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.

How Weird Will 2017 Be?

We’re off to weird start to the new year. Mariah Carey has a lipsync disaster. Trump is a Russian hacking denier. The current president and the president elect are simultaneously running the country and in rather opposite directions. Josh Marshall seems to have tweeted a link to PornHub.

Half of my friends are heading down to DC in a couple of weeks to protest. I have a couch to sleep on, if I go. My friend Sue’s sofa about the only place in town left in town. But I probably won’t go. I want to wait until DT does something particularly vile before I protest. It seems pointless to protest potential vileness, when there will be probably a real vile statement or proposal a week or two later.

I’ve been away from the computer for the past week, so I’m catching up. Some things that I’ve read today:

If you think your kid is going to get a scholarship for sports, think again.  The Myth of the Sports Scholarship.

From Brookings — “For higher education, a major factor driving up costs has been a growth in the number of highly-paid non-teaching professionals. In 1988, for every 100 full-time equivalent students, there were on average 23 college employees. By 2012, that number had increased to 31 employees, with a shift toward the highest paying non-teaching occupations. Managers and professionals now outnumber faculty, who comprise just a third of the higher education workforce.”

How do you become a superager? Learn a second language and use lots of sunscreen.