes late, but so was the organizer, who had also gotten trapped behind the Scouts. Shortly thereafter, we embarked on the guided tour, which was interesting. Why some people thought that they would try to enhance the tour by competing with the guide, with jokes or side conversations, or even guesses as to how he would finish his sentence, is beyond me. I'm the first to admit that I talk a lot (actually, my mother is the first to admit it, so perhaps I'm the second), and I like to think that people are interested in what I have to say (and that's one issue over which mom and I part ways). However, I do not extend that mentality to imagine that people are more interested in what I have to say, then, say, the guide of a tour; or the music of a ballet or other performance; or a play, or movie. You get the point. But there are others who don't, because between Argonautica and La Bayadere and whatever films I've seen in the last year, and the museum tour, there have been people in the audience who couldn't keep their mouths shut. Or who couldn't go however many hours without eating and therefore had a food container to rattle... which is annoying, but (only slightly) less annoying than people who have to talk during or narrate a film or play (or ballet). Last night toward the end of the ballet, I overheard a voice say "this is it!" because apparently the person next to him wouldn't have figured that out. A lot of thought goes into these performances; it is unlikely your comment will improve them. You're not that witty, and I'd much rather listen to the music or play or guide. Any discussion of what was seen and heard can wait until after the event. I've said it before on these pages, and I'll say it again: if you can't keep your mouth shut for a few hours, confine yourself to home entertainment. The rest of us will thank you.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Don't let the door hit you on the way out

Mom leaves me a message: Hi. You know, you could call once in a while. Bye.
I return the call.
Mom: Why haven't you called in so long?
A.: I called on Tuesday.
Mom: And?
A.: And?
Mom: Where were you?
A.: The gym.
Mom: Are you still there now?
A.: No, I'm almost home.
Mom: Have you already changed jobs?
A.: No. In a week.
Mom: Have you given notice?
A.: Yes.
Mom: What was the reaction?
A.: Most people are happy... [the next two words would have been "for me"]
Mom, laughs: Right. They're happy you're leaving so you won't be around to tell them what to do and how to live their lives.

Now, I won't deny that there are some people who can't wait to see me go. One of them asks me whether it's my last day every time she sees me. She also tells pregnant ladies that they look like whales, though, so she is hardly representative.

Mom: Are you at the gym now?
A.: No. I told you a few minutes ago that I'm almost home.
Mom: Okay, well, keep us posted. Call once in a while.


***
I remembered something I'd wanted to blog about in the last post. Have you ever woken up in the middle of a dream, so that it's still vivid, and thought, "I'm stressed out about that? That's on my mind?"

I've twice woken up in the middle of dreamt-up fights with my mother. In one in particular, we're in a car together and she accuses me of something completely absurd and it escalates.

So I guess even when I think I'm managing it, it has an effect on my subconscious.

Rollercoaster

I haven't talked to my parents this week since Tuesday, when I called to wish dad a happy birthday. That call was short, because someone else called them for the same reason, and uneventful, apart from mom screaming dad's name into the phone, which is still uneventful and manageable; I'm not sure why I haven't taken to just distancing the phone from my ear, but I will take up that practice hereafter. I haven't talked to them since, because I haven't had time and because part of me senses that a conversation with them could have brought on an emotional breakdown, which I'm determined to prevent. It's not that I'm just now realizing how much my mom can stress me out; It's also hitting my how predictably she stresses me out.

First but not foremost, I'm having a fat week, which is fine, happens to the best of us... but if my mom were here, I would hear about it every few hours, and that is not relaxing. The other thing that is not relaxing is the way mom handles uncertainty, or specifically the way her handling of uncertainty encroaches on the way I handle uncertainty. For example, take six years ago when I was applying for graduate programs:

Mom: Any grad school news?
A.: No. I'm not thinking about it until April, when they send admissions letters.
[A week later, and still March]
Mom: Any grad school news?
A.: I was rejected from SIPA.
Mom: Oh. What if the other places all reject you, too?
A.: That is exactly what I am trying not to think about, and it doesn't help me to think about it until I've heard from the other programs.

Mom just doesn't have the filter that says, "is this comment or question helpful at this time?" There are other examples of this-- things she's suggested I say to my friends in response to difficult events in their lives-- that I won't share here in the interest of their privacy-- but I've heard enough of them to conclude that my mother lacks a tact filter.

She's pretty much done the same thing whenever she knew I was waiting on job news. The worst was when I thought I had an internship in Ecuador the years between graduate school, but was waiting on a background check [that never did come, which is how I ended up in Nicaragua]. Every time we talked, mom would ask, and every time I told her she would be the first to know.

So I stopped telling her about any intermediate steps in any job search process and just told her when I actually had the job. This of course did not stop her from nagging me about what I was doing at any point to find a job, but it protected me from specific questions that could exacerbate the already emotional roller coaster that is a job search (and this one has been no exception). I asked myself how much I could blame mom for not appreciating how important this new job was to me when I hadn't told her about it, but I know I had honestly answered her and her friends' questions about whether I was happy in my current job, so the change shouldn't have come as a surprise.

To bring this full circle, this has been a very emotionally intense week on top of an emotionally intense month on top of an emotionally intense six months or so since I first heard that I would be invited to an interview and then realized I would have to be proactive and ask for help to ensure that that would actually happen. Verbal job offer in hand for a month or so, I've had to fight to get it in writing in time to turn down another offer and give notice; written job offer in hand, I started to process what it would mean to leave the job I held for over three and a half years; within two weeks of changing jobs, I had to again ask for help and fight to make sure the new job still existed, as well as consider the consequences of it falling through, especially having given notice. It's been a roller coaster, and the practical and moral support of my friends and coworkers has kept me sane (no I will not pursue a cheesy falling-off-roller-coaster analogy). And perhaps I don't give my parents enough credit, and they too would have been supportive had I given them the chance-- and I hope that's the case-- but I'm not willing to test that, I would rather leave it at 'busy week, didn't have time to talk, perhaps just as well.' In any case, I am reasonably certain at this point that I will start the new job in a week, I look forward to catching up with mom and dad once I'm on firmer ground.

***
The above turned into a mom blog once I got going, but my original intentional was to write that since I haven't had a conversation with my parents, I would just sound off on other things. And I do:

--Excellent Elle magazine piece on Amy Bloom. I highly recommend her short story collection and want to read "Away."

--Project Runway: Didn't think Victorya was all that, got annoyed when people said she was the next Chloe... as far as I can tell, being Asian is the only thing those two have in common. Chloe's designs were always impeccable. If anything, Jillian (even though her denim coat was a flop) is the next Chloe. And someone please slap Christian upside the head.

--The NYT editorial board. I respectfully disagree with their endorsement (and apparently so does Caroline Kennedy). Here are my picks from today's paper, though:
Abroad
NYC

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Care of the soul

I've been thinking a lot about work lately. More disturbingly, I've been obsessing about work and how egregious certain things are, which is really too bad, because there's so much good, too, and it shouldn't be overshadowed. My point is, changing jobs will be good for my soul in many ways, primarily in that I'll be doing something I can consistently believe in, but also in that I'll start with a clean slate in terms of office politics.

I know that every office has politics, but I also know that the intensity, nature and level of venom varies tremendously.

Let me reiterate, lest you believe my mother, that I am not at constantly at odds with people at work. That is not the problem. It's just that I feel like I am not as good a person as I want to be, because of the thoughts and habits I have about people at work now. I mean, there's something wrong with the way I can't wait to dish to a colleague or two about what an idiotic thing someone said or did. I am not that person. I don't want to be that person. And I know that's a work-on-me-first issue, that changing the environment is not going to fix it, but I really believe that changing the environment is going to help me fix me, because the environment I'm in now is toxic.

***
Answering people's questions about where I'll be working has elicited some interesting reactions, from, "Oh, those people??" to "That's a perfect fit for you. They do God's work there.*" My favorite comment was, "I know someone who worked there but left because he hated it. He found their analytical process to meticulous."

Another sign that it is the perfect fit for me, because I kind of like the concept of not being able to pull conclusions out of one's posterior.


*The owner of that comment has worked for two Secretaries of State.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Idée fixe

I was thinking about how I hadn't heard from Nina in a while, which got me thinking about how Mom touted her as an example of being successful through following one's own path. Which is all true with regard to Nina, but hypocritical as for touting herself as always believing that everyone should follow her own path, especially when she adds that she's always supported my paths. It's actually really, really funny when you consider the extent to which she hasn't, to which she's actively and relentlessly argued against just about everything I've ever wanted to do... but it's not her support, or lack thereof, that is the topic of this post; it's the relentlessness. Furthermore, it's the way she'll get something into her head and not let go.

That, too, is not new, not surprising, but it's especially funny, I think, given that night that she kept on talking about how the 'urine hit my head.' Meaning, something occurred to me and I wouldn't let it go. The idée fixe of which she accused me wasn't another person's career, vacation, wardrobe, etc.; rather, I outlandishly wanted to spend the evening with my friends, one of whom lived an ocean away, and outlandishly wanted to get there without one of those friends having to drive me there and back. For this, I got several "when the urine hits you over the head"s. How does that work??

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I've rediscovered vegging

The title of this blog will remind those of you with a very good memory of the time many years ago that my mother tried to set me up with the son of a friend of a friend. By many years ago I mean long before I learned not to give mom my work number, although I should have. Take the following phone call:

Mom: Hi. I'm writing a birthday card. How do you spell "birthday."
A.: B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y.
Mom: B-E...
A.: B-I... could you look it up in a dictionary? I have a lot of work...
Mom: Just spell it for me.
A.: B-I-R-T-H...
Mom: B-I-T-H...
A.: B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y

At this point, I notice that Jo Ann, my office mate, is laughing hysterically at the half of the following conversation she is hearing. I don't remember how many more times I actually had to spell it.

Another time, my mom called while I was at lunch and left an urgent sounding message, said to call her right away. I called, worried that something bad might have happened.

Mom: Hello?
A.: Is everything okay?
Mom: You HAVE to meet this guy... you're perfect for each other. He also rides his bike to work!
A.: Mom, in the future, unless it's an actual emergency, please don't leave me messages that imply an emergency.
Mom: He's the son of a friend of Jane's.
A.: Not interested, thanks.
Mom: But he rides his bike to work!
A.: Mom, I just don't have time right now...
Mom: Well, just meet him.
A.: No, thanks.

The next day, I returned to my desk from lunch to another urgent sounding message. This time I figured it was not urgent.

A.: Hi.
Mom: A., you won't believe it! He's a veggie!
A.: Huh?
Mom: He not only doesn't eat meat, he consumes no animal products...
A.: Okay...
Mom: Just meet him.
A.: I don't have time.

***
While it's always fun to reminisce, it is not veganism that I've rediscovered. I've rediscovered lounging around and reading. It feels weird... like I need an excuse for not being productive. I don't remember when I last had a chance to sit down and read (when not traveling on public transportation of some sort). For the first time in ages, I am not swamped. I'm caught up (as much as one ever is) on cleaning, laundry, etc.; I've exercised as much as I care to given that I'm getting over a cold; it's freezing out (literally); and some things that I need to do will have to wait until the related offices are open.

My thought process follows: "I. have. time. to. read. It feels... decadent. It feels like a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberry coulis (like the one at Las Tapas in Old Town... mmmmmmm). It feels like I haven't done anything to deserve this... I should find a way to be productive, and then read. What about all the things I always think I should do when I have more time? Why didn't I write them down somewhere? I probably did. Maybe I should read a self-help book because that can count as being productive..."

All of the sudden, an epiphany: Reading "I Am America (and So Can You)" is productive, because I'll need to return it to Serenity shortly. I've had it for months and have only read a few chapters.

It's funny. It's really funny. I'm steadily laughing, and then I get to page 43 and just lose it. Curious? Read the book... I can't do it justice.

***
Reviews by A.

-Arctic Tale, as seen on return flight: Very good, cute.
-701 Restaurant: Pretty good food, but I will never return there because they kicked us out two hours or so after our reservation, as they had booked our table for another party. Very rude, especially when you consider the tab for a three-course meal for five people.
-Argonautika at the Shakespeare Theatre: Excellent, go see it now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

high-maintenance dependents

Lest I give any sancti-mommy an invitation to get all up in my face, I'm going to state upfront that I know there are some ways in which cats are like small children and ways in which they are not. I don't have time to analyze the similarities and differences; I will only say that having a cat follow you around, whine at you, crawl all over you, bump your forearms when you're typing, and try to dip her tail into your tea, does not make things easy.

As usual I'm trying to do several things at once: manage travel reservations and apply for a visa (more on that below); make an IRA contribution for this year and roll over an old 401k; get ready for Restaurant Week Girls' Night (my one exception to the no-restaurant-until-I-am-no-longer-an-abomination-when-in-swimwear rule, and even then because I want to catch up with my friends and tell them in person that I have a new job); deal with the paperwork and stoner HR guy involved in said job; and recover from a cold and jet lag at the same time. Oh and I have to go to the post office and shop for food. Whatever, it's a long weekend. I'm just saying, it would go more smoothly and I would have less of a headache if my little furball could back off for a few hours.

I am not complaining, but I kind of am, about not being able to remember when I was not planning the next trip, whether it was business or leisure. It's been over a year.

Now, some people have asked me [excuse me. GRACIE, GET AWAY FROM THAT MUG!] what I was thinking when I signed on to a three-week trip with my parents. Answer: it was an opportunity I could not pass up (a better question would be, what was I thinking when I signed up for a three-week trip for two months into a new job; answer: I could not keep putting off opportunities based on the possibility of being hired). I would love to go to China; I actually like spending time with my parents; it's a great deal, and since I don't speak Chinese I figure a tour is the way to go. My parents and I actually get along in some situations, and an organized tour minimizes the potential for conflict (I think). Now, there have already been issues (mostly related to my mom's unwillingness/inefficiency to do anything over the internet), but she has graciously agreed to not begrudge me for using my status to score an economy plus seat (and even offered the companion one to dad; we can all alternate, too). Anyway, now that you know about the trip, I will keep you posted about planning and coordinating drama.

I also don't remember when banking was straightforward, but I'm not going to get into that because it's largely my penance for having multiple accounts for multiple purposes (amtrust for savings- does it even have the highest interest rate anymore?; ING for good interest rate for a checking account; Citibank because it's brick-and-mortar and I can take deposits there; another one that gives me a discount on insurance...), leading to a crazy web of linked accounts.

Gracie's teeth cleaning is on Monday, which is a holiday. I bring her in first thing in the morning and pick her up in the evening. She won't know a thing, since she'll be anesthetized, so I don't feel too guilty about looking forward to some peace and quiet.

I also have a low tolerance for treachery

Our last meeting ended in time for us to head to the North Shore for a few hours to look at the thirty-foot waves we'd been hearing about. We didn't see any of those, but we did see a row of basking sea turtles. There were three when we got there, than another laboriously made its way out of the water and onto the sand. They were beautiful, and I stupidly did not have my camera. G. took a picture with his camera phone and will hopefully be able to transfer it to a computer.

It was great to see the water, even to see the mountains on the way to the water. Being there made me wonder why I'd tried so hard to get out of the trip-- what was I thinking? Even on a work level, i.e. interacting with the people I actually work for, it's been the highlight of my job.

We brainstormed potential replacements for my job, considering pros and cons. I was struggling to articulate tactfully the con for one person, when G. said, "peculiar demeanor." This would shock my mother, but the job I have been doing actually requires people skills. On that note, I expressed wariness about another person based on a certain brusqueness, bringing about the following conversation:

G.: I don't know about that.
A.: I'm not saying it's a dealbreaker, but it's something to keep in mind.
G.: I have to tell you, when you were first chosen to work on this, several people came to tell me that you were impatient, etc., but that hasn't materialized...
A.: Let me guess: M.
G.: M. was one, I'd rather not say...
A.: Which is kind of funny because I hadn't worked with him before I'd worked with you... I'll also venture R. Who else warned you that I'd be a pain in the ass?
G.: I would really rather not say, and it wasn't that negative. There was M. but also a couple of people who like and respect you.
A.: Well then they shouldn't go around warning future teammates about me based on their perceptions of my personality. [Yes, I suppose that's what we were doing as well, but that was in choosing someone, not sabotaging them].
G.: It wasn't negative... it was just an FYI that, for example, you have a very low tolerance for incompetence.
A.: Well, I hope those people are happy that I'm moving on to a place where low tolerance for incompetence is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'll often stop and think about them

It's only 9pm, but it's actually 2am. I should stay up for another hour, so bear with me as I wax philosophical.

When I went to England many years ago for a friend's wedding, it was weird. Returning to a place I know well, even though it isn't home, is always weird for me, because I go about my business and everything is familiar, which gives the impression that I'm home. Except I'm not. There are lots of places in my life that set off this emotional chain reaction (cue 'Places I Remember') but it's especially odd in locales of medium sojourn. Boston is uber-familiar to me; I know my way around without thinking about it; this doesn't set off a 'wait-why-is-this-familiar' soul-search because I lived in Boston for many years and go back there regularly. I've spent a lot of time in the U.K., but not so much that I expect it to feel normal, so when it does-- normal but not quite normal-- I can't help but think about my life.

So here I am on a rock in the middle of the Pacific, going about my business (literally), and I run into familiar, friendly faces. It's not easy to walk away from these relationships, these people that I've met. Would it be easier if I'd been able to leave this all behind from five thousand miles away, without dealing with it at all? Maybe it's a blessing that I have to consciously deal with the fact that I'm leaving. Work meetings only intensify this feeling: the work will be taken on by someone else; all that I've learned and worked for this, I have to leave behind. I figured leaving would be difficult, bittersweet; but this trip is magnifying the sadness and sense of consequence, in a way I didn't imagine.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Metro friends

A., taking the projector out of the car: This thing took up half the space in my luggage. As a result I only brought two suits. I'll have to (gasp!) repeat outfits.
G.: I guarantee that only one person will notice, and that's your metro friend in [a department].

G. was referring to Steve. Steve, even with his buzz cut and (jumping) wings-adorned uniform, earned the nickname 'metro' through his awareness and appreciation of fashion. He's a fan of Project Runway and was thinking about getting his wife a copy of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style... so he could read it. I was able to run by him the decision of traveling with my lesser Perry Ellis messenger bag (and discuss how much Perry Ellis' solo, post-Gucci career hasn't lived up to expectations) vs. my preferred DVF bag (out of a desire to keep it from getting scuffed... although I'm over it; the DVF is with me on this trip). And he appreciates the significance of DVF (Diane Von Furstenberg's line for the masses). To give you an idea of how unusual this is, see below the conversation I had with some colleagues last spring as we were looking for a place to have dinner in Honolulu.

A.: Wow, I've never seen so many high-end designers in one mall! Look at this! Gucci, Escada, Donna Karen...
C.: Yeah, if it doesn't end in -Mart, it doesn't really mean anything to me.
A.: I don't see Diane Von Furstenberg...
C.: Who?
A.: Diane Von Furstenberg... fashion pioneer... she invented the wrap dress!
C.: The wrap dress had to be invented?
A.: Who shops here?
G.: Japanese tourists with money to burn.
C.: What does that store even sell [pointing to Harry Winston]? Furniture?
A.: Diamonds.
C.: I wouldn't have guessed that.

Anyway, Steve and I remain friends (even though I suggested he might be tripping when he really did see kangaroos) and the fourth season of Project Runway is growing on us.

The big one

You know what they say about jet lag... stay up until it's bedtime where you are. So here I am, struggling to not fall asleep for a few more hours. I'm flipping channels... there are hundreds of them, some your regular cable channels, some religious, some are pay-per-view porn (all I'll say about that is I was going through the various pay-per-view channels vaguely paying attention to the names of the films, when I thought, 'that sounds like a cooking show... why would that be pay-per.... oh... ew'). I settled on the style channel and turned it off less than ten minutes later because I couldn't take it.

Why this resort to brain candy? I've had all the substance I can take (do check out the current issue of Foreign Policy) and even all the crosswords I can take. I flipped through the airline magazine's map pages, which reminded me of a conversation we had in Istanbul. Over the preceding days I had heard Kate and Ian refer to various colleagues of theirs. It was Ian's last night and we were having dinner at YeniYilda (New Star), where our waiter was from Kazakhstan. We discussed how most people don't realize what a large country it is, and what Sasha Baron Cohen has done for it.

Ian: A friend of mine-- one of our labmates-- is from Kazakhstan.
A.: Which one is that?
Ian: The big one.
A.: No-- I meant, which labmate.

***
Clinging to my Sanity presents: in-flight film reviews. I.e. reviews of in-flight films. Not film reviews written in-flight.

Let's start with the Nanny Diaries. It was bad. Brilliantly acted, but bad.

They showed an episode of How I Met Your Mother, which I love. I watch no other sitcom-- have little patience for them unless they're really good-- and this one gets CTMS's seal of approval.

Then came Stardust, which I'd already seen in-flight last month. It was pretty good. It's actually a good airplane movie. I didn't need to see it twice, but until American airlines catch up with the rest of the world and offer on-demand... beggars can't be choosers.

Last but not least, Music and Lyrics, which wasn't bad. It was cute, not a bad airplane film. I especially liked it when Drew Barrymore's character says, "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have gotten involved. I have no filtering system."

On that note... [yawn]... goodnight.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Watch out for the sharks

Saturday night

Mom, to my voice mail: Hi. Where are you wandering around? Call me back.

I was actually just on the phone with a friend who had called to personally congratulate me about the job offer (she felt it merited a phone call because she knows how much it means to me). Not that I'm bitter-- seriously-- about my parents' reaction or lack thereof; just surprised.

I have a theory about the "it's Saturday night/where could you possibly be?" messages: mom is actually hoping that I'm out somewhere, and partly checking in on me.

Mom: Oh, hello. [Screams dad's name so that he'll pick up the phone, but as usual, screams it right into the phone].
A.: Hello.
Mom: When are you leaving for Hawaii?
A.: Tomorrow morning.
Mom: Why haven't you sent us your itinerary.
A.: I will [but you seem to prefer to ignore them and just call me to ask for details].
Mom: Watch out for the sharks and the rip tides. Don't be afraid of the sun, though. The sun is healthy. Have a good trip.
A.: Thank you.

I didn't argue, or point out that most daylight hours would be spent inside. I did commend her (not out loud) for not asking whether I'd already packed, as she often does because I may not remember to otherwise. She means well.

I am disappointed in Miss Manners

Tolerance will only embolden the enemy.

The joke is on me

Do you remember when I announced by e-mail Gracie's arrival? The subject line was, "A. Succumbs to Developing World Adoption Trend." The text followed:
"Gracie comes from a part of Virginia where you can't even get DSL and the water supply is quite sketchy."

Well, the joke is on me. True to her origins, Gracie has bad teeth. This was pointed out by the vet last year, but she said I could see if they improved. This year, the vet said they had not improved, and that before the decay spread we would have to have Gracie's teeth cleaned.

Guess how much it costs to get a cat's teeth cleaned. Guess.
And this is with a 20% off special this month for the actual dentistry.

Did you guess $350 (not including the $70 blood work they do to determine that the cat is fit enough for the general anesthetic)?

That's right: kitty dental care is more expensive than human dental care.

Friday, January 11, 2008

That explains it

So, apparently one reason that my parents are now acknowledging my future employer is that its director was on Glenn Beck.

I want to add that as mom would be surprised to hear, various people that I work for now and have worked for say they'd take me back anytime. I won't tell mom because she'll probably say they're just being polite.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

An announcement intertwined with a mom blog

I spoke to my parents earlier this evening and they were genuinely happy for me and offered sincere congratulations. Perhaps they were just weary because I didn't have anything in writing, but in any case, I'm glad they've come around.

***
In Boston two weeks ago

A., having gotten off the phone: I got a job.
Dad: A different job?
A.: Yes.
Dad, slightly confused: Oh, good.

Still smiling, I continued on to the kitchen.

A.: I was just offered a job.
Mom: What about the one you have?
A.: I’ll quit.
Mom: Why? You were happy there.
A.: I haven’t been happy there for a while. [This should come as no surprise].
Mom: Will they pay you more?
A.: Actually, they’ll pay me less.

[Silence]

A.: Isn’t this exciting?
Dad: We have no idea what your current job entails. We have no idea what your new job will entail.
A.: I can tell you what my new job will entail.

[I proceed to describe new job, with much enthusiasm; parents continue to kind of shrug.]

***
Recall the night a couple of weeks ago, when mom called to tell me about Verizon and I asked her whether the conversation could wait until the following evening. The reason it was particularly important that I kept my mind clear and uncluttered was that the next day I would interview for my dream job.

I told very few people about the interview and had to lie about why I wasn’t at work that day. The time in which I wasn’t sure the interview would happen was stressful; the time after it was, to my surprise, also stressful. I didn’t expect to hear until after the holidays, and part of me wondered whether I’d once again get stuck under the proverbial pizza box. I tried not to think about it, kept reminding myself it was out of my hands, but it was hard when so much depended on whether or not I got the job. I arrived at my parent’s house in Boston; brought my stuff upstairs; came back down; and sat down to blog, not noticing the missed call on my phone. My phone rang again, and I was offered the job. I was speechless.

I recovered, told my parents, to blank stares.

Can we, maybe, celebrate? Finally, by the time we sat down to dinner, my parents decided to be vaguely happy for me.

***
Somehow, in my summarizing my dissatisfaction with my current job to my mother, we miscommunicated and she came to believe that I was unhappy because of interpersonal problems. While I can’t say that personalities have nothing to do with my unhappiness, the reasons for my leaving are much more profound (and professional); I’m amazed, though, at the ease with which my mom latched on to the idea that I had trouble getting along with people.

Although I want to protect the privacy of my current as well as future employers, I think I can share the conversation at the root of the misunderstanding:

A.: See, my personality, much like yours…
Mom: Exactly—you’re outspoken and you always have to say what you think…
A.: Well, yes. What I’m trying to say is, this new job is right for my personality because I have an eye, as well as a low tolerance for, things that are not done efficiently.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother completely missed my point, and took what I said to mean that I’d put my foot in my mouth at work, alienated everybody, and had to leave.

Which is really too bad, because what I meant was, “while my current job has been good to me, and in many ways great, the one I’m going to is much more suited to what I want to do with my career.” It, i.e. the new job, didn’t fall onto my lap; I worked my butt off for it. The last month or so in particular has been very stressful and hopeful in anticipation of an answer. Now that I got an answer and it’s the answer I wanted, I want to celebrate. Am I the only one who’s happy for me? I know it’s not Google, but let’s show some enthusiasm!

In the meantime, I informed only a handful of other people (mostly people who had helped me in the job-seeking process, or who would be most affected by the change). An alum of my Masters' program and current employee of new employer, who had taken it upon herself to get me out from under the pizza box, responded to the news with much enthusiasm and told me that my getting the job made her day. Given that she’s never even met me, why is she many times happier for me than my parents??

***
On Anya’s last day in Boston—the day we went to Revere Beach in the morning—we stopped at the house before going for a walk in the snow in a park not far from the house. My project lead at work, for whom I’d left a message, called back just as we were about to set off again. My mom knew that I’d been expecting that call and was nervous about it.

Mom, seeing me pick up the phone: Have that conversation in the car!

It was a difficult conversation, as this was the person whose job would be most affected by my leaving. I wasn’t looking forward to it but it had to happen. He took it well, was very supportive. As I was talking, I looked up to see my mom a mouth-flapping motion with her hand, although when I called her on it she denied it. We arrived at the park, I got off the phone.

A.: I’m so glad that [conversation] went well.
Mom, to Anya: American dogs are so friendly! Look at that one’s ears!

Eventually, during the walk, my mother turned to me and said, “well, if you’re happy, I’m happy.”

A.: I’m now also relieved that [project lead] is being so supportive.
Mom: You’ve had conflicts with this person in the past?
A.: No! Where are you getting this?
Mom: I just know you have a strong personality.

I’m taking what I can get, i.e. my mother’s being happy for me. I’d love for her to appreciate what I’ve been through to get this job and what a huge victory this offer is—and for her not to reduce the issue to my having trouble getting along with people—but I’m hoping that will come with time. For now, I’m happy she’s happy I’m happy.

***
Just when I thought the Verizon saga was over, it morphed into a full-out screaming fight. My mother reread the complaint form (which I asked her to read before I filed) and decided that I left out her key point, which she apparently asked me various times if I'd included. And I had- it's just that when it came down to fitting all her points into the space allotted, I had to make the call as to what had to go. I decided that her complaint would be taken more seriously if she had a concrete objective, i.e. getting the collections agency called off, than questioning Verizon's billing practices. I think I even asked her what her primary objective was. She also asked me at the time if I'd included the part about being charged $250 for two weeks of service; now she's yelling at me for having included it.

I am so tired, and sick of this. She keeps saying, "every time I ask you to do something, I regret it!" to which I reply, fine, do everything yourself.

The last straw, worst insult, came when she said, "you were blabbing on the phone instead of concentrating on this." First of all, I was trying to concentrate on this but you were yapping at me. Second of all, I don't recall blabbing on the phone this morning at all-- oh, wait-- I left a message for my colleague/project lead asking him to call me when he got a chance. That message took about ten seconds. If you're referring to the conversation in the car as "blabbing on the phone," how dare you have denied making the blabbing motion with your hand? That is what you were doing. Thank you for respecting my career and putting it up there with your Verizon saga.

I said to her, "mom, if you'd listened to me and followed the instructions on your bill-- like I did when Verizon tried to screw me over-- you would have saved yourself a lot of time and energy." I pointed her to the instruction indicating whom to contact should Verizon customer service not resolve her problem.

***
Half an hour later, it's still ongoing, she's still yelling at me. The funny thing is, re-doing the form, I now see even more clearly why I made the decision that I did-- they don't allow for an explanation or objective for generic complaints. You have a choice of subjects, one of which is "seek mediation," and only then can you explain what you want from them. A general investigation of billing practices is not an option for mediation. I've asked her to stop accusing me of purposely uprooting her process and to meet my half-way and express some appreciation for the time I've spent on this, but even now as I try to type in the form, she continues to yap at me (which is another reason that the result this morning wasn't to her liking-- she keeps saying she told me to include that one sentence about investigating their billing practices, but she yapped continuously, and it was all noise). Why did I come here? I am most hurt by the "you were busy blabbing on the phone comment," and it shows how much she does not appreciate what I'm going through right now and does not see my career as important as the Verizon saga.

***
A.: I’m going to look for a ticket back to DC tomorrow. I actually regret coming here.
Dad: You do realize this happens every time? It usually starts on the way back from the airport…
A.: Not like this. I can handle the little squabbles. This just hurts my feelings.

I showed Dad the little blurb on the bill about the MA communications board; he said it was “significant.” It shows, for one thing, that my mom had recourse to a practical solution to her issue. Instead, she chose to take a principled stance and waste other people’s time in doing so, and get self-righteous when the results of others’ efforts were not to her liking. It just makes me angry.

***
I think I last felt this way on my birthday two years ago when I got the lecture about being socially overbearing. It was a sense of, “I should be celebrating, and instead, I’m being subjected to this?” combined with, “why did I choose to be here, when I could actually be celebrating, with people who do not lecture me about my flaws on my birthday?”

That’s when I last felt this hurt. I last felt this angry at my mother—so angry that I was unwilling to play along and agree with her to just resolve the conflict—in Arizona over the hiking book fight that she picked. This is just so wrong, she is being so selfish.

Let me repeat that I spent weeks—months, really—dreaming of the possibility of this job offer. And now what should be a time of celebration is a time of acrimony.

***
Gina, over IM: When are you leaving?
me: I was just looking a tickets back to DC but they start at $400, so Wednesday morning. what was I thinking?
10:17 PM Gina: shrug
me: thanks for being excited for me about the job
Gina: Well, I am excited. I mean, I don't know anything about the job, but I know how much you wanted it (first hand, as I called up your voice mail while you were in Turkey/Greece).
me: that's all I'm saying.

***
Wendy, over tea at her house: So is this ___?
A.: It is.
Wendy: Congratulations!
A.: Congratulations to you, too! (Wendy filed, became Dr. Wendy, the same day that I interviewed).

Later that evening

A.: Thanks for being happy for me. I've wanted this for so long.
Wendy: You were already working on getting this job last year when you came to visit.

***
It's Monday morning, New Year's Eve. Things have gotten a little bit better.
Mom, screaming: A.!!!!
A.: One minute, I need to call my manager.
Mom: Haven't you already talked to your manager?
A.: No, this is my actual manager.
Mom: How many managers do you have?
A.: Don't even ask.

Later

Mom: What did your manager say?
A.: He was really supportive, said he understood my decision.
Mom: What happened that everyone understands your decision?
A.: Nothing happened. It's not event-based, or due to any disagreement. People just understand.

Mom doesn't look convinced but she lets it go.

***
A.: I don't want to go to work tomorrow. I want to want to go to work. There was a time that I wanted to go to work.
Mom: Tell me, honestly, did you get into conflicts at work?
A.: What do you mean?
Mom: Did you go around asserting that you know everything better than everyone else?
A.: Of course not.

***
Jason, driving, when I say that my mom keeps alluding to my alleged interpersonal issues at work: POT-KETTLE-POT-KETTLE.
A.: I mean, sure issues come up, but I don't think I'm that difficult...
Heather: A., I've worked with you. You don't have to defend yourself.

***
Where does this leave you? I wish I could have been more forthcoming, but I'd been very close before only to see offers fall apart at the last minute, so I wasn't willing to tell anyone until I knew for sure, and I wanted to tell the people who would be directly affected first. Getting ready for the interview within days of returning from Turkey and Greece was a lot of work. In recovering from my trip and getting ready for the interview, I neglected a lot of other things. The evening after the interview, I dealt with the letter to Verizon; the rest of that week, I went to work. Not being completely honest with people was heart-wrenching.

So, I want to thank you for bearing with me and for the moral support, advice and encouragement; for listening to me weigh my options; for agreeing to be references; for encouraging me to manage my career; and/or for making my current situation tolerable.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Why mom doesn't have my work number

I checked my cell phone messages during the day to find a ranting, raving, screaming, tearful message from mom. She was unhappy with the Verizon letter. The message went something like this:

A.! I FOUND IT. YOU REMOVED WHAT I HAD WRITTEN. I HAD EMOTION, I HAD WHAT I THOUGHT WAS NECESSARY. THIS DISAPPEARED BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T EVEN THINK! YOU'RE ARROGANT! YOU DIDN'T EVEN THINK TO LEAVE THE PART THAT WAS MINE! OF COURSE THEY RESPONDED THE WAY THEY DID! IT WASN'T UNDERSTANDABLE! THERE WAS NOTHING! YOU LEFT SUCH A COLD, ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS, DOCUMENT! IT WAS SUCH ARROGANCE! I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS! GOODBYE!

Then I got a message from dad saying, "Mom said that you changed everything that she wrote and sent it without checking with her. She's upset. Call me please."

I called dad first, left a message: "I did change a part of her letter, but I not only told her at the time, I wrote in the body of the e-mail, I took out a big chunk of your conclusion because I do not think it helps your cause. It sounds overly conspiracy-theory. So yes I did change it but I made it very clear to her that I'd changed it, and I asked her to look at it after every version.

Then I called mom, expecting a screaming fight, but when she picked up the phone she was calm and somewhat friendly.

A.: I told you that I'd changed your letter, and asked you to look at it...
Mom: Actually, I called the MA Communications Board like you said and they were great. I told them I'd send them all the supporting documentation but they said I wouldn't even have to.
A.: Oh.

I'd been telling her to call/write them since she first started talking about this months ago.

Colleague: Did she apologize?
A.: Of course not.

In fact, I'm surprised she didn't keep screaming at me anyway.

Later, I retrieved a message from Dad: I talked to your mom. She seems to have calmed down, so don't worry. It appears the situation has been resolved.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Indistinct blur

I'm lazy and my phone is downstairs, otherwise I would use exact times... but estimations will have to do.

I'm not going to bore you again with how crazy busy I've been since I got back to DC, but suffice to say, I've been plenty crazy busy. Mom called me on Friday night-- and to her credit didn't ask, in her message, where I could possibly be. When I called her back, she asked me to look for something I might have in the house. I said I likely wouldn't get to it for a few days.

Mom called again just before 1pm today. I didn't pick up, as I was with some friends. Within minutes of the call, I went down to the metro platform. I was not about to retrieve the message then and there; metro timing on a Sunday is not something you mess with.

Half an hour later, just as I got off the metro, mom called again.

Mom: Why haven't you called?
A.: I just got off the metro. I haven't even retrieved your message yet.
Mom: I got a letter from the Attorney General about Verizon... this is your fault because of what you put in the letter...
A.: Mom, write the address on the bill.
Mom: What address on the bill?
A.: The one I pointed out to you, and separately, dad. MA Communications Board or something.
Mom: What do they have to do with anything?
A.: As I've said many times, they will make the bills go away.
Mom: But...
A.: Don't you want the bills to go away? Don't you want the collections agency off your back? You've already written the AG out of principle. Now just find that address on your bill and write to them.

Like applying to Google, the Verizon saga has become an indistinct blur to me. It's like the tune-out that men do when women talk about shoes. I've included it here just for continuity, but it bothered me less than the fact that mom called me half an hour within leaving a message, to ask why I hadn't returned her call. I mean, why is it not obvious that I hadn't returned her call, because I was not in a position to return her call?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Birthday girl

Sometimes I am magnanimous enough to consider kids as more than germ conductors or nazguls. Sometimes they have character; sometimes they're funny.

My friends' toddler(who is, incidentally, an anti-nazgul by name, as she is called Arwen) is such a child. Her parents wondered whether to introduce the religious aspect of Christmas but in the end opting not to bother. They decided to minimize the topic by singing "Happy Birthday" to the baby Jesus in lieu of a prayer before dinner. They figured Arwen understands birthdays, has celebrated her own and those of others. For that reason, they were a bit surprised when Arwen interrupted the song with,

Arwen: NO! NO! NO! NO!
Stop singing!
It's MY birthday!
Not baby Jesus! Arwen!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Testing the phone

I enjoyed having dinner with Jason, Heather and Alastair, and Trivial Pursuit was lots of fun. With two pie pieces to win each, and all of us tired, I decide 10:35 to call my parents to ask them to come get me. My mom calls almost fifteen minutes later.

A.: Hi. Do you know where you're going?
Mom: Oh, we haven't left yet. I'm just testing the phone.

Jay: Testing the phone? WTF?
A.: [Shrug].

At about 11:30pm, I hear a beep, figure it's my parents. I say goodbye to everyone and head downstairs. By the time I've gotten downstairs, dad is inside the front door and the woman on the first floor is out in the hallway.

In the car, I ask what she was doing there.

A.: You didn't ring her doorbell, did you?
Dad: I didn't know which one was Jason's.
A.: You should have just called me. It's 11:30pm.
Mom: How does he live here? Where is there to park?
Dad: We thought you'd be waiting outside.
A.: I had no idea when you'd get here.
Dad: Well, you could have estimated.

Um, excuse me. It would have taken you just over 15 minutes to get here, yet fifteen minutes after I called, you hadn't left the house. I was supposed to wait out in the cold, rather than spend time with friends, one of whom is in from overseas.

A.: You could have called me.
Mom: We'd have had to mess with the phone!

By this she meant, find my number, which she'd just called. This is more of a hassle than waking up everyone in Jason's building.

Dad, Mom: What is wrong with you? Why are you being like this? Next time make your own travel arrangements.
A.: Well I did ask to borrow the car.
Mom: Oh, no-- next time you can take the T.
A.: Fine.
Mom: I don't like this neighborhood. Nowhere to go for walks... why did Jason buy here?
A.: It's convenient to work... it's actually a nice neighborhood.
Mom: Does he have a view?
A.: What? A view where?
Mom: It's always nice to have a view.

For the remainder of the trip home, mom chastises for me for implying that she should have called me when she got close to or even to Jason's house, and continues to ask questions about why Jason bought where he did. I continue to shrug.

***
Something about last night reminded me of New Year's Day many years ago at Heather's then-apartment. We were playing a board game, and Heather and I both vented about our mothers. We wondered whether we would have interpersonal issues, whether we'd observed and taken on some bad habits. Heather concluded that we'd be fine, that neither of us would treat people that way, that we were aware of how not to interact with others, how not to be abusive.

I don't remember which board game we played, but I remember Jason was on my team and at one point I was trying to get him to guess the word "pistachio" without saying or spelling it.

A.: It's a nut, it's green...
Jay: Almond? Peanut? Almond?
A.: It comes in a split shell, it's green, it grows in...
Jay: Cashew? Almond?
A.: It's small, it's green...
Jay: Peanut?
A.: Jason! Don't be a moron!
Jay: Pistachio?

Pause

A.: What if I am turning into my mother?

***
Over the last week I've done quite a bit of venting about my mother, and the most involved blog is yet to be posted (for reasons that will become clear once I post it). Out of fairness, I want to let you know that my mom spent a lot of time altering a couple of suits for me (hence the comments about my having enough suits). Now, I a) asked her if she would prefer that I took them to a tailor; b) said please; c) said thank you; d) told her not to do them if they would take too much time; e) told her to only do them when she had time. Nonetheless, they took her a lot of time and she did them, and I'm grateful, and it's only fair to point out that while Mom is demanding she is also very giving.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

When the urine hits one over the head...

Heather, who is visiting from London, and Jay invited me over for Trivial Pursuit.

A.: Could I just borrow the car?
Mom: And drive over there yourself? In the dark?
A.: I used to live one neighborhood away from there.
Mom: No. I can drive you. Ask them to drive you back.
A.: I don't want to. I need to call them anyway, see if they're back. I'll figure something out then.

A few minutes later

Mom: Have you called?
A.: Not yet. I'm not due there for another three hours.


A few minutes later

Mom: Have you called them?
A.: Not yet.

I have in the past, on these pages, documented my mother's reluctance to loan me her car. I didn't want her to drive me to Worcester and back, but at least she was willing to do so, as she was hesitant to loan me the car. In this case, she won't loan me the car, and expects Jay to chauffeur me.

I called Jay, apprised him of the situation. He graciously offered to pick me up on his way home (they had gone skiing in NH). I asked mom.

Mom: Sure! As long as I don't have to make two trips there and back.
A., to Jay: Mom agrees.
Jay: Cool, I'll turn around.
A.: Were you already going the other way?
Jay: It's no problem. We'll be there in half and hour or so.

A few minutes later

Mom: How am I going to find his house at night? That neighborhood is full of one-way streets...
A.: Actually, his address is pretty straightforward... you would go as you did to get to my old address in Dorchester...
Mom: I don't remember!
A.: The page is open on Google maps on the computer.
Mom: I'll be getting lost at night...
A.: Then just lend me the car.
Mom: This is all wrong! I should have driven you there, with you instructing me...
A.: You agreed to the other way around...Jay's already turned around.
Mom: It all happened so fast. From out of nowhere, you came up with this arrangement.
A.: We made these plans this morning, and I asked you when Jason offered to pick me up.
Mom: When [get ready for this Russian expression] the urine hits you over the head, that's it, you're determined.
A.: Let me remind you that you agreed to this.
Mom: You didn't give me a chance to think.

Sure. I should have asked Jay to pull into the breakdown lane so she could think about it.

I'm showing dad the directions online, printing them out. He remembers how to get to my old house.

Mom, walking into the room: When the urine hits you over the head...
A.: Would you stop it with the urine??
Mom: I'm going to get lost.
A.: Dad remembers the way.
Mom: Of course he doesn't!
Dad: Yes I do.
Mom: When the urine...
A.: Mom! Look, if you don't want to pick me up, let me borrow the car!
Mom: No! I'll pick you up.

WTF

Mom: Come watch the figure skating. [To dad,] You like figure skating.
Dad, about the female half of the skating couple: What a fat skater!
A.: What are you talking about??
Dad: I'm just saying.
A.: Okay, that's what a healthy person looks like. I don't think successful figure skaters can be emaciated.
Dad: She just looks heavy. I mean, I could get my glasses.
A.: [Rolled eyes].

Sigh, again.

Mom, watching TV: He's going to bring about a socialist state.
A.: Where are you getting this?
Dad: He has lofty ideals, but doesn't understand the way things work.
A.: For example?
Dad: You don't know the history of Europe in the twentieth century?
A.: I don't?
Dad: You may know the events, but you didn't live it.
A.: And?
Dad: Liberal ideas brought about some of the cruelest dictators of the century.
A.: Cruel dictators were produced left and right.
Dad: You don't get it.
A.: Franco, Pinochet, Papa Doc... those were all leftists?
Dad: That's not what I'm saying.
A.: I am trying to understand what you ARE saying. What does any of this have to do with Barack Obama? What has he said, specifically, that makes you think that, for example, he's a socialist?
Dad: I can't anwer that.
Mom, ranting in the other room: All he has to do is say "change," and young people who don't know any better vote for him.

Friends don't call friends when they're sick

Mom: Have you called Martha and asked her whether she's feeling better?
A.: Now, why would I do that? She's likely sleeping.
Mom: You should call her.
A.: I'll send her an e-mail. [I was not about to say, I asked her in the blog]. I just know that when I'm not feeling well, I don't want to talk to anyone. I'm either sleeping, or my throat hurts, or both, and I don't have the energy for social graces.

So my mom meant well--see November blog-- when she tried to talk to me when I had no voice; she just wasn't picking up the hints that I didn't want to talk. She said something else suggesting I wasn't a good friend until I called Martha. I shrugged.

***
Pilates this morning

Mom: Your legs are at an angle. They should be straight.
A.: I'm doing the more challenging variation.
Mom: You have back fat! You never used to, I used to be able to see your ribs [when you bent over during yoga or pilates].

***
A.: I agree with you; at this point, I don't need any more suits.
Mom: Unless you get fatter.

***
Mom: [Family friend] has gained weight, too.
A.: Why have you latched on to everyone about their weight???
Mom: I'm just being observant.

It's the unions

My mother has a tendency to attribute problems to one, simple cause.

Yesterday

A.: This article in the Economist says that 12% of Americans believe Noah (of Noah's Arc) was married to Joan of Arc.
Mom: It's all because of teachers' unions.
A.: It's not that simple...

This morning

A.: It's too bad Martha couldn't join us.
Mom: She's a teacher?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: How is that working out for her?
A.: She likes it, for the most part. We were discussing, just the other night, the decline in critical thinking skills as brought about by early standardized testing.
Mom: It's the unions.
A.: It's the testing.
Mom: They make it impossible to fire incompetent teachers.
A.: I agree that not being able to fire incompetent workers is a problem, but that's hardly the only, or biggest, problem facing the school system.

Happy New Year, cont.

As Wendy and I are both crossword addicts-- when she and her husband graciously hosted a visit from me last year, we spent hours working on an NYT crossword book-- she brought over six Sunday Globe crosswords to carry us into the new year. We finished four of them.

We missed you too, Martha, and hope you're feeling better! That's the thing with kids, they're little germ factories.

We were struggling over the last few clues on the fourth puzzle-- eventually thwarted by a bizarre alternate spelling of "appalled"-- when my mother decided to complain that we would miss the change in year.

Mom: It's time.
A.: We have fifteen more minutes!
Mom: Fine! Miss it! We'll be in the living room.
A.: We'll join you in a minute, we're almost done.
Mom: You don't have to join us. Sit there.
A.: If you could stop yelling at me, I/we could focus on this puzzle and finish it with plenty of time to watch the ball drop.

After a few more heated iterations, we finished the puzzle (well, gave up on it in frustration with two clues left) and joined my parents in the living room, with a few minutes to spare.

***
A., to Mom: When is Russian new year?
Mom, haughtily: Now. Now is every New Year.
A.: No, it's not.
Wendy: What are you writing?
A.: Blog notes.
Wendy: Oh.
A.: You have the right to opt out.
Wendy: No, it's best that our crossword addiction be documented.

Wendy attempted to teach me to count to five in Mandarin. I could get the sounds, but not the tones. I should probably get a tape.

***
Earlier in the evening

Wendy: What is that illustration, on the cover of that book?
A., embarassed: It's an enema.

Actually, it's a woman flying on a broomstick, except there's an enema, rather than a broom, on the end. The title is "Energy Enema." It's a book about spiritual health, and it's on display in my parents' house.

***
Wendy, in an e-mail to Martha and me:

A. didn't mention in the blog how her mom generously offered us an entire _large_ piepan of (yummy) pumpkin bread, then later told us we could have more in case we needed it. nor did she mention all the painfully bad puns we had to wade through to finish the puzzles...i'm trying to put them out of my mind!!

***
There was a time when my mom would regularly pepper me with articles about how great it is to work at Google (hence the title of this blog). One of them described the ideal candidate for employment at Google as someone who enjoys doing puzzles on a Saturday night. I fit that description, except I'm addicted to word, not number puzzles. My parents occasionally walked past Wendy and me as we were enrapt in our crosswords; once or twice I caught an incredulous glance. Thinking about it now, I'm amused that mom didn't take the opportunity to point out that I should apply to Google.

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