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?

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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.

Happy Holidays!

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Merry Christmas to my friends who celebrate. Happy Vacation Time and Chinese Food Day to my friend who don’t.

We’ve been cooking and shopping since 8am. It’s a small gathering of 14 this year, but we’re still having a dozen different dishes. I’ll share pictures later. DSC_0013.jpg

After Christmas, we’re going to one of these ski/water park places in Pennsylvania for three days. I might work when I’m there, because I have a deadline and don’t really enjoy skiing. I like the idea of skiing, but I didn’t learn until I was in my twenties, so I have “the fear.” This place is great, because they offer adaptive ski lessons, so even Ian can ski better than I can.

I think I’ll be back and forth here during the next week, but there’s no guarantee.

Thanks, all, for visiting this little blog over the years. You’re the only reason I keep it going. Hugs to all! Laura

Hunting Sweaters

Beyond some boring paperwork (Gah! I hate invoicing) and a review of the education newsletters, not much work happened today. I did a weight lifting class at the local gym, which I hated. Give me some loud nasty music and a bike, and I’m happy to exercise as long as you like. Planks and barbells are the worst. But they tell me that after 50, it’s super important. Sigh. So, I forced myself to get there this morning.

Then I met up with my 83-year old mom at the mall with stops along the way at the Post Office to mail out a used book and the gas station. Well, I attempted to meet up with my mom. She was waiting for me at a Starbucks at a different mall. Because in Jersey, there are a bazillion malls with nearly the same name.

No worries. I had a lot to do without Sylvia slowing me down.

I first went to Macy’s and Sephora looking for gifts for my three teenage nieces, specifically affordable make-up kits that weren’t marketed by a former stripper. I was going for light pinks and blushes, rather than black smoky eyes and gold glitter and thigh high boots. Didn’t find what I was looking for, so I’ll have to go out again tomorrow.

J. Crew is having a big sale. If you get their credit card, it’s 70 percent off everything. So, I got this blouse, buttoned sweater, v-neck sweater, one for Steve, and a scarf for him.

Next up is some computer clean up, which I suppose counts as work, and then getting Ian ready for his holiday concert. He’s a percussionist. We’ll leave with his concert outfit on, pick up Wendy’s, and drive to my folks who live near his school. I need my Dad’s help with Ian’s tie. I’ve tied Jonah’s tie before using a YouTube tutorial, but my dad’s home and can do it better. Somewhere in there, I’ll eat dinner and meet up with Steve at Ian’s school.

Thoughts and prayers for Jonah who is taking his last final this evening. He’s doing very well in his humanities classes, but taking a thumping in his STEM classes this semester. Let’s hope the gods are with him this finals week, or he’ll be picking a new major over break.

Hunting Stories

A website that I occasionally write for asked me to do something on special ed. They are particularly interested in the urban school district that I taught at 25 years ago. So, I had to track down possible interviewees who weren’t afraid of a media exposé and were interesting. No biggie!

Also, this outlet likes upbeat stories that highlight innovations, which is cool, so I had to track down someone who had inspiring stories to tell about kids who are desperately poor, probably homeless, possibly abused, with intellectual disabilities, maybe physical disabilities, and definitely emotionally disturbed.

Took a few weeks to find the right person, but I did it. She’s a principal of a public school in the South Bronx that is the home of 600 kids who have gotten kicked out of regular schools, because their needs are so great. She called her students as “her babies.” Woot!

I might have to ask for hazard pay for this article, because I could get assaulted by the students, and my car might get stolen, when I go there to do interviews. (Not joking.) But it sounds fun, so I don’t care.

Because I started work at 7:00am today, I was all done by noon, so I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get my mother a hard-boiled egg cooker for Christmas. It’s not exciting. But she’s 83 and that’s what she wants. I’m supplementing that gift with some cute dessert plates in a cobalt blue.

Christmas decorations are smeared all over the house, so I tried to neaten up the boxes and ribbons. It was too big of a mess to finish in an hour though, and I had to move on to the next chore… Dinner.

I had some leftover chicken stew, but not enough for a full meal. So, I made some fresh mashed potatoes and added it to the leftover stew along with some frozen peas to make a Shepard’s pie. I’ve got a salad, too.

On Tuesdays, I have to make dinner in the middle of the afternoon, because Ian has a drum lesson between 4:30 and 5:15. Lou the drum teacher just prepped Ian for his audition for the winter musical. I think he’s going to make it. The timer on oven just went off, so I should go and feed him before Kristina does reading tutoring with him at 6:30.

Well, this is a rambling “day in a life of a freelance writer/mom/blogger” blog post. Hope to be back later.