Travel and Trees

I finished tying up all the loose ends on some malingering articles just in time for next week’s trip to North Carolina. In fact, I finished a couple of days earlier than I expected, so I’ve been using the past two days to get caught up on house and family chores.

I tackled the vacation-work travel folder yesterday and typed up itineraries, booked a train, and fixed the frequent flier miles. We actually haven’t gone anywhere that requires a plane for ages, so the frequent flier situation required talking with somebody in Bangalore to get everything up to date.

We’re taking our first European vacation this summer, since our honeymoon. 22 years. Steve and I travelled extensively in Europe before we had kids. He lived in Austria for a year and student-taught in Germany. I had an English boyfriend at one point and a sister in Madrid. But then kids came, so we found ourselves on a lazy river in Orlando Florida instead of a cobblestone street in Florence.

No regrets. The lazy river was fun, too.

This July, we’re going to London, Edinburgh, and Inverness for ten days, and am totally psyched. We’re staying in adorable airbnbs in Scotland, which is the only way to travel with two nearly adult boys. They need their own rooms, and we need ours.

Before we go there, I need to finish more research on my odd, odd family tree. I must find out which side they were on at Culloden, so I can imagine them either under a headstone or executing officers.

I’ve still been haphazardly researching my family tree. The Fitzgerald side is complicated because there were about four hundred years, where they only seemed to have four names for their sons — Garrett, William, Maurice, or Edmund. And there’s a mash of family legend polluting the research of others on the Internet. I need some quality time to read through the peerage charts to see who’s who. But in the meantime, I’ve been reading some wikipedia entries on some of more colorful cousins.

There’s Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798), an Irish revolutionary, who married Pamela, the illegitimate daughter of Louis Phillippe II, the Duke of Orleans. He died while resisting arrest for treason. And there’s his mom – Emily FitzGerald (1731-1814), who was sleeping with her kids’ tutor. DNA tests have shown that Lord Edward’s dad was really the eccentric tutor, not the Irish Duke. The Scottish side is equally crazy; I need to get this sorted out before we go.

We’re planning on making travel a bigger part of our lives. I even bought color coded packing cubes (I love OCD travel supplies). Getting older sucks in so many ways, but having the time and the resources to travel again, is definitely a perk.

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The Best Laid Plans

On Sunday night, I took a big hunk of pork out of the freezer. Frozen solid, it was going to take some work to defrost the meat, so I could turn it into pulled pork sandwiches on Monday. I put it on the counter, even though you are absolutely not supposed to defrost meat that way. I figured it would be fine for three hours before bedtime, when I would put it in the fridge to finish defrosting.

I forgot about it. It sat there all night. In the morning, when I remembered the pork, it was way past frozen and was disturbingly room temperature. After consulting with friends, I tossed it in the garbage. I was too afraid of teaming bacteria to make it into a meal for my family. Nobody wants to eat old pork.

Because I’ve been rather down for the past week, I didn’t have the mental energy to come up with a Plan B meal. We ended up at an overpriced burger joint in town, where I picked at a salad and had a glass of wine.

I thought I had an awesome work opportunity for the fall, but it didn’t happen. Tant pis. Stupidly, I had already figured out the bus schedule and started finding babysitters. dumb. dumb. dumb. I should have known that my age and my untraditional career path were unforgivable.

Anyway, I’m regrouping. Starting with thinking about dinner plans for tonight, I’ll run to the supermarket. I’m tackling some real-life chores that were put on the back burner for a while. I’ve got to finish off some work projects this week, and then we’re going to NC to visit Steve’s folk for a week.

In the meantime, I’m going to blog. This place always helps me think through tough matters. I’m off to see a school presentation on the budget and then I’ll be back to share some links and pictures.

Be good to each other.

Friday Fun

Friday is evolving into a day for me to catch up on random shit in my life.

This morning, I got my hair straightened, so I could get a decent headshot for various social media and websites. I went to a photo studio run by a local mom. She does a lot of pictures of other moms who want to be real estate agents. I’m a little afraid that the finished product isn’t going to be boring/professional/serious. I’ll make Ian take a couple of pictures on me on the front lawn, when he comes home.

The photo-mom knows me from town and wanted to know why I was getting my hair straightened. I just mumbled some excuse. The real story would be too weird for her. But I’ll tell you guys. The real story is that I realized, back when I was a professor and went to conferences, that more guys showed up to my talks when I had straight hair, rather than my typical curly hair. Guys are idiots.

The next few hours are going to be crazy, but good crazy.

After Ian’s doctor’s appointment, Jonah is coming home for dinner. Yay! I love that he goes to school only an hour away. Steve’s coming home early. We’ll have a lovely two hours all together, before Jonah goes back to his college town, and Ian meets up with his social skills group for a movie.

Did I ever tell you guys that my article that I did about a senator-2020 candidate went a little viral a couple of weeks ago? It was quoted in the New York Times, New York Magazine, US News and World Report and Education Week. (I’ll put the links in later.)

I’m working on an article about community colleges right now. The special ed article and the public college essay are all done, but haven’t been published yet. So, work is coming along.

And my weird little hobby of selling used books is coming along, too. I took some pictures of dusty tomes this morning. I’ll share, after I download my camera.

In the meantime, here’s a slideshow of pictures that I took on New Year’s Eve.

Retirement Plans

So forget everything that I wrote in my last blog post about loving work. I’ve been working my ass off for the past week on two projects, and now I’m reaching burn out levels of exhaustion. Twelve hour days in front of a computer are taking their toll.

So, let’s talk about fun stuff.

For most of our married life, Steve and I have responded to various crises – a crappy academic market, young kids, school loans, house purchases, job changes, college decisions, teenagers with teenager problems, autism — as they’ve come up. Life happened to us, and we dealt with it.

For the first time ever, we are on a steady course. Careers are developing, kids are growing, bill are being paid. We have stability for the first time in twenty years. And we’re looking around us asking, “is this my beautiful house? Is this my beautiful wife? How did I get here?”

With apologizes to the Talking Heads, we’re trying to figure out whether we actually like the status quo, and whether we should make some big changes.

If money was no object, where you like to live and what would you like to do with your time?

Dinner Time Conversations

Today, we ate at the kitchen counter, because Wednesday is Steve’s gym day, so he doesn’t get home until about 8:00. With laptops next to dinner plate, we did a little multi-tasking — we call it “homework-dinner-combo.” Ian had to finish a personal essay about his personal hero (Steve), and Jonah had to finalize his schedule for next year.¬†And we were chatting the whole time.

Jonah showed us a video about a guy who lived in the Paris airport for 18 years.

After telling us that his roommate is going to get a tattoo of Mac Mills, he announced that he wanted to get a tattoo of the Dortmund soccer team. I told him about the things that I thought I was cool at 19 and that I would be unhappy to have permanently affixed to my 53-year old body. Annie Lennox, for example. I did like REM back then, but I’m still happy that nothing is highlighting my saggy self.

And he told me that Grey Poupon is a very popular word in rap music, because it’s a symbol of wealth and because it rhymes with a lot of stuff. And then proceeded to freestyle a rap using the words futon and crouton.

I’m going to be really sad when he goes back to school.

Photo: Ian made an “I” out of hot sauce on his black bean soup.

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Dreary January

January always sucks here in the Northeast. It’s grey and cold. We’ve all had the same virus for the past three weeks, trading germs back and forth. I need to give the entire house a Clorox bath to get rid of these lingering evil bugs. Faded Christmas trees lay sad and lonely waiting for pick up by the garbage truck.

A story that I did in December was just published. I posted it here. Happy to talk about it in the comment section. I’m working on something totally different right now. It’s an upbeat story about a school in the South Bronx for emotionally disturbed children. (Yes, it’s a happy story.) I’m also editing a document right now for a long term project. So, there’s a lot of work to do.

I was at that South Bronx school earlier this week and had a great time, except for the horrible drive through the Bronx. With streets full of pot holes, sudden turns, unmarked roads, and drivers who don’t obey normal traffic rules, I was having anxiety attacks as I navigated my way there. But I did it. Yay me.

Jonah’s home still, which is awesome. Sniffling like the rest of us, he’s been looking at the career development website for school and trying to figure out what he’s going to do after graduation. What a bucket of stress!

Other kids in town are using their winter break to do informational interviews with alumna from their schools at various companies around New York City. I’m just hearing about this from other parents. Neither Jonah nor myself got the memo that this is what kids do during winter break now, until it was too late. So, he’s surfing websites about careers, rather than sitting in an office with a suit. Sigh. Parent fail.

There is a RIDICULOUS level on stress on kids about jobs. Here’s an article in Vox describing it. And this stress isn’t totally crazy. Millennials are burning out in their jobs. College graduates aren’t finding work.

I’m moving my family to a bunker in Vermont where we’ll make artisanal goat cheese.

Ageism and Sins From the Past

Last month, I went to the dermatologist for the “Redhead Checkup.” Because redheads are so prone to skin cancer, we’re supposed to get a full body examination every year. All those years at Seaside Heights in the 1970s and 1980s, when I lay on the beach covered in baby oil trying to get a “base tan” are coming back to haunt me. One time, my sister’s friend from South Africa, Samantha, convinced me that the best way to tan was to cover myself in melted butter.

I used to get such bad sunburns that I would blister and get fevers. My mother would cover me in a paste made out of baking soda and Noxzema to relieve the heat. The tops of my ears and my feet would burn. The part in my hair. That sensitive spot behind the knees.

So, I go for my check-ups, and they’ve mostly been okay. After my teen years, I spent most of my time in a darkened library, so the damage wasn’t too bad, I think. My sister who liked to sunbathe, once got such a bad burn that she once had a two inch black spot in the middle of her back. It was probably a third degree burn. My dad, a fellow redhead, has had big chunks of the skin on his nose removed. My friend, Suze, another member of the redhead club, was a lifeguard in high school; she’s had a chunk of her forehead removed.

But last time, the doctor found a suspicious mark on that sensitive spot behind my left knee. So, I’ve got to get it removed at 9:00 am today.

Getting chunks of my skin removed is part of the indignity of getting older. There are others.

When I met up with writer-type friends at bars or restaurants this winter, the topic of conversation very quickly turned to plastic surgery. They’re all more highly placed than I am and feel under pressure to look good in front of a camera. Because writing isn’t just writing anymore. It’s also selling your word and your thoughts on cable television. I’ve been getting lots of advice on the benefits of fillers and botox.

Meeting up with my cousins at a brunch in New York City last month, my 40-year old cousin, who isn’t in the industry but lives in a Real Housewives of Florida sort of community, told me about all the work that she’s had done on her face. Her face is as smooth as a baby’s ass.

Many of my friends have kids who are nearly done with high school and are entering college, so they want to go back to work. Because we really can’t have it all at the same time, they did the mom-thing, and now they want to return to work.

Returning to work after years on the school drop off line is brutal. The worse-off ones are those whose prior work and education experience makes them overqualified for basic office or retail work. Also in trouble are those who used their free time to help out the schools and volunteer for parent groups, instead of working part-time. They have nothing to put on their resume. With part-time work, you can fudge your resume enough to make it look like you’ve been working full-time, and might even be able to scrounge together some references.

A former mom is death on the job search world.

And now we are looking at candidates for 2020. I have been sickened by the press’s reaction to the older women in power, like Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren. Warren, who was a darling in liberal circles for years, got a big “meh” from liberal pundits when she announced her candidacy. Sure, that Native American DNA video was dumb. But she has tons of experience and real knowledge about Wall Street and economics. She should be HOT, instead she’s a NOT.

Why? It’s because she has wrinkles, and her voice warbles. She’s old. And she’s a woman.

Old guys get a free pass. Biden and Sanders are old as dirt, but the public still loves them. Sanders’ fly-away white hair is just fine. Nobody suggest that he put poisons in his face to smooth out his wrinkles.

Ageism and sexism runs rampant throughout our society, and nobody gives a shit.

Meanwhile, I am growing older. I have to deal with humiliations like spots on the back of my leg and the inevitable questions that a 30-something interviewer is going to ask me about the gaps on my resume. “What exactly were you doing between 2008 and 2011?” I WAS TAKING CARE OF AN AUTISTIC KID AND TEACHING MYSELF HOW TO WRITE IN ORDER TO HAVE A SOME SORT OF A JOB WHEN I COULDN’T PUT MYSELF ON A NATION-WIDE JOB SEARCH FOR AN ACADEMIC JOB, OKAY? CAN I REPORT YOU TO HR FOR ASKING PERSONAL QUESTIONS? No, I won’t be able to say that.

Thirty years later, I’m paying for the sins of my youth.