Monday, April 30, 2012


When not mired in the mess that is our life right now, I am often contemplating how my life will change once my oldest heads off to college. I can only stick with those thoughts for a few moments, however, as once the tears start streaming I find it is best to put myself happily in denial, grab a cup of coffee and return to my mental 'dark place' filled with unpleasant thoughts about our current situation. I try to find solace (ha ha) in us being miserable together.  Aren't I all sweetness and light these days?  Actually, this is not going to be one of my maudlin blogs bemoaning the current state of my misguided life--breathe easy and read on as I will not be the one to depress you today. 

Have you ever seen the movie "21" starring Kevin Spacey?  Basically, the plot is a about an MIT senior who has gotten into Harvard Medical School but cannot afford the tuition without a scholarship.  The competition for the scholarship is fierce as one might expect, so he is wooed by Kevin Spacey's character to learn to read cards while playing blackjack to win big in Las Vegas.  When it comes time for the interview for the scholarship, the interviewer recounts some stories about other candidates that had 'wowed' him and then tells this young man 'dazzle me.'  Obviously, he has a very interesting and compelling story to recount.  Since viewing the movie together, my son and I often discuss what might be his 'dazzle me' and what he might say to impress an interviewer during a college interview.

Which leads me to my friend's daughter.  I first met my friend when we were brand new moms fifteen years ago, during a class offered at the hospital at which we gave birth just seventeen days apart.  This weekend, her daughter, a sophomore in HS, swam in her first open water 5K national event.  This young lady is also a straight A student who added an additional course to her load so that she could study Mandarin Chinese in addition to French and Spanish.  She is a champion swimmer, plays in her high school's marching band and is active in her church.  There were doubts as to whether or not she would be able to complete the race as she is normally tentative about swimming anywhere other than in a pool and yet she not only finished the race, but she swam better than a few other more seasoned racers to boot.

So when that college interviewer starts asking her questions, he had better be prepared because there is no doubt he is going to be dazzled!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Real Estate Madness

I have a very long list of things that annoy me--just ask my husband, he knows them well--but my top ten would not be complete without including the home selling process.  Aside from the obvious annoyance of having to constantly keep the house in 'show mode' at all times and the fact that the home seller is always at the buyer's beck and call, the buyer and his requisite realtor seem to be prone to thinking that you have no life at all beyond showing your house.  Take today, for instance, when we were supposed to have a showing.  On the plus side, my realtor's office called the night before to make the appointment.  On the minus side, the window given for their arrival was close to two hours long.  Without a lockbox, it puts my life on hold until they arrive.  We cannot start homework or a project lest we have books and papers out on the table to clean up once the potential buyers arrive plus, all of our dog's toys and beds must be put away and her huge crate must be carried into the garage.  I was told that some potential buyers might be dissuaded from purchasing a house if a dog lives there--seriously.

Now, we held up our end of the bargain--everything is in perfect order and unless the potential buyer sees us outside with our dog, no one will know we fraternize with a canine in the house.  As time ticked by, I got that sinking feeling so I called to find out a better approximation of when they might be arriving.  Well, it seems that we just didn't fit in their schedule anymore today.  Funny, I did not get a call saying that the plan had changed and that they would not be showing up.  I am so ticked that we wasted so much time for nothing when we could have accomplished a lot of work.  All it would have taken was a courtesy call to let us know they would not be coming but, apparently, that was too much to ask for.

I must admit that the double standard irks me despite knowing that there is nothing I can do to change the situation if I want to sell our house.  So, I grin and bear it but secretly wish I could not answer the door if they reschedule just to give them a dose of their own medicine.  Time to bring the crate back in and reassure our poor puppy that, yes, she really does live here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Life seems to be on permanent hold for us and, believe me, it is not stuck in a good place.  Every effort made to move forward only results in jettisoning us back even further than we were when we started this horrible journey.  At least a hundred times a day (sometimes more), I wonder what we did wrong that might have brought us to this point.  My mom always drove home the point that I needed to 'be the bigger person'--when she was not lecturing me on the importance of proper towel folding, that is--and I have spent my life trying to live up to her expectations thinking that by not being self-centered and by thinking about other people first, somehow my life would be enhanced and I would be, at least on some level, fulfilled.  I listen to people tell me all the time that 'God has a plan' and that we need to 'create our own destiny.'  Lofty, yes.  Practical, not so much. Try writing one of those statements on the memo line of a check for a bill that needs to be paid and see how far you get.  Right now I am tapped out emotionally, physically and mentally.  Rare is the time that I have no answers or alternative plan, but this is one of them.

I actually think my mom had it wrong though.  Being the bigger person might be the right approach theoretically, but based on the past two plus years, I have become a strong supporter of the 'only the good die young' approach to life.  If nothing else, it seems like a lot more fun.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Work To Find Work

There is no possible way to sugar coat the job search process--it is a bitter pill to swallow.  Adding insult to injury, you can be doing everything right, from networking and keeping your account current to applying for countless positions found on job websites, and you can still remain unemployed for weeks, months and years on end.  You are like the single person longing to meet the right person to spend the rest of her life with only to find out that the search could take much longer than anticipated--always a bridesmaid, never a bride, so to speak. Some people might tell you that you 'need to make your own way' and to utilize your unemployed status to 'truly find out what it is that you want to be doing with your life.'  Huh?  Begs the question if these people have mortgages and bills to pay, no?  Quite frankly, I am beyond tired of reading magazine articles about those who were let go from a job and now feel that it was the best thing that ever happened to them or, better yet, those who lost a job but then went on to make millions.  Our reality is that we are trying desperately hard to stay focused on the job search, keep our childrens' lives as 'normal' as possible under the circumstances and not fall behind on our bills.  We don't have the time nor the luxury to try to figure out what we really want to do with our lives as our bills are screaming 'pay us now!'

One day--hopefully very, very soon--we are going to find a stable job so that we can finally close the chapter on this unfortunate phase in our lives once and for all.  It really would be nice to be able to write about something else for a change, maybe even something happy for a change.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lethal Combination

For all intents and purposes, I am an 'acting single mom' right now with all its ups and downs.  Add to that the fact that I tend to fully embrace the type A+ side of the personality spectrum and you could see 'crazy mommy' more oft than not.  Oh, I try to keep focused and tell myself things I know I should hear like how I have to 'let go' of some of my tendencies toward perfection right now' and how I need to say 'no' to the children for some of the things they might want to do.  The real problem is that I keep telling myself to shut up!  I have turned a deaf ear on myself and I am barreling straight on through that wall of pseudo-calm I should carefully be building.  Although one of my biggest issues is that I have yet to master how to clone myself, my primary concern is one that I have most certainly perfected--guilt!

Yes, of course I have a mandatory Communion rehearsal for my youngest on the same day as my oldest's first ever lacrosse game.  Why should it be any different with the way my luck has been going of late?  Yes, my mom has eagerly stepped up to go to see the game in my absence but that does not help assuage my 'mommy guilt.'  One of my best friend's, an only child herself and the mom of an only son, once told me that one of the reasons she did not have any more children is because she could not understand how a mom could miss an event in which her child was participating.  After years of saying I would never have children, the moment I saw my son I knew I was destined to have quite a few more--I was hooked on drug of being a mom.  While I would never, ever, change the mommy path I took, boy oh boy, is it difficult for me to miss an event or anything in which one of my children has even the smallest part.  I find my children to be so impossibly amazing (hey, this is my blog so I can gush a little) that I feel gypped if I miss out on seeing something that they do.

Try as I might, it never seems to get any easier for me to handle the guilt and my desire to be a part of it all.  I suppose I need to 'buy a coping skill,' however, as in addition to my regular weekly line up of events, Little League starts next week.  Can you spell more g-u-i-l-t?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Guiding The Future

Given our unfortunate and prolonged unemployment situation, I am obsessed with what life lessons our children are learning from the manner in which we are handling ourselves as parents and our approach to this obvious dilemma.  Someone close to me told me that she feels our children will learn resilience from this situation but we have not bounced back in the least, only moved further away from returning to normal.  I worry that they will learn to be bitter and cynical despite my efforts to shield them from my most dark moods so I try to instill in them a sense of adventure (though even my youngest is not buying the adventure spin anymore).  I have started thinking more an more about how best to guide them in their schooling and subsequent career choices as I feel that that is the one component of my education in which I was most certainly lacking.  Let's face it, I am not exactly a hot career ticket with a B.A. in English Literature (let's not forget the minor in French) and a Ed. M. In English Education.  

Our extended foray into the world of the unemployed has shown us that even Ivy league educations are no guarantee to long term employment these days.  So the question stands as to how to counsel and guide my children toward better (safer, if such a thing still exists) career choices and how to empower them with a feeling of resilience even when I feel as though I have snapped.

What can I say?  Gloomy, cold Mondays always bring out my dark side.  It is something to think about.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Angels and Devils

My son is reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis in Moral Theology class and he has been encouraging me to read it as well and to attend the series of lectures being offered to parents moderated by one of his favorite teachers.  Critical reading when my life is in critical condition is not exactly something I want to be doing, but my son is enjoying discussing the book's theme with me none the less.  Very simplistically, one aspect of the book's theme is that we each have a guardian angel whose job it is to keep us on the straight and narrow, so to say, and a devil, whose job it is to coerce us to leave that path and join him on the dark side.  I immediately thought of the Looney Tune's cartoon in which Daffy Duck's angel and devil duked it out on his shoulders--an apt portrayal.  So, given my life's situation right now, it begs the question as to where my angel is as I am totally embroiled in devilish thoughts.  Is it (I was always taught that angels were gender-neutral) sleeping, vacationing perhaps or simply slacking off?  I am trying very hard to stay focused and positive but I could really use some help right about now.

My celebrity crush is Johnny Depp (to some of my newer friends, I know this might come as a shock) and yesterday I saw that he was the featured guitarist in Marilyn Manson's band a few days ago.  I couldn't help myself so I watched the video.  I know nothing about Marilyn Manson behind what I see at face value and, while he might be a very nice person, to me, he looks like the devil incarnate and his music is as discordant, scary and over the top as he is.  As I was watching Johnny play the guitar with Marilyn storming around on the stage, I could not help but think that the song I was hearing represented my life at this moment...totally out of control. In fact,  I even mentioned to my husband that I should change my cellphone ringtone from Flo Rida's Good Feeling to this Manson tune as it more closely represents how I am feeling right now. 

Guardian angel, are you there?  Help!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Funny how all the old feelings came right back to me after my husband told me he was let go.  I did not even get a few more minutes of the joy I had been feeling just seconds before his call.  Everything was just wiped clean and instantaneously replaced by the feelings of embarrassment, anger, frustration and despair I had known all too well just five short weeks ago.  How could this have happened again?--and they say lightening does not strike twice in the same place. Ha! I proved that wrong.

After over two years of truly struggling, my family was more than ready to take on the role of being normal again, of fitting in at school and in our neighborhood.  We would not need to pretend that we were okay because we would be.  I would not have to hear 'we can do that when daddy gets a job' over and over again until it hurt so much I would choke up.  I cannot believe we have returned to that all in the blink of an eye.

The owner of the company said he wanted to take it in a new direction, apparently one he had not thought of a mere five weeks prior when he offered my husband the job and changed our world forever.  I have always been taught to 'be the bigger person,' to think of other people first, and to be grateful for what we have.  Obviously, if this man was taught that he did not obey and yet, there he sits this weekend with his family, observing his holiday, never giving us a second thought as we are plunged back into a hell I was so thrilled to have escaped. 

To those dying to tell me an uplifting platitude about better things to come and things happening for a reason, better keep it to yourself today (maybe for a good long while) as it will be falling on deaf ears. I will get through this because I will do anything I have to to make this right for my children.  Once again, I will be dancing as fast as I can--and it sucks...big time.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Two years and twenty-two days.  That was the length of unemployment we endured before a new job materialized.  While it was not all doom and gloom (how could it be when you are parents to wonderful children?), the new job at a travel company specializing in deluxe river cruises for the over 50 set was a definite game-changer. It not only thrust us back into the land of normalcy, but it gave us the opportunity to move back to the east coast--something I had dreamed about since the moment I knew we were moving to MN.  Don't get me wrong, this job was far from perfect...lower salary, no relo and a move to a place with a higher standard of living, not a great combination.  Despite that, we were so blissfully happy that "daddy had found a job.'  In fact, we took a road trip there over spring break to check out houses and to have the children test into schools.  We spent five days at the beach during a week of unseasonably warm, beautiful weather and we had an amazing time planning our new life. 

Yesterday, my husband called to tell me he was let go along with 6 other members of senior management.  The reason given?  The owner wants to change the direction of the company.  Now as the owner of a company, I am assuming this man has some business acumen (or need I add ignorance to the list along with lack of ethics and professionalism?), so did he not realize he wanted to 'change direction' a mere 5 weeks ago?  Is there no plan for this change in direction in place--one that he might have made us privy to 5 weeks prior, before we put our house on the market, got the children into schools and found an area in which to live?  Over the 5 weeks of his employement, management at the company had been questioning my husband as to when our house might sell because they wanted us all out there without my husband traveling back and forth to MN twice a month (for the record, we are paying for those trips--including his hotel bill and his subsequent apartment's lease plus he was not taking any time off for the trips so why did they care so much about our living arrangement?).  My husband had some 'very positive' meetings with management and he had already saved the company money which is what he was hired to do.

The unemployment clock needs to be restarted now and I have so many emotions running through my body but I have to admit that white anger has taken the lead, even ahead of despair for the moment. In another slap to the face, this company does not want my husband to bad-mouth or make disparaging comments about them in the future.  Honestly?  They want to be treated with the respect they definitely do not deserve.  How dare they?  In essence, they deceived us.  I don't know why because had they told my husband that his employment would be probationary or that they did not know in which direction the company might be going, we would have acted accordingly--sat tight and waited to see how it would play out.  Instead, they encouraged putting the house on the market and getting our family out there sooner rather than later only to destroy our dream on Good Friday afternoon--not even the decency to tell him in the morning so he could have taken an earlier flight home.

I spent the night fantasizing what I would like to do to the owner of this travel company if I had the chance to meet him face to face.  One fantasy involves putting one of his river boats where I feel it belongs--and it is not in the Danube!  I hope the Easter Bunny does visit his house tomorrow and instead of leaving a basket, I hope she slaps his face with her big furry paw (I know how much I want to!).

*author's note--I have chosen to take the high road and not name the company in this blog post, but you know how to contact me if you really want to know.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Home Selling 101

I love rules, plain and simple. They serve a purpose whether it be ordering the chaos of a classroom, limiting screen time so that your teen is forced to think beyond the virtual battlefield on a daily basis or for merely driving from point A to point B safely.  Having bought and sold a few houses over the years, I know that there are rules for selling a home as well.  These include, but are not limited to, depersonalizing the space (packing away all your pictures/knick knacks so that the potential buyer can 'envision himself living here'), hiding any and all pet-related objects/toys/beds (some buyers are 'offended' by owner's pets...interestingly, I did not plan to sell my Phoebe along with my house) and clearing every countertop and dresser of all things remotely related to 'you.'  Being the good, obedient rule follower that I am, I complied so that no one could accuse me of trying to sabotage any potential sale.  Apparently, the sellers whose homes I have been viewing either did not get the Home Selling 101 memo or they chose to blatantly disregard it.

I do wish the couple with the 9 cats would have taken down all their kitty light switch covers (at least the 20 or so that I saw) and had changed the cat-themed linoleum ( did not even know this existed) in the bathroom to something more neutral.  Granted, none of these changes would have changed my mind about buying that house, but it might stop other potential buyers from screaming and running from the home--and I did not bother to mention all the little kitty carriers lining the wall of the basement.  Yikes!  I know I would feel better as a buyer if there were a rule about finding a vacuum and learning how to use it before a showing and please, in the interest of a quick sale, fix the broken window panes before putting your house on the market. 

I find selling a home to be one of life's most difficult things to do.  You are putting yourself out there , so to speak, and someone else is passing judgement on your personal taste and letting you know what is wrong with it.  While you are not supposed to take the rejection personally, I find it difficult not to.  It is somewhat like speed dating with the buyers going from one house to the next and the sellers all hoping that they will be 'the one.'