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New Job

It was 12/12/12. The entire lunch room full of fifth and third graders were watching the minute hand sweep around from 12:11:30 to 12:12.  I pawed at the bank of light switches to turn the lights all off at the same time to get everybody's attention. We've trained the kids to shut their voices off when the lights go off, and this time, most of them quit talking. "It's 12:12 on 12/12/12, everybody make a really important wish!" I yelled over the din and clatter of 200 kids eating lunch in a big, poorly noise-damped cafeteria.  I had no idea that 200 kids could fall that silent.  It was a long twenty seconds of absolute stillness as they all made their most cherished wish.    I usually wish for my family and friends good health and happiness when birthday candles and stray eyelashes and shooting stars cross my path, but this time, a stray thought out of nowhere jumped to the forefront: I wish I had a better job.  It was like God whispered in my ear.

Last week a job posting appeared on the bulletin board by the teachers' lounge for a Media Technologist in a school across town, open to in-house staff only, only those with a basic background in tech troubleshooting need apply, applications being accepted for two weeks only.  I meditated three days before I got the courage up, with the goading from my beloved co-worker and close friend, The Other Gina (srsly how weird is that? I never hear my name attached to somebody else!), to apply.  I stopped in the principal's office and said that besides needing to get a full-time job because the triplets need braces and Anna needs a car, the job is perfect for me, in the center of a very specific venn diagram of kids and books and tech. She gave me her blessing and put a good word in for me with the principal of the other school.

I filled out the application online, wincing at that pesky 12 year gap in my resume where I apparently wasn't doing anything very important as raising my kids wasn't a valid occupation, and about 15 minutes after I hit send, the principal in question gave me a call to set up an interview.

So the interview was today.  I tried to just be myself and avoided those weirdo mind-games that I get tangled in when I feel like I'm being manipulated (except for that one time when I admitted that I didn't know apple products as well as I should because I had always regarded them as toys for people who just want the thing to work, however awkwardly, without having to know how or why).  I told a lot of funny little anecdotes about family and my relationships with the kids and staff at school.  At this point, I can't even remember much of what I said, so I have to trust that The Spirit was moving through me, firing my brain cells in a specific order and making my mouth say what needed to be heard.  I sort of just remember echoes, something about keeping the Good Ship afloat and giggling about how when I read aloud, I do all the voices, even.

When I got home, I was a hot mess of crazy. The girls got a big kick out of me running a mile a minute, doing silly magical thinking about my prospects and how I would be ok if things didn't work out. I was pacing the floor, talking in circles, and wondering if I might throw up so finally they sent me off to calm down so they could get their homework done in peace. I sat down at the piano and couldn't complete the first three songs I started. Just lost focus right in the middle. Took me 20 minutes of fooling around to be able to concentrate.

So then I'm right in the middle of the big fat blues finale of Piano Bar, like at 5:59 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBRM-yhuQJc) and I'm beating the hell out of my poor piano and my poor hands and the phone is ringing and the dog is barking and the kids are laughing about something on Gabby's google reader.  And then it all comes into focus that Claire has been saying "Mom, phone" for quite a while.  I assumed it was telemarketers.  Turns out it was the principal I'd just interviewed with offering me the job.

Holy shit.

So I didn't hardly hear a thing he said except for needing to start immediately and communicating with the head office and such. And I don't remember a thing I said except for "Wonderful" and "we are going to have all kinds of fun" and maybe "Gonna do a happy dance after I get off the phone".  Then we hung up.

I'm still having a hard time thinking through all this.  I'm going to have to make my apologies to the two teachers I've been working closely with.  There are three first graders who I've been working with closely to bring up to speed on reading at grade level. Two are just about fine but the third, who just moved here and just started to get the hang of working with me, is going to feel betrayed, I think.  My kindergartners, all 100 of them, are going to wonder where I went. It's going to be rough to say goodbye, and I think I'm going to have to say it tomorrow, or, later today, as it turns out--how did it get to be 1AM?

But this is the last thing, the last puzzle piece.  I have driven myself nuts thinking that the only thing missing from my fabulous life is a job that means something to me and a fun title that I can throw around when people ask me what I do for a living, shallow as that is.  This will be the first job I've had that is grown-up enough to offer benefits and a retirement plan.  So I guess I had a good run, made it to 38 before I got a real job.

Wish me luck. 

This is who I really am

 Okay, so, it's been over a year.

Last summer the principal of my daughters' school called to see if I'd be interested in working part time as an Educational Assistant.  As I wasn't doing anything else of much importance and was dreading the long, lonely, silent winter ahead, I agreed.  

It was good for me and bad for me.  I ended up mostly being a lunch room and recess teacher, a glorified babysitter.  

None of the several ladies I worked with or I had any power over our charges unless some gross rule-breaking happened and the principal got involved.  Some took that as a challenge and lorded it over the kids, some took that as a mild suggestion and didn't do anything at all.  I was able to thread the narrow gap between holding down the floor and being the kids'  jailer.  It was dicey. Kids do shitty things to each other sometimes and I had to intervene on several occasions.

Mostly, though, we decided we liked each other, the student body and me. I hit it off best with the 4th graders at lunch.  My girls were in three of the four classes and were widely regarded as okay types, so the 4th graders were pre-disposed to being tolerant of my ridiculous antics.  All 80 of them and me sang We Will Rock You and Bohemian Rhapsody and pounded on cafeteria tables a lot.  We also sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight at the top of our lungs in what might be considered harmony on alien planets.  You would not believe how loud my upper register is when I belt out the high parts of that song.   I also demonstrated a decent Moonwalk and a short tutting routine, which earned me all kinds of undeserved cred.  

When I wasn't patrolling the lunch room, I stood outside and made sure nobody killed themselves or other people at recess, which is harder than it looks.  I said funny things "Geez, kid, you still got both your eyeballs and most of your teeth?  How about let's not do that again, shall we?" and was sympathetic "I can't believe he said that to you.  He's lucky you're so polite.  Thanks for not tearing his arm off and beating him with the wet end." and was scary "Oi!  You!  I saw what you did there! Knock that off or you sit at the Table of Shame the rest of recess!"  

The summer off was interesting.  I went back to my silent ways after a few weeks.  I missed having daily contact with other adults, whether I actually liked them or not.  I found myself drifting again into old mental pathways of shame and regret.  I didn't have time to have a job until recently so I can't say that I wish I'd gotten a job sooner--not many places allow one to have summers off--but I'm glad I had something else to do but sit in my house and brood.

Summer is nearly over.  School starts next week.  I'll be working mornings instead of afternoons this year, which means I'll have to be up and around early instead of having the option of a long, leisurely, unproductive morning.  I'm looking forward to going back, but I know that at some point it won't be enough.  I'm not going to lean into it, though, and consider my next move.  When I make plans and goals, God snorts and chuckles and sends me the most outrageous reminders that I'm not actually steering my cranky little boat.  I'm just the kid in the passenger seat, gripping my toy wheel and frowning out the windscreen as if I think I'm getting anywhere on my own volition.  

Trying hard not to be a fuck-up

     We have a tendency to be fuck-ups in my family.  Mom would like to think it comes from Dad's side of the family where there's a long line of teenage pregnancies, a dearth of diplomas, a lack of basic health- and money-related life skills, and an abiding fondness for self-medication.  Well, that's my paternal grandmother's people anyway.  My paternal grandfather is something of a mystery because he died--drowned in the Missouri river trying to save a buddy who'd apparently reached the "mightier than the current" stage of drunk while they were partying on the riverbank--before his 15 year-old pregnant girlfriend, my grandma, could give birth to my father.  I'm not sure what grandpa's people were like, but the evidence alone just screams fuck-up, doesn't it? 
     I've had a lot of familial encounters of the fuck-up kind as of late.  My mom flew into Council Blufs week before last to see her people and then to come stay with me for the week.  She stayed with her niece, L. whose eldest daughter B. is a class A fuck-up.   Mom's people are generally successes and therefore have no background in dealing with her, besides vague recollections that my sisters and I  went wild after high school.  At the age of 19, B. has been so infantilized by the dual messages of a Nazarene upbringing and junky One Tree 9021-OC culture that she can't even be a functional fuck-up, one that at least can scrape up beer money and get a shady apartment and drive a Council Bluffs Piece of Shit Special.  She's one of those high-dollar, name-brand purse, trustafarian without the trust fund kind of Fuck-Ups, one of those new breeds that I totally don't get.  When I went to pick Mom up from Council Bluffs, B.  was upstairs raging around her house and a bunch of her stuff was strewn around the driveway like she'd tossed them out the window.  L. just looked defeated.  I offered to go kick the Fuck-Up's ass for her and L. actually seemed to consider my offer for a long second before sighing and shaking her head.  The light died in L.'s eyes as she told us goodbye and turned to go face B. and her bullshit yet again.
     Mom spent the week here and we talked.  A lot.  Mostly about the past and the kids and the states of the union Miller and Lorenz.  Mom turned 55 this year and is still working retail a few days a week.  She had kids young and went back to college for an associate's degree in business when I was about 10.  She did well in school but couldn't seem to quite pull it together to have a viable career, what with my dad being crazy and my sisters and I squabbling over extremely finite resources like prison inmates until one by one, we stormed out of the house at the age of 18.   I was the only one of us who managed to graduate from high school.  She has regrets, I have regrets, but there's no fixing a lot of those other than trying to do better by my kids.    
     Then last weekend, my aunt Culline  (nope, not a typo.  Just ask my aunts Therese and Jode) turned 50 last weekend and her husband, my uncle Casey (the only husband besides Corey who has managed to stay married to a Miller woman for an appreciable length of time) threw her a big ole party at their favorite bar, Big T's, in their one-square-mile-sized town of Tabor, IA. The occasion brought out a lot of people I haven't seen in ages, all the relatives who weren't on the outs or planning rival parties for the following night (seriously, my cousin Skylar who, by the way, has never actually spoken to me voluntarily, had her graduation kegger scheduled for Sunday night and expected all and sundry, even those of us with long drives home and jobs on Monday morning, to attend).
     Now besides my dad and my aunt Culline, both of whom have had steady jobs since they were teenagers, the Millers are fuck-ups in a different way:  they are allowed to fuck up as long as they want, allowed to live at home and make all the bad choices they can survive.  The theory goes that eventually the fuck-ups tucker themselves out eventually, calm down and get steady jobs.  Seems to work for them.  They may be clannish and backwards but they can at least wipe their own asses, so to speak.   They're really fun at parties.  Sure, they regularly shoot themselves in the foot, but they hobble to work the next morning.  Usually.   So I've got bunches of directionless cousins wandering around, mostly worried about money in six dollar increments because that's how much a pitcher of Bud Lite goes for at Big T's.
     My sister Megan drove up with my dad from Tennessee for the festivities and to retrieve Mom in the process.  Megan's living back at home now at the age of 31.  She and her long-time boyfriend split up a couple of years ago and she was left with a bunch of debt, a crippled old car not worth fixing that she only recently got paid off, and a house she couldn't afford or maintain on her server income.  She's had to rent it out and is trying to figure out a way to sell it in the crummy housing market.  Her job is demanding even though it doesn't pay much, and when she's off, all she wants to do is forget work until two seconds before she has to show up the next day.  She just can't get ahead even living with my folks.  After we staggered away from the party, during the sobering up phase of the wee morning hours, we had a long talk about how trapped she felt and it just broke my heart not to be able to sweep in and rescue her.  A couple of grand would totally fix.
     So that leaves me.  My triplets are going to be ten years old this summer and I have to pick something to be when I grow up.  Something viable.  Something less follow my dreams and more make money to make dreams happen.  I've got a couple of years to go to school for something before the triplets hit middle school--you would not believe how much more expensive maintenance on a 6th grader is compared to a 5th grader--so my goal is to be doing some full time work by the fall of 2012 (if the world doesn't end, which, admittedly, would solve all my problems, but seems like kind of a bummer.)
     I've been watching all these direction-less women in my life kind of wandering around and have decided that I'm not having that.  The best thing I can see myself doing in the next two years is a nursing program at the local community college.  The nurses I know are by-and-large happy with what they do despite the hard work, and it seems like if I could get over my wee blood issues (namely, feeling faint at the sight of too much of it spilling out of me or my kids), I'd be great at it.  I'm so not squeamish about any other bodily functions, though.  And you know I've got a great bedside manner.  
     I want to have a thing I do so I don't have to worry about  what I'm going to be when I grow up anymore.  Seriously, the question is driving me insane.
     I want to do good.  
     I want to make good money so CDL doesn't have to worry so much about finances and so I can help my family. 
     I don't want to spend any more time in school than I have to for I hates it, precious.
     I don't want a desk job--my ADD won't let me sit still that long.

    What do we think?  Advice?  

2 Weeks' reading

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It - Maile Meloy 
    Excellent domestic drama short stories.  I can see why it made everyone's best of 2009 list.
A Hat Full of Sky - Terry Pratchett 
    Second in the Wee Free Men series.  I'm gonna read these to my girls because the protagonist is exactly the kind of girl I want them to be.
Making Room: Finding Space in Unexpected Places. - Wendy Adler Jordan  
     It's no House of Leaves, but I'm a sucker for keen little nooks and crannies design, lost spaces and found rooms.
Saturday Night Hat: Quick, Easy Hatmaking for the Downtown Girl - Eugenia Kim 
     That pretty much says it all.  I want a cloche hat that actually fits so I think I'm going to have to make mah own.
The Alternative Hero - Tim Thorton
     An actual real live bassist writing a love story to his favorite early 90's Brit Alternative bands.  There is plot, but it is thin, yet I didn't mind a bit.
Feed - M.T. Anderson
     In the future, the internet will be jacked into our heads.  But it's the AOL kind of internet that blasts ads into your head 24-7.  
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow - Jessica Day George 
     Classic fairytale.

Watching: Sopranos season 3. Yes, I'm a little late to the party but it is still amazingly good.  Am walking around talking in an Italian accent all of a sudden and ordering capicola at the meat counter.  LOL Iowans call it "hot ham".
 And Hereby Vow to Banish From my Life Forever:

1.  Paying attention to fashion.  
     Seriously, why do I bother?  It doesn't fit me, I can't afford it, I have nowhere to wear it, and spending major cash on something so fleeting as clothing offends my basic belief that storing up treasures on Earth is incredibly selfish and pointless.  

2. Feeling beset upon because my stuff isn't as nice as other people's stuff
     If I had nice stuff, I'd just have to expend energy protecting it, caring for it, worrying that other people might steal it, and eventually it would sink into my rapidly growing pile of Stuff I Wanted Two Years Ago that Is Now A Millstone Around My Neck.

3. Worrying about getting a job right now
    Watching the girls hang out on Christmas vacation, they still require a lot of supervision.  If I were offered a job tomorrow I couldn't accept it.  Why am I borrowing trouble from the future?  Next fall will come soon enough.

4. Wishing I had a different body
     Seriously, I've had it this long and am still ambiguous about its general shape.  Why do I still do this?  It's Stupid Beyond All Reckoning.  It doesn't change despite all the crazy things I've done to it.  The best I can do at this point is to try and preserve it for future use.  

5. Feeling vaguely sheepish about the fact that raising kids is all I do.
    It's a bitch of a job.  There's nothing left of me after I'm done with that every day.  Why do I feel like I should be doing something else on top of that?  Why do I let other people suggest to me that I could be doing other things with my non-existent free time?  

Okay so there, non-stop tape loop of feeling sorry for myself and beset-upon on all sides.  I banish these five major subjects of contention from the list of things that Keep Coming Up Because my Brain Won't Shut the Hell Up.  I purge the Google Reader of all links to fashion pages and diet help and design journals and lists of things to buy.

Trip of a lifetime

So Corey and I went to California a couple of weeks ago with a few other couples, Brian and Jenn and Jerry and Mindi, (later to be joined by Mark and Jen)  to see our friend Dave Kilzer finally wed.  We decided to go ahead and make a big deal out of it and stay a week in San Francisco.  It was fantastic.

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More later!

Jun. 6th, 2009

Oh my Livejournal darlings, how I have missed you!  My laptop was dying a slow death and had no idea where the internet was, despite repeated reminders, and so I just avoided any major online usage altogether.  No more, I say!  My sweetie bought a new lappy for me! 

Goodbye ancient Toshiba; hello Dell Vostro 1520!  You are sleek and strong and have lots of storage space!  How I love your matte black finish and wide screen!  Your slight 6.75 pounds sits lightly on my lap and your slender frame fits into my bag with ease!  Together you and I shall make lots of wonderful picture posts and funny essays to make up for my complete lack of communication with my LJ beloveds.  We shall replace all the posts the Toshiba ate.  We will Hide-button all the people we don't actually know that well on Facebook so we don't have to hang out on that den of stupidity any longer than we have to.  This shall be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  And with your complete accident coverage and extended warranty, I hope it shall be a long one!

Things have been kind of quiet around here this spring.  We've done a few home improvement-type projects and I'm in the process of ripping all my vinyl albums to mp3 so we can put the records in storage and move Anna's room into the den as Mia no longer wishes to keep the same hours as the Sister Collective and needs her own room.  Also, school is finally out and Anna is currently en-route to Tennessee to spend the first bit of the summer with my parents.  She'll be 12 in July so we're hoping she'll get one last wonderful summer with all the grown-ups who love her best before we, you know, turn all slow, stupid, and uncool on her.

We also broke down and got an XBOX 360 for CDL's and my birthdays and our anniversary.  I always put the kibosh on buying one in the past as they are expensive, prone to breakage, and didn't have any game titles I wanted to play, but that was before Resident Evil 5 came out for everything but the Wii.  Killing zombies together is a part of what makes the Gina/CDL alliance work as well as it does--I knew It would be folly for us to neglect this framework of our relationship--and we caved like of cards.  We bought the red RE5 console bundle and sent the kids off to the farm while we had a lovely zombie-killing little honeymoon.  Since then we've also played Left 4 Dead (anybody up for a live game?), Prince of Persia (it's a renter unless you are a complete masochist) and I've just now finished Bioshock, which was atmospheric, creepy fun.  Now I'm on the look-out for a copy of Beautiful Katamari and waiting patiently for Brutal Legend, the new one by DoubleFine that put out my favorite odd-ball title: Psychonauts.  Apparently in Brutal Legend (I think there's supposed to be umlauts in there somewhere but I have no idea how to execute those with the new lappy) you're a roadie, voiced by Jack Black, who has died and ended up in Hell, which you must fight your way through to Rock Heaven.  I'm so there! 

About the only major change I can think of to report is that we're getting a puppy in a couple of weeks! Yes, yes, I know.  I always said I didn't have room in my life to tend one more digestive system but at this point, with the kids and the minivan and living in Iowa, who am I to quibble about a minor detail of the idyllic suburban life when CDL and the girls would so very much like a dog?  And since they let me pick the breed, Pembroke Welsh Corgi (I blame Cowboy Bebop and cardigirl  for the attraction) I'm pretty excited about the prospect of a little furball running around, myself.  I know other women have baby dreams when their shortees grow up but I never had until we paid the holding fee for a puppy and *boom*, I'm having crazy dreams where I have to protect this baby bundled up in a blanket, a baby that I'm feeling kind of ambivalent about having.  Then when I lift the corner of the blanket and see it's just a puppy and not a real baby swaddled in all that fabric, I am so incredibly relieved I practically thank it for not being a human and am quite willing, then, to protect it from the zombies and the long drop out the open window.  The kids are too excited for words, as well.  Poor Socks is going to be *so* annoyed.  That puppy is going to love my girls so much that they're going to realize Socks never really loved them at all except for their body heat and thumbs for opening food containers. 

Okay here's what happened:

The plague has hit my house and I'm up to  my armpits in sick people.  And then the washing machine broke again.  And it's January.  Despite the fact that I'm wrapped in the pillowy cushion of Wellbutrin, watching the alcohol intake and getting regular exercise, the Winter Depression Vulture is no longer idly circling but perched on my shoulders and licking its chops, the presumptuous bastard.

Yesterday I'd finished tearing apart the washing machine (broken motor coupler, this time: parts on order) and realized it was getting late.  I asked Anna, who has been home from school with a cold but who was obviously feeling better, to unload and reload the dishwasher as I needed room to make dinner.  Well, she put it off until I asked her twice more and then left a bunch of odd-sized dishes--serving bowl, platter, etc.--she didn't quite know what to do with on the table.  Meanwhile, Mia was getting sicker by the hour and there was no cold medicine left in the entire house because for their bout with the cold, Anna and Gabby had already cleaned out the entire stash.  I threw dinner in the oven (home-made chicken pot pies:  the ultimate in comfort food, even though I cheated and used store-bought crusts) in the oven,  grabbed my outdoor gear, told Anna where to put the odd-sized clean dishes she'd left out and asked her to get out plates for her sisters to set table while I ran to the store. 

I was out in the garage with Claire, feeling for the car in the dark (for some reason the lights in there don't work despite having changed out the light switch--I'm guessing the mice chewed the wiring, which would explain the horrible smell in the coat closet: electrocuted mouse) when I heard an ungodly crash.  I ran into the house to find broken crockery everywhere. 

Anna, probably feeling put upon for being asked to do her normal everyday chore that I pay her 6 bucks a week for, wasn't very careful about picking up my Wedding-Gift-Cobalt-Fiesta-Ware-Covered-Serving-Bowl to put the serving platter away.  The lid fell off and hit the counter and shattered my favorite mug, a souvenir from Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo with ranks of  pinned voodoo dolls on it.  My best friend Barb sent it to me long ago, which is sentimental value enough, but it happened to arrive at a perfect moment when I was ready to run away and become a crazy bag lady.  I'm pretty sure that was the only reason why I didn't just start walking to Florida with the contents of my liquor cabinet in a shopping cart and entire wardobe on my back that day. 

I'm not too attatched to most of my stuff, really.  The few things I do care about, I usually keep out of harm's way, for the children are nightmare roommates.  Because I was in a hurry, though, this one time, Anna wiped out a couple of my favorites in one thoughtless second. 

It's all my fault, really.  But still. 

So a good crying jag and a big glass of Templeton Rye (thank you Joe and Danelle!) last night and I'm mostly over it today. 

I'm still plotting revenge, though.  Oh it won't be mean and only just a little spiteful: remember how you always hated your parents for waking you up before 10:00 on the weekends when you were a teenager?  How you thought they were being completely unreasonable for not letting you sleep until 2?  I always said I would never do that to my teenage kids because I remember the unfairness of it all.  Well, their asses are up and at 'em now. 

This having kids thing is bullshit.

Christmas on the road!

Now that was different.  CDL and I loaded the kids and the presents up in the van and drove12 hours to my parents' house to spend the holiday with them.  We'd never traveled as a family for Christmas before and now I know why there's all those movies about Christmas travel hijinks.  It was fun to spend the time with my folks and the kids had a ball.  It was also my youngest sister's 30th birthday, so much celebrating was in order.  I drank an appalling amount of alcohol all week but felt fine.  Go figure. 

The drive home was harrowing.  An ice storm hit just as we were crossing over into Iowa, and the interstate was a sheet of glass before we hit Iowa City.  We just pulled off and got a hotel room, which was much nicer than ending up in the ditch like countless other cars and semi trucks we saw the next morning on the drive home.  Some of them were flipped over or had gone a long way down into a ravine.  I know CDL really wanted to drive straight through and get home--he can't help it, he's male--but he put up with me freaking out quite patiently, even when the first hotels we tried were full. 

I made a great haul this year, as far as presents go: most notably the Wii fit board, which has been giving me grief about all those extra holiday pounds. I didn't think it would actually do much to help get rid of said extra pounds but as I'm sitting here, my whole body aches from the Wii Fit  yoga routine.  I have to say that I'm quite impressed with the little guy.  Socks the cat gave me a space heater which is keeping me nice and toasty.  My mom and Dad gave me some two-tone, double tongue lavender and rust low-top Converse All-Stars, which I am totally in love with.  Corey's mom got me both Alton Brown cookbooks and a cast-iron grill pan.  My sister Megan got me some wonderful chocolates.

 The kids got some awesome toys this year: Santa brought the whole family lazer tag guns and Megan gave them a rock tumbler and a drill so they can make jewelry!  I have always secretly wanted a rock tumbler.  It's down in the basement churning away right now.  By Sunday it ought to be ready for the next grade of polishing grit.  I'm so excited to see what comes out!  They got some great loot I'm going to have all kinds of fun playing with, really. 

Oh and for those of you with Wii's, The World of Goo is awesome.  Tim sent it to us for Christmas and it owns me.  Am having a little trouble with stage 3 but I'll get there eventually.