Saturday, May 30, 2009

Would you like some cheese with that WHINE?

The economy continues to stink like a sippy cup of milk left under the car seat for a week in July.

The Bob continues to be unemployed. He has had a total of three possible job leads, interviewing in person for two of them, having nothing come of it. This last one was particularly frustrating. It started a month ago with a phone interview with an HR guy. That lead to a phone interview with the manager of the team that needed a guy. The manager liked him. Said he would set up having Bob come in for an in person interview with the team. However, he was going on vacation the next day for 3 weeks. But the interview could happen while he was gone. Great. Waiting. Waiting. Two days go by, no call about the interview. Just as he was getting super frustrated, a different HR guy called saying now he was handling this case, the other HR guy was a victim of some recent restructuring. Bob goes in for the interview. All goes well. The rest of the three weeks of the managers vacation goes by, Bob hears nothing. This week he finally sent an email to both the manager and the HR guy to follow up. He got the "thanks but we went with someone else" email. SADNESS.

It was like he was laid off all over again. Every time it feels like a little headway is being made, it turns out we are no further ahead. It is SOOOOO demoralizing. And it REALLY improves his mood at home. I can't judge him for that. It totally sucks big time and I know he is worried and frustrated and HI I LOVE YOU BOB.

On top of that he has been battling with the unemployment office because, well, they are a bureaucratic system and overwhelmed by the demand for their services and GAH it sucks. If we were a family that didn't have some severance to live off of we would seriously be in bad shape.

I have spent the last couple of weeks in the office doing almost nothing but responding to appeals for more financial aid, based on changes in circumstance, i.e. someone has lost a job, or hours have been cut, or the business they own is earning half of what it earned last year because of the economy. Everywhere I turn I am reminded of all the people struggling. I have a job, for which I am VERY VERY VERY grateful, but my job entails me being reminded on a daily basis just how bad it is and that makes me even more sad and feeling slightly hopeless about Bob's job options.

I am trying mentally to stay hopeful. To stay positive. I know he is good at what he does, and I know anyone would be glad to have him working for and with them. I want so much for him to find something and get back to feeling useful and like a provider. Painting the living room is only going to go so far.

In an effort to salvage this post in some way, I leave you with Cooper, imitating his dad. His awesome, fabulous, most groovy dad.

Friday, May 29, 2009

President Obama needs to loose his smooth every so often

I like our new president. He is intelligent, capable, qualified, and can pronounce the word "nuclear" correctly. He is a family man. He likes dogs. He looks like he wakes up in a suit and yet doesn't seem standoffish; quite the contrary he seems approachable. He is a great role model, so far, for a lot of people, but in particular the African American male.

However, a conversation I had with a coworker the other day brought home the realization that he makes it all look kind of easy. Almost TOO easy. She is African American, a single mom with two children. Her oldest daughter is out of college now, and her son is in college. Both went to good private high schools here in the Boston area, which was not an easy feat for her. They did get scholarships, but I am sure it all came at a sacrifice. She herself did not go to college. But her children have or are going and not to just any colleges - her daughter went to Trinity in Connecticut and her son is at Columbia. He is no slouch in the brains department; he managed to get a full ride at Columbia. He was admitted to a few other good colleges like George Washington Univ., with varying degrees of scholarship offers. But while just getting admitted to these colleges is a triumph in itself, staying in college and being successful is a whole different ball game.

He has just finished his second year, and while he made the dean's list the first year, this year he is struggling. He has changed his major a few times. He isn't fitting in socially, so he says, although I recall there was a girl friend at Christmas. In talking to his mother, I asked what he thought he wanted to do after college. She laughed and said he is now saying he thinks he would like to be a lawyer. Because Barak Obama did it and look where it got him. His words, not hers.

I laughed out loud. On the one hand I am so happy that he sees our president as a positive role model, as someone to emulate. That has not always been true of our presidents. On the other hand, he has NO CLUE how hard it is to become a lawyer, then be a good lawyer. Or how hard it is to be president. Obama is an acknowledged expert in Constitutional law. That means he spent, and probably spends, a lot of time READING. Legal stuff. Stuff 90% of the rest of us would pass out while reading either from boredom or frustration trying to interpret.

But he does pass through this life with a certain groove, a smoothness, and I think it might do him an injustice. He needs to make it look as hard as it is to be him. To be president, to be in charge of all of us and our needs. I want people to believe that they can accomplish great things, that even becoming president is possible. But I think they need to understand how much WORK goes in to it; into all that President Obama has achieved in his life. He needs to admit that he stayed up all night for nights on end studying for the bar exam, and it sucked. And that being president is HARD. Just dealing with Congress is a pain in the butt. But as with anything, to do it well, you have to suck it up and deal with it all. Deal with people disagreeing with you, even flat out hating you because of your party, your color, your belief system, whatever, and do the job. You can't just walk away because you don't like the pants that everyone else is wearing. To do well in college and in life means studying and taking classes you don't like and dealing with professors who are irritating and some who are horrible teachers but the ones who are good make up for that. It means doing team projects with at least one person who will never show up or do their part but they get the same grade as you. You have to WORK HARD.

So please Mr. President, every so often, could you do us all a favor and just every so often, lose your smooth? Yell "Because I am the President and I said so, that's why" at the top of your lungs some day at a senior Republican Congressman and then send him back to his office for a time out. Just give us a little hint that somedays are just as frustrating for you as they are for the every day working Joe. Be a well rounded, realistic role model. The moms of all the wannabe lawyers and presidents out there will thank you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Variations on white or How I lost my mind picking out paint for the living room

We are painting our living room. We moved into this house almost four years ago, and one of the things we loved about the house is that we didn't feel the need to paint at all. I spent quite a bit of time painting in my last house, after the ex husband moved out, in an effort to remove as much gray and pink as possible from the house. It had been previously owned by a woman named Milly and her husband Ed and they liked gray. And blue. And pink. This house has colors that are rich - red, orange, yellow, burgundy. It is the burgundy that bit the dust this weekend. Our living room has fairly low ceilings, and we decided that the burgundy was making the room feel too cavelike. We were going to paint the two burgundy walls a sage green. Then, after the primer went up, the room was really bright, so we decided a brighter color would be better, so we went with yellow. Forgetting that the dining room was already a bright yellow. That room needs to be painted anyway, because two years ago we had a window replaced in there, and when the guy was doing the work, he tore a big chunk out of the wall at the corner of the window. So it has been patched for two years, waiting for us to paint. Now we will paint that room green instead. Which will coordinate better with all of our dishes, including the china I inherited from my great aunt Helen. So it's a win-win situation.

Anyway, the other two walls in the living room are currently a weird beige, which loooked fine with the burgundy, but totally doesn't work with the yellow. So we thought white would be good. This is the point at which my brain cramped. I went to Home Despot as my friend TR calls it, because quite frankly we are on a budget and they have a big selection. I prefer Benjamin Moore colors, but we are going for convenience and price right now. I came home with no less than 20 paint chip pages. There are a LOT of options for white. Some are more pink or blue than others. With names like Bliss, Kitten White, Snowfield, Spiritual and Ready Mix White. That last one is really WHITE. I get distracted by all the colors on the chip pages that I don't want, so I cut them all apart, and taped the ones we are considering up on the wall in the corner up against the yellow so we could consider their worthiness. It was then I realized that white is not the color we need. We think we have settled on a color by Glidden called Fostoria Glass. It is a very light blue/gray color. HA. All that damn blue and gray I took out of the other house and now I am putting it back in this house. But it is a lovely compliment to the yellow. And light. Not dark and gloomy.

And when I say "we are painting the living room" I really mean Bob. I did some edging this weekend, but he is doing the bulk of the labor. I like painting, but he has some time on his hands and it is easier to get this done if it is handled when Cooper is away all day at school.

Speaking of Cooper, he is learning to kick a soccer ball. While I watched him try this weekend in the yard I was reminded exactly how much coordination it takes to kick a ball, especially while walking or running. But he is getting the hang of it. And he is obsessed with dinosaurs. Where that came from I don't know, but it is a nice change from trucks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Maybe my standards are too high...

I meant to post about this earlier, and forgot, what with the super piddling and giant headed BK king to talk about.

You know how I was saying a few posts ago how I love to look things up, and how this was encouraged in my household growing up? Well, if OTHER people took it as seriously as I do, then my child might not have been misinformed about Cinco de Mayo.

I walked into Cooper's classroom on the FIFTH OF MAY(which is what Cinco de Mayo means after all) to pick him up and saw that the class had apparently celebrated by decorating a large cut out of a skull with flowers.

"Hmmm...that seems an awful lot like a skull one would use to celebrate Day of the Dead, not Cinco de Mayo" says me inside my head. But I was distracted then by Cooper and the general frivolity that ensues when he realizes that yes indeed, I showed up yet again to take him home. He rushes out to grab his lunchbox from his cubby, waving his little hand at everyone yelling "Bye guys" at the top his lungs. He then runs down the hall to say good bye to the babies in the infant room and marches up the stairs and out the front door. This kid is all business when it is time to go home. We might pause to say good bye to the fish in the tank just inside the front door too.

So it wasn't until drop off the next day that I noticed the sign that was hung above the big skull that read "Cinco de Mayo means Day of the Dead in Spanish".

Uh, no it doesn't. Even I, a person with no education in the Spanish language other than learning to count to 10 on Sesame Street, knows it means 5th of May.

It was an outside drop off day that morning, meaning the weather is now nice enough to start the day off on the playground. So I went back out to say good bye and said to the head teacher "Aisha, someone needs to discover wikipedia. Cinco de Mayo is not the same as the Day of the Dead. Not at all. Not even remotely. Different days, different times of the year."

Aisha politely shook her head, denied any involvement and declared "I was not in that morning, it wasn't my project." I then declared that I was glad Cooper was too young to actually have absorbed and remember any of this, and that I hoped in November I would find a proper Day of the Dead celebration going on.

My point of all of this is in the day and age of such easy access to information, I kind of hoped that even my day care center would get the basic facts right about certain things. I am not Mexican or remotely Hispanic, but I know the difference between these holidays.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brought to you by Sappy Milestone Moments Inc.

Proud Mama Moment Alert: My kid piddled on the potty for the first time EVER last night. He is 2 years and 7 months old. I think on a scale for boys this makes him a super genius. Next on his list of accomplishments will be a Nobel Peace prize for solving world hunger, or curing cancer, or figuring out how to put his sunglasses on right side up.

We hope to do two major things in the coming summer months: officially potty train the boy and move him into the next level of sleeping arrangements - the toddler bed. His crib converts into said toddler bed, so we are looking into bed rails that will work with the bed. He has yet to try to climb out of his crib, although he totally could. I guess he is not as adventurous as the kid next door who has been climbing out of his crib for months. Not that I am complaining. But having him sleep in a regular bed would make traveling with him easier.

The potty training will be interesting. I have house trained two dogs, but I doubt that the process is exactly the same. We will probably try the naked toddler approach, i.e. let the kid run around naked and get him on the potty as soon as he shows any signs of needing to do business. It has been recommended by a few people who have successfully potty trained kids.

Meantime, I shall bask in the glow of pride in my kid making wee wee on the potty. You take your victories where you can.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy 225th Blog Post to me

Blogger has this handy counter I just noticed that told me this would be my 225th blog post. Who knew? OK, Blogger, but anyone else? Not me.

Anyway, is anyone else disturbed by the latest Burger King commercials, which feature the latest kids meal campaign with SpongeBob Squarepants? If you are unfamiliar with SpongeBob, here is a visual:

He is a square sponge, who wears pants. Thus, he has square pants. The commercial features that super creepy king with the giant head, singing a take off on that song "I like big butts and I cannot lie blahblahblah" only he sings "I like SQUARE butts and I cannot lie..." with a bunch of models dressed in skimpy clothes, with big, square butts. I am not kidding. Here is a link to the commercial on YouTube. It is a ridiculous ad campaign. There is so much that is offensive here I don't know where to begin. The highly sexualized content, the possible politically incorrect race related images, that stupid giant headed creepy king? All to sell KIDS MEALS.

Now we have a long standing love of all things SpongeBob in our house. But I am sad about the alliance between Mr. Squarepants and the creepy king, and even more sad by the tone the commercials have taken. I realize that sometimes when you enter into a contract, you lose control over the creative aspects of the process. And SpongeBob is a bit of a niave and wistful character. I am sure he would be embarrassed to some extent by the direction the ad campaign took.

But does BK really think it was a good idea? I have been in focus groups for advertisers. I would like to see the footage of the focus groups they showed these ideas too. Who did they get in the room? Definitely no mothers of kids under 17. I doubt many women were involved at all. And why do they persist in using the creepy king? Almost everyone I know thinks that guy is freaky. And I can't tell you the last time I ate a BK, but I am not inclined to seek them out anytime soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Class of 2009

Today was commencement at our college, as for many colleges in the Boston area. It is such a momentous occasion for the students and their parents. I have been at this college for 9 years now, so I have seen these students evolve from the first days of being an applicant for admission to the day they launch into the next phase of their lives. For some that means staying at our college for the masters degree program, but for most it means looking for jobs, moving home, going to college again somewhere else.

Our speaker was Marian Heard, currently the President and CEO of Oxen Hill Partners, a leadership development company. She also used to be the director of the United Way here in Boston. She gave a great speech, both moving and short. Short is key to any commencement speech if you ask me. One of the things she focused on was thanking the people who supported you and sacrificed so that you the student could get to this moment. She also challenged the students to be on the path of progress. One that leads to the next step, the next phase of their lives, and to strive not for perfection, but for progress.

I always reflect on my own parents and their role in my evolution through college. My father's side of the family has gone to college for many generations. My great grandfather was a doctor in the late 1800's and early 1900's. That side of my family has been in this country since the late 1700's. My mother's side of the family is more recent to this country, with my grandfather being the first generation on his side of the family being born here, and my grandmother came over from England when she was 4 years old. My father holds a master's degree in Aerospace Engineering, but my mother did not finish college. She started, but then met my dad, got married and started a family.

What is interesting to me is that I never think of my mother as uneducated. I have learned so much from both of my parents, but from my mother I learned things that you can't really learn in school. She is the ultimate problem solver. We were that family that owned a set of encyclopedia, and a set of of nature encyclopedia, as well as several dictionaries. If we were eating dinner and one of us would say something like "Where do dragonflies come from" my mother would say "Let's look it up" and we would spend the next 30 minutes discovering the life cycle of the dragonfly, or how cheese is made or who the Anabaptist's are. Now we might use Google search and Wikipedia to find these things out. I learned from my mother how to diagnose what is wrong with things before calling for back up or say something is broken. Which may explain why people are always asking me how to unjam the copier. Or when a baby bird was dislodged from its nest when they took an air conditioner out of window in the building one time, they called on me to figure out what to do about it. I relocated it under a bush nearby. I don't know ultimately what happened to it.

I appreciate that when I wanted to study psychology my parents supported me. My dad wanted me to study "a real science" or at least business, but I persisted and while I have never been a therapist, I feel on a daily basis that education has served me in my current job. My parents sacrificed for me to attend college. My dad said "you get four years on me" and while a private education cost much less then than it does now, it was a sacrifice.

So I am taking this opportunity to publicly thank my parents for all of their support, for the sacrifices, for the problem solving chromosome and for a love of learning. I can only hope I continue on my path of progress, continuing to grow and learn and evolve in ways that make them proud and leave this world a little bit better for my having been here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In other news...

The last two weeks of work have been really busy, which is a good thing. But in the midst of all this I had to deal with some interpersonal bullshit with a woman who works in our building. Background: There are four different offices represented in our building. Our mail room does not deliver mail, you have to bring your outgoing mail to the mail room and bring back the mail each day. So we came up with a plan for covering this duty for the entire building which involves each office being responsible for the mail a week at a time. Two weeks ago it became apparent that a certain individual did not remember it was her week to cover the mail, and since it was a very intense week waiting for deposits for the fall to show up, I offered to swap that week for the next week, which was ours, so my work study students would reliably get the mail around noon each day thus avoiding my boss doing the deposit jig in my office waiting for the mail to arrive.

The following Monday it became apparent that she did not remember we had swapped, so I sent my work study up to get the mail, and sent a friendly email to this individual to remind her that we swapped weeks, so technically it was her week, however, I had already sent my student to do it that day.

I got this response back, exactly as she wrote it: I thought your wording last week was misleading……. “wanted to offer to have my work study students do the mail this week”….since there was no mention of a swap. I thought you were volunteering your work study student. As I am the only one in the building without a work study, it would have been nice to have a sub at the most stressful time of my year. I guess no such luck.

I am pretty sure that my head exploded against the wall. One of my employees said she has never seen me so angry. And I was angry. There was no intended insult on my part. There was apparently a miscommunication, but there had to be at least 100 better ways to say what she said to me. "Oh, I am sorry I misunderstood, is there any chance you could cover this week too since I am so busy?" would have been a good place to start. Never mind that my office is flat out insane during those weeks as well.

But I took the high road, at least so far as my response to her was concerned. I apologized for any miscommunication that occurred since apparently I neglected to actually use the word 'swap', and said we would cover that week. I then decided to get my Zen on, and try to at minimum feel pity for her rather than anger, since it was obvious that she is one very bitter woman who feels very put upon on a regular basis. And I do feel sorry for her, now that a week and a few days off have passed. I don't know what her life is like, but I know from our interactions that she tends to see the worst in people and situations first, to assume an affront rather than seek clarification before jumping down someones throat. She has flat out screaming matches with her boss, a VP here at the college, which is not only wildly inappropriate, but disturbing. Sending a little mental grace her way can't hurt. I could have confronted her about how she said what she said, and how I felt when I read it, but I am not sure the effort would gain me or her anything. People like this don't tend to be that introspective.

After that it was nice to take an extra long weekend. I needed to use up some vacation time before the end of June or lose it, so I will be taking a day or two off here and there. So I took the past Friday and Monday off. Cooper still went to school, which left Bob and I free to do stuff. Like go to the movies. Oh yes, we had a mid afternoon date. We saw the new Star Trek movie, at an Imax theater with "buttblaster" sound in the seats, and it was AWESOME. I grew up watching the original series and of course have seen all of the movies and much of the newer versions of the series - Jean Luc Picard is the dreamiest bald guy ever. But this movies takes us back to the beginning of Jim Kirk's life, and how he gets to the point of becoming Captain of the Enterprise. The actors who played the younger versions of those iconic characters we have all come to know and love did a fabulous job of capturing the essence, but not completely aping the persona's. It was funny and exhilarating and a good ride all around.

We attended a party on Saturday for one of the neighborhood families that is moving to the next town over, and as I watched the four year old boys play, I died a little inside. Four year old boys are the devil incarnate. They beat on each other with abandon. Sigh. The things I have to look forward to.

Sunday included breakfast and a trip to the farm and planting of tomato plants. I have tried them in those topsy turvy pots that you hang upside down, and have had no luck. So this year they get to take over one of the planting beds.

Yesterday I went to visit a friend of mine who has a 7 week old baby. I have to say I am glad to be past the baby stage. I am enjoying the interactiveness of this stage of Cooper's life. It is nice to hold a baby, but it was nice to hand him back.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Italian Gnomes

So you might have thought I was exaggerating with my post regarding ways in which I resemble a garden gnome.

I would like to introduce The Andreano's of Benevento Italy, my great, great, great grandparents.

These are my ancestors on my maternal grandfather's side. I don't have a clear reference point for how tall they are, but I am going to guess around 5 feet tall. And notice the complete lack of waist on Mrs. Andreano.

I was sharing my theory on how I resemble a garden gnome with my hair dresser yesterday. The very tall and skinny stylist in the station next to us stopped cutting her clients' hair and just stared at me while I talked. I finally noticed she was listening with rapt attention when she said she was completely fascinated by what I was saying. I guess she never met a living garden gnome before. Glad I could be of service.

In other news, we went to breakfast with our neighbor and her twin 3 year old daughters this morning. Her husband is out of town this weekend, so we banded together for mother's day breakfast. The girls are so funny and much easier to talk to and with at 3 than Cooper is at 2. I am looking forward to that cognitive development, although it is a double edged sword. The more he understands and can communicate, the more he can discuss and negotiate and argue. But that is what is supposed to happen.

Happy Mom's Day to all the moms out there. Happy Sunday to the rest of you!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ways in which I resemble a garden gnome...

Have you ever really observed yourself in relation to the rest of the world, or really looked at the way the rest of the world sees you? Watching yourself on video helps with this reality check. Because of the singing I have been doing with our jazz group on campus and at Ryles in Cambridge, I have had the painful/pleasurable opportunity to observe myself in the videos of my performances.

Observation #1: I am short. Shorter than I think I realized. I am, in my stocking feet, 5'4" which doesn't seem short until I see myself in relation to other objects or beings. Like in the video which is available here. This is a clip from a performance we did on Monday at the retirement facility attached to campus. It is a bosa nova piece, Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars. The accoustics in the room are awful, and the student who was supposed to be in charge of the mixer (she was doing it for extra credit, I don't know if she got it) really didn't know what she was doing. Bob took the video with our trusty Flip video camera. If you are in the market for a relatively inexpensive but ridiculously easy to use video camera, this is your camera. I would, in retrospect, spring for the HD version for more clarity in the picture.

But back to being short. I am, for reference, standing in 3 inch wedge heels. And I am still really short next to Richard. In fairness he says he is 6'2.5". I think I might even be shorter in heels than Joe, the fourth guy you can't see in this video.

Observation #2: Sometime in the last 20 years my shoulders swallowed my neck. What is that all about? I used to be self conscious about having a skinny neck. Now I have none.

Observation 3#: This is not a new observation, since my friend Laura who has designed dresses for me in the past has pointed this out - I am freakishly short waisted. I have about 4 inches of space between the underside of my bosom area and what is considered my waist. This is why when I was 3 months pregnant I looked 6 months pregnant. There was nowhere for that baby to go but out.

Observation #4: When I smile, my cheeks swallow up my eyes.

So here is the thing. I am fairly sure that somewhere in the recesses of my genetic pool, we will find garden gnomes. Just call me Mabel.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring Wedding

We took a walk around the neighborhood today, and so many of the flowering trees were decked out like they were in a wedding. It was spectacular. The other thing I have been noticing in our walks is how many violets are out right now. I have never seen them looking so lush and bountiful.

Today was a good day - Cooper has not had a fever for over 24 hours and we went to the farm to visit our friends the cows and sheep and take a hayride. We talked to Midnight the pony and he let us scratch his ears and nose.

All in all it was a good day.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


It is so nice to have spring really here. This tree is in our front yard and the blooms just popped. The tulips are up and my eyes are itchy. But that is what Allegra is for.

In the category of good news, we hit our numbers for new students. Whoohoo! We will lose some over the summer, but we will add more. So we should be in good shape.

In the category of not great news, Cooper came home from school yesterday with a fever. Uuuuuuuuuuuuugh. It was 102.5 yesterday, and does respond nicely to Motrin. He has been in the 99 - 100 neighborhood today, which is better, but he is off his game for sure. No trip to the farm today! He is eating, which is good, but I don't know what it causing it. We will wait until Monday to see if we need to see the doctor. If it is strep again, we might have to talk about taking his tonsils out. Apparently there is a correlation between that and chronic strep. But since he hasn't been exhibiting any other symptoms of anything I am not sure what to think. I am fairly sure since we haven't been to Mexico or cavorting with anyone who has been to Mexico recently, we are NOT talking about the swine flu. But I might blame that stupid bouncy house.