Managing The Hats

I’m juggling three different freelance jobs, as well as the usual family, local politics, and house responsibilities. I have a lot of different hats. I should probably focus on one job, but I like the variety. Every week, I pick out one goal for the week. Last week, I wrote an essay and sent it out. This week, I had a ton of kid management and local chores, so I didn’t plan any writing. I’m mostly done with those jobs, so I’m gearing up for next week’s writing project.

It’s sometimes hard to wrench myself out of the details of the kid’s schedule and school board meetings and think about life outside of the five block radius around my house. It especially hard when my little plants are starting to poke their heads out of the soil; they need some love and attention. On a rainy damp day, I would love to just read my book in the living room armchair. But I have a good article in the back of my head that’s nagging me. I do need to write it up and send it to the Atlantic.

Let me blog this morning to get back into the swing of things.

Sunday Before the Late Mass

I’ve got some pulled pork happily steaming away in a dutch oven. The laundry is spinning and humming in the other room. I have a plan for tomorrow — rewrite an essay for a new publication and get back to the running. Last week, I dashed out an article about the Supreme Court in a couple hours and then monitored its “shares” and “likes” on social media for several days. We had three parties this weekend, so we’re feeling fulfilled and popular. I’ve got to feed the guys and check in with the Apt. 11d peeps in the next fifteen minutes before we drive to the church for 6:30 mass.

(And now returned to the blog post on Monday afternoon.)

I spent the morning working on an essay. It’s something different for me, so it’s taking too long. Not bound by the Atlantic formula, I’m drifting around and rambling. It’s going to take a week to get this puppy in order.

One of our three parties this weekend was out in the Rockaways in Queens — a little strip of land at the southern most part of New York City in the harbor. Residents have a beach front house, but still take the A train to midtown Manhattan, which is cool in theory. The neighborhood is mostly Irish and Italian cops and firemen, whose homes have been passed down through the generations for a 100 years. The houses range from shacks to crazy, tacky mansions with statues of Greek gods on the front lawn. I hear that the hipsters are making it cool again, but I didn’t see the bearded ones there this weekend.

The party was at a friend’s brother’s house. He bought a two family house and is making enough from the AirBnB in the second unit to coverage the mortgage. I would like to be a property mogul someday. I guess we need to get the kid through college first.

With Jonah committed to our state college, we’re starting to make other plans. We’re meeting with a kitchen cabinet contractor on Tuesday. He’s got to choose a dorm and get a job for the summer. We’re trying to find a good camp for Ian. Our vacation is going to be simple this summer – a trip to North Carolina to visit the in-laws with a long detour in the mountains.

We’re slowly transitioning from a life that is centered around our kid’s school to a new life that is less anchored to the community. Which is odd, because two of our parties this weekend were in town with people that we met through Jonah. Ian was loving the evening folk mass so much that I’m going to make some phone calls to get him into the band. We’re becoming more rooted in our community, just as we have fewer reasons to be here.

The houses of Jonah’s friends are already on the market. Nobody wants to live here with the high property taxes, once the kids are gone. It’s cheaper to live elsewhere. But now I’m finding reasons to stay. We still have Ian in an area school, and there’s a new kitchen. Jonah’s imminent departure has opened up all sorts of questions and possibilities and change.

Selling Out

Let’s not talk about Donald Trump today. Because unlike the federal government, things at home are clicking together rather nicely.

I’m now juggling three writing gigs that together add up to adequate compensation and interesting work that is super flexible. I’ve got the green light to do some necessary repairs on the house. Hello, white subway tile in the kitchen! I’ve got the kids mostly set for schools for next year. Well, we have an excellent Plan B for Jonah in case his Plan A doesn’t work out. Ian’s new school is great and will take care of him until he’s 21. I do have to figure out the summer special ed camp situation, but that’s a small potatoes worry.

What’s a neurotic girl to do when things are working out nicely? Not a damn thing. Find a corner to read a book and sip a glass of wine, maybe. And cook big vats of food for people. Last night, there were twelve for meatballs and pasta. We’ve done pizza and beer. Spontaneous stew night was good, too.

I’m in between work projects right now. It probably won’t last more than a day or two, but right now, I’m enjoying the fact that I know that there will be work coming soon, but it’s not here yet.

I never planned on becoming a freelance writer. It sort of landed on my lap when my Plan A fell apart. And it’s not entirely one thing. There’s the serious writing work that isn’t too far off from academic writing. That’s not a shocker. But then there have been other job offers that have absolutely nothing to do with my training. Last summer, I got a call from a huge advertising company that needed help with their toilet paper client. That one didn’t work out. Drat. I enjoyed feeling like Peggy Olsen for a week or two.

Now, it’s a hugely privileged thing to take on these jobs. Steve’s got the health insurance and the proper salary. My job will buy the white subway tile and the wine for the spontaneous stew parties. My friends who depend on their freelance gigs to pay the rent are stressed by the instability of work. For me, it’s fine.

A few months ago, a teacher in town told me that her brother was one of James Patterson’s ghost writers. I guess there’s a small cottage industry of ghostwriting best sellers. The teacher said that her brother had a great lifestyle. He has a good contract that brings him a huge chunk of the royalties. So, he lives in a big house in Connecticut, writes for five hours a day, and then play golf and rides his ponies for the rest of the day.

The guy must be pretty talented to do this job. I can’t imagine that anybody could walk off the street and pump out a best seller. I’m sure that he started off with dreams of having his own name on a serious novel, rather than writing formulaic flippery that is sold in airport gift shops. But ghostwriting is working out for him. If he wanted to, he could still work on his own projects in the afternoon.

I’m not there yet, but with the kids settled for the time being, I’m piecing together a new career.

The Timer Went Off

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors; How a Filibuster Works; Hard Work Matters More than Brains

Jonah’s college acceptance letter has triggered the reality that he’s going to be gone in six months. I have six months left to parent, before he’s gone. He’ll be on his own. And there’s so much left to teach him.

Why Smart Girls Are Better Than Cheerleaders; Why You Should Never Rinse Pasta After You Finish Boiling It

There’s still so much that he doesn’t know, and I don’t have much time. The ten minute drive to his high school is the only time where he’s captive, strapped in the car, forced to listen. I babble using the morning news as the entry into topics that we never talked about before. I have to give him a crash course on life. How did I forget to teach him the difference between the House and the Senate?

The House Writes the Budget Because the Founders Thought that the Branch That Was Closest to the People Should Have the Most Say Over Money and Taxes

Yes, he’ll have to figure out a lot of this on his own, but I could have taught him this earlier. I wasted time. We were too caught up in the details of life — the homework and the soccer practice. And then his friends and cellphone shouted me out.

Your Great-great Grandfather Was a Famous Oboist; Was Napolean Really Short?; Never Put a Red Sweatshirt in the Washing Machine With White Undershirts

He’s undercooked. How is going to fare on a college campus that first semester without this information? This is what happens when a neurotic parent and former college professor starts to panic. She lectures.

College Gossip

We went to a superbowl party yesterday hosted by friends that we met when our kids first started kindergarten. Now, those five-year olds are spotty faced boys-men texting in the corner. The parents nursed their beers and gossiped about colleges.

Based on the very unscientific sample of parents that we know from several North Jersey towns, I’m seeing tons and tons of applications to state colleges. Even among families with fully stocked 529s, the kids are going to state colleges. The price point is too high for the privates, and kids are saving their money for grad programs.

Jonah applied to 11 flagship state colleges. He heard from two and got into both, including – thank you, thank you, college Gods – Rutgers.

Rutgers isn’t beautiful. OK, it’s damn right ugly compared to colleges like University of Vermont with its green fields and sweeping views of Burlington and Lake Champlain. Jonah was horrified by urban decay around Rutgers during the college tour.

But Rutgers will cost us around $30,000, and UVM will cost $55,000. That’s $100,000 and a second mortgage on the house just for the nice views. So, obviously that’s not happening. We have a few weeks for Jonah to come to terms with this decision. We’ll see if he gets into UVM and if they give him enough money.

I know several students with 4.0 GPAs who were rejected from University of Virginia and Univeristy of North Carolina. Those two state schools seem almost impossible for out of state students. University of Alabama is a popular out of state college for kids with a weaker application. Miami of Ohio and Pittsburgh were popular this year for kids like Jonah.

I’m so relieved that he has a place to go this fall, and that we can afford it. He’ll have to take out a loan and we have some grandparent money to help out, but it’s very do-able. That means we can take a vacation and fix up the kitchen this year. Winning!

Two Theories

Dave Karpf  discusses the latest viral analysis of Trump and adds his own theory.

Last night on Medium, Yonotan Zunger analyzed the first week of the Trump presidency and concluded that it looked like a “trial balloon for a coup.” To summarize, Trump is shutting out career civil servants, installing his personal consigliere, Steve Bannon, onto the National Security Council, and road-testing the ability of the legislative and judicial branches to actually reign in his power-grabs. It is a thorough and frightening analysis.

I want to offer an alternate interpretation though. I don’t think Donald Trump is implementing an intentional plan to rescind and replace American constitutional government. I think Donald Trump is a 70-year old man with narcissistic personality disorder, who has never had to work anywhere near this hard in his life. I think he’s barely sleeping at night, is overwhelmed by stress and negative stimuli that his brain chemistry does not handle well, and is obsessed with what people think of him. I think he’s desperately trying to recapture the glorious feelings of support that he enjoyed on the campaign trail.

My vote is for the crazy theory.

I think he’s going to be gone in three to six months. Either impeached by his own party or he’ll have a serious mental or physical breakdown. And then we’ll have President Pence for three and a half years.

Place your bets, people.

Pink Ears

I didn’t join my friends at the march in New York City or DC this weekend, because we had a weekend getaway planned. I did monitor everyone’s progress on Facebook though, while sitting with a mound of disguarded snow gear at the lodge in the Poconos. It was easier for me to the guardian of the crap than venture out on the slopes. It’s been 25 years since I was last on skis, and it was too much trouble to take lessons, while everyone else was going in different directions. When I got home, I got more feedback on the event.

Everyone said it was remarkably positive and inclusive. Everybody had their own reasons for being there. Some were there for the environment, others for women’s issues, others for immigration. I wonder if anyone has crunched the numbers to find out what the biggest issues were.

It was also freed from the usual activist crap that turns off average people. There wasn’t any of theory/jargon/self-hatred/ naval-gazing that has weighed down other protests. There was any one group of professionals looking to score points and congratulate themselves.

It was a beginner’s protest. A whole lot of attendees  never attended a protest before. That’s great. It was a different kind of populism from Trump’s brand of populism.

At one point during the weekend, Steve and I left the boys in the room and went down to the bar for a drink. The large TV over the bar was showing the protests on FOX. Our bartender started complaining about all the violence. (There wasn’t any, but whatever.) She said, all those people should just give Trump a chance. We just smiled. We were in rural Pennsylvania afterall.