Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Doppelgänger

Wierd Scene
Photo credit: Jesse Millan
Last night I saw The Kid's doppelgänger. It was downright spooky. I was at a talk for us creative types and partway through, she moved to a seat in the front row. (Of course we early arrivals all sat in the back. All the better to throw spitballs.)

I was completely shocked. The Doppelg
änger had The Kid's hair - the way it looked best - natural and free, which of course means that The Kid pulled it back into a ponytail while still wet for maximum damage. Doppelgänger had glasses like The Kid, and similar features. She looked so like The Kid that I was tempted to talk to her to see if she were one of the relatives that The Kid's been cut off from for years. But I didn't because that would be excessively freaky. And she left before the talk was over.

But I watched her when I could, sitting up there in the front row, devoid of the constant anxiety that plagued The Kid. She draped her arm over the back of a chair, stole glances at a smartphone. Based on the rest of the crowd, she may even be the artist that The Kid could've grown into.

I looked at her and thought that this was the woman my ex future child would never be. I don't think it would be telling too much to say that she didn't fall into happily ever after once she left us. The path she's on now...well I don't see it leading to art school or a job at a design agency.

It's not my fault. It's not hers. It's just how things are.

My therapist says that I need to create a narrative about what happened. Then I'll be able to accept it and move on. Something like: I used to date that jerk because I wasn't making very good choices then because I'd just been dumped and wanted validation from the first guy that came along. Then I got less stupid and dumped him.

But how do you do that with a child? Is there a beginning, middle and end to the story? Can there be an end when her doppelgänger can just walk into the room? Or when hating her like I would an ex-boyfriend, even temporarily doesn't make me feel any better? How do you turn your ex future child into just someone you used to know?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Not the Momma

Venus
Photo credit: Daniel Lobo
I'm feeling my infertility lately. I hadn't much cared before. Even before we started trying to get me knocked up. I always said that my biological clock came with a snooze button. I was in no hurry and if it was too late when I was ready, that would be OK too. I'd read about adopting from the foster system when I was still young enough to theoretically be in the system, so I figured I could always go that route.

But the complete disaster that was our first attempt at older child adoption has me regretting my faulty ovaries. At first, I grieved the loss of the specific child that we had. These days, I fill in my daily entry in my 5 year journal and see that last year we were visiting with The Kid and I don't know what to feel. Wistful for a time when things were going well? Regret?

I see pregnant women and I don't think about how I couldn't pull that off. But I see men with newborns strapped to their chests and I think about how that will never be my husband, and that's because of me. We won't be adopting an infant because my migraine situation means the sleepless nights are a sure recipe for migraine-palooza. And we figured that if we had to adopt anyway, we might as well skip that part.

And we are going to try again once we've recovered emotionally and financially. 

But I feel robbed. 

Not by my body that let me down yet again by not functioning properly. But by my doctors. Telling them that I was trying to get pregnant meant that they pretty much said, "Have fun being in pain until you're done with all that."

To quote this amazing article from Slate, "pregnant women are often seen as just vessels, with their own health regarded as secondary to the health of their unborn child."

For me that meant no medication for my acid reflux (OK, fine), no meds to try to prevent my migraines and NOTHING to treat my migraines. Nada. None of the triptans that are specially designed to stop migraines, and nothing stronger than Tylenol for the pain (yeah, right). My health rapidly went to Hell--migraines became more frequent, reducing my physical activity level to almost nothing, increasing my migraine frequency even more.

So when I did manage to ovulate, the hormones gave me a crushing migraine. And well...not tonight dear, I have an an agonizing headache. (Infertility treatments were never an option--just not my bag. But since they involve hormone pills & shots, they'd only send me right back into migraine town. So, a royally bad idea for me anyway.)

I discussed this conundrum with my neurologist, who told me that I should just have sex anyway under these conditions.

Now, during my corporate career, I have been accused of having a short temper. Yet I did not tell this man to go fuck himself. Short tempered, my ass.

Fast forward a few years, and I've tried more than half a dozen medications that could have prevented my migraines, but didn't. Including Botox. And when the cow poison fails, you're pretty much screwed.

But now my new neurologist (from the same practice as the old neurologist) has me on something that seems to be helping. Before he wrote the prescription, he told me that I really, really shouldn't get pregnant while taking this medication.

I almost ripped his throat out.

Because what he seemed to be telling me was that I was denied all the other medications because no one knew what they might do, so better to make me suffer than risk a lawsuit. Because I'm just a vessel, so my health and well being don't really matter.

I've only seen New Neurologist since giving up the baby chase, but it was like he was saying "We didn't really mean it when we were denying you all those medications that would've managed your pain. But I'm only going to tell you that now, four years later when the only way you could get pregnant is through major intervention from the medical industry, and possibly the Vatican."

Every doctor who told me to stop taking medicine said the same thing. That birth defects happen before you even know you're pregnant, and why would you take the chance? 

Because I'm not trying to conceive the savior of the universe. Because my health is more important than my fertility. And because ultimately, I was left with neither.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Knackered

Knackered clown
Photo credit: diaper
I had three sets of out-of-town visitors this week and I've just about lost my mind. The sad thing is that all I've really done is eat out a lot with people who I've been delighted to see. Yes, this required leaving my air conditioned apartment during a week that was ridonkulously hot and disgusting, even by NYC's usual Satan's Armpit standards. But still, it's not like I had to wade through throngs of tourists all week long.

And yet, all this going out and doing stuff, and you know, human interaction, has me totally wiped out. I can't even read or watch TV. Apparently, I'm too fried to do anything but play Plants vs. Zombies.

Speaking of which, the game tracks how many zombies you've killed since you've started playing. I'm at over 35,000, which seems like quite a lot. And yet, not nearly enough because I haven't lost interest.

In other news, someone asked me this week where in Manhattan a lady could go could buy a vibrator. My first thought was that she'd have to go to the Village because you certainly couldn't buy that sort of thing in Midtown. A quick online search proved me wrong

Who knew? A woman-centric sex shop, conveniently located smack in the middle of town. My friend and I didn't get a chance to check it out, but it seems appropriate. Years ago, an older co-worker once steered me towards a certain style of massager over lunch. Not that our work mentors should mentor us on everything, but we need to take our helpful hints where we can get them.

And these days, so many people to get all their errands done on their lunch hour, so why not shopping for a battery-operated friend?

That's all I got. How 'bout you?

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Radio

Little 50's Radio, France UCKY
Photo credit: PoloGoomba
"This is WFLY, FLY radio, your local POUGHkipsee radio station."

Every summer, my Aunt Bea bravely took a bunch of us cousins camping in upstate New York with only a friend or two or hers for backup. We knew we were getting close when we could tune the radio to FLY. 

We'd all pile into a station wagon with a couple of the boys in the wayback-not actual backwards-facing seats, but just a flat area that really wasn't safe for sitting in, but it was the early 80s and people were less concerned about accidentally culling the herd back then.

I can't remember what kind of music they played, probably Top 40, something we could all stomach. One year, some cousins brought up a cassette of The Kinks' Come Dancing and that got a lot of airplay. The boys in the wayback pretended to be radio DJs: "This is WABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYandZ, your local POUGHkipsee radio station."

It was so cold in the mornings, and we'd stumble around in shorts and sweatshirts until we'd all had breakfast, the day started to warm up and it was time to swim in the ore pit, or hike up to the falls, or drive to the pond. In the evenings, we'd either watch a move behind the nature hut, or make s'mores. 

We had the grownups outnumbered, yet we were all pretty well behaved.* On some level, we knew that Bea took us on these trips because she wanted to, and she could stop wanting to at any time, so we best stay in line. 

*Let the record show that the only time we almost lost someone was the time that all the parents came along. A toddler wandered off and luckily, someone stopped him before he made it into the woods. 


Zebra Garden

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gratitude

Biofeedback Training Program
Photo credit: Army Medicine
I've been doing biofeedback therapy? training? whatever to reduce my stress and therefore my migraines. There are these different video games that allegedly teach you different things, but the sensors on your fingers all measure the same thing. I totally kick ass at the one that comes right out and tells you to relax your whole body. Nice and straightforward, that one.

But the one that's about gratitude? I totally suck at it. Probably because I'm WTFing while doing my deep breathing and trying to relax. 

Gratitude. It seems like such an Oprah thing. Mind you, I subscribe to the Oprah magazine, but the whole gratitude journal thing just irks me. I dunno, maybe it's because I don't really have my health--the one thing everyone is supposed to be grateful for. Or maybe it's that I don't know who I'm supposed to be grateful to. I don't believe God micromanages the universe. As far as I'm concerned, He and/or She doesn't get blamed for the bad things that happen, so He and/or She doesn't get the credit for the good things. Two sides of the coin that keeps me sane. God allows bad stuff to happen because God isn't paying that much attention. Plus, you know, free will.

Stuff just happens. We can create meaning from it, but hurricanes don't happen because people disagree with Pat Robertson. Or whatever.

But of course, the whole gratitude thing can help improve my health in a great big touchy, feely way. The problem, of course, if that my superpower is sarcasm and I can't just turn that off. So instead of listing things that I'm grateful for, or things that make me happy, I give you:

A List of Things That Do Not Suck

  • You, individually and collectively. Without you, I'd be talking to myself, which would be downright embarrassing.
  • Netflix Instant. The fact that I can watch Buffy whenever I want without having to get up, walk 3 steps, get a DVD out of the case, put it in the DVD player and then walk all the way back to the couch? This is a thing that does not suck.
  • Google+. Who knew?
  • Limeade. 
  • Songs From Dawson's Creek. I actually never watched the show, but I was issued the CD when I started working at Sony in 1999. And fuck all y'all, it's a really good album.
  • Air conditioning.
  • Guacamole
  • Online banking. Because having to go all the way to the bank when it's open is just not something people in a civilized society should have to do. And remembering that a bill is due when you still have time to write and mail a check is for people who are far more organized than I.
  • Lists that only have to be as long as I want them to be.
What are some things that you think don't suck?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Don't Be That Guy

jury 1
Photo credit: Matt Freedman
The other day, I read a blog post about how to get out of jury duty. I expected it to be a joke, but no. It was a list of the excuses the writer's fellow potential jurists used to get out of jury duty. Including the lame pretending to know the defendant.

What really bugged me was that the writer said that she was planning on using one of these lame excuses when she's called up again several years from now. And I get that she's pissed off that she had a case that lasted over a week, and that jury duty pays less than minimum wage (and what the fuck is up with that anyway?). And I get that she'll probably do her civic duty next time too.

But.

The whole thing raised my hackles (which is a great expression that we should use much more often in common conversation). And I want to make it clear that my reaction had nothing to do with this particular person. And had everything to do with the way people in general wail and moan and gnash their teeth when they get called up for jury duty. 

You know the worst part of my last jury duty experience? The assholes who were determined to get out of it. The guy who approached the bench and started pointing at different people in the courtroom, probably claiming to know the attorneys, the defendant, and everyone else named in the case. While 20-30 people sat there waiting for him to finish his little performance. The woman who was clearly suffering from seasonal allergies and wearing a sweatshirt covered in cat hair, which bothered my allergies (she didn't get picked, presumably because she looked so spacy). One woman there was doting on her and feeling so bad for her because she was so clearly not feeling well. I'm pretty sure she just skipped her allergy pills so she wouldn't get selected.

You know what grown-ups do? They show up for jury duty and just roll with it. The one time I served on a case, we had the slowest talking judge evers, so it lasted twice as long as it needed to. But you know what? Based on the evidence they presented to us, the prosecution  never should've charged the guy and I was proud to be one of the twelve people who exonerated him. Hell, one of the alternate jurors gave me his phone numbers so I could call him and let him know how the case turned out.

That's how not boring and not lame it was.

The first time I was called for jury duty, I didn't get on a case. But I remember seeing one jury leaving for the day. They'd been selected, but the case wasn't starting that day. They were all dressed in business suits, or at least some of them were--ready to go into work as soon as they were excused for the day. They were already making friends and chatting with each other, clearly enthused about the case. Clearly, these people were not miserable that they'd been stuck on a jury.

I dunno. Maybe it's better for the system that jerks make themselves known by their lame excuses. But that doesn't mean the rest of us should aspire to join them.

What are your jury duty stories?


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sleepovers

Spiderman Sleepover
Photo credit: Melissa Clark

I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with sleepover stories for this blog hop. The thing is...I'm not sure I ever had a sleepover with someone I'm not related to. When you're one of 17 cousins, there are a lot of sleepovers that are really childcare arrangements. Or family trips. But for the life of me, I can't remember any sleepovers with non-cousins. 

Except for the sleepover I had with my cousin Kristen, and her cousin (either Patty or Mary--I don't remember which). Patty & Mary were my cousins' cousins, but not my cousins, which vexed me to no end. It just didn't seem fair that I didn't get to be related to them too. (I saw Mary at a wedding a few years ago and I didn't recognize her, but I was all, hey you look cool, let's hang out. She was slightly more on the ball, realizing that we already knew each other.)

At some point, either Kristen or Patty/Mary suggested that we do Slam Books. I thought they were suggesting that we throw some books at the floor. You know, slam some books. Which made no sense. 

The actual activity made only slightly more sense. We took turns separating from the herd while the other two wrote mean things about the other one in the book (really just a piece of paper). Since there were only three of us, the anonymity thing was just not there. Also? Patty/Mary wrote that I was immature because I'd sung to myself while I was in the "isolation booth". Which was totally unfair because I'd only done that because Kristen had done that, and it was all in service of not overhearing the super-secret Slam Book discussions.

Why would little girls choose to hurt each other's feelings while in a situation where storming out was just not an option?

Because little girls are crazy--that's why. 

I did have two close friends from 5th grade to I dunno, whenever we outgrew obsessing over the Smurfs and the color lavender. I'm guessing we never did a sleepover because none of our parents were crazy/stupid enough to have all three of us for a whole night.

Looking back, I don't blame them for this one bit. We would've stuffed our bras and sand the soundtrack to Annie all night long.

And there is not enough alcohol in the world to see adults through a night like that.

Zebra Garden

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tales of Telemarketing

Phones
Photo credit: John Stames
I was about to include a couple of telemarketing war stories when I mentioned it the other day, but then I realized that I had way too many for a simple digression. And let's remember that this wasn't my worst job ever. Which is saying something. Because there was a lot about this job that sucked.

I worked for a company that published business newsletters. We'd call people to offer them a free three-month trial. And every month, we'd also send them a bill in the hopes that someone at their company would pay it accidentally. But we'd explain it to customers that we were sending them this thing that looked like a bill so they could cancel at any time in the three months. Or subscribe if they wanted to. But they did have to cancel within the three months, or they'd be expected to pay a coupla hundred bucks for the subscription (which many people did willingly--the company was dodgy, but not a complete scam).

It was critical that we explained the rules to each customer. If you were caught lying or not explaining everything (to get someone to agree to the trial subscription), you'd lose your commissions, get fired, etc. Unless you were in good with one of the managers, which several people were. In which case, they'd say whatever they wanted to in a loud, clear voice that everyone could overhear.

One of the great things about the job was the diversity. Since it was all done over the phone, all that mattered was that you could speak clearly and sell. Not only was it more racially diverse than any other place I've worked, but there were also more out gay people. We even had a pre-op transwoman who was not fooling anyone with that cheap wig. We had a guy in a wheelchair and a guy who was born with no arms (he wore a headset and dialed the phone with his feet). People who faced employment discrimination everywhere else had a chance there.

But the managers were crazy in a big fish in a small pond way. One time, the big boss hauled all the women into the conference room to yell at us for half an hour because the ladies room was messy. (I dunno, I guess someone neglected to flush. She was unclear on specifics.) We got a 15 minute break that we had to punch out and in for--but the time on the clock in the break room was different from the punch clock. Which meant people punched back in late by a minute or so sometimes. I got in trouble for this once, and pointed out the problem to the manager (actually every clock on the floor was set to a slightly different time), but he didn't care. Most other people would punch back in from break after ten minutes and then go back to the break room for another half an hour, so the joke was on them, I guess.

And the customers. The next time you're about to hang up on a telemarketer, you might want to stop and think abut how crazy you sound. One receptionist hung up on me because she was mad that "you people are calling us at work now!" I was calling about a work publication--was I supposed to call at home? (And by the way, the ones that do call at home call during dinner or TV time because that's when you're actually home. It's not a conspiracy. And in the US, you can always sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry.)

One guy listened to my whole pitch and then took the opportunity to get hostile about the whole concept of telemarketing, like I had invented it, and it was my fault that my company had chosen to use that particular sales technique. He asked me to repeat my name, and when I did, he insisted that it was a fake name. Admittedly, I used a fake last name so that I didn't have to waste time spelling my real last name 20 times an hour. But does "Jennifer Davis" sound made up? 

Another guy was really nice and asked a bunch of questions about how my job worked. He also made it clear that his boss wouldn't be OK with him ordering the newsletter and apologized for keeping me on the phone for so long. It turned out that this happened while someone was working on the copier and making so much racket that they let everyone stop calling for a while, so I didn't lose any sales.

This was way back in the early 90s, so it wasn't computerized. They gave us index cards with contact info, and we dialed the numbers ourselves. (Shortly after I quit, they started with the annoying robo-dialing that meant the workers never got a moment to breathe between calls.) At first, we all had to get up and go to a manager's office to get a stack of cards several times a day. When we got to the end of a campaign and we started running out of cards, they'd only give us 5 cards at a time to stretch things out. Heaven forfend they send some people home with pay, or send some people into the conference room to watch a motivational video or something reasonable like that.

Later on, they split us up into groups, and had one person in each group hand out the cards. When they started monitoring how much time we spent on the phone (as opposed to how much time we spent yakking to each other), they discovered that my group leader was on the phone for less than 20 minutes an hour. For some reason, 12 minutes an hour sticks out in my mind, but I could be wrong. She was absolutely shocked to find this out. The rest of us weren't. Girl never shut up. Mind you, she still made 2 sales an hour in those 12 minutes, so I guess not dealing with as much rejection as the rest of us improved her percentages.

What are your own tales of telemarketing? We've all been on one side of the line or the other. I once got so many political robocalls in support of one local candidate that I decided not to vote for him after all.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The State of the Jen

Podium in the screening room
Photo credit: rick
I dunno. Fair to middling, I guess. I've misplaced my mojo to the point that I haven't quite felt like myself lately. Until I have an anxiety attack and then I'm like, oh yeah, there I am.

It certainly didn't help that I just read two books on the Catholic abuse scandal. I won't go into the details, but Jesus H. Fucking Christ, I so want to go yell at a bishop. I'm an ex-Catholic with a Jesuit education, which means that I could talk your ear off about why I'm not Catholic anymore if you pressed me on it. So don't because I will probably bore the Hell out of you. And now I have two whole books of additional information in my arsenal. 

I've had two books waiting on deck as my reward for finishing the second book before it was due back at the library, and yet I haven't touched them yet. Apparently, I can call myself an ex-Catholic, but I still have a delayed gratification thing going on.

Most of the anxiety is because I've been working on building my freelance writing business, which involves a lot of stuff that is way outside my comfort zone (sending e-mails to complete strangers, etc.). So I keep having to take breaks to play Plants vs. Zombies. I'm not sure what horrible consequence would befall me if I failed to take a Plants vs. Zombies break, but I'm afraid to find out. And yes, I realize that a meditation break would be far more soothing and productive, but plants! and zombies!

On the bright side, I was a telemarketer while I was in grad school, so all the rejection involved in cold contacting people is old hat. In fact, I think everyone should work a sales job at some point in their life. Once you've been on the phone all day and your sales quota is only two sales an hour (and exceeding that is a fucking miracle), run of the mill rejection is nothing.

Plus, I'll be hitting some in-person networking events, which means several exciting things:
  1. Mingling.
  2. Getting to show off my really cool business cards.
  3. Cheese trays.
And potential clients, of course.

And because I don't have enough going on, I'm trying to step it up with the blog, doing the redesign you see here, looking for new blogs to follow, joining blog networks and all that. So when I sit down to write a post, I feel like I have to write the funniest post evahs, which is never going to happen, hence the drop off in posting lately.

So I've decided to let it all hang out. So what if I'm a bit of a mess right now? If nothing else, I can make you feel so much better about your own life. So really, I'm providing a public service.

How do you handle it when life gets overwhelming? Do you tend to withdraw (like me) or do you do something else?

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Conspiracy of Aunties

Aunt Florence
Photo credit: Sam Howzit
Emily of The Waiting was wishing that she could live la vida caveman, and give her kid nothing but a rock and a stick to play with. So that she wouldn't have all this stuff to put away.

And it got me thinking.

Because if her family is anything like mine (and my family is not *that* far from the average family--which does not bode well for the average family, but that's another story), if she had declared before this child's birth that they'd be embracing voluntary simplicity, her extended family would've still lavished the child with loads of toys at every opportunity.

It's the conspiracy of aunties.

I have a ginormous extended family. I'm the 5th oldest of 17 first cousins, and those 17 have produced 17+ kids of their own. We are legion. 

You would think that such a family would be all about the hand me downs. You would think that our baby showers would be nothing but a meal and a bunch of gift cards to places that sell diapers.

You would be wrong.

I any of my cousins dared to ask for diaper money in lieu of baby supplies, the aunties would each arrive with a gift card, and a gift or two because what kind of person goes to a baby shower without a present? How will the baby know we love them if their mother didn't have to unwrap a bunch of gifts? Preferably while wearing a hat fashioned from a paper plate and gift bows because why confine that indignity to bridal showers?

What kind of asshole deprives the aunties the joy of shopping for wee tiny baby things? Oh, you don't want to deplete the Earth's precious resources by getting new stuff when you can get it all used? After everything your aunts have done for you over the years? Why would you do that to them?

And God help the poor child if the entire family is invited to their birthday parties over the years. No five year old should have to open that many gifts at once. It's unhealthy. I remember one year, I gave my cousin's oldest daughter a stuffed animal from FAO Schwarz. It was maybe the 8th of 20 gifts she opened. She took off the wrapping paper, took one look at the toy, and set it aside as if to say, "I cannot deal with this right now."

Everyone was worried that my feelings would be hurt, but it was the funniest thing I'd seen all day. And I was right there with her. I was an adult and I'd been sitting in that room watching her open presents for too long.

And heaven forfend you suggest an alternative to all that wasteful wrapping paper. Apparently, it's a child's god-given right to tear paper and throw it aside on major holidays. The aunties will cut a bitch if you suggest depriving the kiddies of that satisfaction. I guess they figure that we got to do it when we were little, so they're not going to let us deprive the next generation of wasting a few trees.

The aunties stayed up all night wrapping gifts with wrapping paper and the cheap tape that splits all the time because they ran out of the good time around midnight. And you think you're going to get away with reusable boxes and bags?

Good luck with that.