It started so innocently.
A few months ago, we implemented a behavior chart to work on some issues we were having. Daniel’s first reward for earning a certain number of stars (30) was the return of his train table, removed to our upstairs bonus room due to repeated bad behavior. Ask me how much I enjoy carrying that table upstairs and back down again while managing not to destroy it, fall down the stairs or curse out my husband.
We needed a reward for the times when the train table had not been removed though. Something simple. One reward was a train we had set aside from the holidays. Another reward was a new book. About the same time, Daniel’s day care class studied the ocean and ocean creatures, and he became infatuated with starfish. Charmed, we found a stuffed starfish on Amazon and that became another reward for reaching 30 stars.
Pleased with his new starfish, Daniel requested another one. A purple one specifically (it’s his favorite color). The frantic Googling began. We found a dog toy. A cat toy stuffed with cat nip. Um, no. Amazon let us down that time, so I turned to the next logical source: Etsy.
Unsurprisingly, there were several stores hawking stuffed starfish. I scrutinized each one for suitability, vetoing all of them except one store. He made stuffed sea creatures, including hats and Christmas tree ornaments. He had adorable mini starfish. He didn’t have one in purple, but I messaged him, and he said he could do it. He emailed me color samples. We ordered three: one in the desired purple and two more in blue and red for back up. It was easy. We had the new starfish a few days later.
Daniel was thrilled with his new purple starfish and named him “Flynn.” As we had suspected, he asked for more starfish. Pleased with ourselves for ordering two more, we rewarded him with each one as he reached 30 stars on his chart. Eventually, we had Mommy Starfish and 3 baby starfish.
Then he asked for more starfish in different colors. I returned to my dealer and ordered 3 more in green, orange and yellow. In due time, Daniel was rewarded with those three as well. Now we had 6 baby starfish and 1 mommy starfish. Daniel made up a language for them, and they speak in a high-pitched, shrill voice. Last night I told Jimmy that “this is what it sounds like when starfish cry.”
Daniel soon asked for another starfish, in white this time. Again, we decided it was better to buy in bulk and I returned to my dealer to buy neutrals this time: white, gray and tan. Last week, Casper the white starfish joined our family. Last night, Mavis the gray starfish joined. We have one more to go.
I’m afraid we’re running out of colors. I envision starfish covering his bed, lounging in the “ocean” as he calls the blue blanket on his bed.
Starfish are kind of creepy. Thanks to our new starfish book, I learned they have no eyes or nose and only a mouth. They surround their prey and pry open its shell to eat it. They regenerate their arms when they lose one (that’s been fun to explain to Daniel. We hope he doesn’t attempt to observe it by removing one of his starfish’s arms). They seem to be the definition of form over function.
But Daniel loves them. Apparently Mommy Starfish mated with Daddy Whale to produce them. He takes one or two to day care with him every day. They make him happy. So we put up with our increasing starfish population, and I’m grateful to have a dealer in California who can make and ship them quickly.
Now, for a few links:
- FUNNY WOMEN #98: Classic Novels Rejected by Modern Publishing Houses I could so easily see these novels receiving that feedback today
- How Much do Cats Actually Kill? When I read this, I laughed so hard I cried. At work. My coworkers were concerned, but then I sent it to them and they laughed too.
- Why everyone should learn to code: an event recap. I agree 100% with this recap and was pleased to see English and linguistics majors highlighted as being very good coders. I was never a creative writer type of English major, but when I became a web developer (something that shocked the hell out of me), I often told people that coding allowed me to make pictures with language in a way I’d never been able to before.
- 10 of the Coolest Librarians Alive and 10 More of the Coolest Librarians Alive
- It can be difficult to be liberal in the South when many you know, are related to or grew up with are much more conservative as Misty proves in her great post Starbucks, equality and lost ‘friends’. I had a similar situation happen with the Chick-Fil-A debacle.
- I almost cried (again at work) when I read Law Momma’s post The Keeper. So very raw but beautiful.
Now I have to figure out what I’m serving with lamb for Easter tomorrow. Any ideas? I’d like to do something different from what I usually do, but I suspect it will end up being green beans of some sort, garlic-rosemary mashed potatoes and something else. We are creatures of habit.
PS: I’m feeling a lot better about the work situation this week. I think it will be OK, and I’m starting to feel excited about the possibilities. Change is hard and sucks, but we’re all working hard to make sure we are still able to collaborate. I feel a wee bit less diminished than I did. At least this week.
Have a great Easter!
Almost a year and a half ago, Jimmy and I bagged up most of our clothes and took them to a local dry cleaner to clean and store while we battled the nefarious carpet beetles that infested our home. We kept Daniel’s clothes since they were easily washable, a few towels, t-shirts and lounging clothes and a few items for work that would see us through what we thought would be a short time.
Fucking carpet beetles.
Come summer 2012, I was buying new shirts and a few new skirts and dresses to see me through. Fall 2012 found me buying a few more items. I tried to purchase carefully, knowing that at some point, hopefully, I would be getting back my wardrobe.
By Winter 2012 I was frustrated. I had kept skirts but in some cases, inexplicably, not sweaters or warm shirts that would go with them. I had kept only a couple of sweaters in general. My stress-induced weight gain made some of the my meager wardrobe look like shit on me. I was sick and tired of what clothes I had and had to talk myself down from deciding a (small) shopping spree was in order.
A couple of months ago, Jimmy told me he thought we could bring home our clothes. We had waged war against the damn carpet beetles for over a year and (knock on wood!!), the situation seemed to be under control. We set a date; I dared not get my hopes up.
Last weekend, our clothes came home. That may be the stupidest sentence ever written on this blog for its sentiment, but I was thrilled. THRILLED. I had a wedding to go to last Saturday and reveled in the luxury of 4 outfit changes. As I flipped through the clothes encased in plastic, I practically cooed. I had forgotten about this shirt and that shirt and oh, look at the cute summer clothes I had forgotten (or tried to forget) I had!!
I’m proud of myself for managing to survive on a few pairs of pants and skirts for over a year. My wardrobe was thin, and I hope I didn’t look ridiculous for a year. I’m a bit embarrassed by the sheer amount of clothes we have, and I suspect I have a lot of weeding and donations to Goodwill in my future. I have a bad tendency to hoard and hang on to items much longer than I should, but I’ll be happy to go through and ruthlessly weed items that I easily got along without for a year.
But for now? I’m enjoying the over-full closet. All of my socks are back! I wore a sweater yesterday from the returned items and paired a blouse and dress for today. I’m far from a clothes-horse or fashion guru, believe me. Many of the items in my wardrobe have been collected over many years, and I like to think they are classic and timeless. This week I have enjoyed having variety from which to choose and just having a little fun with my wardrobe. I feel more confident and secure wearing my clothes. They are old friends.
After the last couple of weeks, it’s nice to find a few rays of sunshine.
This week has not been a great week. I know you’re probably thinking, “didn’t she write that last week? And the week before that? And the week before that?” I guess it’s true. It’s been a rocky, rough time at work and when it’s the place you spend 40+ hours a week at, it impacts you.
I’ve been struggling how to write this post because I need to write it. It’s been on my mind for a week, but I’ve had so many emotions over the last week that I haven’t been sure how to write about it without possibly shooting myself in the foot or being premature.
First of all, I still have a job. Yay! Given that, what do I really have to complain about? A week ago, I was asked to take a new position in the org. It’s a market research position and honestly, it was what I asked for. A couple of weeks ago, my former interim supervisor (did you follow that?) asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him: data, information. I want to do market research and disseminate information to help us make data-driven decisions. Well, it turns out that leadership took me at my word and gave me exactly what I asked for.
So the question becomes why I am not more enthusiastic since I got exactly what I wanted. It’s been a difficult transition. I’m losing an occupational and organizational identity I’ve held as a web developer for 13 years. I’m losing part of my team and retaining only one direct report which makes me feel a little ridiculous. I watched a coworker who I helped hire become manager of the team I was formerly a part of. I now report to a coworker I also helped hire.
I’m also formally untied from people with whom I’ve been structured organizationally since 2005. I tell people that we were a family. It’s true. It’s the best group of people with whom I’ve ever worked. We worked well together but also cared about each other. It’s a huge shock. I think I’m also reeling from the major amount of change lately. In addition to my manager and my coworker, I had a team member retire, another team member leaving for her dream job in Miami, and my most recent hire moved to another team in the re-org. I truly feel like a bomb went off and left destruction in its wake. Some of those people I’d worked closely with for over 10 years, and in 4 weeks, everything has changed.
I’ve cried a lot the past week and been in a definite funk. I went from feeling like a future leader in the organization to a failure. Because that’s what part of me whispers: you failed. You didn’t do a good enough job. That’s why they were so quick to remove the web duties from you and give you market research. And not to consider you for leadership of your former group. You failed. And I can’t stand that feeling. And of course, these changes haven’t executed delicately, so my feelings get hurt and umbrage taken regularly. I feel awkward talking to coworkers with whom I used to be close and being overly formal: “if you don’t mind, I could talk to…”
I’m trying to take a deep breath and calm down. Trying to take each day as it comes even though I feel so blue and wonder about my place and the perception of me. And then I wonder if a man would worry about this and feel like I’m letting Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer down in my reaction to this situation and my inability to leverage it to advance.
All this sturm and drang and remember, I actually got what I asked for which should make me feel a little bit good, right? I guess that what I’ve discovered is that sometimes, getting what you want doesn’t feel as good as it should.
Since I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep, I’ve had a lot of chances to find some good reads. If you have a moment:
- Google appears hell-bent on destroying any social capital it had with its users. There are reports that its News Alerts haven’t been working well for a few months (something I’ve noticed as well). In related news, Google debuted Keep, but users are reluctant to adopt based on its capricious decisions on what apps stay and what apps go
- My county library published a review on a Jane Austen book that sounds great: What Matters in Jane Austen: 20 Crucial Problems Solved.
- You probably heard about New York Magazine’s feature “The Retro Wife.” It was…interesting. Reductive yet informative. The Atlantic, my hero, has had several good articles on it like this one and especially this one
- My friend Brandy wrote a post in early March about food, research, and what her family is doing to avoid harmful foods. I feel I need to qualify this by saying that I am not a crunchy, earthy person usually (not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing or that Brandy is!), but I feel very strongly about making sure Daniel eats as much natural food as possible. Am I perfect? No. We’re a work in progress, but Brandy’s post is definitely thought-provoking. I have a major urge to buy a cow and chickens and plant a serious garden. See, I told you my survivalist tendencies weren’t far below the surface!
- And Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed has brought me so much laughter lately. Please visit and enjoy. The had a post on the end of Mercury Retrograde that was very appropriate as well as one on almost 40 people who need to stop using the Internet that had me in tears from laughing so hard.
How was your week? Tell me something good!
We’re doing serious purging at our house right now. We’ve been vicious. Haven’t played with it or used it in a while and not donation quality? Purge. Nothing has been spared: old televisions, clothes, toys, pots and pans, etc. It has been cathartic watching the pile of junk in our attic, closets and guest room dwindle. Cathartic hearing the heavy “thunk” as we chuck something into the dumpster.
But I’ve had a lump in my throat all weekend. I was tempted to blame residual grief over last week’s work drama for the lump, but that didn’t seem quite right.
In our zeal to purge, we went through Daniel’s baby gear, and I set aside items to take to a coworker and took a lot to a local thrift store. Pack n Plays (we have 3). Bouncers. Bumbos. Snap n Go. The car seat in which we brought Daniel home from the hospital. As I sorted, I realized that I was sad about giving away these tokens of Daniel’s babyhood. Many of these were items we registered for at Babies R Us before his birth, giddy and still somewhat in disbelief that we had reached that milestone. Allowing ourselves finally to ponder the specs on car seats and the combo stroller vs the lighter weight Snap N Go. The bouncy seat that calmed him but also induced rage when he felt taunted by the animals that hovered just above his grasp. The play gym that amused him and was the source of many coos and giggles. I think its music is permanently stored in my memory.
We have tons of pictures of Daniel. His babyhood is well documented, and I’m sure we have multiple pictures and videos of him playing with or in these items, but it stung to acknowledge these tangible reminders of his infancy, of our euphoria at finally achieving our hard-fought goal, as items we no longer need.
Part of it is due to how fast life is moving. I know that Daniel is growing up. Hell, he’s almost 4. FOUR!!!!! Each night as he whines about some aspect of the bedtime routine, we’ve responded, “We know you can do this. You’re almost 4.” It’s true and it works, but holy shit, how did he come to be almost 4???? Last time I checked, he was a tiny baby. What worm hole did we enter?
The other part of it is our infertility history. While never ignored or forgotten, it manages to pop up when I least expect it. I don’t know if we’ll have another child. I hope we will, but if we do, it is still likely a few years off. Keeping bouncy chairs and bumbos for a potential sibling that might not materialize for years seemed silly at best and masochistic at worst.
I did keep a few things. Items that have so much meaning that I can’t quite bear to part with them. Maybe I’ll have to part with them in a few years, but I’m not ready yet. I’m not quite sure how I got to the point where a car seat was so symbolic, but it is.
Despite my sadness, I’m glad to be able to pass on what we could. I like knowing that the items we chose so carefully or were gifted by generous friends and family will help another family. I like thinking about my coworker’s baby boy playing with the toys that we picked out for our sweet boy when he was a baby. I don’t want to become a hoarder who saves everything because she can’t bear to get rid of something. It helps knowing some other child may get great joy or some other family will have their needs met by our items.
I’ve enjoyed every stage with Daniel, truly. Infancy was sooooo sweet. Toddlerhood was challenging but exciting. He’s a definite little boy now, and every day he comes home with new knowledge and cheek and makes us laugh and melt with his sweetness. Sometimes, though, I wish I could press pause. Time is moving so quickly. Too quickly. In a few years, we might be selling his train table and trains on Craig’s List. It’s a good reminder to try to enjoy every single moment.
This wistfulness? They don’t mention that in the parenting books. It hurts. A lot.
Mercury Retrograde ends on March 17, and it certainly is going out with a bang this week: 5 coworkers were laid off on Tuesday, one of them in spectacular fashion. While I had worked with most of them for many years, I was particularly close to one of them. We started at this organization one day apart, and we joked that he was like the 14-year-old brother I never had. You might recall that my boss left unexpectedly 2 weeks ago. It really has been a shitty few weeks.
I know I talk a lot about Mercury Retrograde, but rest assured that I don’t really believe in it or astrology. Not a lot anyway. It’s simply nice to have something to blame or identify a cause or reason instead of the indifferent universe when something shitty happens. I find it a bit ironic that I am currently reading Lean In when after the recent events, I want to lean back so far that I’m out of the picture. But I have to keep it together for my team so that they won’t run screaming from the building.
Yesterday in Performance Leadership, we learned about different generations in the workplace. I’m Gen X (bitter, jaded and cynical naturally), but I’m on the cusp of being Gen Y. Gen Y wants to do meaningful work or find meaning in their work. The Xer in me wants to roll my eyes and tell them to get over it because there’s a reason why it’s called “work” and not “fun.” “Meaningful” for Gen Y is often interpreted derisively as a job that contributes to saving the planet or protesting for Tibetan freedom or something. Meaningful work is relative to the worker, though. For one employee, it might be work that compensates them fairly and allows them to live how they wish. For another it might be an ethical workplace.
As a Gen X/Y cusper, I understand that quest to do work that is meaningful. I am passionate and very proud of the work my organization does to help NC industry and how my efforts support that. I’ve always been able to find meaning. No matter how boring a class, I was always able to find something interesting or redeemable about it. Something that elevated it past mere drudgery. It’s a very useful mindset. My team consists of two young Gen Yers, so I’m trying to focus on the importance of our work during this chaotic time. It’s hard, though, because what do you do when your Gen X clashes with your Gen Y? What happens when you are still able to find Gen Y meaning in what you do but that ol’ Gen X distrust rears its ugly head? When the bitterness outweighs the optimism?
Last night on Twitter I had a nice conversation with Schmutzie and Bon about Get Off My Internets (GOMI). I read GOMI. I admit it. If you want to stop following or shun me because of it, so be it. I understand the criticism of GOMI, and I acknowledge that threads can deteriorate quickly into personal attacks instead of criticizing the behavior. I also acknowledge that some of the members can be mean bitches with axes to grind. I like the snark, but I’m really interested in the function GOMI serves as a counterweight to the blogosphere. I admit that it’s weird because bloggers are actual humans (most of them anyway), and it’s sort of weird to talk about them as if they are in the public domain like a celebrity. But in a way they are. And there’s some stupid shit that goes on in the blogosphere. My bottom line is this: if you delete comments that are mildly critical or questioning something you’ve posted about; if you allow only sycophantic fans to post glowing comments; if you do stupid shit; if you endanger your child; if you…ah screw it. I guess it comes back to what I wrote in my post on criticism: you do not exist in a vacuum. If you blog publicly, you put yourself out there and people will notice you. Not everyone will like you. People will judge your choices and opinions. And that’s OK. Because we’re human, and that’s what humans do. Surely there is room for a happy medium between “OMG U R the best” and “you’re a fat, jealous hater.” Am I being ridiculous? I’m comfortable among the gray instead of living in black or white.
Listen to Your Mother
Things are moving along quite nicely. Marty and I held auditions on three nights last week and heard 40 amazing readers. Today we think we finalized our cast list. We have also revealed our charity partner and have scored three sponsorships. In short, there’s a lot going on, and I urge to subscribe to our LTYM site to stay in the loop! May 8 doesn’t sound nearly as far away as it did only a few weeks ago!
So long, Google Reader. I shouldn’t be surprised that Google has made another decision that is so astonishingly bad it defies belief. Do they understand who their users are? Do they understand that not only do people still blog but also still read blogs? Fine, Google. Continue to put all of your resources and spend your social capital on Google Plus, something no one uses, instead of promoting and supporting the services a lot of people use. We’ll see how that plays out in a few years. I’ve updated my rant about Google from last Fall to include an update on the demise of Reader.
So that’s my week. I’m bummed and numb and down. I haven’t been sleeping well thanks to the time change, and I cried three times yesterday. I’m reading and following along but seldom able to comment.
I hope you’ve had a better week.
Next week I’ll have the chance to read Sandberg’s Lean In and review it for Liberating Working Moms. You can’t go online anywhere without running into the book whether it is a pre-publication review (sometimes by someone who hasn’t read the book), a critique of the review, a critique of the critique and then the inevitable article about why women hate successful women. How meta. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to actually reading the book and deciding for myself what I think about it.
The Huffington Post has been publishing a series of posts by contributors on whether they chose to lean in or lean back and why. They are often short and sometimes not very good: I don’t think some understand quite what leaning in or leaning back means because their stories confuse the terms.
I feel like I’ve chosen to “lean in,” considering that I’m still working and continue to accept more responsibility. I like what I do and find it challenging, interesting, occasionally infuriating and fulfilling (usually). I can’t help but feel, though, that sometimes “leaning in” feels like being “all in” to borrow a term from poker.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about “leaning back.” My intuition tells me that more time at home and with my family could be very helpful right now, but the problem is that is that it’s not easy to “lean in” and then “lean back” without serious repercussions. Ideally, it would be a lot easier to transition between the two states, leaning in, then leaning back when necessary and then leaning in again without hits to salary, benefits and career trajectory . A fluid motion not unlike that of a rocking chair, rocking back and forth with ease.
Maybe the book will have some wisdom for me.
A few interesting links I came across this week:
- Dazed and Confused turns 20. I LOVE this movie. Interesting argument about it being THE movie for Gen X.
- Please Do Not Chillax: Adjoinages and the death of the American pun. I get that Akam is being a bit tongue-in-cheek with this piece, but I think adjoinages are very clever and illustrate how English is still a thriving, vibrant language. English has always been a language that invented new words.
- And then this post proves punning isn’t dead, at least for small businesses
- The Chronicle of Higher Education published the results of its survey on employers’ perceptions of how well graduates were prepared for the workforce. There’s some interesting stuff there, especially in light of NC’s governor wanting the UNC system to focus primarily on preparing students for jobs via technical skills.
- And this funny parody of a horrible, inflammatory article that ran in UNC’s student paper earlier in the week.
PAIL is hosting a meme designed to get to know us better. They may regret that Here are my answers to the 20 questions!
1. What was the last thing you threw in the garbage/recycling?
The greasy paper towel on which I microwaved pre-cooked bacon for breakfast this morning. I had 5 pieces (4 really because I gave one to Daniel), yet it wasn’t very filling. Kind of like eating bacon-flavored sawdust.
2. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
“Last Resort” by Papa Roach. It’s the first song on my Ire playlist. I love the part where the singer howls in frustration, “I. Can’t. Go. On. Living. This. Way.” I’m not sure what that says about me; maybe I need to take up yoga?
3. What is your favorite quote?
Just one? Impossible.
“Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy to those who think” (Walpole)
“The world is too much with us” (Wordsworth)
“Can’t talk to a psycho like a normal human being” (Poe – there’s a life lesson there)
4. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Is “all of them” an acceptable answer? Truthfully, cleaning the litter box. We have geriatric cats who view the litter box as optional, especially when it crosses the line of their (nebulous) cleanliness threshold.
5. What is your favorite form of exercise?
I keep two 10 LB free weights in the closet, and I do tricep and bicep work before I get dressed most mornings. Sadly, you can’t tell because I appear to lack muscle in general.
6. What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
Time of day: 7:45 PM for story time with Daniel. It’s the calmest part of our evening.
Day of the week: Saturday. Hopefully I’ve had a chance to catch up on sleep, yet I still have another day off.
Month: October because Fall is in full swing and you have the anticipation of the holidays, but life hasn’t become too hectic yet.
7. What is on your bedside table?
Daniel’s books for story time, a stack of my own books to read, coasters, a book light and a creature that in theory plays soothing music for infants but terrified Daniel. Jimmy, however, loved it. We call it the “Kraken.”
8. What is your favorite body part?
Hmm. Maybe my legs because they are long and look nice in dresses and skirts. Maybe my shoulders because they are broad. Is hair a body part? If so, maybe my hair because of its color.
9. Would you use the power of invisibility for good or evil? Elaborate.
I’d like to say for good, but I’d probably use it to sneak around and eavesdrop.
10. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
Probably my current age of 35. I feel like I have experience and wisdom but am neither too young nor too old. My body hasn’t completely crapped out yet, but I have the scars from our infertility journey. I can’t imagine wanting to stay an age in which Daniel didn’t exist yet.
11. What is the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Faint. Then book a trip for the three of us to Europe.
12. What is your biggest pet peeve?
I’d like to stay stupidity, but it goes beyond a pet peeve. People who can’t get to the point or who complain all the time.
13. If you could know the answer to any question, what would it be?
Is there life after death?
14. At what age did you become an adult
Birth. Just kidding. Sort of. Um…21. After I graduated college, I decided not to teach, which meant I had to pay back my $25K scholarship. I decided that paying it back myself and finding my own way was more important than doing something that would ultimately make me unhappy.
15. Recommend a book, movie or television show in three sentences or less.
That’s tough. Breaking Bad for its tragic study of the common, modern man. Law & Order because there are 20 seasons to keep you occupied and provide food for thought. The Emperor of All Maladies to make you realize how far we still have to go for a cure for cancer. Far from the Tree to highlight various ways in which children are alienated from their families. BBC’s Pride & Prejudice because Colin Firth (duh).
16. What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?
I was a perfect child I sneaked out of the house and rode down the street on my tricycle when I was 3ish.
17. What was the first album you bought with your own money?
I think Pearl Jam’s Vs. My cassette (!) still had the original title of “Five Against One” on it.
18. If someone wrote a book about you, what would be the title?
Not as smart as she thinks she is.
19. What story do you wish your family would stop telling about you?
My birth story. The doctors had to break my mother’s tail bone, and I always feel guilty about that. Also, the story about putting a wet diaper on my head to cure my cradle cap.
20. True or False: The unicorn is the greatest mythical creature. State your case.
I’m tempted to say the unicorn, especially since I am one (unicornuate ute) I dunno. Being me, I spent 20 minutes Googling “mythical creatures” so I could make an informed decision. Wow, there are a lot of mythical creatures. Unicorns are cool and all, but what do they do except symbolize purity? I like the griffin. I think “chupacabra” is fun to say. Or maybe a chimera? She sounds pretty bad ass. Fun fact: did you know that there are human chimeras? Look up a documentary called “I Am My Own Twin.”
My apologies if you wish you could unread this post.