Car Crisis

We are not car people. If I have a choice of spending $30,000 on a car or on five cool vacations, I’m going to pick the vacations every time. That’s why our cars suck.

We have a 2008 Subaru Outback with 135K miles that we bought used about ten years ago. The was the first and only car that we ever purchased. Our other car that Steve drives a mile to the train station every morning is a 20-year old Toyota Camry with $155K miles. It’s a hand-me-down from my parents. There are rust holes in the trunk and deep gouges in the hood of the car from when the basketball hoop feel on the car about ten years ago.

Both cars have been towed to the car mechanic in the past two months. The Camry was towed away yesterday, after the brakes started failing when he and Ian were on the highway.  Jen the neighbor carried her one-year old son outside to watch the car getting hoisted up by the tow truck.

Jimmy the Mechanic said that it will cost $500 to fix the breaks. Is it worth putting more money into that hunk of junk? After some thought, we decided to pay the $500 bucks to repair the car with a plan to replace it within the next six months. We bought ourselves some time to think about what to do.

Should we buy or lease?


Eclectic Life

We’re up early in this house. Today, like most days, we were up around 6am. At 6:20, we were all huddled around the kitchen counter attending to newspapers, bowls of cereal, and deep cups of coffee. Not much talking at that point — just reminders about after-school tutoring and a warning that dinner would probably be take-out. At 6:45, Steve drove the 15-year old Toyota to the train station. 6:50, Ian gets on the special ed van to his out-of-out district high school. I stalled going to the gym for half an hour, but I got there and ran/walked for 45 minutes.

I did an amusing interview with an old coot later this morning. I’m rather proud that I got him to agree to talk with me. It took a little sweet talking, but it happened. He turned down an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Ed last week, so HA! I win.

I’m really loving my project right now, but I don’t think I should write about it here first. I’ll have 2,000 words coming out soon elsewhere. Then I’ll talk.

I just need to get the time to finish things off. The rest of the afternoon is shot. I have to go to Ian’s far away school for a meeting about his reading.

He’s never received any teaching to overcome his hyperlexia (super decoding skills, poor comprehension). I have asked every year for extra help with reading, since he was in fourth grade and the comprehension problems became evident. And they’ve done nothing. They just shove all the special ed kids in one room and then have them listen to books on tape. Special education sucks so badly.

There have been a whole bunch of new laws in New Jersey to protect kids with dyslexia. Our school district has had to spend beaucoup bucks on retraining their teacher for dyslexia. So, I’m arguing that Ian deserves the same additional instructional time for reading using specific curriculum. And I’m making a big stink about it.

They handle me and my demanding ways by testing and retesting Ian, by making me go to tons of meetings, and by stalling. Never saying no, but never saying yes. Special Education sucks so badly

I’m giving them one more chance. If this meeting is a waste of time, I’ll make a bigger stink.

But all of it takes time. Time away from my work. I’m going to have to make up those hours tonight. Sigh. That’s why dinner isn’t happening tonight.


The Kids Aren’t Alright

It’s definitely “Eclectic Reading Saturday.” I just skim read a library copy of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, and liked it enough to order it from Amazon, so I could write in it. Then I finished off the latest in a long romance series, which was disappointing, but I’m so committed to the series, I’m sure I’ll buy the next one as well.

And then I finally read the cover story in The Atlantic about how the kids aren’t having sex anymore.  There are a lot of theories why – online porn, stress, #metoo movement, social awkwardness. I don’t think that that the author ultimately settled on one reason for the drop off in sexual activity, but it was still a good article. I highly suggest reading the article online, because it’s necessary to google terms from time to time.

I’ve been interviewing 20-somethings for a larger project that I’m working on. It has nothing to do with sex, but it touches on some of the themes in this article. I won’t go into it now, but I do sometimes think that I want to scoop up my children and relocate to Vermont or Ottawa and learn how to live off the land.

So, is this drop off in sexuality a good thing or a bad thing? Declining teen birth rate and abortion rates are good, but the causes of the decline in sexuality are all deeply unhealthy – online porn use, social awkwardness, job stress. And the people that the author interviews are seriously unhappy and isolated. We’re ready for a major correction.

Happy Thanksgiving!

IMG_6705.JPGSteve is drinking posca, a Roman beverage (water, vinegar, coriander seeds, and honey), which was given to Roman soldiers before battle. It is supposed to give you energy and prevent cramps. He used to prepare it for Jonah when he ran cross country. His former teammates still talk about the vile “Jonah Juice.” Steve’s drinking it now preparing for the Glen Rock 5K Turkey Trot.

I wasn’t planning on running, because we’re in the midst of a record cold snap here in the North East. It’s below freezing with cold winds. I was going to huddle in the car for the race, but then I got there and couldn’t be a coward. I think I got my best time. Woot!


Meanwhile, Steve cooked up a batch of cranberry sauce using his great grandmother’s(“Maymo”) recipe. I roasted the pumpkins, and Steve turned them into a pie with a Martha Stewart Recipe. I’m going to make some romaine-free salads shortly. And then we’re going to my brothers’ for a warm and crowded Thanksgiving meal.


Jonah came home last night. Yay. Miss that boy so, so, so much. He surprised us all with a college growth spurt. He’s now two inches taller than Steve.

Hope y’all are finding time to read trashy novels on the sofa and appreciating family.



The Tech Backlash

Tech stocks are going down the tubes. Sheryl Sandberg is suddenly a bad guy. There are never ending stories about how bad iPhones are for kids, and how the tech CEOs won’t let their own kids have access to the Internet.

Has Tech jumped the shark?

A couple of weekends, Steve, Ian, and I went down to DC for a quick getaway. Schools in New Jersey were closed, but not the workplaces. So, Steve and I were glued to our phones as we were walking through museums and sitting in restaurants. We knew it was evil, but we couldn’t help it. Steve, who now a director at his bank, had to help put out fires in the office, remotely moving files and soothing stressed out traders. I was getting anxious looking at the stories coming out that I should have written.

Ian was probably better behaved with his phone than we were. which is rather sad. He’s addicted to those stupid “daily rewards” on his video games. He has to check into 18 video games every day or else his characters die or something. It’s the worst possible scenario for a kid with mild OCD and anxiety. He has the situation at a manageable level right now — meaning that it does it so quickly that it doesn’t use up a lot of time or interfere with real life — but it’s really insane.

We all know this situation is stupid, but are we stopping? Are we slowing down? Do we have our addictions at manageable levels? What do you think?

Inspired by Ocasio

I was prepared to be underwhelmed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I’m so jaded by all the young, beautiful people on the news that I thought she was one more wrinkle-free person with a teleprompter. But now that we’ve gotten past the election, she’s going strong without makeup and without a typed script.

I like her.

I’m following her on Instagram. Her latest “live story” about how WOC of color have to fight imposter syndrome and not feel like they have to be perfect all the time hit home for me, even though I am not a WOC.

I am not a WOC, but I am a Woman With a Disabled Kid (WWDK) who works from home in a basement office and sometimes makes only about $300 per article. (Sometimes $1,200 per article.) I have to constantly work to keep the school district from locking my kid up in a windowless basement classroom along with the other disabled kids. The other PTA moms sometimes get up in their meetings and announce “how do we keep the special ed families from moving to our town and using up all the school’s money.” (Honestly. No joking.) So sometimes, I’m not feeling my most confident, professional self, and I need to go get a manicure and watch videos like Ocasio’s where she talks policy, while cooking dinner. Because that’s me. I have to make dinner every night.

It is so damn refreshing to see someone combine professionalism with real life. I’ve got a load of whites in the dryer right now. I just changed the sheets on our beds. In a minute, Ian and I will go upstairs, and I’ll make burgers and sweet potatoes and help him with his English homework. I need to finish it all by 7:30, so I can run off to the school board meeting because I want to see a presentation on social emotional learning. Work and life are one big messy mix for me.

If we now are allowed to own housework and homework and work-work, I’m very happy.

Hidden Warriors

We drove down to DC on Thursday with a short stop to visit the college boy along the way there. Ian had a couple of days off from school, so we took the spontaneous trip to visit friends and museums and to get away from the routines.

Thursday night, I took an Uber to Sue’s house. Sue and I have been friends since middle school. In high school, our group used to sneak into dance clubs in the city. In college, I visited her at Harvard and was awed by the groups of guys in tuxes. She took me to the rooms of the Harvard Lampoon where she did many of the cartoons on the cover of the magazine. One summer break, she and our friend, Sandra, and I roamed around Europe for six weeks. We go back a long way.

Five years ago, her oldest son, who was a Freshman at Harvard at the time, got sick. He had a one-celled tumor in his brain, and his confused immune system managed to wipe out most of his brain. Most people die of this rare disease, but the boy was a six-foot two athlete and survived. But he “lives” in a near coma at home surround by shelves of medical equipment and adult diapers and old photographs of himself as the national merit scholar and class president and crew champion. Sue and 24/7 nurses keep him alive.

Sue and I went out to dinner at a restaurant down the block. It’s hard for her to go anywhere further from the house, because the nurses often screw things up. While eating our beet salads, she relayed stories of burst diapers and faulty feeding tubes and germs around the breathing tube.

DC is an Uber City. It was easier and cheaper for us to order a car as we met up with various friends and museums than use the Metro or use our car. Each uber driver had his or her own story.

There was one woman who told me about raising her two daughter on her own after the divorce. Her dad had to wait on line for three hours to vote in Maryland. Her last boyfriend used to cook all sorts of Southern black food, which was delicious, but he left her 45 pounds heavier.

A guy from Bangladesh had earned enough money to bring his wife here, but she was sad and lonely at first. She’s working in Target now, and will soon have enough money to go to school. To pay her back for her sacrifices, he treats her with short trips to Orlando. She wants to go to Montreal next, but they’re going to wait until the weather gets better.

We met up with one of Steve’s friends who was in town visiting his brother and his sister in law, who wasn’t responding well to chemo. And a blogging friend listened to my stories and offered much needed advice. (thank you)

Everybody was just getting through the day, trying to care for the people around them, and being decent to the hyper-chatty, aging redhead. Honestly, I was humbled by the generosity around me.

With all the ugliness in the news, it’s good to be reminded that most people are just fine.