Monday, April 24, 2017
Shutterfly has this promotion via their app that allows one to order 4x4 or 4x6 cards for free, not including shipping. As I unpack and prepare the spare bedroom* for use as an office/craft space, the urge to send snail mail has struck me again. So, the offer of “free” photos seemed serendipitous. I ordered a bunch and I’m here to tell you that when they say unlimited, they mean it. Well, unlimited in the sense that you can order many prints (but only 9 of each at a time). Still, I’m not about to quibble. As the photos have been arriving I’ve been cataloging them. Once I came up with a storage solution (thankfully a couple hundred photos don’t actually take up much space) I realized that maybe I went a little too overboard. With the number of photos I’d ordered, I’d have to write to a good number of people a week to make a dent in the cards. Which isn’t much of a problem, really. It just comes down to focus but having just learned that Bunheads is on Freeform.com yesterday, focusing on snail mail might be hard! Then again, Bunheads was a one season wonder so it’s not as if it’s gonna hold my attention for too too long. So there goes that excuse.
On Saturday, during a discussion of an upcoming fundraiser I had the brilliant idea that maybe I could donate a little time and a lot of photos to the event. “I have,” I said, “a ton of photos that I could turn into greeting cards. Maybe we could sell them at the picnic?”
“Why don’t we auction off one of your photographs?” was the response.
That took me by surprise; after a slight hesitation, I shook my head and said, “No, I think the cards are better.” Ah, insecurity rears it’s ugly head. I don’t know why I am willing to risk none of the cards being bought but am not willing to have a bigger photograph going unclaimed. Maybe it’s just logistics. I’ve done cards before, they’re simply enough and if they don’t sell, I’ll just use them myself. But a bigger photo, I’d want to make sure it prints on good paper, I’d want to mat it well, and get a decent frame. All in a week, when I get home tired and in the mood to just not think or do much. It all seemed like too much energy. Plus, again, there’s the absolute lack of interest in having people not be interested in my artistic eye. I’ve thought about maybe trying to sell stuff online. Every little bit of income coming in now would help. So, if I want to pursue that, I suppose I need to get some tougher skin around the photography skills and get on with enduring some potential rejection.
For now though, I’m gonna just glue some photos to blank cards and scratch the itch to create something in that minimal way.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
I partially completed the first application in the adoption process a few weeks ago but I held off on submitting it because I had a question for the oncologist. Really, I just wanted validation. I’ve often been accused of over thinking things, or being too concrete. I can’t deny either accusation as they are true. One of the sections in the application, naturally enough, is about medical history and one of the questions ask about any current treatments. I knew even before starting the process that I would have to talk about the cancer and the treatment done to get rid of it. When I went to the information meeting the agency folks made a point of saying that most health issues won’t necessarily rule anyone out but I’m a worrier as we know. I’m a worrier and I’m an over thinker and I have this need to be transparent so despite the fact that I was 99.9% sure that my follow ups don’t qualify as treatment I needed/wanted the oncologist to validate that so that I could fill the application out accurately.
With that visit done last week (and two years cancer free) there was no reason to delay submitting the application so submit it I did. Over the weekend I was told it had been approved and that I could now submit payment to get assigned a social worker and schedule the home visit. Sending the payment makes all of this a bit more real though there’s still a part of my brain that’s not quite processing that this is the way that I may be building my family. Maybe that’s just the heart and brain’s way of insulating themselves from possible disappointment. There’s certainly been plenty of that in the last couple of years. The thought of more makes my heart tired.
But, chin up, as they say. Hope is the key to so many things.
One very tangible thing to this process starting is that it’s a good motivator to get my apartment organized. All of the furniture is in but I still have to find a place for a great many tiny things and put the dining room table together. I’ve been a bit slower than anticipated in getting all that done but I certainly can’t have someone do a home visit with all this silliness laying about. It’s going to be a little bit of work but it’ll feel good to be able to complete a tangible, doable task.
Sunday, April 09, 2017
I spent the last two years experiencing levels of anxiety at work that greatly increased last fall. To the point that in October I had my first panic attack in 15 years. As much as I enjoyed my work I was also struggling for reasons that I still don’t feel comfortable discussing in public. Trying to pretend that things were okay or that I could somehow will things to be better was essentially just adding more stress and anxiety. The panic attack was the final sign that I needed to make changes. So I polished up the resume, sent it off into the world and, thankfully, I landed a new job in the beginning of the year that made it possible for me to move back to northern Virginia. While the move to Maryland helped me grow career wise I always had in mind coming back to Va - a short 6.5 years later and I’m back!
It’s funny, in a not comical sense, that I only realized that I was depressed until the anxiety and stress levels went down. Its hard to pinpoint when it started. I just know I finally put a label to it a couple of weeks before my birthday. I used to enjoy my birthdays, to the point that I would countdown to it - on the blog ages ago with a script that ran on the side bar, and then on Facebook despite feeling a little (a lot) silly about it. And then the cancer and the hysterectomy happened. I understood why I wasn’t overjoyed during the 2015 birthday. I even understood why the 2016 birthday didn’t inspire much joy. Plus, I thought, maybe I’ve finally just grown up, gotten to the point where birthdays are nothing special at all. But even as I thought that I knew I was just trying to deny the truth which is, I’m still not “over” my life being turned upside down two years ago. But I also feel like I can’t say that. Like I’m not supposed to say that. People expect me to be happy, to be relieved and grateful that the hysterectomy caught all of the cancer.
And of course I am. But there’s no denying that along with my reproductive organs, the hysterectomy took something else, some little spark of hope, of joy, of - I don’t know. Something that doesn’t sound so maudlin.
While I was struggling with dealing with the worst work experience I’ve ever had to deal with, the brain had no time to process anything else, I suppose. So when the new year rolled around and I realized that the birthday was coming back around I was caught by surprise by just how little I cared about it. For weeks at a time I even forgot all about it. And I know, many people behave that way and it’s nothing out of the ordinary for them but until two years ago that was way out of the ordinary for me.
The week begore my birthday I was driving somewhere when I thought, “Oh. It’s actually next week.” And then, like the sky clearing up after a storm I had a realization, “Oh,” I said to myself, “You’re depressed!” I almost laughed because i should have reliazed sooner - this isn’t new territory for me. And yet, it still has taken a month to shake the fog off and make a conscious decision to not let myself fall deeper into the pit. Sadly, the weight gain is the thing that has really scared me enough to make some changes. Shame I couldn’t have figured this out and resolved to get back on the right track before I gained I don’t even know how many pounds. I’m scared to step on the scale. Though given that I have a follow up with the oncologist on Tuesday I guess I’ll know soon enough just what the number on the scale is. Not looking forward to the embarrassing moment when they record the higher number in the system. But, hey, at least then I’ll know what I’m working with and as we all know, data is never a bad thing. She says, trying to find the humor and silver lining in all of this.
Friday, March 24, 2017
I decided in January to restart the online dating profiles even though I’m having doubts about trying to date. That’s nothing new, though. Every time I restart them I feel the same way. I don’t get out enough to say that I’m going to try and meet someone while I’m out and about so the online thing has been a go to for decades now and each time I do it with mixed feelings. This time, however, the ambivalence is fueled by more than the usual weariness of having to dig through superficial, typo-filled messages (assuming they are longer than “Hey” that is). This time, I don’t know how to answer the “Want to have children” box. So I’ve left it blank. I do, as we know, want to have children. But as we also know, if I can build a family, it’s going to be by going the adoption route. Most guys online that still want to have children are assuming that they’ll have them the old fashioned way. Perfectly natural thought so I’m not blaming them. It’s just awkward, is all I’m saying.
I went on a couple of dates earlier in the month. Prior to meeting the guy in real life, he actually asked me the kid question. I hesitated but then decided to share that I was hoping to adopt. He indicated that, although he’s raised a child, he wouldn’t be opposed to doing it again. “That’s promising,” I thought at the time. Several days and conversations later, I said something that clued him in to the fact that I was exploring adoption now, rather than waiting to find a guy, get in to a relationship and THEN adopt.
“Oh,” he said. “So this is something you’re doing now?” “Yes,” I said. “Is that a problem?” He took a beat and then said it wasn’t a problem. We talked for a few days and then had the two dates. Ultimately, I decided there wasn’t enough chemistry there to continue dating but the exchange about children just validate my insecurities, I think. Younger guys who want kids aren’t necessarily going to embrace the idea of not having their own biological children (generalizing here, obviously) and older guys who’ve had kids, biological or no, aren’t exactly jumping at the chance to raise more kids.
Maybe I’m just complicating my life by trying to date but, really, the adoption process could take as long as 2.5 years and, honestly, I’m a little tired (again) of being alone. It’d be nice to have someone in my life who cares about how my day went, someone to go on walks with, the movies, etc etc. All the boring, mundane, vitally important things that make up our days. Obligatory single woman disclaimer required here, right? I can do all those things alone. I do all those things alone just fine. It’s just, I’ve hit another time in my life when I just don’t want to. I’ll keep at it for a little while longer but it’s hard to have a great deal of enthusiasm about it all right now. Which doesn’t bode well for great results, does it? Oops.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Folks who have been reading me for a long time (or anyone who’s ever had more than a passing conversation with me) know that I have longed wished to have children. I kept putting it off because the time never seemed right, the money was never enough. When I was in a serious relationship, the topic would come up, I’d get excited and then things would just not work out. And, well, we know what happened two years ago (or if you’re new, the Cliff Notes: cancer resulting in a hysterectomy, resulting in infertility). I don’t even consider these last two years as lost years. I wasn’t in an the emotional space to try to follow up on an adoption.
Hell, I’m still not 100% sure. Having raised my sister, been a nanny, had countless babysitting gigs has taught me that raising a child, doing it thoughtfully and well, that takes effort and energy. The idea of doing it alone, it’s scary. This is definitely one of those moments where I think a little fear is a healthy thing. It proves to me that I know I’m not going into this blindly.
With my 45 birthday coming up in 2018, I’m at a point where, if I want to try and adopt a baby, I have to start the process now. So I went to an informational meeting. As I waited for the speakers to start, I looked through the packet until I got to the page that I was searching for. One that I was already quite familiar with as I would regularly look at the information on the agency’s website. It was the table detailing the cost of the home visit, the adoption, and the additional services. The numbers hadn’t changed, a good and a bad thing. They’re still high but, hey, they haven’t gotten higher so that’s something, no?
Part of my brain listened to the information and part of my brain did basic math. What’s in savings, what I’ll be getting from the job I’ve just left, what might need to be borrowed. I felt deflated. It all just seems so daunting. And then I heard a baby laugh. The speaker announced that a previous client was here to talk to us about her experience. Naturally, she’d brought her baby along. As soon as I saw the tiny person I knew. I knew what I’ve always known. There’s no way I don’t try this. The cost of the adoption is scary but this is why I moved in with friends three years ago. This is why I’ve cut back on everything that I could possibly cut back on, to pay down the debt I’d accumulated. I wanted to get to a place financially where this would be possible.
For as long as I can remember I’ve said there is only one regret I never want to have and that’s to not have tried to build my family. I used to say that way back when the possibility of my body failing me was never even considered because why would it?
The mother shared with us that she’d tried IVF and that with that process the question is all about the “if.” What if it doesn’t work the first time, the third time, the seventh time. She then said that adoption is all about the when. There’s no if. It’s just the waiting, waiting, waiting until you get the call. I don’t know how true that is, but I know this.
I want to believe it.
Monday, February 06, 2017
When I left a job back in 2004, I asked for a reference letter. The first draft that I received is below:
To Whom It May Concern:
Today we are losing one Patricia – can you say “’bout time?”
Patricia was unloaded on us about eight years ago from the Virginia “Big House.” We unwittingly decided to participate in what was euphemistically called “Adopt a Felon Program,” with the promise that she would be a productive worker if not exactly of the human family. Another promise flushed down the toilet we call reality.
It wasn’t as if Patricia didn’t produce. In eight short years she produced four lawsuits, 200% staff turnover and some kind of rash that we can’t seem to get rid of…but then there was the actual work issue. She was consistent in taking a four hour lunch after appearing magically sometime around 11:00 AM to check her personal e-mails. She was always “out da door” by 4:00 PM, so we were able to commence anything constructive by about 4:15 PM.
Patricia had an interesting relationship with staff and members. Known well for wielding a Louisville Slugger to the temple of anyone who got in her way, she treated members with the same lack of compassion you’d associate with a psychopath on vitamins. It’s not that Patricia selected some poor souls for her wrath – everyone was included on her “joy mobile,” and all staff carried bludgeoning insurance.
We were afraid to ask Patricia to leave, but she has mercifully made this decision on her own. We look forward to a future of only minor bloodshed, an increase in property values and less attention from the Alexandria Police Department. Should you take a flyer on Patricia, you will be in our prayers.
Thank you for considering Patricia for a position on your team. We will be sending that cashier’s check for $150,000 as soon as it can be processed, and from this point on we will burn her records and turn her office into a “Let’s Save Humanity Before It’s Too Late” shrine. If you call and ask about her in the future, we never knew her, we never talked to her and we never took out “hits” on her life.
May our bad dream now haunt you. Thank you.
Citizens of Alexandria
State of Virginia
All Humankind and assorted animals
I printed that on letterhead and have hung it at subsequent jobs.
As a going away present from my current job, I received an updated “reference letter” that I find absolutely hilarious.
February 14, 2017
To Whom It May Concern:
Today we are losing Patricia. Patricia was unloaded on us about six years ago from Virginia, and today, we are sending her back. She’s been released from service to the State of Maryland in order to return to the original scene of the crime - the great Commonwealth of Virginia.
It’s fitting that she leaves us effective today - considering it’s Valentine’s Day and the monopoly the day has on hearts, which is one of Patricia’s favorite things. They are everywhere - in her office, on her window, on HER. It’s like she’s trying to remind us all the time that she CARES. Yeah, yeah, we know.
Another irony is the letterhead on which this note is written. Patricia hounded us all mercilessly until we agreed to change the logo and then was instrumental in developing a style guide for us that’s been implemented with little success as you can tell. No one is really sure why the guide was needed - we all know that Comic Sans is the best font and really makes a statement. Patricia won’t be around to proofread for us anymore, so we are free to run wild with rogue fonts.
You will get an honest day’s work out of her - after she eats the cold bagel that she will toast and leave sitting in the toaster for 2-3 hours. Make sure that you have the right kind of notebooks and pens for her. She is probably set at the start - because of her admitted hoarding of office supplies, she most likely took all of ours when she cleaned her office.
So, Fairfax, thanks for taking her off our hands. It’s been way too long and you owe us big time. Pease keep her this time, as she can’t keep going back and forth like this. It’s ridiculous.
May our bad dream now haunt you. Thank you.
The Staff of the Governor’s Office for Children
Inhabitants of Community Place
Citizens of Crownsville
State of Maryland
All Humankind and Assorted Animals
The absolutely evil joke of this latest letter is that it was printed using Comic Sans, which I absolutely detest. I can’t believe I have to hang something that uses Comic Sans.
Saturday, February 04, 2017
I don’t drink, nor do I have any experience, really, with mind altering medications. I have no frame of reference, then, to speak about feeling high. I imagine it must feel a bit like the way I felt tonight (albeit amplified by a hundred degrees) when I was using my smart phone to inventory my books.
It was a matter of simply opening the scan app, pointing the camera at the bar code and waiting for the beep that let me know the code had been read correctly. Under a minute I scanned about 20 books. As a frame of reference, when I first used the Delicious Library app about a decade ago, it took me longer than a minute to look up a book online, find a link I could import into the system or do the entry manually. To say the very least, it was a tedious chore. But now, with the magic and wonder that is a paired iPhone, the work is no work at all. I can’t wait until I am able to unpack my many many books and scan them all in.
Even if my computer hadn’t died several years ago and taken my old inventory with it, I probably would have started from scratch. Between giving/selling books, misplacing them, adding new ones, sometimes it’s just better to start fresh than to cull through hundreds of listings to figure out what I have or don’t have.
There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere, isn’t there? Holding on to things can become as much a habit as anything else. As hard as it may be, perhaps it’s best to just close your eyes, open up the hand and let go. Or you could just neglect to back up your computer in a way that makes sense and just let nature run its course, letting an old drive die a natural (unexpected) death. Whichever seems the most appropriate to you.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
I am angry.
I could make a list but really, it would start and end with the same thing:
I am angry at myself.
Roughly seventeen years ago someone told me that I should never hesitate to ask for what I want; without asking, she said, you won’t get it. Rarely do people anticipate your needs and give you want you want. Well, that last part she didn’t say, but I inferred. What she did say was that the worst thing someone can say is no and no doesn’t kill.
In the time that’s passed, I’ve tried to remember this lesson and I have had mixed results implementing it. The failures are harder to forget. Usually because the failing came in me forgetting, not in getting a negative response. When I assert myself and get what I want I think, “There, I did it. I learned it” until the next time when I don’t assert myself. It’s a thankfully sporadic cycle but an annoying one nonetheless.
So right now I am angry at myself. For a number of reasons. So I wonder, will this be the time that sticks? There’s no way of knowing, is there? Until the next time when I am faced with the opportunity to say, “I want that, I’ve earned it and I’m going to actually dare you to say no.” Ah. The audacity.
I’ve been contemplating a new tattoo. I had finally settled on a design but maybe I need to rethink it. Maybe I need to tattoo “Be audacious” on my forehead. Or, “No doesn’t kill.” At the very least, it would be a conversation starter.
And with this vague entry, the writing for 2017 begins. Compared to the previous three years, 2016 was quite successful in terms of blogging. But it’s hard to not improve when one goes from writing nothing for 36 months to writing something. I have a feeling things are gonna pick up around the blog in the next month or so. I’m looking forward to that. I hope you are too.
Monday, October 24, 2016
As a non-religious person* I feel as if religious people think me incapable of feeling awe over the world and life in general. They are, of course, wrong. I am humbled by life, by what evolved and by what we’ve created. I often find myself thinking about the immensity of what we’ve accomplished by moving away from sleeping under the stars to arrive at these highly structured and complex lives. How is it possible to not be able to fully comprehend that span of time and also feel as if was just yesterday?
I found myself once again marveling at that sense of progress when I picked up The Federalist Papers tonight. I vaguely remember “reading” (aka skimming) sections in high school so when I saw a used copy up for grabs a year or so ago I let nostalgia (and a sense of guilt) talk me into taking it home with me - where it’s sat on one bookshelf or another ever since.
Maybe it’s the sheer lunacy of this election that sparked a real interest a day or so ago, but whatever the reason, tonight I cracked open the yellowed cover and began reading the introduction.
I’d forgotten that the papers were originally written as a series of letters to the public. If you’d asked me, I’m embarrassed to say I wouldn’t have been able to share that bit of information but as soon as I read that detail the high school history lessons came flooding back. Reading that made me wonder, will anything written today rise to the same level of prominence a hundred years from now? That isn’t me dismissing today’s scholars or thinkers.That is a genuine question; I’d like to be more in tune with think pieces on history, science, etc.
The question is more of a nudge for myself to be proactive and thoughtful about waking up the dormant curiosity about life that used to spur me to learn HTML/CSS, to read psychology journals just for the hell of it, for example. With the way this election is playing out (that Trump is a legitimate concern is mind blogging), it would be easy to dismiss the current populace as being less well read or learned but to do so would require a certain amount of delusion and hypocrisy - as much as I would like to think I shouldn’t be included in that statement I can’t say I’ve been doing a very good job of staying on top of what’s happening in the country, much less the world. I’ve been living an insulated life lately (let’s define lately as the last several decades, shall we?) and thinking about these three men (Hamilton, Madison and Jay) as being so dedicated, focused, and daring as to take on the grand, visionary task of starting a new government makes me ask, “What have I done lately?!?”
I’m certainly not thinking I’ll be the mother of a new nation, but at the very least I could afford to be a little more connected to what’s going on around me, to do a little more living outside of my head. It couldn’t hurt and could only help.
Also? This bit from the introduction written in this edition published in 1961 amused me given the current fame and popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton:
The story of how Hamilton persuaded and plotted and bullied his way over the months to the narrowest of victories in the New York convention is an epic of American politics that deserves to be better known.
Mission accomplished. That line alone has made me want to see the musical more than every article I’ve read, every news clip I’ve seen about the many awards the musical has won. What can I say? I’m slow to understand what’s happening sometimes. See above about living more outside of my head. In its own way, I hear that the musical is awesome (in the truest sense of the word) so, in the pursuit of awesome things in this life and world, maybe I should see about tickets.
But maybe first I should buy a few scratch offs as I hear the tickets are not cheap!
*Perhaps when those of faith stop thinking of atheists as kickers of puppies and stealers of candy from babies I’ll be able to use the label for myself without the awkward contortions.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Graduation night is memorable for two things. One, that I was allowed to go to an all night event. Without rehashing overly dramatic history please just trust me when I tell you that my mother allowing me to be out of the house past midnight, much less all night, was unprecedented. I probably told her it was required. Having immigrant parents who were unfamiliar with the American school system had its pros and cons. It’s curious that I don’t remember how I made this possible but I did. And that led to the second memorable thing.
“I have a present for you,” my history teacher said. I was surprised and happily took the present. He watched me unwrap the book and said he thought I would enjoy Barbara Kingsolver. Having never read her I wasn’t sure but it was my only graduation present so he could have given me a pack of gum and I would have been just as pleased.
“You’ll get the second present in the mail,” he continued.
“I don’t understand,” I said, confused and trying to remember if I’d ever given him my address. “What is it?”
I’m not known to be a patient person, this has always been the case so I couldn’t let it be. I think he finally understood because he told me he’d given me an A for the year.
“But I don’t deserve an A,” I said, thinking about my less than stellar third quarter grades.
“It was clear something was going on. And you’re capable of A work so I didn’t let one quarter affect that.”
I thanked him and the rest of the night is a blur. I didn’t have many friends so I think I wandered around watching people enjoying themselves, listening as they made plans for the summer or talking about going off to college.
I would be living at home while driving the short miles to attend classes at George Mason but that was a couple of months away. I had no idea then that it would take me fifteen years to complete my four year degree.
All I knew that night was that someone had noticed I had been floundering. That this teacher who valued my opinion, who listened when I participated in class, who patiently tried to answer my questions even on subjects and classes he didn’t teach, believed I was capable of better even when I myself didn’t.
I think and talk of him more than most people talk about their senior year civics teacher I’m sure. But he was a beacon during a time in my life when I needed those rays of light. I was fortunate to have had several good and a few great teachers in my life. He was the only one who ever acknowledged my pain, however. When you grow up being told you have no pain, that you are not allowed those feelings, when every other person believes you when you cheerfully say, “I’m fine!” - the one person who says, “I see you” is memorable.
This is why, some months back, I turned to Google to help me find him. I’d idly searched in the past with little luck. But when I found myself once again recounting the grad night story to a friend I decided it was finally time find him and share just how much that moment - well, the whole year - meant.
Using my much lauded (by me but that doesn’t make them any less good) search skills I finally found a quick bio on an old website. From there I discovered a Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. It looks like he stopped teaching a few years after I graduated which seems like a shame.
And here we are. I’ve drafted the email a dozen times over but haven’t gotten anywhere close to sending it. Conventional wisdom would have me believe he would enjoy hearing how much of a positive impact he had on my life at a time when I sorely needed positive interactions. But I can’t quite figure out how much of the story to share. Yes he noticed I was in pain but I didn’t volunteer the cause of it. So how to properly convey how much his kindness meant? If someone doesn’t know you’re in the middle of the ocean, tired, desperate, devoid of hope, will he understand the value of the lifesaver?
I don’t know. And so I write and edit and delete. I’ll send it one of these days. Until then, even if he doesn’t know it, I’ll continue to tell the story of the civics teacher who gave me more than a less than deserved A.
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