Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm just gonna put this out there.

This is the time when I feel I should apologize for not posting for a while.  And I almost did just that before I remembered that people do that in blogs all the damn time and really, nobody cares that much.  The only person I should be apologizing to is me, the person to whom I promised I would write every day.

It's just this: I've been traveling an awful lot lately, and always internationally.  After I got back from Jakarta, I was home for two weeks and then went to Munich for a week...that was very cool.  We'll be going on vacation at the beginning of June, and then right after we get back I am going to Guangzhou, China.  If I wrote about my experiences each day, my blog would be nothing more than a travel journal peppered with motherly guilt.

But since you all have been so amazingly supportive when I write about Peaches, I will give you a quick update and let you know that I was able to be home in time for this past weekend, when her soccer team went to the regional finals and ended up winning the whole thing.  That was one of those things that just, well, puts it all together, I guess.  That weekend I could have written about how we can all stop searching for the meaning of life, because it's right there in front of us, running down the soccer field knowing you're on the sidelines screaming for it.

But I have something else I want to write about.  Something that brings up an old, ugly part of my past that came back to visit me late last night.

Back when my husband had the bar, as you remember, there was a period of about a year in which he turned into another person.  Some people told me he was abusive, but not in a physical way.  It was like emotional abuse and neglect all tied into one, in the body of a person who I had come to know as loving, kind and supportive.  It was like my husband had died and been replaced with a freaky pod person who crawled into bed and slept next to me for four hours a night.

During that time, I made a friend.  Let's call him Stu.  Stu was a pretty well known local character, a musician whose band played a regular gig at an extremely popular club downtown and often traveled around the world to perform.  He wasn't famous by any means, but had a pretty large collection of fans locally.  He was starting to age (as am I) but was still a pretty good looking guy.

How we met was a little complicated, but it was outside of his normal circle and mine.   We ended up becoming pretty good friends.  I was lonely and sad, and he had issues of his own.  He was also married.  We met from time to time, always during the workday, for lunch or coffee.  I enjoyed talking to him.  I'm not entirely sure why he stayed friends with me, but if I had to guess, I'd say that a lot of it was that I was completely outside his circle, someone who didn't know him as a musician or whatever else he was, which was probably a nice change. 

I suppose in a way you could say that we had an emotional affair, which sounds kinda tacky and  I hope that's not what it was.  For me, it was a chance to have some male companionship during the time I couldn't get it from the guy I really wanted it from.  Maybe that's what an emotional affair is.  But the only thing that really made it inappropriate was that neither of our spouses, or any of our friends, knew about the other.  It was totally different from the lunches I take almost every day with male coworkers.  This was innocent, but...not.

Stu and I probably hung out regularly for four or five months, until the bar closed and I was finally able to get what I needed from my husband again.  I think he was done as well.  The last time we met it was pretty clear that both of us were going to move on.  The last thing he said to me was, "You're not gonna stalk me, are you?"

To which I said, "I don't have time for stalking".

And seriously, I don't.  But now, close to two years later, when I finished working at about 1 AM and the rest of the house was asleep, something reminded me of him.  So I opened up the website for his band, and learned that in January of this year, Stu committed suicide.

And of course, there's nobody I can tell about this hollow pit that's appeared inside me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why I am staying up to watch the Royal Wedding

I'm going to date myself now, if I haven't done so already, by telling you why I'm staying up (or getting up early, as the case may be) to watch the royal wedding.

No doubt you've already seen hundreds of headlines, articles, blogs, and newsreels looking back on the wedding of William's parents, Charles and Diana.  Those of you who aren't old enough to remember it may laugh at her Ultimate 80s hairdo and the overly bouffy gown she wore.  I've watched a few of these as well, but I don't particularly like them.  It seems to me that the people commenting on them are seeing that wedding from thirty years in the future.  We all know how it ended...badly...but at the time, nothing on Earth could hold a candle to Lady Diana Spencer.  And I got to be there.  Well, sort of.

The Summer of 1981 was the most important time of my life.  I'm not exaggerating.  It was more important than graduating college, getting married, moving to a new city.  Nothing at all that happens in my life will ever undo what was created in me that Summer.  I was thirteen years old and my parents did something unbelievably stupid.  They sold our house, closed up Dad's law practice, and took my brothers and me to Europe for three months.  We picked up the latest and greatest camper van (a Volkswagen Westfalia popup) and drove...everywhere...for three months.  I mean everywhere.  Except Venice.  For some reason we skipped Venice.  Everywhere else. 

As it happened, the date of Charles and Diana's wedding happened to take place while we were in London.  The weeks building up to it were like nothing I'd ever seen before.  Charles and Diana's faces were on anything you could buy, including chocolate.  You think that's creepy?  I bought some.  It was Cadbury's, and it was delicious.  And I think I still have the commemorative tin somewhere.  And of course, because we were in London, we were able to watch the wedding live.

Okay, I admit, we weren't really live, or even on the parade route, although I would have given my left pinky to be there (I wouldn't have missed the pinky).  My parents were more sensible than that.  They found a nice, quiet campground in a nice, quiet suburb, where the owner of a local pub invited us all to watch the wedding. I was disappointed, but I got to watch the whole thing live.  It lasted for, like five hours, including the processional and everything, and I was glued to the TV (telly?) the whole time.

I loved Diana.  I know there have been a lot of things said about her over the years, and I can't attest to what's true and what's not.  In fact, I never really paid attention to the details.  Kind of like when you don't want to listen when someone starts spewing toxic waste about your best friend.  You don't care if it's true, you love her anyway.  That's how I felt about Diana.  She was beautiful, she was kind, and even if she did some things I wouldn't have done, she never did anything to deserve what happened to her.  When I heard she died, I wept, and trust me, I'm not a weeper. 

Now, as you know, a lot happened after the wedding, and most of it wasn't good, but I do think that Prince William made it all worthwhile.  I remember when he was born, when he started school, when he turned eighteen and went public to the press.  I admire his grace and charm, but most importantly, I love the fact that he looks so much like his mother, whose wedding I watched thirty sad, long years ago. 

And just as a very young girl watched his mother, a very tired 43 year old will stay up to the wee hours and watch another royal wedding.  This time, let's hope for happiness.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What a week.

If you don't like reading rants, give this entry a pass.  I'm going to waste your time by ranting about what a lousy week this has been.

It started two weeks ago, when I was still in Toronto on the first leg of my Business Trip From Hell (tm).  My boss asked me if I could do a teleconference with a team in Malaysia the week I got back from Indonesia.  This doesn't sound like a big deal, but what that means for our team is a week-long class, four hours each day, and the Malaysia team wants it on their schedule, which means I start class at 8 PM and finish at midnight.  The upside to classes like this is, I can do it from home, and I don't have to go into the office at all this week because my boss is a nice, normal person.

The downside is I had to cancel my evening plans for this week, which includes the most awesome thing the Jewish religion ever invented, the Chocolate Seder.  I'm just gonna leave that one up to your imagination, but suffice it to say, it's this week and I'm gonna miss it, which makes me sad.

The other downside is I'm really not at the top of my game late at night.  In the morning, I can field the toughest technical questions, but at 11 PM, despite massive drinkings of caffeinated stuff, I am a blithering idiot.  So I'm not even doing that great a job.

So here's the way my schedule's been:

Three weekends of travel: first to Toronto, then a weekend spent in the air between Toronto and Jakarta, then a weekend spent in the air coming home.  I haven't actually had a Saturday or Sunday in the month of April, and I've missed three soccer games and Peaches is pissed at me.  Then I didn't drink enough Airborne or something, because I managed to come down with a cold in the middle of it.

Before I came home, I promised my husband that he was Officially Off Duty for a couple of days since he'd been a single dad all that time.  So yesterday he retreated into his office and shut the door to study for a big exam he has coming up, very stressful stuff.  I went into my office, closed the door and started my class.

At 9 PM, Peaches very quietly knocked on my office door.  I paused my class and opened it.  There she stood, nice as can be, and asked me: "Can I have dinner?"

That's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I stink!

I felt sorry for the gentleman sitting next to me on the flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta.  He looked quite sharp in his clean suit and tie, and while he appeared to be Indonesian, greeted me in crisp English.  I, on the other hand, hadn't had a chance to wash up for two days (not counting my crossing the international date line) and I'm sure I was pretty ripe.  I had an extra hour waiting for my connecting flight; I should have taken advantage of the pay showers.


I had no idea what to expect from Indonesia.  I only knew I was coming three weeks ago, and I didn't really have time to read up as I usually like to do.  My knowledge of the country pretty much consisted of the following:

1. It's an extremely large archipelago on the equator, close enough to Australia to attract a LOT of tourists.
2. It's the world's most populous Muslim country.
3. Barack Obama spent part of his childhood here.
4. Once, it was a Dutch colony.
5. The movie "The Year of Living Dangerously" took place here, and that movie didn't make this seem like a very safe place.  Of course, it took place during a political uprising in the 1960's, so I guess I could safely assume that things have mellowed out a bit.
6. The day before I arrived, a suicide bomber blew up a mosque.  Great.

The rest, I suppose, will come with time.  So far I haven't been here long enough to get much of a feel for things, since I just got here, but I will say that in spite of the smog (so bad my eyes are already itchy) this country smells wonderful.  It smells like car exhaust, of course, but it also smells like magnolia and plumeria mixed together with spices like chile and curry and cardamom.

As I walked through the airport I had a kind of funny feeling in my stomach, not exactly uncomfortable, a feeling I hadn't had it quite some time.  The first time I got it was when I was seventeen, and made my first road trip with my best friend for a weekend in Los Angeles.  The second time, I was 22 and making my way through Heathrow Airport, this time totally on my own.  I haven't had it since.  In the decades since then, I've lost count of the times I've crossed the Atlantic, most of the time on my own.  Perhaps the difference this time is that I travelled a record distance for myself; a little over ten thousand miles.  I had never been this far from home.

Immigration and Customs were easy, my suitcase was the first one down the baggage claim, and my taxi was waiting.  I stopped outside at the taxi stand to breathe in the air of Southeast Asia for the first time.  Just like that, the feeling in my stomach was gone, and what was left was another feeling I hadn't had in a long time: exhilaration.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

North of the Border


Those of you who have a blog of your own know that you get to see all kinds of cool blog stats.  One of my favorites is that I can see what country people are reading from.  So far, I've seen that I've had visitors from Hungary, Japan, England, Australia, and of course, Canada.  I think this is incredibly cool.  For one thing, those of you in Australia, I'm so incredibly jealous of you.  I want to go to Australia so badly it makes my stomach hurt.  The problem is, because of my job, it's hard for me to justify going to Australia at my own expense when chances are as soon as I get back I'll find out that I have to go there on business anyway.  Besides, I'd have to take my family with me because they want to go to Australia just as badly as I do.

Those of you in other countries, don't feel bad.  I got to visit Budapest once and it was amazing.  And Japan, well, I'm just assuming that some day I'll go to Japan and I will love it and never want to leave.  But I guess at this point, I'm just taking each country as it comes.

But of course, as you saw from my last post, I'm in Canada right now.  So to all of my readers on this side of the border, Hi! It's nice to be here!  The people here are so sweet, even the Immigration people in the airport.  Even the striking workers at the car rental were polite. 

Unfortunately, I'm not in central Toronto, like I was last time I was here.  Last time, I got to stay at the Marriott on Bloor Street.  This time, I'm in Brampton, which, I'm sorry to say, isn't as exciting.  I'm sure that Brampton is quite lovely, but I happen to be in a hotel that's right next to the far side of the airport, next to the DHL warehouse and not too close to anything else.  I do intend to do some exploring, of course, but I purposely got here a day early because I really wanted to see Niagara Falls.  After all, I'm already married, so it's too late for me to honeymoon there.

Other than that, my time here will be spent working, but who knows?  It's a small world.  Maybe I'll see some of you while I'm out and about.  I'll be the one with the accent.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Circling the Globe

The next two weeks I may or may not be posting much, since I'll be out of town on business, or more precisely, out of the country.

I've been pretty lucky this year. On average, about once a month or so I have to go somewhere, but I haven't had to take any business trips since my short trip to London in January, which I mentioned here.  Next week I'm going to be leaving for two weeks.  I'm really torn about this trip.  I mean, not that I have a right to be torn, it's a business trip.  I go where the client needs me to go, and I don't really have any say in the matter.  But this trip is going to be long, grueling, and really no fun at all.  On the other hand, I get to do something I've never done before: I get to circle the globe.

My first stop will be a couple of thousand miles due north to Toronto, Canada.  I'm thrilled to go there, I have a couple of cousins my own age that who live there.  The other reason I like Toronto is that it's a really cool city and the people are fantastic.  Plus, I don't sound like a durn furner every time I open my mouth.

I'll be in Toronto for a week, and then I head to Jakarta, Indonesia.

Yeah, I know.  But let's get something straight.  First of all, Jakarta.  Not Bali, not Singapore, not some cool resort on some isolated island.  Jakarta, where it takes fifteen minutes to take a cab ten city blocks because the traffic is so bad.  Jakarta is not a fun tourist destination.  There is nothing to see there, and even if there were, I wouldn't have time to see it.  I will know nobody. I'll fly 23 hours from Toronto with a stopover in Qatar, work for 16 hours a day from Monday through Saturday, and catch the first flight out Sunday morning, stopping over in Hong Kong and then again in Los Angeles before finally coming home to my little midwestern paradise late Monday afternoon.

And for some reason, everyone who has heard about my itinerary is jealous of me.  Jealous.

So let's get this straight.  I'll be spending two entire weekends on an airplane.  I will miss three weekends at home, my kid's last three soccer games of the season, a birthday party, and a really cool charity event that I had promised my friend I would be at.  All my calls home (thank you, Skype) will be peppered with complaints from my memory-impaired husband about how hard it is to be a single parent and whines from Peaches about how mean Daddy is while I'm gone.  And when I get back, the house is going to look like....ummm...the house is going to be a mess.

It's times like this that I understand that I really, truly don't have my life under control.

So how do I handle it?  Well, I'll take lots of pictures, even if they're only of angry cab drivers and the inside of my client's office building.  I'll try to spend time experiencing a new city instead of spending my evenings in the hotel eating dry hamburgers and answering email.  And I'll remind myself that one day, the chewed up carpet will be long gone, but I'll still be able to say that once, I circled the globe.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This blog is a secret.

My Facebook page is no fun at all.

The reason, of course, is that everybody sees it.  Including, but certainly not limited to, my husband, my mother, my boss, pretty much all of my neighbors, and ten or twenty members of my Synagogue.

As a result, I can't post anything truly funny.  I can't post how much my husband pisses me off and why, or about a miserable day at my job, or pretty much anything to do with my kid other than praise (and who the hell wants to read a parent's posts bragging about their kid?  Sorry, that's just not good reading.  It's a waste of space).  And I definitely can't post about my mom, which is too bad because my mom is an extremely interesting woman who is slowly going bonkers.  Or maybe she's fine and she's just driving me bonkers.  It's hard to tell.

So I have to keep this blog anonymous, for the most part, except for my very dear friend Kathleen, who is a very talented writer and is the only person who's reading this who actually knows me, so you know who you are.  Because I'm never going to write anything interesting about her, which is fine, because she's such an interesting person in real life that writing about her would never do her justice.  Another person I'll probably never write about is my dad, but that's mostly because he's about the sanest person I know.  He's a great guy and very interesting in person, but he never does anything weird or loony; in other words, anything worth writing about.

But my mom is a whole other story.  She's not going to see this blog, because if she did she would read it every single day, and if I don't post one day she will call me at exactly 7:15 PM, which is when we sit down to dinner, to ask me if I'm okay.  And if I do post, she'll call me to talk about what I wrote.

See my mom is a retired professional.  And there is nothing worse than having a retired professional for a mother.  All of the energy she used to put into her clients and her business, she now has to find other outlets for.  She spends her days doing Productive Things like gardening and working out, and when she's ready to sit still, she reads blogs.  My mom loves to read blogs.  Mostly she likes financial blogs, blogs about early retirement and frugality and real estate investing and stuff like that.  Stuff that she thinks I should be reading, because I'm young (snerk) and can still benefit from all this knowledge out there.

I guess I can't blame her.  She was so frugal and sensible when her life was in chaos.  She did everything right, including setting a very firm expectation that they were not going to spend their retirement supporting their adult children.  Apparently she and my dad ended up setting aside enough money, because the day they retired they suddenly found themselves quite wealthy and living in a really glorious spot, and all their kids live far away.  So now they suddenly have all this money and all this time, and  I think they're a little frustrated because they're passing 70 and they wish they had been living like this their whole lives instead of putting it off until they were eligible for AARP.

Once, when I was visiting, my mom asked me what blogs I like.  I had to lie and tell her that I don't really read a lot of blogs.  In a way, I guess I was telling the truth.  I do love to read some blogs that are just writing, but most of my absolute favorites are blogs about funny stuff.  Cake Wrecks, for example.  I absolutely adore Cake Wrecks and look at it every day.  I also like all those silly Fail Blogs.  The quicker I can get the funny, the better.  One blog I just discovered is this one, Sugar and Spice, My Ass.  You can't make this stuff up, but you also can't post it on the internet if you think your mother might be watching.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Peaches

I thought I'd take a few minutes to tell you about my daughter, Peaches.

I may have to give her a new nickname, because at the age of twelve, that name really doesn't suit her anymore.  She used to be a cute little girl with a peachy complexion and dark pigtails.  Now, she's almost as tall as I am, and frankly, she's starting to...ummm...fill out.  I tell you, it's freaking me out.

And, as I said before, she hates me.  Okay, she doesn't really hate me, but her preteen metabolism has convinced her that the best way to communicate with her mom is to yell a lot and slam doors.  I get that every young girl goes through this.  I know I did, and I know all my friends' girls did as well, which is why it doesn't bother me, and here's why.

For a couple of very good reasons, Peaches has some pretty severe problems.  I'll go into these in a later post, but for now I'll say that she was born in another country to a biological mom who probably did a lot of really nasty stuff while she was pregnant, then she spent the first couple of months of her life in traction in a hospital bed, then a couple of years in an orphanage, before we brought her home.  For all of that, she's actually a pretty pleasant kid.  She's pretty smart, very perceptive, and has a good heart.  On the other hand, she has a lot of trouble learning and keeping her thoughts organized.  She gets a lot of special services at school.  She's in fifth grade and has trouble doing things like telling time and figuring out what you can buy with twenty bucks.  She reads on about a third grade level.

My mom feels sorry for me for having a special needs kid.  She's out of her mind.  She has no idea how good I've got it.  Having a kid like Peaches means I get to sit out of the parenting fray.


A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a bunch of friends (yeah, okay, I was playing hooky.  I can do that sometimes) and found myself sitting next to a supermom.  She was the one person at the table I didn't know, and her name was Trista or Tricia or something like that.  Now, I'm not saying that Trista/Tricia spent the whole time bragging about her kids and what a great mom she is.  We all had to put up with that when our kids were younger, but now that they're in late grade school I'm happy to say that most moms have tired of that by now.  She was actually kinda cool, and had a good sense of humor, but she also had kids in Middle School, and that's when kids start taking Band. and she believed that every kid should take band.

Now,  I believe in band, really I do.  I was a nerd myself in school, and I know how great it is to learn a musical instrument, have a great activity that isn't a sport, and develop your brain.  I would love nothing more than for Peaches to be in the band, but I also know there's just. no. way. that kid would survive.  She can't sit still, let alone stand still.  And I won't even go into what it was like to have her try to learn to play an instrument.  And marching in formation?  No, band is not for this kid.  She would try her best, sure, but she would fail anyway.

And, more importantly, there are things she can do that she would succeed at.  Like art, or theater.  Maybe even dance.  I could see her doing these things, and so can she.  She's already met the drama teacher at the Middle School and can't wait to get started next year.

But tell that to Trista/Tricia.  I think the conversation went something like this:

T: So is Peaches going to be in band?

Me: No, she's going to be in Theater Arts.

T: Oh, you have to have her change that.  Every kid ought to be in band.

Me: No, she can't be in the band.

T: Why not?  She would be great!

Me: No, she wouldn't.

T: You should have more faith in your kid.

I was rescued by Elaine, my friend across the table, who jumped in and changed the subject.  Trista/Tricia tried to change it back a couple of times, but Elaine and I were finally able to steer to another topic.

Now, I'm looking back on what Trista/Tricia said.  You should have more faith in your kid.  Let me think about that.

Not two days later, Peaches and I were crashed out on the couch watching Doctor Who.  She paused the show and said to me, "Mom, there was a kid in the park today, about eight years old."

"Yeah, what about him?" I answered.

"Well, he said to me, I think you had a concussion.  And I said, 'Why?' And he said, "Because you talk like you had a concussion'.  And I said, 'Well, I didn't'.  And he said, 'Then why do you talk like that?' And I said 'I'm not telling, but I didn't have a concussion'.  And the kid said 'I think you did'.

(Like I said, she's twelve. That's pretty much how she talks).

"So what did you do?"  I asked.

"I decided not to cry."

So, Trista/Tricia, wherever you are, I know that you are a good mom, and you have great kids, and I'm really sorry I don't remember your name.  But take this home with you.

I have all the faith in Peaches that I need.  She knows that her problems are not her fault.  She knows I love her no matter what, even if she does slam doors and scream a lot.  She works hard to make up for her disability.  And even at her young age, she has faith in herself.

You don't need Band for that.

Oh, I'm startled!

Just a quick note on this one, since I'm at work and technically not writing in my blog at the moment, but I wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate your lovely comments!  You've all inspired me to keep on writing.  Thanks a million, and thanks especially to WideLawns, who gave me such a nice write-up.  If you haven't seen her blog, you have to check her out.  I've been reading her for years, and she's always a scream.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I Stayed

My husband is a phenomenal cook.

For this reason, everyone but my best friend is jealous of me.  He's served dishes like this one to our friends at numerous dinner parties, but this particular one happened to take place on a Tuesday, just because tuna was on sale at the seafood market.  That's edamame, and some wild rice, and other little julienned veggies...and that's FRESH ginger.  There is absolutely nothing bad about this dinner.

Not only is he a wonderful cook, but he LIKES to cook.  Every day. He will walk in the door exhausted after a day of dealing with difficult clients and endless meetings, put on an apron and whip up a feast.  To him, it's not a chore; in fact, it relaxes him.  By the time he's done, he's in a better mood than he was when he got home. 

He can also fix just about anything.  He fixed the brakes on the truck, the pump in the pool equipment, and even the microwave (did you know you could fix a broken microwave?).  He doesn't care what type of equipment it is.  If he's never fixed it before, he researches it, orders the parts online, and gets it done.

He's not particularly good looking, but he's funny, smart, and loving.  After nineteen years of marriage, he still wants to hold hands.  He tells me he loves me every day.  And this time last October, I had a suitcase packed and sitting in the hall closet.

It was the fault of the bar, of course.  I've mentioned the bar before. From the day it opened to the day the landlord locked the door was one year and two days.  During that time, I don't recall ever having a conversation with my husband.

I could go over the details, but that would just bore you to death.  When he had that place, he was a different guy altogether.  Part of it was the stress, part was the drinking (which he did from morning till night, I don't care what he told me), and part was the schedule.  He worked from 10 AM each morning till 2:00 AM each night.  He brought in no income, of course, and was never home.  I had trouble paying the bills and couldn't  tell him we were in trouble.  The real problem was that he wouldn't listen.  I tried everything, trust me, but there was always this look in his eyes.  If I ever see that look again, I swear I will not stick around for five minutes.  I've seen that look on the faces of soldiers in Afghanistan: eyes constantly darting from place to place, coming to rest on me and then moving on like he's trying to locate a sniper hidden behind the sofa.  And he was always, always drunk.  Always.

I had no respite.  I worked every day, picked up our daughter, came home and tried to feed her.  I had to let my cleaning lady go, but I couldn't keep up with the mess in our massive house alone.  I tried to buy food with no budget.  I couldn't afford a sitter.  My social life ground to a halt.  The house was falling apart, but I couldn't afford to get anything fixed...the car, the broken window, the microwave.  It may seem strange, but my work wasn't a burden; in fact, it was my work that saved me.  My life had been turned inside out, but my work remained the same.  There were rules there, and everyone followed them.  It was predictable.  I wanted to stay at my office all the time.

So I took my employee mental health services and went to see a counselor.

I told her that there is nothing wrong with me, but my life had become intolerable.  She told me something that helped me more than anything:

Just being ready to leave, doesn't mean you are actually GOING to leave.

So, knowing that somewhere inside this ridiculous shell of a creature was the husband I described above, I packed a suitcase. 

But I stayed.

Because not much later, the landlord came and locked the door.

And the bank seized the assets

And we had to declare bankruptcy

And he went back to work

And one day he sat down with me and wept, and apologized, and begged my forgiveness.

I wasn't ready to forgive yet, but I held him and told him I loved him, even though at the time it may not have been true.

And then one day, he fixed the microwave

And we had enough to bring back our cleaning lady

And we hired a sitter and went on a date

And slowly, over the year, life got back to normal.

Until one day, I unpacked the suitcase and put it away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

So....What Do You Do?

I know a guy who is an airline pilot.

The fact that he's an airline pilot does not affect me in any way.  I've never gotten free flights, never had to water his plants while he's at the office, and in spite of all the times I've flown his airline, I've never seen him in the cockpit (although that would be pretty cool).  In fact, the only reason I know he's an airline pilot is that when we moved in across the street from him over fifteen years ago, we asked him what he did for a living.

Not long ago, he and I were talking, and the subject came up that he had no clue what I did for a living. Why not?  Well, I suppose the subject never came up.  I mean, being an airline pilot...that's interesting.  Everybody knows what an airline pilot does, and anyone can talk about it: Where have you been?  Who have you met?  What's the craziest thing a passenger has ever done?

My job may not be that exciting, but I love it when people ask what I do for a living.  My eyes light up as I tell people what I do.  I have a really good job.  It's exciting and challenging, and frankly I'm really good at it.  It pays extremely well.  I could, conceivably, do it from anywhere in the world (more on that later).  In my opinion, you don't really know someone unless you know what they do for a living. The problem is, people don't ask.

There was a time when this bothered me.  I mean, what's the first thing you do when you meet a guy?  You ask him what he does.  Once you know that, you know enough about him for the conversation to keep going.  Otherwise, he's just a name with a Miller Light in his hand.  But when you meet a woman, the subject may never come up for years. 

I could let this bother me, but he's the thing: I don't feel I can ask a woman what she does.  I used to ask, but I would get answers like: Oh, nothing, or I'm just a mom.  The woman I'm asking is embarrassed, she doesn't know how to answer.  She thinks I'm trying to figure out if she is like me, and when forced to admit that she's not, she figures we can't be friends. 


Here's one thing about the world I live in that's completely different from the world I read about online.  It seems (from what I read) that in the Big City, women are expected  to have careers, and to assume otherwise is considered, well, a little bit offensive.  In my corner of the world, this is just not the case. Lots of women don't work.  This has nothing to do with sexism, mind you.  In my corner of the world, high tech jobs are plentiful, schools are top-notch, and housing is cheap.  A family struggling to make ends meet in a two-bedroom bungalow in San Jose can move here, buy a five-bedroom with a pool, and mom can still stay home with the kids.  There are exceptions, of course.  I have a neighbor who is a chemistry professor at the university, a number of nurses, a lawyer, a CFO of a major organization (with three kids and no nanny, go figure) and countless real estate agents. All remarkable, interesting women.


But here's the thing.

The women I know who don't work outside the home are just as remarkable.  You just have to do a little digging, probably more than you'd get at a cocktail party.  My neighbor Hallie can tell you about any piece of classic literature ever written.  Amy will keep you in stitches.  Vicki spent last year losing 120 pounds and volunteers as a speaker for Weight Watchers.  Susan went to India to build an orphanage. Linda has two special needs kids and the wisdom to listen to your parenting confessions with humor and understanding without a hint of judgment.

Which brings me to my point.  When you meet a man, ask him what he does for a living.  He needs you to know.  It defines him.  In five minutes, he feels he can tell you everything you need to know about him.

When you meet a woman, there's no point in asking, because it's going to take a lot more than one conversation to really know her.  What she does to bring in a paycheck is so much less that what she is.  Talk to her, listen to her, find out what's important to her and what's important about her.  And if she seems boring at first, give her a chance.  You just haven't found her spark yet.  But it's there.  Wait for it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What I'm doing here

This one will be brief, I promise.

I started this blog because at one time, I loved to write.  I thought perhaps one day I would be a writer.  Ever since I was a little kid, I had wonderful ideas for stories that I was sure would be bestsellers.

Back then, I wrote all the time.  I'd fill notebooks with short stories, ideas, and anything else that came to my mind.  There was no doubt that I would be a good writer; after all, everyone told me I would.

But then, as an adult, I simply stopped.  Not for any reason, really; I stopped for the same reason that the football star puts down his ball one day and spends the rest of his life getting fat in his chair, or that the lead trumpet player lets her instrument gather dust in the attic.  People just stop doing things.

And for the same reason that I looked in the mirror last year and admitted that I was no longer anything remotely close to slender, I had to admit that I had forgotten how to write.  That like any other skill, it must be nurtured, or it will wither.  My writing had withered.

So this is why I'm here: to write again.  I don't know what I'll write, and I don't care, as long as I write something every day.  Maybe, with time, my abilities will begin to bloom again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

How I Crashed the Guernica

This is a story about how I entered a world famous museum in a European capital after hours, without authorization, and didn't get caught.

As I mentioned a few posts back, my work takes me overseas quite a bit.  This year I've been to quite a few places I've never been: Rio de Janeiro (first time in the southern hemisphere), Dusseldorf, and Madrid.  Most of the time I get in, get my work done, and get home, but if I get to go somewhere really cool, I try to stay at least an extra day and take in the local coolness.

As it happens, Madrid is the place to be if you're into art.  There are a LOT of art museums, but the most famous ones are the Prado, which you go to if you're into classical art, and the Reina Sofia, which is the place to see modern art.  Now, I'm no expert on art, but there is one piece at the Reina Sofia that I really wanted to see: La Guernica, by Pablo Picasso.  This is kind of a weird picture, but you have to expect that from Picasso.  Here's what it looks like:



I did a little research and found out that Tuesday night, the Reina Sofia is open late, and entrance is free after 5 PM.  Perfect.  I could go after work and check it out without hitting the old budget.  I am such the seasoned traveler.

So at 4:45 I head over to the museum, and sure enough, a fairly large group of people is milling about, looking like they're waiting for something.  I wait as well.  Still dressed for work, I look appropriately non-touristy.  I blend right in.

At precisely 5 PM, the doors open, and the people walk in.  I do so as well.

Inside the gate, it appears the museum is going through some renovation.  A woman meets us, and explains that the regular walkway is closed, so we will all go up the elevator at the back of the building together.  Oh, sorry...yeah, I know what you're thinking.  Don't they speak Spanish in Madrid?  Why yes, yes they do.  And I speak Spanish about as well as...ummm...I don't speak Spanish very well.  But I thought I'd be able to understand her.  And hey, cool!  It's a guided tour!  I wonder if they have one in English?  English is good, I speak English.

But I didn't get a chance to ask, because we all marched right past the entrance, to the other side of the building, through hallways lined with construction siding and sheetrock, and up the elevator.  Okay, I'm just going to go along for the ride.  It's worth it to see La Guernica for free.

At the top of the elevator, our guide began to talk.  She sounded very friendly and personable, and she kept the attention of her audience with her jokes and commentary.  I understood not one word.

The guided tour lasted about 45 minutes.  We saw many interesting pieces, but right about the time we finally got to the Picasso room, I suddenly had a startling revelation.

It was not Tuesday.  It was Monday.

This was not the free night.  I had stown away on a private tour.

Well, there wasn't much I could do about it now.  I tried to slip quietly away and out the door, but I was met by a very angry guard who was considerably shorter than I.  She lectured me (in Spanish, of course), and I pretended to understand her and went back to join the group.

I got a lot out of the tour.  Some of the time I had to stand for what seemed like hours and listen to the guide and pretend I had a clue what she was saying, but (being a world class museum in a major European capital) all of the signs were in several languages, so I could at least read the name and history of the pieces. 

Other than the angry little museum guard, nobody ever noticed me.  When the tour ended, I breathed a sigh of relief.  It wouldn't have been fun to call my client to tell them that I couldn't join them the next day because I was going to spend the rest of the week as a guest of the Madrid Police.

I'm sure this story has a moral.  In this case, it's probably this: if you find yourself in an awkward situation, try to pretend you know what you're doing, and try not to draw attention to yourself.

And if you happen to find yourself in Madrid with a few hours to spare, check out the Reina Sofia.  But please, buy a ticket.

Victor, Part II

Ahhhh, Facebook.

A technological phenomenon that has managed to successfully undo years of effort, by millions of adults, to forget the crap they did in high school.

In doing so, it's taught us that old wounds do eventually heal.

In the past two years I reconnected with my old best friend from high school, who married my pseudo-boyfriend, later came out of the closet and divorced, and apparently, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, has re-emerged happily married to another man.  I also got back in touch with my best friend from college, who I spent several years trying (finally, successfully) to split from after she announced that my then-new husband was an abuser.

Okay, maybe she was right, but that's another story.  My point is, there was a time when we hurt each other badly, and now, twenty years later, we're finding that the hurt is gone.

Since I'm writing about Victor, you'd be in your rights to assume that we reconnected over Facebook.  The weird thing is, he's not on there.  In fact, he's nowhere on the internet at all.  He doesn't even appear to have an email address.  Weird for someone who has a PhD (I'm assuming he has one; he was working on it when last I saw him) and doesn't appear to have dropped off the face of the earth.

Then there's little Charlie, who apparently really did drop off the face of the earth.  I didn't really expect to stay friends with Charlie after high school, not because I didn't enjoy his company, but because he's in a very fundamental and somewhat separationist religious sect.  I never heard a thing from Charlie after high school, and always assumed he was living in Fresno with a wife and twenty seven kids.  Hey, more power to him.

Last year, Charlie showed up on Facebook.  Turns out he never did marry; he had, in fact dropped off the face of the earth.  More accurately, he had spent the last twenty three years doing missionary work in a distant, undeveloped country, and had returned to our home town to take care of his aging mother. 

Not two days after Charlie friended me on Facebook, he asked me what ever became of Victor.



Heck if I know, dude.  Look him up. 


He asked me if I would do it.


Come on, Charlie.  You do it.  He lives in the same town as you, I'm halfway across the country.  Look in your mom's phone book.


I wouldn't know how to approach him.


Ummm...it would be a local call.  Pick up the phone, tell him you're back in town after spending 25 years in Ridiculoustan and would love to meet him over a couple of beers and catch up on stuff.  I'm sure he'd be thrilled to hear from you.


I'd be too embarrassed!  (Wait...you mean you spent 25 years baptizing savages, and you're embarrassed to call an old high school friend?  Yeah...you're crushing on him too, and you won't admit it.  Come out of the closet, already).


No way, dude.  You want to see him, you call him.  (I am sooo staying out of this.)

So that was that, I hoped.  I had to spend a couple of days doing some serious dredging-out-old-feelings detox, but I figured I was in a good place.

I can't really explain the rest very well, other than to say that it seems everyone I ever talked to in my home town always had something to say about Victor.

From my friend Mark: Victor's kids are in my kid's 4-H group.

From my brother: Guess who walked into my shop yesterday? Victor!


From my mom: You know that pretty Victorian house on Bridge Street?  That's Victor's house!

The weirdest one is from a friend, Nancy, who is co-owner of one of the only actual employers in my home town, which is more well known for B&Bs and renting beach buggies than software development.  She only moved to town a few years ago.

 So Nancy called me about a year ago, which is surprising because we only talk about once a year.

Hey, you know Victor Eyecandy?

Well, we went to school together.  I haven't seen him since then.  Why?

He just got a job in our Sales group!

Oh, jeez.  I always had this secret hope that someday I could get a job at her company, move my family from our fair city back to my hometown, and spend my days working at a desk with a view of the Pacific.  So much for that idea.  No way am I going to do that with Mr. Blast from the Past just down the hall.


Oh, ummm....cool.  Well, tell him I said hi.

He's probably bald and fat by now anyway.

Yeah, I will.  Dang, he's really good looking!  Tell me you dated him.

Nah.  We were just friends.


Too bad.  He's delicious.

Shit. 


I saw Nancy a few months ago.  I was out in home town and my mom and I met her for lunch.  For some bizarre reason, my mom wanted to talk about nothing but Victor.   Sure enough, they hadn't even brought out the salads when she piped up with So Nancy, how's Victor?

With a wry smile, Nancy replied: We fired him.

Oh, really?  Why?


He was awful.  I've never met anyone so self-absorbed in my life.  He did no work, and expected everyone to think he was Gods Gift to Mankind.  I don't know what we were thinking when we hired him, but he sure made a good first impression.

Hehehehe.

Oh, sorry.  I don't mean to chuckle at someone else's misfortune.  It's not that at all.

It wasn't until that moment that I realized just how much I was missing out on.  So far, you see, I've been afraid that talking about him, or even listening to other people talk about him, was going to dredge up old feelings.  It wasn't until that moment that I realized that those feelings hadn't existed for years; that my desire to look him up was no more intense than my desire to look up any other face from my high school yearbook.  It was nothing but curiosity.

 So I started to listen, to engage.

With my mom:  How nice that Victor lives in that house.  It's so pretty, but I wonder why they'd want to live in a house that gets so much attention.

To my friend in 4-H: What are his kids like?  How is his wife?

To my brother: What kind of motorcycle does he have?

Here, in a nutshell, is what I learned: Victor is a control freak who hasn't held down a job since he was laid off from the university three years ago.  They have four children who they home school; as charming and personable as their parents were in college, the kids are socially awkward and have no friends.  The charming house has been in foreclosure twice, only to be rescued by his mother.  His wife, the bully, does not work, drive, or have any activities outside of her husband and kids.  She is completely controlled by him.

I guess he's still good looking, or so I've been told.  At least on the outside.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Victor, Part 1

Come on, admit it.

I don't care who you are, how long you've been married, or how devoted you are to your spouse, partner, significant other, or better half.  Somewhere, in the back of your mind, he or she is still lurking there.  You know who I mean.  Maybe you dated, maybe you were just friends, maybe it was a crush, but through the years you've never stopped wondering what if  things where different. 

Mine was Victor.  You have one, too, I know you do.  And if you don't, well, you're missing out.  Or lying.

The problem is, for all these years, you and I have gotten used to the idea that these feelings belong in our memories and nowhere else.  For the most part, Facebook has changed all that, but (to my relief) Victor doesn't seem to have joined the Social Network. Since I live across the country from my home town, the chances of my running into him are almost nil.

Victor and I were friends in high school.  He was a couple of years older than me, but because he didn't have money for college, he worked for a couple of years and didn't go to university until my sophomore year at college.  Since I lived in a co-ed household and he didn't want to live in the dorms, we ended up living in the same household for a couple of years.

I never told Victor I had a crush on him, for a couple of reasons.  For one, he always had a girlfriend.  He was a little weird, but very good looking, so he never broke up with one girl unless he had another waiting in the wings.  Meanwhile, I was having fun, playing the field, and I have to admit that I enjoyed that little ache that comes from having your crush in close proximity.

The year I graduated, Victor met the girl he ended up marrying.  Of all the girls he dated in college, this was the one I couldn't tolerate.  She was probably the nastiest girl I had met up to that day, and I assure you, I had met some pretty nasty girls.  I knew (somehow, in my naive little mind) that if they ended up getting married, Victor and I would no longer be friends.

The one thing I can say about the last time I saw him is this: I knew, even then, I would never see him again.  I was leaving for another city after graduation, and I knew I had to be rid of him if I was to move on.

Six months later I got an invitation to their wedding.  Fortunately, I was out of the country, so I had a good reason to decline.

As you already know, I did eventually marry, and other than our recent problems our marriage has been pretty stable.  Twenty five years went by.

And then, in just the past six months, it seems the elusive Victor has started to haunt me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A bit about the bad times

One of these days, I'd like to write about how my marriage almost ended.  I may not be ready yet, but I'm going to try. 

I thought I'd begin by writing about the basics.  I'd better start by giving people some names. 

My husband, first...let's call him Frank.  Plain, simple, unfashionable, but rock steady.  That's him, all right.  Unless it isn't.  There are two Franks, actually, although he won't admit it...the one I married, and the one that shows up when he's Not Right.  It's been about six months since he was Not Right. 

I also have to name my daughter, so let's call her Rachel.  She is now eleven.  When things started getting bad, she was about nine. 

What happened was, I got sick of listening to Frank talk about how someday he wants to own a bar, so when my grandmother passed away and I inherited a hefty sum of money, and he begged me to let him quit his job and start one, I finally gave in.  Grandma is rolling over in her grave now, but I'm not worried about it.  We would have lost the money one way or another.

The long version of the story could fill a thousand pages.  The short version is that while the outside world saw Frank successfully build a business from nothing with the support of his loving wife, the reality is that for a year I was a single mother struggling to work and pay the mortgage, with an alcoholic roommate who came home every night and slept in my bed.  Our only communication during this time was when he would fly into a rage when I made a mistake, or when he pretended to be affectionate when Rachel and I visited him at the bar. 

Rachel, during this time, asked me if we could get rid of daddy and get another one.  

Let's give the bar a name as well.  Let's call it "Rascals".  Good 'nuff.

Rascals stayed open for a year and three days before it ran out of money and the landlord locked the door.  The manager of the bank drove past that morning, saw the notice, and called in the loan.  The bank seized all assets and resold them to another restauranteur for $5000.  We were sued for the balance and declared bankruptcy in order to avoid losing our house.  Frank got a job in his original field.  That was a little over a year ago.

It took another year or so for the original Frank to come back.  Every day during that year, I tried to find the courage to sit down with the stranger I was living with and tell him that Rachel and I were leaving, but in the end I never did get the nerve.


Oddly enough, things ended up working out in the end.  The bad Frank left and the old one came back, and I no longer felt the need to leave.  Rachel is cautious but forgiving.  I feel their relationship was damaged much more than ours; she may never feel as close to her father as she once did.
 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

London in the Dark

I live in the United States, but for the last year or so I've been going on a lot of business trips to London.  This sometimes goes by the quaint term "Hopping the Pond".  Like the Atlantic is just a pond that you can hop over.  If that's the case, it's a pretty expensive pond.

My first trip to England was thirty years ago, when I was thirteen.  Boy, was I one lucky kid.  I know.  I will never forget that trip, no matter how long I live.  I remember every bit of it...checking in at LAX, watching the sun rise as we flew over the North Pole, the green fields of Ireland appearing below as we made our descent to Heathrow.  The feeling you only get once in your lifetime, when you step on foreign soil for the first time.

I have now lost count of the number of times I've visited London.  I don't sit by the window, I read the paper during takeoff and landing, and I spend my time on the plane working and catching a nap.  The fact that I am sitting in a hollow tube, flying through the air, and crossing in six hours an ocean that took my ancestors three months to cross (and in a great deal more comfort,  no matter how we feel to the contrary) is completely lost on me.

I know what you're thinking: lucky bitch.  Well, yeah, I admit I am a lucky bitch, but not for going to London in January.  See, the one thing you need to know about visiting England is, in the Summer it's magnificent.  In the Winter, it's...well....it's dark.  Really dark.  The sun goes down around 4 PM and doesn't rise until 8 AM.  If you work an office job, you will never see daylight, and when you do, it's overcast and dreary.  It's so bad that people have trouble sleeping because their circadian rhythm just gives up after a while.  And even if you can sleep (which I did only because I was only there for four days, not long enough for my inner clock to throw in the towel), it's Just Plain Depressing.  Besides, I was there to work, not to have fun.

To lift my spirits, as I usually do, I looked up a former colleague of mine and arranged to meet her for dinner one evening near Leicester Square.  This was her idea; there's a fish and chips place called the Mermaids Tail that serves the same stuff you get at any pub for about $20 a plate.  But the company was worth it, and I was on an expense account, so what the hey.

It took me a while to get there; I wasn't working right in the city, so I took the commuter train to Waterloo station and caught the Underground to the next stop.  All around me was this magnificient city (dark, but still magnificent) and more people than I usually encounter in a week.  Coming and going, some in pinstripe suits and some in torn jeans, some in drab and some in bright multicolors, every race and language and accent, talking and reading and listening to music.  And all of a sudden, I felt very, very alone and very, very far from home.  And over me came the feeling that I had no right to be so far from home, surrounded by strangers, distant from my family and friends.  Who the hell did I think I was?

And at that moment, I got to the top of the escalator at Leicester Square, and there was my colleague smiling at me, and she met me not with a handshake but with a warm hug, and she told me how much she loved that I would look her up while I was in town, and how was my family?

And with that, all the bad feelings went away.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Favorite Things

1. My dog, Enzo.
2. Chocolate.
3. Sitting in the hot tub.
4. Reading.
5. Playing Angry Birds.

Further down the list are:

16. My job. 
18. My eleven year old daughter, who hates me.
22. My husband, who tolerates me, but just barely.
112. My car.

It's not really as sad as it sounds.  I really do like my job.  I get to do a lot of cool stuff, including travel all over the world and meet a lot of people who are a lot smarter than me.  Plus I've been doing it so long that it's pretty easy.

Enzo is named after Enzo Ferrari, but it's also the name of the dog/narrator of a book called "The Art of Racing in the Rain" (see: Reading).  If you're not a reader, they're making it into a movie pretty soon.  But you are a reader, or you wouldn't be here.  So read the book, because there's no way the movie will be as good.  For one thing, the main human character is going to be played by Patrick Dempsey.  Really?  McDreamy is going to play a race car driver? 

My Enzo has a lot in common with the Enzo in the book.  He's funny looking, of indeterminable breed, and much smarter than everyone else in my family. 

I spend my days trying to scrape some sort of quality of life while dealing with a freakish family.  It's not entirely their fault; I am, frankly, a terrible parent.  In fact, let me make this clear up front: if I ever open up this blog for comments, I will not entertain any parenting criticism or advice.  Any attempts to tell me how I can parent more effectively will be met with an open offer for my daughter to come live with you for a week.  Trust me when I say that there will be lots of things that I'm leaving out.  You can discover those for yourself.