Friday, April 29, 2011

Enforcement

Somehow I have gotten into the habit of contributing to various law enforcement associations. I have a bit of a soft spot for law enforcement, especially because in two of the five "real" jobs I've had since college, I worked with a lot of cops. I think I could be a good police officer, if my department could overlook the fact that I am not a lesbian. (That is a joke. Please do not come and arrest me.)

I also worked with a lot of social workers at my previous jobs, and I know there was no way I would ever make a good social worker. First off, the social worker approach to addressing any problems is to sit in a circle and talk at the issue until it has a seizure, quivers a few remaining times, then lies still forever. Not enough information to make an informed decision? Not a problem! Just keep talking! This is called strength-based collaboration evaluation assessment intervention. (I think. I admit I sometimes turned my hearing aid off during these conversations.)

The other reason I could never be a social worker is that they actually help people. With their problems. And sometimes they don't even use a spreadsheet to do that. At my old job, I'd occasionally answer the phone if the receptionist was busy elsewhere, and invariably the person on the other end would be an upset mother who needed to talk to our social worker, and somehow it always seemed that the social worker was out of the office that particular day. So I'd be trying to take a message from a crying mom who had serious concerns about her child's victimization, and the even though she knew I was just taking down a message, she was still asking me questions and trying to get guidance from me, which made me me very uncomfortable so I would start holding the phone further and further from my ear until it was so far away that my elbow was basically fully extended. Then after she'd hang up I'd go work on a spreadsheet.

Anyway, I get a lot of fundraising phone calls from law enforcement-related charities, the kind that funds cops going back-to-school-shopping with kids or similar activities. I think this is because I gave to one -- ONE -- local law enforcement agency and they sold my information all over the state. Have you ever seen a group of seagulls and faked like you were throwing them some bread, and they got taken in by your action for about a billionth of a second but then realized you were pulling their legs and, after vowing to poop on your car, went back to ignoring you? And then you actually DID throw a crumb, one tiny measly crumb, to the seagulls and three seconds later the skies darkened with millions of birds descending to get their share? These law enforcement associations remind me of those birds. I tossed out a speck of bread and now it's like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

It's taken me 500 words to get to my point, but by golly I do have one, which is that when these law enforcement associations call me asking for money, I have started asking about endorsements in the last gubernatorial election. In theory, this would be a great tool for making sure that my dollars go to like-minded organizations, but in practice, none of the people actually doing the calling (who I suspect are felons in Indian gulags, earning $0.12 an hour) know who the association endorsed, so then I wind up having to google it myself and do their job for them. It winds up being more work than I really want to do, so instead I just take my hearing aid out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Call

First off, let me put in a plug for a project that David and I are having a lot of fun with: a spoof Fitzgerald Brothers Facebook page. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that something like "When you do something, ask yourself: Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it true?" -- and our little Facebook snark-fest scores a zero for three on that scale. On the other hand, this project makes me laugh, and it channels David's bitterness to a positive purpose, which might otherwise be expressed in the form of taking a whiz on the Governor's lawn. So if you're from Wisconsin, and you're politically inclined, and you're wondering why Governor Walker hasn't released his birth certificate and suspect it was because he was born in Kenya, then you should check out our Facebook page and "like" it. If you're not on Facebook, well aren't you la-di-dah! You can go back to reading your Proust now.

We've been laying low recently at our house, because Baby W had a bad reaction to his vaccines and was a little under the weather. Nothing too awful, but he was just sick enough to vomit hot milk all over me in the middle of the night. And then he cried inconsolably for an hour. I get that he wasn't feeling well, but jeez, shouldn't I be the one doing the crying? I was the one that got puked on!

When the baby started throwing up in the middle of the night, David wasn't in the bedroom, but that's not usual since David doesn't come to bed until the wee hours. A quick search of the premises, though, showed that David wasn't in the house either. I called his cell phone, and could hear that he was in a bar somewhere, and we had a conversation like this:
Me: "The baby's sick." 
David: "WHAT??" [loud music, people going 'wheee!' in background.] 
Me: "THE BABY PUKED ON ME. COME HELP ME." 
David: "WHAT?? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" [More music, and sounds of people having a good time with very little vomiting happening, and any vomiting that does happen to occur is happy vomiting, positively ecstatic vomiting.] "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" 
Me: "I SAID, THE BABY PUKED ON ME AND IT WAS SURPRISINGLY HOT. COME HOME!!"   
David: "I CAN'T HEAR YOU. PROBABLY BECAUSE THE BAR IS FILLED WITH TOO MANY SOUNDS TOTALLY UNRELATED TO VOMITING."
I did eventually communicate to him that he should come home on the double, and he did. David managed to soothe the baby while I took a shower. Then Baby W was fussy for the next 48 hours or so, throwing the whole family a little off-balance. Stella tried to compensate by biting her brother extra hard, possibly in an attempt to emulate physicians from the Middle Ages who let blood from their patients to heal them. (In this case, Stella would be playing the part of the leech.) I'm somewhat dismayed by her continuing inability to be gentle to her brother, but it could be worse. At least she's not reading him Proust.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Insurance

I am in the process of buying life insurance. Wait--wait! Don't stop reading already! Listen, if you think it's boring READING about life insurance, you should try BUYING it. Baby W has had some trouble sleeping recently, and perhaps I should bring the policies to bed with me and read them to him instead of nursing him, although I'm a little afraid that they would have too strong of a sedative effect and we just might lose him forever.

Now, I want to get back to life insurance, too bad for you -- but first, my eye just fell upon a envelope sitting here at the desk at which I am typing. This envelope originally held some papers that came in the mail for us, and small type on the envelope itself claims that the envelope has been "treated with an anti-microbial agent to guard against the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew, fungus, and odors." At first I was puzzled why an envelope would need all those protections -- mildew? It's not like I'm showering in the envelope -- but then I gave up trying to find any rhyme or reason and now I am planning using the envelope for medicinal purposes. I'll rub the envelope all over my kids if they get impetigo. Do you think it would also have the potential to kill lice?

And THAT reminds me of a work training I had a few years back, when my Very Serious Workplace brought in a consultant to talk to us about how to relax. Mostly I remember she told us that eyebrow massages can be very calming, and I still give myself eyebrow massages to this day. (It works great to give yourself an eyebrow massage, but I don't really know how it would work to give somebody else one. I'm not sure that eyebrow massages can replace back massages as a precursor to sex.)

The consultant at the Very Serious Workplace training told us that most diseases were caused by stress, which I had a little trouble going along with. I slipped a note to my coworker sitting next to me, daring her to ask if chicken pox was caused by stress. She responded by double-daring me to ask if halitosis was caused by stress. I triple-dog-dared her to ask if excessive ear wax was caused by stress, or -- and now you can see how this all ties in -- lice. Let's just say that I don't work at that Very Serious Workplace any more.

Back to life insurance! We're getting some! And the insurance company is sending someone to take our blood, probably to test for chicken pox and halitosis and excessive ear wax. You are supposed to get your blood drawn soon after you wake up and before you have anything to eat. David's blood draw is scheduled for noon, since that's about when he wakes up -- but since the draw will need to take place before he has any coffee, I'm afraid the life insurance company will analyze his blood and conclude that he's already dead.

And since we're suddenly getting all responsible and shit, perhaps it's time for us to get a will. Yes, I know we're supposed to have a will, especially in case David and I both die at the same time, but a) David and I are never actually together, so the chance of us dying in the same accident are nil unless the entire earth is annihilated by a meteor and if that happens then all the eyebrow massages in the world won't help and b) In order for the provisions in my will to be carried out, I'll be dead. So, at that point I won't really have a dog in that fight.

I know, right now, people are shaking their heads and saying no! You need a will! I know, I know. I'll get to that. But not right now -- I'm off to give David an eyebrow massage.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tub

The bad news is that I have not mastered the protocol of what to do when I am bathing two children and one of them poops in the tub. The good news is that I will have plenty of opportunities to refine my technique, since in Baby W's brain, the neurological pathways for "getting clean" and "hitting the button for the ejector seat" are apparently right next to each other and sometimes gets mixed up.

Usually I just fish out what I can and declare the bath over. At the most recent bath, though, I took the baby out and let him crawl around naked while I finished up with Stella, and while I had my back turned he xxxxed all over the xxxx and then he xxxxxxed and even managed to xxxxxx. (I have blocked those words out because those of you who are parents, or even those of you who are guinea-pig owners, know exactly what happened next. Those of you who are not parents, I'll preserve your innocence and tell you that while Baby W was crawling around without his diaper on, he, brought me flowers. And then cooked a nice risotto for dinner.)

In other news, I completed a sewing project that did not require pharmaceutical intervention, either in the form of antidepressants or medication for high blood pressure, unlike my previous undertakings! In fact, my earlier sewing projects were so frustrating (and turned out so badly) that I'm surprised Pfizer doesn't directly market a product to address my problem.

Here's what I'm thinking: the ad could open with a woman slumped over her sewing machine, with a grim voice-over: "Does learning to sew make you wish you had an alcohol problem? Have you ever called your sewing machine a 'cocksucker'? Do you still have traumatic flashbacks to that time you sewed the wrong sides together, spent half an hour ripping out the seam, and then sewed the wrong sides together again?" [Soothing music, happier voice-over.] Pfizer can help. Try Selvedge, the new drug that can help you say 'Screw learning a new hobby, let's go eat Pringles instead.' Side effects could include showing everyone how you can stick two Pringles chips into your mouth curving opposite ways to make a duck bill, and possibly getting a life (although we wouldn't bet on it)."

I think the reason this project turned out better is NOT that I now have voices in my head talking to me, although I wouldn't mind so long as they helped me read the patterns, but that I chose a much simpler project this time. Choosing the right project seems to be critical to sewing success. In fact, choosing the right project seems to be more important to the success of a sewing project than the actual sewing. So how about I stick to choosing projects and skip the actual stitching? You know, work to my strengths. When I engage in actual sewing, I tend to get a little stressed out and do a lot of muttering under my breath and expose the kids to words that I would just as soon they not learn. Words like xxxxx, xxxx, and worst of all, risotto.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Donor

I actually picked up the phone when it rang tonight. Why? Why would I make that mistake? I got my comeuppance, because on the other line was someone from my undergraduate alma mater Oberlin College, who was calling to "update their files," which is what they always say before putting the squeeze on you. The next time I ask for a raise, I'm going to tell my boss that I'm merely interested in updating my files, and when he looks puzzled, I'll ask if he has any questions about recent developments on campus.

In a way, my alma mater IS just updating their files, with the most important piece of information to update being my Visa number.

Then as long as I was in the Oberlin groove, I picked up the alumni magazine and glanced at the alumni notes. I see that one of my fellow students has started a winery and is bottling product under their own label, which is of course -- of course! -- called PWR Wines, for the People's Wine Revolution. That pretty much says all you need to know about my alma mater right there. Oberlin could save a lot of money by condensing the 50-page, full color alumni magazine down to that one paragraph and putting it on a postcard, which would be mailed out to alumni who would read about the People's Wine Revolution nod their head, and say yep, that's where I went to college, all right. And then they would update their Visa card files.

The last time I was on campus was for my 10-year college reunion. I was excited to be back on campus, to visit with old friends, and to show the college to David and Stella. There were a lot of people that I half-recognized but didn't actually know. I had the same feeling at the reunion that I did when I was attending Oberlin: 90% of the people there were much smarter, more talented, and cooler than me. The remaining 10% lacked all social skills and were just plain weird.

In case you were wondering, Oberlin College is in northern Ohio. I'm sometimes surprised at how few people have heard of it. That may change once the People's Wine Revolution gets off the ground.

I went to graduate school at University of Wisconsin, which doesn't call me nearly as often as Oberlin does. This might be in part because the last time UW called they asked for a donation of $250 and I almost choked on what I was eating, which by the way was not caviar, contrary to UW's impression of my financial status.

My high school has mercifully refrained from asking for contributions. I went to a public high school, so I would imagine they don't typically solicit donations, but the temptation must be hard to resist. I tremble when I think of all the great blackmail material my high school could use to levy a substantial "donation" from me. In particular I am thinking that if my high school threatened to circulate a photograph of my bangs circa 1990 around my workplace, I could probably see my way to contributing several hundred dollars to the principal's retirement fund. And to show my gratitude for not releasing embarrassing pictures, I would even throw in a little extra something: a whole case of the People's Wine Revolution.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Birthday

My birthday was last week, and to celebrate we had people over for a potluck on one of the first truly nice spring days we've had this year. It was a lovely evening, except for the fact that people kept asking me if this was a landmark birthday, which of course was a sneaky way of asking me if I was turning 40. When I said NO, NO NO NO, and also NO, my friends immediately backpedaled and said it was just that I was so mature, that I seem a little older.

Apparently I'm not trotting out my repertoire of fart jokes nearly enough.

One friend was blunter, and when she showed up to the party just came right out with it: "So, are you turning 40 or what?" I was a little taken aback, and I think she regretted her directness a little after I started quietly weeping into my birthday cake. I don't want to add to her embarrassment, so I will refer to her by the pseudonym "Elizabeth Amundson," which will completely disguise her identity because she normally goes by Liz.

David did all the set up and cooking for the party, which was nice of him although he insisted it was no big deal. He turned 50 back in January and we had a big party, as was appropriate for someone who actually was having a landmark birthday, which I WAS NOT, by the way. I organized his party and while I did make the arrangements with the bar, order the food, get musicians lined up, etc, I strongly objected at the time when David characterized these activities as "throwing him a party." Mostly this was because David was in charge of inviting his friends to the party, and he apparently didn't want any of them to attend.

In the weeks before the event, any time he got together with a group of friends, I'd ask him to let everyone know about the party, and every time he would say afterwards that there hadn't been the right moment to bring it up, or he had forgotten. Apparently the party was top secret, and very few people had the appropriate security clearance. David was disseminating information about the partly on a strictly need-to-know basis, and the CIA couldn't have done a better job of keeping the event on the down low. I was afraid that when they day of the event actually came, the party would consist of just him and me and I definitely didn't want to be tagged as the one responsible for throwing him such a lame party.

The story has a happy ending though, because David's friends got wind of the event after all, possibly from Wikileaks. Everyone showed up and had a lovely time, once they completed their retina scans to confirm their identities. Once David's party was over and deemed a success, I was more than happy to retroactively take credit for throwing him a party.

My birthday party was a success too, especially when one of the yardsticks for measuring success is the number of leftover birthday cupcakes that I get to eat the next morning for breakfast. Now THERE's a context where I like the number 40.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gymnastics

My sister and I signed up for a back handspring clinic. I explained -- so far as it is actually explainable -- the questionable logic behind our decision in a previous post, which basically boils down to this: We get to jump on a trampoline? I'm there!

By the way, I'm thinking of buying a trampoline for our backyard. Our lot is very small, just the size of say, a PT Cruiser, but not nearly as ugly. This means the trampoline would take up nearly the whole yard. Stella would really enjoy it, though, and I like the idea of having neighborhood kids over to play on it. (Our insurance company may like the idea less.)

I have to acknowledge that buying a trampoline is one of those fun activities that is supposedly "for the kids," but we all know it's the adult who's the motivating factor. Other activities that fit into this category are buying chocolate milk to drink, watching old Muppet videos on Youtube, and showing Stella how to put ketchup packets behind car tires.

I'm having some second thoughts about getting a trampoline due to safety concerns, though. I was doing some research on line, and I noticed that the American Association of Pediatrics does not like trampolines one bit. You would think that a professional group composed of pediatricians, whose income depends in part on  treating childhood injuries, would take to trampolines like a duck to water. If anything, I would think the American Association of Pediatrics would be sponsoring their OWN LINE of trampolines, and not the kind with the pesky safety nets, either. But apparently the AAP's approach to safety is similar to David's, who believes that when the kids take a bath, they should wear both a life vest and a helmet.
At any rate, a problem arose when my sister and I showed up at the handspring class, which was held at a little kids' gym. I had previously confirmed with someone at the gym that the "all ages, all abilities" back handspring class did not exclude thirty-somethings who never really got the hang of doing cartwheels even when they were eight. But when we actually turned up for the class, we got another story, and there was some debate about whether anyone over age 21 would be allowed to participate. I would like to brag that I still get carded occasionally, but then again I would also like to brag that I made it all the way through One Hundred Years of Solitude, and neither is true. There was no way I could pretend to be 21.

There was also some debate about whether the equipment they use to assist gymnasts in doing back handsprings would be big enough for my sister and I. I reassured the teacher of the clinic that that just because we were attending a back handspring clinic did not mean there was any chance that we would actually be DOING back handsprings, assisted or no. "So, you're maybe more at the level of doing round-offs?" asked the teacher, which made my sister and I laugh so hard we needed to sit down. We managed to bargain her down to handstand level, which still seemed a bit ambitious for us.

The end result was that we were allowed to take the class. And it was so much fun! The only other student was a sullen 16 year old gymnast whose gloom provided a stark contrast to my sister and my glee, and whose actual gymnastic skills also provided a stark contrast with our ineptitude. We did a variety of strength exercises on the floor, on the trampoline (!) and on the bars. One fun aspect of not being very good at an activity is that you have the potential to improve very quickly. (Note to self: bring this concept up at next performance meeting at work.)

The only injury happened when I banged my elbow on my head while doing a backward somersault. I have a nasty, painful bruise on my arm and no damage at all to my head. If you are hoping to make a joke about that, no worries, David's taken care of it.

We had so much fun that my sister and I are looking into joining an actual adult gymnastic class. We've got our eye on one that starts in the fall. Maybe we'll move on to doing gymnastics on the parallel bars, uneven bars, and the vault. David has already said he can watch the kids while I go to the gymnastics class, on one condition: he wants me to wear a helmet and a life vest.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tumbling

I'm in half-decent shape these days, but I've been looking to diversify my exercise activities and do something else than just running. My potential activities are limited, though because, while I do have eyes, and I do have hands, the nerves that would normally provide the connection between them apparently got re-allocated by my body for other, more important priorities. This is probably why I am able to wiggle my ears so well.

I'm particularly inept at throwing balls, mostly because my fingers haven't figure out the right time in the hurling motion to actually let go. And when I throw a frisbee, it often heads ninety degrees from where I was intending to throw it. I have a lot of friend who play ultimate frisbee, who try to get me to sign up too, and I have to explain that they are better off without me on their team. Move the goal lines to the side of the field and then we'll talk. (On a mostly unrelated note, I know that if you shorten the name of the game, players prefer that you refer to it as "ultimate," but I like being contrary, so FRISBEE FRISBEE FRISBEE it is.)

For those of you have been reading this blog for a while -- I am still working on trying to do a pull-up, and I've made decent progress. David has also made decent progress, in not giving himself a concussion on the pull-up bar every time he walks through the doorway. Back in February, when we had our annual furnace maintenance done, the furnace technician royally clocked himself on the pull-up bar, which is in the doorway leading to the furnace room. He found a problem with the furnace and his services wound up being much, much more expensive than originally anticipated, and while I don't necessarily think that was in retribution for the traumatic brain injury he incurred at our house, I can't help but wonder. I would feel a little bit sorry for him for his injury, but his name was Wayne. I can't feel sorry for anybody named Wayne.

So I've been keeping my eyes open for some additional form of exercise to supplement running, and I think I found something. Stella goes to tumbling at a little kid gym, and they have a back-handspring clinic every Saturday afternoon, for what the gym calls "all ages, all abilities." Doesn't that sound fun? Now, if you asked me if I have a gymnastics background, I would say no, except that the word "no" doesn't really contain enough no-ness to fully explain my gymnastics non-experience. I told my sister about the clinic, who said in amazement, "They teach you to do a back handspring in just one hour?" and again, the word "no" was insufficient to actually answer the question. We need a word that magnifies the meaning of the word "no" by a billion, so that it becomes a black hole of no-ness that annihilates any nearby molecule of yes-ness. This is one of the few times I wish William Safire was still alive.

But I think it would be a great workout to do some gymnastics, even if I am not 4 ft 9 and 86 lbs. I think that attending a back handspring clinic could at worst offer some great conditioning activity with only a moderate dose of humiliation, and at best could open up a whole new world of athletics that I haven't been exposed to before. I think a lot will depend on the teacher we have. I'm hoping it's not a guy named Wayne.