Thursday, September 29, 2005

Feels Like a Monday

This is just one of those days when I hate my life.

I had to make half a dozen phone calls this morning to straighten up other people's mistakes. I'm so tired of having to suffer the consequences when other people screw up.

First I had to call back and forth to our pharmacy and insurance company to straighten out one of Ethan's meds. The pharmacy only filled it for a 3 week supply. I know we got this drug authorized for a the full dose and I'm tired of paying a full copay for less than a month's medicine. But the pharmacy insisited that they tried and the insurance company wouldn't authorize it. So I called the insurance company, who claimed the pharmacy didn't run the claim right, and that it was authorized. So I had to call the pharmacy back, who insisted the insurance company had denied the full claim, but they'll try again, and oh yeah, it worked. Now Jete has to drive back to the pharmacy to get the rest of the dose.

So. Annoying.

Then I had to return a call to an ambulance company who claimed we owed them over $1000 from Ethan's trip home from the hospital in March. I explained that the hospital promised to cover those charges. The ambulance company said they had the same information, but no money had been sent. And if I didn't do something about it, we'd be held responsible for the full amount. So I called the hospital, and they put me on hold for about 10 minutes and came back to explain that they had sent the check, but the ambulance company lost it so they had to reissue it. But that everything was handled and we shouldn't be responsible. Then the ambulance company called back to apologize, and said everything was taken care of. But it isn't really. I'm stressed and tired and didn't want to waste half an hour of my work day dealing with this.

And I'm still putting off making more calls. I've got to call Ethan's doctor to beg him to write 3 different letters explaining that Ethan's Sick and needs Stuff, so that I can send these back to the insurance company and the equipment company and the state so we can try to get back some of this money we're pissing out. And I've got to call the school and the bus company, and figure something out about Ethan going to school. And I've got to call the insurance company and figure out if we've reached the max service dates for Ethan's physical therapy or not.

I just don't feel like it anymore. I'm just so tired of being stuck as the middle man in these big corporations' power games with each other. I want a break from everything. I want a vacation, and someone else can fill in for me for a while.

On top of everything else, I'm tired of reading articles like this. I get it, okay? I'm going to die young. Can you just leave me alone about it for five minutes? It's all I read these days. I'm going to die young because I had preeclampsia. I'm going to die young because I'm overweight. I'm going to die young because I have BORDERLINE (not even technically high yet) blood pressure.

It's a freakin' miracle I've survived this long.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Game, Set, Match

I got to the testing center right on time. It's a small facility that handles all kinds of standardized tests. We had to sign in and write what test we were taking. I was the only one taking an actuarial test. Almost everyone else was there to take the GRE's or the latest NASD test. I got the feeling they don't get many of my kind in there.

I waited for a little while, then an older woman came out of the back room and called me in. We went over the checklist and she verified my ID and legal calculator. She asked which test I was taking. When I told her, she said, "Oh my! Are you one of those brainy people? Good for you!"

Even though we had just met, I started talking openly. She was one of those people who just encourage conversation. I got into more detail than necessary and told her I wasn't completely prepared, and I was pretty sure I'd have to repeat the test. She just smiled and told me to think positive. I repeated my new favorite mantra. "All I can do is my best," I said. She patted my arm and said, "That's right! Just do your best. You'll be fine."

"The truth is, I probably should have taken this test ten years ago," I told her. She looked shocked and said, "Ten years ago? You must have been in diapers!" Ah, the kindness of strangers.

She brought me into the exam room, and I was assigned to lucky computer number 5. (Well, one of my lucky numbers, anyway.) I hoped it was a good sign. She gave me my scratch paper and pencils and left me with a wish of good luck.

I went through the brief tutorial on how to use the computer test, then hit the button to begin. The first problem was something about an exponential distribution, or standard deviation, or covariance. I couldn't even tell you for sure. All I know is I had no clue how to even begin to solve it. I laughed under my breath. First problem, and already I was stumped.

I decided to go all the way through to the end. I'd work on the problems that I could solve and skip the rest. It took about 45 minutes, but I went through all 30 problems. I had solved exactly 4.

The second time through, I gave the questions a closer look. I did figure out how to solve a few more. After another hour, I had now worked out about 10 problems. I honestly had no idea how to solve the rest. It was time to start guessing.

I went through the rest of the test trying to make educated guesses. Most of the time, I couldn't even do that. So instead, I picked answers that I liked. The year I was born. CG's birthday. Our wedding anniversary. Might as well have fun with it.

I finished up in a little over two hours. It would have taken me the full three hours if I knew how to do the rest of the problems. I didn't see the point in going back over my work, since more than half of my answers were guesses anyway. I signed out and told my newfound friend that I'd probably see her again in a few months.

I know I failed the test. It will be six weeks before I get the official results, but I'm already formulating my plan going forward. I'm going to continue studying, even though this test is offically over. I'm going to go back through my old homework assignments and tests and do as many practice problems that I can. Practice really does make perfect, especially in math. And I was really out of practice going into this test.

I still stand by my statement that this endeavor was not a failure. This was an insane year, between Ethan's surgery and CG getting more mobile and several major household renovations. I'm proud of myself for getting this far. I know more about the test and what topics I need to focus on. I have already relearned and mastered a good portion of the material. I've just got to finish the job.

The truth is, I still don't know if I even want to be an actuary. But what I do know is that I want to pass this test. Then I want to move on and pass the second test. By the time I do that, I should have a better idea of what I want to be when I grow up. Even if I don't, it will be always be an asset to have on my resume.

More importantly, I will be living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Or at least old tricks that they haven't used in a decade or so.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ouch, My Head Hurts

Study, study, study. Think, think, think. Just taking a short break. Honest.

I have a newfound respect for the Me of 10 years ago. She was really smart! She knew all kinds of stuff! She could come up with creative ways at solving problems! She remembered hundreds of theorems and rules and definitions!

The Me of 10 years later? Not so much.

I have had the joy of discovering that - not only did I forget most of the principles of probability - I've also forgotten the fundamentals of calculus. So while I relearn what a Normal Distribution is versus a Poisson Distribution, I've also got to relearn what an integral is, and what a derivative is, and what's so darn special about the letter e anyway.

(And don't be fooled. I have no idea what a Normal or Poisson Distribution is. No. Clue. But I'm starting to get the impression that I'm supposed to.)

The good news is, the test is multiple choice. And, there are no penalties for wrong answers. So even if I don't understand the question, I can guess. There are thirty problems, each with 5 possible answers. I've studyed long enough to know that the probability of me guessing my way to a perfect score is:

(1/5)^30 = 0.000000000000000000001073741824

Which, well, statistically speaking, is ZERO.

The sad thing is that word has apparantly spread that I'm taking this test. People who I hadn't even told are wishing me luck. That makes me failing this test just a liiiiiittle more public than I'd like it to be.

Oh, well. I can only do my best.

Diving back in for more...

Better than the Best

For the second night this week, I found myself trekking out to Satan's Club at 9 PM.

(Please forgive me. I usually try not to shop there, since they're evil and all. But sometimes, I can't help myself. They're only 5 minutes away. And? They're open until 10:00 PM. TEN. PM. That means that even after CG is settled down to sleep, I've still got two whole hours of shopping bliss ahead of me.)

Tonight, I was in search of a calculator for The Big Test. Late this afternoon, I realized that:

1. The Big Test is tomorrow.
2. Only 6 specific models of calculators can be used for the test.
3. I don't have any of these calculators.
4. Did I mention the test is TO.MOR.ROW?

While I love the logic side of math, I'm not so good at the crunching-numbers-in-my-head business. So, being the smart girl that I am, I figured I should probably go buy a calculator.

Based on price and availablility, I settled on the "sounds scarier than it is" TI-30Xa. On closer inspection, I'm pretty sure I owned this exact same calculator before. In another life. Like, oh, high school. But since college was almost 10 years ago, and high school was, um, before that, I don't think it'll be turning up anytime soon.

Walking around the store, I felt peaceful bliss. I can't even explain it. It's the feeling only a true procrastinator knows. Shopping (or blogging, for that matter) when you should be studying. It's that feeling that the 14 hours you have left before The Big Test is forever and a day. Even though 8 of the hours will be spent sleeping, 2 hours peeing, showering, and eating, and 3 hours prying a crying toddler from your leg.

(Quick question for the math lovers in the crowd - how many hours does that leave for studying?
Answer - not long enough.)

I've accepted the fact that I didn't do what I had to do to pass this test. I cut myself a lot of breaks and didn't take the Buckling Down seriously. I waited too long to really focus, and once I did I realized I had forgotten more than I thought I did.

And I'll be honest. I considered cancelling. Paying the 60 dollar "administrative fee" and trying again in a year or so. Unfortunately, I even procrastinated too long for that. Last Friday was the cut-off for cancelling. In a way, it was a relief to know there was no backing out. I have no choice. I might as well go forward, try, and (probably) fail.

The friend who talked me into this catastrophe is one of the funniest women I know. She had terrible year last year. One bad thing after another. She had major surgery and had complications for months afterwards. To finish off the year, her father died, right before the holidays.

As many people do, she had an awakening in the midst of all this tragedy: She can't stop the Bad Things. She can only get up every day and do her best. Do the best at her job. Be the best mother that she can. She's going to screw up. She's going to make mistakes. But none of that matters, so she doesn't let it stress her out. Instead, she says to her boss, her husband, her friends, herself: "I can only do my best." It takes the pressure off.

There was a time when I couldn't stand to fail this test. I'd be stressed out, trying to do anything I could to NOT FAIL. I would have made myself miserable with worry about my score, what everyone would think of me if I didn't get a good score.

I'm beyond all that now. In fact, I don't really care if I pass or fail.

Okay, that's a total lie. Sure, I'd love to pass. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I know the difference between getting a failing score and being a failure. I've learned a lot these past few months, about math, my goals, and what my limits are. That alone may have been worth the exam fee.

I read part of the CAS syllabus for the 2005 actuarial exams. I found the following excerpt particularly interesting:

Motivation is the single most important ingredient in learning-and in passing examinations. Motivation suffers when candidates worry about or are preoccupied with personal matters or other problems. This suggests that candidates should keep studying and examination taking at the very top of their lists of priorities...

(Emphasis mine)

This hit on the very reason I had been waffling about the actuarial field in the first place. I don't want a job where I have to put studying or my career at the "top of my list of priorities". My priorities are already set in stone. They are:

1. The boys (and Jete)
2. My family & friends
3. Personal fulfillment

My career is a part of #3. But in reality, it is just a means to an end. I use it to keep #1 happy. To help us keep little things like our house. Our cars. Medical insurance. The internet. Chocolate chip cookies from time to time.

I'm gonna do my best tomorrow. That's all I can do. I may not pass the test. But even if I don't, I have no regrets. I will never wish I spent that extra hour studying instead of playing with CG after dinner. Or that I took the last 15 minutes of the night to do some more practice problems instead of discussing the day with Jete. I'd do the same thing again in a heartbeat.

For now, I'm off to try to review a few more things before I go to sleep. I've taken tomorrow off so that I can spend the morning studying some more. All I know is that by tomorrow night, this test will be behind me one way or another.

After that, I'll be on to more important tasks. I've got to decide what the boys will wear for Halloween. I'm going to take CG pumpkin picking for the first time. I'd like to work on my Ethan scrapbook some more. Jete and I may even schedule dinner - alone! - to celebrate our fifth anniversary next month.

Hey, what can I say. A girl's got to have her priorities.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Spoiled Brat

I hate scary movies, thrillers, any kind of "on the edge of your seat" films. Honestly, I don't get it. Why pay someone to frighten me when I do it so well all by myself?

But I love movie trailers for thrillers. The coming attractions are usually my favorite part of the movie experience. I get intrigued, and by the time the movie is released, I'm desparate to find out what happens. The only problem is, I'm too scared to actually watch the movie.

When The Forgotten came out, I was hooked by the trailers. Every time I saw them, I was dying to know: What happened to Julianne Moore's kid? Why didn't Goose know who she was? It was driving me crazy.

One night, I Googled the film and ended up at the message boards at IMDB. Well, to my surprise, some kind soul was good enough to put up a "SPOILER ALERT!" entry and detail the entire secret behind the movie. (Kind of lame. I was relieved I hadn't paid to see it.) In another message, I found a link this website with even more spoilers.

This was awesome. A nosy person's home land.

Never again will I wonder about plotlines. Never again will I watch a film peeking between my fingers just so I can see how it ended. I'm free.

Honestly, between the kids and work and everything else, I'm not free to go to many movies. Most films go from the big screen to DVD to HBO to TNT before I ever get a chance to see them. I always felt like I was missing something. But now, I feel like I'm in on a few secrets. It's fun.

(Too bad E and I didn't read the spoilers for Just Like Heaven. That's an hour and a half of our lives we'll never get back.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Foul Balls

I'm tired of talking about my drama. The school department and the bus company and the insurance company and the trip to Boston tomorrow and all the other CRAP I deal with on a daily basis.

So instead, here's a funny story about balls.

Last Thursday, CS made dinner for us with some leftovers she found in the fridge. The main dish was a modified version of Italian rice balls. She's a great cook who can improvise easily, and because of our limited groceries, she had to. Instead of Italian rice, she used sushi rice; instead of mozarella, she used cheddar. Her skill is that, even though she is making substitutions, things still taste good.

I got home after work and she had the rice balls and some other side dishes all prepared for Jete and I to eat. Unfortunately, Jete had to work overtime and we never sat down to a real meal. I was busy with the boys, so I just snacked. I had a couple Italian-style quesadillas that she had made, and I tried one of the rice balls. I thought it was very good, but I was too full to eat any more than one.

Jete got home at 9:00 PM and was too tired to eat much. He just finished the quesadillas I had been snacking on. I wrapped up the rice balls and put them back in the fridge.

Fast forward to Friday. Leaving work, I was already a little hungry. Jete was going out to dinner with Just Plain Mike, so I'd be home alone with the boys again. I was trying to figure out what I could have for dinner, when I remembered the rice balls. I'd have those.

I'm sure you can probably figure out where this is going.

After my half hour commute, I was looking forward to dinner. I walked in the door, and the first thing I noticed was the empty container on the counter. The rice ball dish.

I walked into the living room. Jete was sitting on the couch. I was trying to compose myself. Maybe there was a reasonable explanation.

"Did you eat the rice balls?" I asked.

Jete looked at me, puzzled. "Yeah. Why?"

This is when I lost it a little bit.


"Not until 7:00. I couldn't wait until then. I was hungry." It was 5:30.

"Why didn't you have a bowl of cereal or something? What am I supposed to eat?"

"I don't know... I just finished them 2 minutes ago. I thought I was doing you a favor by finishing them off. So they wouldn't sit in the fridge forever."

"FOREVER? They were only in there for TWELVE HOURS!"

"I don't know what to say. I'm sorry."

Sorry wasn't cutting it with me. "There's no other food in the house. You get to go out. You get to go to a Real Restaurant and have a Real Meal and on top of all that - you go and eat the only food in the house. What about me?"

He was starting to get mad, too. "What do you want me to do. I said I was sorry!"

I tried to lay the guilt trip on."You know, I was really looking forward to them. The whole ride home. All day."

"How was I supposed to know you wanted them?"

"You could have asked me! You could have called me!"

He started to turn it on me. "Well why didn't you tell me you wanted them?!"

"What was I supposed to say? Throw it into daily conversation? Call you up at lunch and say, 'I can't wait to eat those balls tonight?'"

Then. He started to laugh. ARGHH. That just made me more angry.

"Fine, laugh. Whatever. I'll just go eat some CRACKERS or something." I stormed out of the living room.

He followed me into the kitchen, still sort of laughing. He tried being nice to me. I turned my back to him and opened and slammed cabinet doors.

Then he said the thing that pushed me right over the edge:

"If it's any consolation, I didn't even like them."

Oh. My. God. I think there was steam coming out of my ears.

I hate getting mad over food. I worry it's the red flag you are a Pathetic Fat Person when food means this much to you. But I couldn't help it. I was So. Mad.

How would you feel if your spouse/partner/roommate did this to you? Let's recap:

  1. He ate the rest of the balls without checking with me first.
  2. He did this less than two hours before he was going out to dinner.
  3. He did this less than two hours before I was going to be stuck home alone with the boys and no food in the house.
  4. He knew that there was no other food in the house.
  5. He didn't even like them.
  6. That didn't stop him from finishing off the entire dish (at least 6 good size balls).
Now that a week's gone by, I've forgiven him. Pretty much. Even if he did force me to admit I was looking forward to eating balls.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Again, I force myself to focus on all those things I'm ignoring in my life:

  • The Actuarial Exam is in 6 days. SIX. DAYS. Or, in complete-math-geek terms, 141 hours. The sign of a true procrastinator: I started studying yesterday. And you know what? This stuff is HARD. I don't remember a damn thing. I thought, "I'm a fast learner. I'll just brush up with some practice problems." Yeah. Two hours, nine practice problems, and six pages of paper later, I had one problem right. And that was by ACCIDENT. You know, I used to know how to do this. It used to be easy for me. But that was ten years ago. And you know what I've realized? Ten years is a really, really, really. Really. Long. Time.

  • We got back a response from the Catastrophic Illness in Children Fund. We sent the original application in August and hoped that was the end of it. Of course! They'll just send us a check! Hi. Fantasy world, table for one. They replied last week, and they want everything from pay stubs to tax records to pictures proving we even HAVE a child. Oh, and receipts from every grinder we ate while we were in Boston in March. Well, maybe not. But close. I've moved the form listing the 20+ things to send them about 134 times. To get to something more interesting. Like the newest Eddie Bauer catalog. Of stuff I can't afford to buy. Because I'm paying tons of medical bills. THAT I COULD HAVE REIMBURSED IF I STOP IGNORING THE FORM. Anyone see anything wrong with that? Nah. Me either.

  • School started on September 13th. Today is September 21st. And Ethan is still at home. This isn't so much a deadline as it is a task. My task for every day for the Rest Of My Life is to be the bitch from hell. I must nag. Constantly. I must call the school, and the administrators, and anyone who will listen to make sure that my son is going to be taken care of. Sad, but true. The nurse situation is "supposedly" straightened out. They asked a nurse in training to stay on full time. Oh, except she isn't exactly working in the room yet. That will probably be moved along by me constantly calling to ask the school if she's there yet. (Of course, it will probably have the opposite effect. Like a vacation peppered with your child asking "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?", it will drag on and on forever.)

  • Also school related: the bus situation is my newest fight. I found out that Ethan will be the first of eight handicapped children picked up every day (and therefore, the last of the eight to be dropped off). This wouldn't be so bad if there was actually a monitor on the bus. Right now, it's just the driver. This one is no contest - I have an IEP that states he will have "door to door service, with a monitor". So boo on you bus company. It's just the minor fact of me calling to lodge my complaint that will make the difference, I suppose. But again, I have to wonder: Am I just a super-nervous, ultra-paranoid parent? Or, do the other parents just not care as much about their kids?

  • In the "it's just bothering me, but we can get by anyway" category, CG has not had a professional photograph taken since he was 9 months old. I am a horrible mother! With Ethan, I went every three months (or so) dutifully. And I'm so happy to have them now, you can see how he grew and changed with every picture. CG is going to be 18 months soon, and that is my deadline - to get his picture taken by then. Sure, there will be the gap where I have no framed picture of his 12 month. Or 15 month. But at least I'll have this one! As soon as I make the appointment... Obviously, I have a few other things to take care of first.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Because I'm Fat

This article made me mad.

I know, I know. It's all my fault I got preeclampsia when I was pregnant. Because I'm fat. It's all my fault the doctor couldn't properly gauge my baby's size. Because I'm fat. Basically, it's probably all my fault that Ethan has the problems he has. Because I'm fat.

If you believe this article, I shouldn't have been able to get pregnant in the first place. Because I'm fat. And fat women have infertility issues.

Well, I guess my two surprise pregancies were just luck.

I should have had all kinds of complications after my c-section. And I shouldn't have been able to have a decent spinal. Because I'm fat. And fat women have lots of problems at birth.

Except, the nurses were all shocked with how quickly I was back on my feet, both times. And I had a spinal that was quickly administered and long-lasting. Guess those were just flukes too.

This section in particular really irked me:

“I’m not going to say there have not been people who left my office in tears, no question,” says Riley, who carefully broaches obesity as a medical problem.

“They need to be retrained for their own health, but you know what? They’re going to be raising kids. You don’t want them to teach their kids those same bad eating habits,” she adds.

What the hell does that mean? I can't even put into words how that pissed me off. Call me sexist, but it surprised me that this was a female doctor.

Basically, she's saying every fat woman is fat because they have bad eating habits, and therefore, their child is doomed to a lifetime of bad eating habits too.

Why don't you just slap women everywhere across the face and tell them they're going to be horrible mothers before their children are even born?

Where are the articles discouraging smokers from getting pregnant, 'cause they'll teach their kids that bad habit?

Or that women who drink alcohol might teach their kids the bad habit of drinking?

Or that women who gamble, lie, cheat, swear, pick their nose, have acne, or bad hair might just want to think twice before reproducing? Don't want to pass on those flaws to future generations.

And? What about fat fathers? Can't they pass on bad eating habits to the children?

But that doesn't matter, I suppose. As long as the mother is skinny, life for the kid will be just peachy keen.

Basically, I've decided the heart of this article is this:

We should discourage fat people from reproducing in the first place, cause obviously, all they'll do is make more fat people.


But maybe I'm just being sensitive.

Because I'm fat.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Subway Dating Diet

I have a theory that every guy my age is either named Michael or has at least one close friend named Michael. Think about the men in your life, and I bet you'll find it's true. Don't be confused by their aliases - because there are so many of them, they usually go by their last name or some other nickname. Or, my favorite, Just Plain Mike. Jete has one Michael and one Just Plain Mike (JPM).

JPM has been Jete's friend since high school. He's a great guy. I've known him longer than I've known Jete. He's got some quirks, but deep down he's got a good heart. He's constantly looking for love, but always seems to come up short lately.

The other night, Jete and JPM went to dinner and had the following conversation, which made me laugh:

JPM: You know, lately, I've been interested in bigger women. Too many guys are interested in those stick thin girls. I like a girl with a little meat on her.

Jete: I don't get it either. Guys at work will say a girl is way too big for them and I can't believe it. The girls they like are flat chested, flat butts.

JPM: I know. Why don't they date a 10-year-old boy or something.

(see why I love these guys?)

Jete: Have you found any prospects lately? What about at work?

JPM: Nah. I don't want to date anyone from work again. We all know how that turned out last time.

(ugly breakup - constant reminder by seeing her.)

JPM: There is this one girl...

Jete: Who is she?

JPM: She actually works at the Subway near my house.

(JPM lives alone and doesn't cook. He's been eating Subway for dinner 3 or 4 times a week.)

Jete: What's she like?

JPM: She's funny and always makes me feel good when I go in there. She's kind of ghetto, but really intelligent too. She's a nice girl.

Jete: Well why don't you ask her out?

JPM: I don't want to go through all that.

Jete: You afraid she already has a boyfriend?

JPM: No, it's not that. If it didn't work out...

Jete: Yeah, you don't want to go through another bad breakup.

JPM: No, I don't care about that. But if we broke up... I'd have to find another Subway.

Ah, boys and their priorities. You gotta love them!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Choose Your Own Adventure

For no particular reason, I've been thinking about friends from college recently. I haven't seen most of those people since we graduated. Commuters never make the same kind of lasting friendships as the resident students.

(That, and I'm shy as hell and don't make new friends easily. But that's not the point.)

One of those long-lost friends is Dave. Dave and I went to community college together. I was there because I couldn't afford all four years at a private college. He was there because he had messed around aimlessly before focusing on his goal of a degree in engineering. We bonded in the computer lab between classes.

Dave was one of those people that I could talk to for hours and never worry about running out of conversation. We had a strange spark in our ability to disagree twice as often as we agreed. (Maybe more than that.) I love a good fight, and he seemed to enjoy the banter as much as I did. He'd get a sparkle in his eye when he knew I'd challenge him on a topic.

We both transferred to the same college for our junior year. We ended up in a few classes together, including my last class of the day. Every afternoon, he'd walk me to my car and linger to chat a little, even though it was in the opposite direction of his next class. We'd talk about all kinds of things; what we wanted from life, our dreams for the future, why we both thought we were broken souls.

As the months went on, there were times he seemed to want to say something more. But he never did. He'd just stare at me a little too long and give me a weird grin. I always left confused, wondering - how did he really feel? It drove me crazy. I knew how I felt. I liked him. We were friends. Maybe, I thought, we could be more.

In the fall of our senior year, a million crazy things happened in my life. By the following spring, I was dating Jete seriously. (That's its own long story that I'll save to tell another day.)

I had pretty much given up on Dave by this time. He seemed resigned that he wasn't ready for any next steps with me, or I wasn't good enough for him, or no one in the world was. In any case, I lost interest, even though he didn't stop his usual behavior. He continued to walk me to my car. He'd stop me in the hallways to chat. He acted jealous when my attention was turned to conversation with anyone but him.

I invited him to my graduation party, and much to my surprise, he came. He didn't stay long. He had a few beers and hung out for a little while. He stayed just long enough to request a song for me, one with my name in it. He grinned his doofy smile at me when the DJ played it. He left shortly after that and I haven't spoken to him since.

This afternoon, I heard that song on the radio. I haven't heard it for at least a year, and I thought it was appropriate to hear it when thinking about Dave. I hear through the grapevine he's still single, still living at home, still keeping his standards so high that no one can meet them.

Really, I wasn't thinking about Dave. I was thinking about me. My life and the roads I've taken. It's amazing how different things can turn out with even the slightest change. If he had been braver, if I had more self esteem, things might have been different. Looking back, I know it wouldn't have lasted, but it would have put me on an entirely different course. I never would have started dating Jete that next spring. Circumstances as they were, our paths wouldn't have crossed again. Our moment would have passed.

I used to believe that everything happens for a reason. I don't anymore, but I do believe in hanging on and letting life take you for a ride sometimes. I believe in making the most of the choices you've made. Usually, your inner voice will lead you in the right direction. Now that I have the perspective of 10 years and two children, I'm glad things worked out the way they did.

But don't think I wouldn't love to hear Dave admit how he really felt all those years ago.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Educating the Suburban Snob

So, I finally made an executive decision.

Today was supposed to be Ethan's first day of school. He was supposed to be fed and medicated and waiting for the bus at promptly 8:00 AM. Instead, he was sleeping in just a t-shirt and oblivious that the bus drove by without him.

We went to visit the school last Friday; a meet and greet - see the classroom, talk to the teacher, get familiar with things. It was mildly comforting, I suppose. But still, I have a lot of doubts that I'm not ready to let go of.

Let me first say the good stuff: The people there were wonderful. Everyone from the security guards (yes) to the office staff to the teacher and the paraprofessionals were welcoming, kind, and helpful. They were all expecting us and greeted Ethan by name. The classroom is bright and cheery and has a million toys and pieces of equipment that Ethan could benefit from. There are standers, and feeding seats, and toys with lights and sounds and switches. There is even a special swing right in the classroom. His teacher, P, apologized for the "mess", but it looked cleaner than my house on a good day. I have no doubt that the classroom is a great place for him.

It's everything else that worries me.

Driving up to the school, there were no surprises. I've passed it a thousand times. One hundred yards away on one side is the highway. On the opposite side is a chain link fence, closing it off from abandoned woods and riverbanks where "unsavory" characters flock. There is no grass. Very little sunlight. The playground is a single jungle gym on a mound of dirt, surrounded by chain link fencing, sitting in the middle of the parking lot.

There is a handwritten sign taped on the wall by the door. "All doors locked at 9:15 AM. Please buzz to be let in." We got there at 9:30. The door was unlocked. To our immediate right was a closet with a desk in it. The security office. There was no one at the desk, but from down the hall, a 40ish, chubby woman in a uniform greeted us. She told us to sign in at the main office and she would take us to the preschool room in the basement.

After signing in, she walked us to the elevator. As we waited for it to arrive, I took a chance to look around. The school shows its age. There's a need for paint, for cleaning. The layout on this floor is open, with balconies looking down to the lower level. Everything is cement and metal. Strangely, it looks more like an abandoned shopping mall than a school.

We squeezed into the elevator like sardines. When we got to the basement, she walked us to another security desk and wished us well. The second security guard was another chubby woman in her early 60's. She was very nice as well, but I wondered how "secure" she made things. She pointed us in the direction of a long, cement ramp. She told us the preschool door would be at the end on our left, just before the exit.

We started walking up the ramp. It felt like we were in a subway station. The floor and walls were old cement. Part of the ceiling tiles above had been so rotted from water damage that they looked like roots were growing out of them. Up ahead, the exit doors were dirty and dingy. I was disoriented as to where we were, but out the windows I could see apartment blocks.

We found the door to the classroom, but it was locked. There was an odor, and I realized someone had urinated on the wall to my left. Finally, the teacher saw us through a window and let us in. She explained that they have to keep the doors locked at all times. I was both relieved and saddened to hear this.

In our talks with the teacher, we found out that the "full-time nurse" we were led to believe would be in the classroom is not so much "full-time". She is actually shared between the special needs preschool, where there are 8 children, and the special needs kindergarten next door, where there are 9 children. Seventeen children with high levels of needs - g tubes, multiple medications, seizure disorders - all under the care of a single nurse. (To compare, the teacher told us that last year, she had two full-time nurses just in her room.)

On the day we went, kindergarten was already in session. The nurse was running wild, trying to get all the children taken care of. We happened to be there at feeding time, and she was trying to prepare g-tubes, get medications ready and answer questions from a mother in the room. The nurse is the only person allowed to administer drugs. Occasionally, she has to go to the clinic at the other end of the building and there is no nurse at all. What would happen if Ethan and 6 other kids needed their lunch, and therefore medicine, at the same time? Or if one of the kids had a really bad seizure and she was out of the room?

The more I thought about this, the more it bothered me. I can't imagine how much more frantic things would get once the preschoolers arrived. Yes, Ethan could probably get by without a full-time nurse in the room. And yes, he is usually patient and can wait for his meals until the nurse is available to give his meds. But should he have to? Should he have to leave his home, where we know he is cared for and safe, to go here?

I had doubts, but the nurse situation is what made the decision for me. I talked to the teacher, and her supervisor, and let them know I don't think it is adequate and I'm not sending him until it is. His teacher agrees with me completely and stressed that he doesn't have to go until we are ready for him to go.

Even once the nurse situation is straightened out, it depresses me to think of Ethan going to this school. I know that he won't care or know the difference, and that he'll be in a perfect classroom for him. But I can't get over the school itself.

Then of course, I wonder... am I such a snob that I can't stand my child being in an urban setting? Or is it okay to feel that way? Have I become the typical middle-class, white, elitist who doesn't want my child to have to be in this school, while poorer children have no other choice?

Really, it saddens me that any child has to attend this school. A school should be a second home; a cozy, warm atmosphere that makes kids feel safe. Not cement and metal and the stench of urine. No child deserves that.

No matter what my reasons are, he's home now. And that makes me feel better. Who knows? Maybe a part of me isn't ready for him to grow up just yet. But until I feel completely secure that he's in the right place for him, I'm holding him back. I'm taking control. For once, I have absolute power, and I'm using it to protect my kids. It feels pretty good.

And completely terrifying.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dirty Trivial Pursuit

You never know what will happen when the Outlaws come over for dinner.

After the meal, Jete's sisters wanted to play Trivial Pursuit. They don't like playing the real way - board and dice and all of that. They just like to take turns reading questions out loud. If anyone knows the answer, they shout it out.

It was my turn to read the question, and the category was sports.

What sport is judged on size, development, definition and hardness?

For the record, the answer was bodybuilding. But I know Jete, and I knew I was in trouble. I tried to be completely serious. After all, these are the Super Catholics. They don't talk about the "S" word.

I read the card out and Jete started laughing hysterically. His parents didn't seem to get the joke. To make matters worse, CS, who couldn't hear the question over Jete's laughing, interupted us. She said, seriously:

"Can you come again?"

Jete almost spit his wine out across the room.

Now who says board games are dull?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Frantic School Daze

I just got confirmation of my test date: September 27th. Which doesn't sound all that close, until I realized it is already September 7th. That gives me less than three weeks to study.

Can anyone tell me where the first week of September went? Because I think I somehow missed it. For that matter, where did the first eight months of the year go? Can I get a do-over?

Speaking of September, now that it's, oh, back-to-school time, it's probably a good time to accept that Ethan is going to school this year. Like, next week. Luckily, pre-school starts a little later than the rest of the grades, because otherwise, he would have started days ago.

We are not prepared for this.

Literally, we aren't prepared because we haven't gotten anything ready for him. We haven't bought him any suitable school clothes. (Meaning: t-shirts and a diaper may be comfy for staying home, but not so much for school.) My sister the teacher has pointed out I should get him a back pack and a communication log for us to pass between us and his teachers and aides. He doesn't even own any shoes that fit him. Why would he need them at home? But for school, barefoot all day probably won't cut it. Besides that, he'll need some if we ever get the stinkin' stander approved.

Emotionally, we're just not prepared to let him go. Jete and I were talking about it last night. There are so many details involved that we just haven't let ourselves think about. Will he be okay on the bus? How will they know who he is when he gets there? What if they lose him, send him to the wrong class and no one knows who he is? Will they be nice to him? Will they let him nap when he's tired from his medications? What if he just doesn't like it there?

Then of course, the thoughts of winter came up, and the school van trying to get up our steep driveway. We've already decided we aren't sending him if there are even 3 snowflakes on the ground. There's no way I'm risking his life sending him through the streets of Our City just so he can get therapy for the day. It's not like he's going to fall behind on his homework or anything.

Probably a little premature to think about all that when he hasn't even started yet. You think?

Anyway, we'll all get through this, I'm sure. Ethan's teacher has already called the house a few times and sounds very nice. We're going to go to the school later this week to meet her and the nurse that is in the classroom full-time. Hopefully, that meeting will set our minds at ease and answer most of the questions.

Except one question Jete had: Do you think installing lojack in Ethan's stroller is over the top?

Friday, September 02, 2005

I Got Extra Energy From All Those Eminems

You should all be very proud of me.

In a burst of hormonal energy, I've started accomplishing items on my To-Do list. I made my ObGyn appointment. Jete is going to register Ethan for school tomorrow. I printed out pages from the sample actuary exam and plan to do a few problems every day at lunch.

Yay me!

But I really feel accomplished because the six inch pile of bills and paperwork is gone. Last night, in a filing frenzy, I got everything up-to-date. I organized the papers, threw away outdated copies, sorted them by amount due, and wrote checks for the six smallest bills. The remaining bills are neatly put away in a folder. They'll be taken care of when I get paid again, or as soon as the money in our checking account learns to reproduce spontaneously. Whichever comes first.

I won't pretend these things matter in the face of the current events happening around the world. But, selfish girl that I am, they were pressing on my mind anyway.

In my blog life, I'm always torn when there is a major disaster like the hurricane. On the one hand, I feel like there's just no point in me going out there, posting the same old thing that everyone else is saying:

"I just want to say that I'm thinking/praying/worrying about all the victims of Katrina. This situation is very, very sad."

We all know there was a hurricane. We all know it's devastating. There's nothing I can say about it that thousands, millions, of other people haven't already said. It didn't affect me, or any of my family or friends, directly. I don't want to be a bandwagon blogger who writes endlessly about a tragedy that isn't even mine to claim.

On the other hand, there's a guilt factor involved that makes me feel like I have to post something. I'll be's peer pressure. Almost an invisible coolness meter.

What will everyone think if I don't say something about the hurricane? They'll all think I don't care. That I'm a cold person, a bitch, complaining about my silly medical bills when thousands of people have lost their homes.

Then of course, there is the part of me that wonders why this is supposed to be the constant topic of conversation. There are tragedies daily that no one pays any attention to. Like the other two news stories I linked to above. Thousands of people dying in other countries, but I can't imagine my coworkers talking about those stories around cups of coffee.

It's probably a natural thing to be most interested in what happens in your own country. But sometimes I think it goes a bit too far. I've read quotes that this "is our tsunami". I can't help but wonder if comparing this to a disaster where almost 250,000 people died is fair.

Plus, I know there is a level of schadenfreude involved. (Honestly, I'm not very smart. While I had a sense of the concept, I never heard of the word until I read it at Tertia's.) On Tuesday, a woman at work said, "I can't wait to get home and watch about the hurricane on TV!" There was a strange excitement in her voice. It was kind of creepy. Like she was getting ready to watch an execution live on TV or something. Everyone loves a good disaster on CNN.

I know the overthinking is just me trying to deal with it. Big tragedies like this - or the tsunami, or the war in Iraq, or September 11th - are hard for my mind to process. It's easier to pick apart the events from the outside than to really see the details. The individual stories are what kill me. Hearing about one person's experience, then another, then another. That's what makes it real. I would be crying 24 hours a day if I gave in to that. And what good would that do anyone?

Instead of sitting around crying, I'm trying to do something positive. I've donated to the Red Cross, and I'm going to use my company's matching gifts program to increase the amount. And I've borrowed a button to help link my many readers (ha ha) over so they can give, too.

Hell, I've decided that I've gone soft anyway. I am easily upset by inappropriate things. I heard that newer Eminem song again on my way to work. And for the millionth time, it made me cry. Real, puffy eyes, red nose, tears.

Eminem, people. That can't be normal.

Just to be safe, I am staying far away from the country stations until further notice. If Eminem does this to me, who knows what emotions Tim McGraw could draw out.