Friday, June 26, 2009

You Say It's Your Birthday

Two years old, Mr. Baby. Your nickname is more fitting by the day, as you toddle between the boundaries of infancy and boyhood.

At this time last year, I was in a panic, facing our first major separation as I re-entered the corporate world. Twelve months later, I still miss you every day, but it’s a comfort to see how smoothly you move among those who love and care for you. I’ve been so lucky to have the help and effort of people who adore you, and whom you adore back: the amazing Mama KT and absolutely indispensable Kristy and RJA. Whenever I see you after time apart, you light up and run to me, but you do not dissolve in tears of frustration or relief. I know you love me, I know you need me, but I also know you’re perfectly happy when I’m gone. It’s a little bittersweet, but it’s the very best I could ask for.

My memories of your second year of life span such a wide range. You went from crawling, nursing, essentially unintelligible, and near-bald to running, juice-glass-navigating, sentence-speaking and near-bald. You have grown so much (well, developmentally, anyway) and shown more and more of the boy bursting to get out of your tiny body. You can already hold your own in a house full of older kids, none of whom can help but be charmed by your happy, silly nature. You are worshipped by your big sister, even when her displays of reverence wander into the overbearing.

So many things have changed for us over the past year, and not every transition has been seamless, but through it all, you have remained my joyful, funny, sweet little boy. We’ve got more changes coming up, with the biggest being your entry into an official pre-school, but I feel confident promising you that things are, in general, settling down for us. Allegedly “terrible” twos or not, I’m looking forward to the year ahead as a time for our family to find peace. Thankfully, you already seem to know where it’s kept.

Happy birthday, my wondrous boy. I love you so much.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What A Way To Make A Livin'

Okay, it was a few months ago, but I've just figured out how to get the pictures online, so I am now so very pleased to present the results of my grand cubicle makeover.

When I went from working in my own store to working in a high-walled cube, it was a tough adjustment. I spent my first weeks on the job envisioning how I wanted to change things, and I bought art, fabric and accessories to bring that vision to reality. Now, I'm not especially crafty, nor particularly abundant in free time, so it took a while to put all those pieces together. The biggest part of the job was measuring for, cutting, and hemming all of the fabric. I used a heat-fused fabric tape, and it took foooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr, even with Kristy taking lengthy turns with the iron. If I ever do this again, I will buy a sewing machine at the outset.

And so, with no further ado ...


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand ... after!

If you want all the technical details, I used a chocolate microfiber on the cube walls, kept in place by silver-headed upholstery tacks. (This is not the best method, but it's working for now.) The design on the file cabinets is a wall decal from; it's multiple pieces and can be configured in any way I want (and is, at least in theory, non-damaging to surfaces; I still haven't pressed them really, really hard into the cabinets).

I wanted things to look cohesive without being themey, and I didn't want to clash with the office's other decor, so I settled on sort of a retro-natural feel. The kind of watercolory image on the left side is a canvas-mounted print of Minnehaha Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi that runs right behind my parents' house. I used a drywall hook to secure this to the cube wall. The silver-framed picture on the right is a vintage postcard-style print of Northwestern University (pre-arch), featuring University Hall, home of the English Department.

I have to say, I really had no idea what a huge reaction these changes would generate. For several weeks afterward, people from all over the company, secretaries to VPs, stopped by to say how much they liked it. I'm still not quite done with it (those black wire mesh desk accessories have to go!), but even as it is, it feels so good. I spend more waking hours at that desk than anywhere else, and it was really important to me not to hate, or even feel nothing about, my surroundings. I needed to make it a comfortable, appealing place to be. I would enthusiastically encourage anyone in a mass-produced work environment to do the same.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just Take Those Old Records Off The Shelf

I’m trying to get over the stabs of pain caused by my children being away for the next ten days by thinking of ways to enjoy this solo time. So far I’ve come up with:

1. Reading
2. Watching movies
3. Sleeping soundly all night
4. Not having to set an example with my diet (read: Cool Ranch Doritos for dinner)
5. Yoga
6. Reading
7. Going to (free!) shows (yay Shell season!)
8. Naps
9. Reading
10. Maybe even working on a fiction contest entry

Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Don't Grumble, Give A Whistle

I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to tumult. Far from it, actually. I have always lived in a way designed, very deliberately, to avoid major conflicts, serious disasters and just general everyday havoc. I like peace. I prefer calm. And, up until the last year or so, I have always considered myself very capable of handling the stresses that did come my way in an easygoing, big-picture-viewing sort of way.

But then, well, there were just too many. You know that list of the most stressful life events – stuff like death, divorce, moving, new baby, job loss, new job, and financial calamities? Well, that pretty much sums up my last 18 months. And somewhere during that period, my ability to cope slid down into the negative numbers. From then on, everything bothered me. Everything stressed me. Everything that happened was viewed with … what’s the opposite of rose-colored glasses? Blue? Brown? Opaque? Whatever, it was those. So although I wasn’t voluntarily clinging to every negative event in my life, I often saw my days as just one crappy thing after the other. Not every day, mind you, but a lot of them. Too many.

On Monday of this week, I logged onto my credit card’s online account interface. On the very front page, I was informed in big bold letters that the card issuer had run out of money and therefore canceled all accounts. Now, this would be a simple inconvenience to most people, but for me, it was pretty disastrous. When I closed the store, I rolled all of my credit cards into a repayment plan, which rendered them non-usable. The plan also required that I not open any new accounts during the repayment period. No problem, I thought, since I kept one card out of the plan and would have it available for large purchases or emergencies. Guess which account just got closed? Yup. That’s the one. I have about 40 more repayments to go, so that news rendered me cash-only until 2013. Pretty ungreat.

On Tuesday of this week, I received an email saying a PayPal payment had been mysteriously denied by my bank, and upon investigation of that fact, I discovered that the Tennessee Department of Revenue had slapped a lien on my checking account for late payment of sales tax. And yes, that’s my fault. But, but … I had contacted them two weeks prior to arrange a payment plan and they never got back to me. And I forgot about it for awhile, because I was busy being audited by the IRS. I managed to get a tax enforcement agent on the phone and worked out a plan that will unfreeze my account, yet will require every spare cent I can scrape up and probably cancel any hopes I had of taking a vacation this summer. Or fall. Or … ever.

So that sucked. It all sucked. It really, really sucked.

And then I was making dinner – Taco Tuesday - and we were short on tortillas. I figured if we rationed very carefully, the kids could all get full on hard tacos. I took the taco shells out of the box and every single one of them was broken. Every one. And I looked at those stupid broken taco shells and I cried.

Like I said, I’m not hooked on all this stress, but at that moment, I felt like I hit rock-bottom in the way that forces addicts to see that enough is enough and this shit has got to change. When a 14th generation Minnesotan is crying over broken taco shells, it has gone too far.

Hence the past tense about my bad attitude. Okay, it’s been less than 24 hours, but I feel like a sweeping change has come over me. I’m tried of being upset about everything. Just bone-tired of it. Without even consciously trying, I’ve suddenly started seeing things in a more positive way (Hey, at least I’m not paying 35% interest on that credit card anymore!), and now that I’ve begun, I like the feel of it. The disasters have come and the disasters will go. There is still plenty of good stuff, and the rest of it will just have to get handled the best way I know how. That’s the outlook I’ve had for most of my life, and I want it back. I want to be me again, instead of the quivering ball of stress that’s been wearing my clothes for the last year.

So here I go.