Work with me, please.

Archive for March, 2012

No Hoodies

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From the days when my 18-year old brother was a little boy, my mother refused to allow him to wear his shirt tails out. His shirt had to be tucked in, and he had to wear a belt. I used to feel sorry for him, and my sisters and I, all older than he, sometimes teased that he looked like an old man. Pants sagging on the hips or lower? Never. Now that he’s a teen, he can wear a t-shirt or casual top out, but Mom still keeps a close eye on him.

In the wake of this mess that George Zimmerman created, I have a new perspective on special Rules taught by parents of black boys. It’s pathetic that parents are put in this position. It’s a negative way to live — what can I teach my son to do in order to decrease the risk that he will be feared, profiled, maligned, hunted, cornered, killed because he is brown-skinned? And, all you can do — at best — is decrease the risk. You can do nothing to stop an overzealous or mentally unstable (or both) gun-toter from crossing his path. What kind of mess is that?

I’ll have no choice but to teach Jay the Rules about how to dress, how to walk, what to do if (or when?) stopped by police. I take some solace in believing that George Zimmerman is one person, that he represents a small minority in the grand scheme of things. Though many are prejudiced, most will not obsess and do physical harm. And, among those who harm, some will be arrested the first time and justice served. Take the case of the white teen who was sentenced last week to life in prison for the 2011 race-based killing of a black man in Mississippi. Of course, one case is not enough to declare the criminal justice and court systems fair, and it does nothing for Trayvon Martin’s family. I’m encouraged further by the widespread, wildly diverse voices in support of justice for Trayvon and his family. I want to live in hope, not fear. Actually, what I really want is a purple-tinted bubble, but that’s a different post.

The PTA had its big fundraiser Friday night. It was a huge success, with a few hundred attendees and over $4000 in profits. Mae’s Korean class performed, and she did an awesome job. I was especially proud of her self-control while she sat and waited for her group to be called to the stage. She kept her hands to herself, no horseplay or jostling around.

I enjoyed working the event, and the committee work turned out to be not so bad. I was so proud of myself for showing up in a Chinese dress that I bought for $2 at a yard sale. Then, I spent $98 on silent auction items. So much for being frugal. Hey, I did it for the cause.

My baby girl Mae turned 8 on Sunday! Eight feels like such a big age. No more booster seat and one year shy of when a co-worker’s daughter started her menstrual cycle. Yikes! Well, we went to the bank and opened a savings account for her. The bank rep was so cool to play up the big-girl thing by addressing Mae as Miss, asking her directly for her full name and contact information. Mae was flashlight-quality beaming. She slowly counted up and handed over the $51 she’d received from friends and relatives for her birthday. (It’s understandable why she cried when I told her no more birthday parties. Chica racked up $75 in movie theatre gift cards. I forgot to include “no gifts” on the party invitation.)

I don’t like to think about my kids growing up. It’s too much. So, I try to focus on the little things, the good things, the day-to-day stuff. The big stuff gets scary and disheartening. I know it’s lurking out there, in a Zimmerman kind of way. For now, I’ll work on my bubble.

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Caution. Zombie Mommy Ahead.

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Phew! The science-themed birthday party was a success. My little girl and 24 of her closest friends enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Our guest scientist, Dr. T, wowed the kids (and a lot of the adults) with his tricks and gimmicks. One little girl went to him afterwards and asked for a hug. It was so cute.

My cake idea was less of a hit. Not even my budding chemist recognized what it was. As kids approached the table to sing “Happy Birthday,” I heard a chorus of “What is that?” I’m no Cake Boss, but c’mon . . . . That said, I learned some lessons. I should have used gel icing for the liquid and bubbles. And, I should have added my cotton candy vapor after transporting the cake because it melted and hardened in the cake pan. At least the cake tasted good, and I now have a solid chocolate cake recipe. Sour cream is my friend.

I haven’t told Mae yet, but this was her last birthday party. I’ll consider a party for 16 if she asks begs. Otherwise, age 8 is the cut-off, and the same will apply for Jay. I think we can find or plan interesting experiences that are just as fun as a party and less costly.

I have a couple more weeks of PTA committee obligations. I don’t know what the heck I was thinking when I signed up to provide brownies for an event that falls on a weekday, an event intended for 300 or so people. So, despite having the party and house guests this weekend in addition to usual stuff, Hubby and I made 3 double batches of brownies last night after we put the kids to bed. I pray that the vending machine at work has Mountain Dew. Next time, I’m volunteering for paper products.

I had hoped there would be some time to rest in the upcoming Spring Break. But lately, I’ve been planning for Spring Break the way some people plan for tax refunds. My list of what I’ll do with that time is getting longer and longer. It’s kind of pathetic that I’m starting to put off basics, as in “I’ll get caught up on laundry and cleaning during Spring Break.” I’m thinking that I’ll spilt the days — the first half for cleaning and organizing and the second half for fun stuff with the kids. Maybe with a nap in between. Hmmm . . . .

“Don’t Worry about a Thing”

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I had a fantastic weekend. It started Friday evening with me coming home to a completed kitchen, finished on time and within budget. Phew! And, it looks and works even better than I imagined, especially considering we didn’t work with a designer. The ideas came from visiting a couple of showrooms, flipping through design books and magazines, and — mostly — listening to our contractor. His patience and guidance, including good shoppings tips, were treasures. I believe his honesty kept us from making some choices we would have regretted later. I wish for others who undertake such a project the type of experience we had. Lovely.

It was a Supper Club weekend. Thank goodness for forgiving friends. I was able to unpack and get the dust off of enough stuff to put together a simple meal of grilled shrimp, steamed broccoli and quinoa with sautéed green and red peppers. I broke the Club rule against paper and plastic ware, and they tolerated my temporary furniture of plastic folding tables and chairs. So, we gabbed and guffawed our way through the afternoon. It’s such a refreshing experience to sit with those four women and discuss and debate the latest political and celebrity news as well as the vagaries of parenting and household management and whatever else comes up. Fun, fun, fun.

Saturday was pleasant weatherwise and Hubby took charge of keeping the kids out of my way for Supper Club. To his great delight, Mae rode her bike a substantial distance for the first time without training wheels. Of course, it’s an awesome milestone in and of itself. Hubby sees it as a stepping stone to BMX. Moving on. Later in the day, he took Mae and Jay to the Natural History Museum and for a carousel ride on the National Mall. I was glad they enjoyed themselves.

I got Mae’s birthday cake baked on Sunday, major item off my to-do list. I almost gave up on it, and at one point I saw myself in line at the grocery store bakery counter, something I’ve vowed I’ll never do again. I baked a sour cream chocolate sheet cake and it looked too small for the number of guests expected. So, I decided to bake a second sheet cake and double the layers. I’d used almost all the sour cream, so I substituted blueberry yogurt. I pray none of the kids have a blueberry allergy. Then, due to some frosting curse someone put on me a while back, I didn’t have enough to cover the cake. I have so much trouble with frosting. I usually have too much or too little or the wrong consistency or color or something. Well, I didn’t have enough butter to make more and it was almost bath time by that point. Hubby was kind enough to go to the store for me. But, who knew you can’t buy white chocolate buttercreme frosting at the grocery store? So, I cheated — melted white chocolate and mixed it into a can of classic white. The party is next Saturday, and I’ll have no time during the week to fuss with a cake. I needed to get it ready to go in the freezer and off my list. I’m fully aware that I’m describing a first world problem. I’m just saying, can I get a break sometimes for trying to do something special for my kiddies?

My youngest sister did give me a break on Sunday afternoon. She took Mae to see The Lorax, which Mae enjoyed. Jay was invited too, but my little homebody wanted to stay home. So, he helped me make the second layer of the birthday cake. And, his help was actually helpful. He saved me some time by sifting cocoa and flour while I did other things. We talked while we worked, and he confided in me that he did not like his classmate’s birthday party last weekend. He told me that he’d never tell his friends something like that. Glad he knows that.

The weekend got even better when I spoke to a friend late in the evening who does our taxes. Refunds! Lovely.

Of course, there were some things this weekend that didn’t get done or done the way I wanted. I’m taking it all in stride. Not worried about a thing. This morning, I showed up for orientation for my new job with my mind in a good place. And, orientation actually has been interesting.

I’m expecting and claiming good things all week long!

Knowing What You Can and Cannot Do

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Mae and Jay playing with the cloud maker at the Maryland Science Center.

Wooo.  It feels like such a long time since I’ve been here.  I was in a fog most of last week, tired and unfocused.  Not only was I up late every night, as usual, I woke up before my 5:15 alarm every morning last week.  My to-do list at work has been long, and I’ve been training two co-workers who’ll take over my responsibilities.  I was worried about whether I would get everything done before my last day, March 9.  I turned a corner on Friday, and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing I’ve learned about myself during this transition is that I am a work snob.  I’m having a hard time passing on responsibilities to someone less experienced, and in my view, less capable than what the organization needs and deserves right now (not incapable, mind you, just green and underambitious).  I’ve been green before.  Heck, I’ll be green again to some extent on Monday when I start my new job.  However, I make an effort.  I’m a workhorse at work and I’m intolerant of people who do little more than what’s expected of them.  How do you show up for a meeting to discuss a document without a copy of the document to be discussed? Who does that? Who says “I got nothing” when asked for feedback on a significant document?  What the hay?  I’ve been reminding myself constantly to withhold judgment.  My mantras — I’m not the supervisor.  Things will get done, even if not in the same way that I would do them.  Nothing is going to break, and nobody is going to die.  She’ll learn; she’ll grow into the job.

This transition has confirmed for me that I’m unready to become a supervisor.  I knew already that first I’d like to gain more line experience and be able to leave a job behind at 4:30 as much as possible while the kids are still young.  I see now that my expectations of others might get in the way.  I like working with smart, quick people, and everybody is not smart and quick.  I like people who only break for lunch when workload is heavy and are willing to work through lunch if necessary.  So, I need to stay a worker bee for the foreseeable future.

Despite the crunch of work as I prepare to leave, I did take a break to have a going-away lunch with my co-workers today.  All and all, it’s a good team and I’ve enjoyed being a part of it.  One colleague gave me a homemade Italian Cream cake.  It’s sooo delicious.  I’m glad that Supper Club is this weekend and I’ll have help eating it.  I have received so many kindnesses in words and deeds over the past two weeks.  A supervisor that I’ve supported through some difficult personnel issues made a pan of lasagna for me — using her family’s recipe for homemade noodles and sauce.  The only other lasagna I’ve tasted like this was in Rome.  Seriously.  This supervisor wanted to show her appreciation for what she called my “backbone” because I recommended that she suspend an errant attorney back in 2006 (when I was still green, perhaps too green to realize what I was saying).  Within a few months, he was gone altogether, something that the organization had been trying unsuccessfully to effect for years.

So, my other new gig, in addition to the one I start next Monday, is PTA committee member.  Once again, I’m learning to adjust to different work styles.  Fortunately, the event we’re planning takes place this month, and then I’ll be free again.  I missed one of the early conference calls and got saddled with soliciting donations from local businesses.  This is not a good assignment for my introverted self.  It’s been painful to walk into a business and talk to a stranger, let alone ask for something.  All five businesses I approached gave or committed to give, which I reported during our most recent conference call.  The problem is that the committee chair then had the great idea that I should make follow-up calls to some 30 businesses to whom she’d mailed donation requests.  She’s a smart lady, though.  I love it when someone begins talking and you can hear the change in their voice when they realize that what was a good idea in their head doesn’t seem as good once they begin to say it.  So, she immediately added, ” . . . and we can have someone else help you make the calls.  You can split the list.”  Another smart lady on the phone then volunteered to make calls too.  Hallelujah.  I keep telling myself, “It’s for the kids.  It’s for the kids.”

Not that my kids will appreciate it any time soon, though.  Mae threatened to run away night before last.  She was upset with me about bedtime.  Sunday evenings can be difficult in terms of ending the weekend and getting ready for the school week.  She wanted to stay up later, I believe.  I was helping Jay undress for his shower when she yelled down the hall to tell me that she was going to run away.  I didn’t respond, so she came to me and repeated her threat.  My read of her face was that she wanted a reaction, and I was too tired to give her one.  Hubby was out-of-town, and I was trying to keep them on schedule.  So, I told Mae that I’d come talk to her once Jay was in the shower.  Instead of returning to her room, she went downstairs.  As I listened for the door, I debated whether I would go after her or just call the police.  Within a few seconds, she was coming back up the stairs.  She came into Jay’s room and told me that she wanted to talk things through.  So, we talked.  I didn’t change her mind; she still thought I was being mean and unfair.  However, she  did calm down.  After they were both settled and I went downstairs, I found her backpack by the door with the homework folder on the floor beside it and her Nintendo DS case inside the backpack.  Frankly, I don’t think she would ever run away.  She loves her Daddy too much.

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