Tuesday, April 28, 2009
No Cover Letter Needed
I have some work lined up starting Friday. At the ex-job, of all places. The HR lady, the one whose shoes I didn't throw up on almost a year ago, will be calling me later today to make the arrangements. It is hard to believe that I have not worked there in nearly a year. I'll be working in a different group, on a different floor with a different boss but with people that I love so much it hurts to not be able to see them on a daily basis.

A few weeks back I went to meet some of them for lunch and one former co-worker just looked at me and said "why'd they have to let you go? I really miss working with you." Talk about an ego boost.

They can boost the ego all they want for the coming three weeks, except the Friday before Memorial Day when they are closed and I'll be heading to the camper with the kids for a glorious weekend. Then it'll back to the grind of looking for a different, not-advertising job.

I've decided that I want to be a nutritionist/registered dietitian. I don't know why. Is that what a calling is? You feel an overwhelming desire to something just because? it could also because I don't feel fulfilled in advertising. You don't help anyone in advertising. There is a great deal of stress over stuff that really doesn't matter. I mean it matters, to the client who wants to make money, but not in the grand scheme of things. When you work in advertising you don't rest your head at night knowing you helped someone that day, or made difference. I could also be romanticizing the nutrition profession but to quote Scarlett O'Hara "I won't think about that today. I'll think about that tomorrow."

About 75 years ago, I completed the coursework for an associate's degree in graphic arts. I never filed for graduation because I was going finish up the four year program. I loved my professors, I wanted to return. Then we got married and then I wasn't sure I wanted to earn a bachelor's degree in graphic arts or advertising. I flirted with going for biology. I LOVED biology, I loved talking about DNA and lab work and gel electrophoresis was the bomb. I thought about majoring in French. I thought about majoring in English. I thought a lot about majoring in just about everything.

Then we had Sophie and then school really went on the back burner. About the time she was coming out of diapers, I started flirting with the idea of school again. Just a few classes. I'd sit down on the subway after work and read course catalogs and promptly fall asleep. I couldn't keep my eyes open and by the time Sophie was in bed the only thing I could manage to do was crawl into my own bed and sleep. Surprise! I was pregnant again.

About a month ago I went back to my college and said "hi! Remember me? Can I have my diploma, please?" And they were all "wait, who are you again?"

A meeting with the department chair was in order and he was so kind to me. He was happy to hear I'd been gainfully employed "in the field." He made a few phone calls. We talked some more and he helped me make arrangements for me to file for graduation. I'm still waiting to hear back but once I do I will begin applying for a few programs.

I know it won't be easy but it seems like much less of an undertaking knowing I have a lot required courses out of the way already and hopefully they will be transfer seamlessly. The last little piece to the puzzle is that I need to job to help pay for it, hence all the applications I've been sending to nearby colleges and universities. Tuition remission is my new favorite phrase!

Monday, April 27, 2009
Roughing It
We spent the weekend at our chalet cabin camper. We like having this "house on wheels," as the kids call it. It allows pansies like myself to enjoy the great outdoors with the benefits of hot showers, chilled wine and 300 count sheets on an actual mattress instead of a sleeping bag. Plus, there is a wall and roof of fiberglass separating you and the

1. cold and/or rain
2. bugs and
3. animals that like to eat you.

This is first time we've been up there this year. The goal was to de-winterize it so we can begin enjoying it again. This task best performed if the relationship between you and your significant other is solid. Otherwise you will kill each other.

In theory, to de-winterize a house on wheels it should take two literate adults 2-3 hours, tops. Once again we managed to more than double that timeline, including the time it took John to drive into town to seek professional help help from someone who knows what they are doing. He came back replacement piping for the leaky plumbing, but no professional and it was then I decided he could take the camper in the divorce because if I wanted to be in a place where the pipes leak I could just stay home in our apartment in Brooklyn.

Eventually, we figured it all out. At least we think we did: we had hot water to cook and wash with and nothing exploded. Well, maybe a few tempers but that's nothing new, right?

Once we were finished, we sat down to eat dinner and realized that we'd forgotten a box at home containing groceries. No big deal, I thought. We'll get by. We could live without ketchup for a night and go without the left over Easter m&m's. Except it was the box that had the coffee in it. So even though we had hot water and shelter we were truly roughing it without coffee for the morning.

Friday, April 24, 2009
Sometimes the Circle of Life's a Bummer
I like to feed the birds. I don't have a fancy feeder or anything, I just throw a couple of handfuls of seed on the back patio. In the winter it is nice to hear their chirping when they come for a meal. In the summer, they eat the sour grapes on our old grape vines and throw them up into their fledgling's mouths, which is actually cuter than it sounds.

They serve as entertainment for our two cats during the day, who watch them from inside the house at the kitchen window as they flutter around the backyard. They help me out by keeping the mosquito population down naturally.

Since I've been feeding them, I've kept a little list of the birds I've spotted out back. There are the dozens of sparrows, the cardinals, the mockingbirds, the mourning doves, the starlings and the robins. There was also a red-tailed hawk once. For three years running we've had a northern flicker visit, and we've had a red winged blackbird, a catbird, house finches, a veery, two hummingbirds and the blue jays. Nothing spectacular, these are all fairly common birds but it is still nice to see the red cardinal in the snow while the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway drones on in the background, or hear the coo of the doves or the babble of the mockingbirds when the subway screeches by.

Not to mention the squirrel, eater of spring bulbs, digger of plants. He looks cute here but don't let that fool you, he's a hellion.

Yesterday morning I went out a left a little seed for my friends. Within 15 minutes they were here, gobbling up the food and flying around, chirping in the sunshine.

Then I heard an awful sound. I knew it was one of the jays. Had to be. They've been bullying the other birds for the seed lately and I wondered if they were bullying again.

There was bullying, but this time it was the jays being bullied. One had been caught by the stray ginger tabby that terrorizes the neighborhood yards, along with several other strays. This particular cat belonged to neighbors who decided they couldn't care for it anymore. The best way of relinquishing their responsibility for this feline was to just let it out and never let it back in. Why this was the most humane way to deal with an unwanted pet is beyond me.

So this crazy lady (me) ran out and tried intervening on behalf of the jay, breakfast banana still in hand. By the time I got close, the cat ran off, limp bird in its mouth. I was too late, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Just Some Random Thoughts For Today
Pirates. I understand the why and the who, I just don't think they are dressed appropriately.

While I was grocery shopping yesterday there was a robbery. I didn't realize it was happening until it was actually over. The thief was attempting to make off with a cart full of frozen shrimp.

I will take this week's forecast of three days of rain in exchange for an 80 degree Saturday we have coming up.

Have I told you that I am the new editor of our church's newsletter? No? Oh, well, I am. I need something to keep me busy and volunteering to do this seemed like a good idea. The newsletter is distributed in two languages: English and German. I don't speak German so this should be interesting!

Saturday, April 18, 2009
Red Hood Redux
Thursday I took the kids back to Red Hook to visit the Waterfront Museum and thought I'd share a couple more photos with you.

Sunset. I love sunsets. I also like sunrise but there's the whole get out of bed early thing to contend with. Also, it is much more socially acceptable to have a glass of wine at sunset. Sure, you could have a mimosa at sunrise but then you'd have to make brunch, which is a pain.
This is Duey, the resident rabbit that lives aboard the the Waterfront Museum. He shares the space with the barge owner/museum curator, along with his family. And they live on board year round. Duey is super friendly but it's so out of context to see a rabbit on floating museum in New York Harbor that it took me by surprise more than once when he came hopping over to see us.

This is the daughter of the barge owner/museum curator practicing her trapeze routine. This isn't usually part of the Waterfront Museum experience but on Sundays in June the barge will bring a circus on board for public performances. Imagine having the circus in your living room every year. What fun!

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Bike Tour
Yesterday I rode my bike through a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Red Hook.

Years ago, when John and I moved in together, the New York Times ran an article about how the area was becoming an artists community. "Pfft," we said. "Obviously The New York Times didn't bother to visit the area." Don't ever ask us for real estate advice. We simply lack the genetic material to see potential in economically depressed, crime ridden areas on the water front. The area has flourished over the last several years, and what I'm about to show you barely scratches the surface.

When I started out I came across this, a CSA!

I love this sign outside of the farm. Probably the only one of it's kind in New York City.
As I went a little further along, I rode past the IKEA. I have yet to step foot in the store, mainly because I was opposed to the project.
This crane is in the IKEA parking lot.
I rode over to Van Dyke Street and came across this: the entrance to Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies, Flickinger Glassworks and the Liberty Sunset Garden Center.
Then I rode over to Valentino Pier for a look at Lady Liberty. While there I learned that an island used to exist just off the coast. General George Washington built a fort there and called it Fort Defiance. It was small, but strategic. Once the American Revolution began, the American army, which was vastly outnumbered by the British, retreated and it was this fort that kept the ferry lane across the East River clear so that General Washington could lead his troops safely across it in their escape. (I dug around a little and found it mentioned here, if you are so inclined.)

I've lived here my whole life and this city never ceases to amaze me. The little shoreline in the picture below is a kayak launch!
This is the Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge. I was watching them work on the pier this afternoon when I spied a rabbit running around the interior of the barge. We went back last night right before they closed to give the place a proper visit. (And meet the Duey the rabbit!)
Excellent question.
One of many restaurants I've been wanting to try.

I'll bet the inside of this bar is pretty kitschy.
This is the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This particular portion is called "the trench." Traffic rarely flows this smoothly.
Finally, I headed home. Sophie attended the pre-school affiliated with this church before the New York Archdiocese shuttered it to save money. The parish priest bears a stunning resemblence to Ben Kingsley. John and I can never remember his name but if you say "Father Ben Kingsley," we'll know exactly who you're talking about.

It Happens, But You Don't Usually Announce It. Unless You're Four.
Last night after dinner I took the kids out to ride their scooters before it got too dark. Harry was trying so hard to keep up with his big sister and when he got to the end of the street he tried turning too quickly and fell.

I saw him get up almost immediately but I yelled over to him anyway. "You OK?"

"I'm OK, Mom! I farted, but I'm OK!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Today I helped Sophie work some more on the Project Bald Eagle for school. She insisted on including a graph to illustrate the decline of the bald eagle population in the in continental United States.

Although I used Excel and Word extensively in my previous working life, I never had to do a graph for work. Graphs were for other departments, for account executives who spent a lot of time with clients and presented things to them. Me? I used Excel for basic job accounting (also, it is handy for knitting if you want to create your own patterns).

So I sat this morning figuring out graphs of the bar or line variety only. Not pie charts and certainly not donut charts. Project Bald Eagle now has a spiffy new bar graph to show their precipitous decline between the mid 1800's and 1967. You have DDT to thank for that, as well as loss of habitat, human encroachment and trapping and shooting.

Anyway. Once I figured it out, I made another graph, showing how I've been spending my time during the precipitous decline in work.

  • Surprisingly, stress levels are at an all time low. Go figure!
  • Facebook was eating up a lot of time, but appears to be on the decline. Reasons for this are unknown, except it could be because of the new layout.
  • Cleaning and organizing is an area that is increasing and is projected to continue doing so into next week, although I make no guarantees. However I did get Sophie to go through the dress up box AND the Barbie box this afternoon. One bag of broken crowns and ratty one-eyed dolls are gone.
  • Sleep and exercise have increased as well. I think there may be a correlation there because lately my best nights are those when I've taken a bike ride. I lie down even though I feel like I have energy in spades but fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly (well, soundly until I have one of Harry's patented wake up calls). This exercise thing is also projected to increase since the weather the rest of this week is supposed to be gorgeous (why, hello, Spring! What took you so long?).
Tomorrow, once I get some of that pesky job search stuff out of the way (also on the rise), I'll be taking a nice long bike ride, with my camera. Results to be posted here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Science Project
Sophie reminded 347 times over the weekend that her science project is due next Monday. I was all "hey, chill out. Duuuude, it's ages away." But then she was all "but we have to print out pictures! And make line graphs! And do the research! And buy posterboard!"

And then last night I was all "Dude, we have got to get cracking on this project of yours!" and she was all "Duh! I told you!"

The focus this year is on the earth, since the science fair will be held during earth week. For the the third year in a row, Sophie is centering her project around an animal so today we are researching bald eagles, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's posterchild bird for why conservation works. Their nests, I have learned, can weigh 1 tonne, and can be 13ft deep and 8 ft wide (bigger than some studio apartments in New York City!).
It's going to be all eagles, all the time for the next several days. I wonder if I can include this in my resume? "Conducted research into conservation efforts and successfully reported findings to Science Board."

It has nothing to do with any job I've been applying for but it sounds good!

Monday, April 13, 2009
Happy Easter Monday
We had a lovely Easter weekend. We dyed eggs:

Then Sophie and I helped decorate our church on Saturday morning. She decided she wanted to go back Saturday night for the Easter Vigil and again on Easter Sunday. Here's hoping there's a special place in heaven for that kid.

Sunday morning the kids found the baskets the Easter Bunny had left and searched for the eggs he'd hidden around the house. We found all but one so today I have to make sure to try and find that last egg.

I was able to keep Harry's shirt tucked into his pants long enough to get one picture in church. And one outside and Nana Laurie's and Grandpa's, where we had Easter dinner.
The kids spent the afternoon hunting more eggs:
And playing with Jax, Nana and Grandpa's newly adopted dog. I really love that dog.

But just look what he did to his toy!

I'd have taken a picture of the Easter spread but you know how it is. Everyone's starving and the kids have to be corralled to wash up and the food is getting cold and the kids are complaining that they are NOT eating lamb because it is so cruel to eat a baby animal so instead of taking a picture I had another glass of wine. I know when to cut my losses.

But dessert! Now that I could get a picture of. Here's my contribution: carrot cake, with frolicking marshmallow bunnies on them. The kids were all "Hey! Marshmallow bunnies! Gimme some of that cake!" Then we told them it was carrot cake and they were all "Blech. Forget it. Can I have ice cream?"
And here's the whole dessert table, complete with bunny cake (it's not Easter without it), chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate cream pie and chocolate covered pretzels. (And sambuca for coffee.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009
Totally Worth the Wait
Vinny's Pizza and a tall, ice-cold Coke.
(The *real* real thing.)
As you can tell, I broke out the good paper plates
and plastic placemats for the occasion.
Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Kosher For Passover Coke
I grew up in Brooklyn, where you can't walk very far without passing a pizzeria. And thin-crust pizza in this city is an institution, much the way deep dish pizza is an institution in Chicago (the only other acceptable place to eat pizza in this country, by the way).

Here, you can buy pizza by the slice or by the whole pie, and you can tell when a restaurant only serves whole pies by the sign that hangs on the door declaring "No Slices."

Anyway, a few years ago I was eating pizza and reminiscing about how good an ice cold, frosty Coke went with a slice and how I just couldn't drink the stuff anymore. It's too sweet, far too sweet and it totally overpowers the pizza.

I took to the internet, where I discovered it was not my tastebud's imagination. The general recipe for Coke changed and it is made with high fructose corn syrup. I've been trying for serveral years to eliminate HFCS from my diet so when I read this, I thought "goodbye, Coke. Nice knowing you."

BUT, there is one time of year that Coke is made the old-fashioned way: with sugar. Gather 'round children, while Mrs. Murphy explains the wonder of Kosher for Passover (KFP) Coke:

Adhering to Jewish dietary law, known as keeping kosher, follows a different set of rules around the holiday of Passover, which celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery and their Exodus out of Egypt led by the always fablulous Charlton Heston Moses. At this time of year, Jews eat unleavened bread (thanks to Ali and my mom for giving me the link for 20 things to do with matzoh!), and are forbidden to eat or possess "chometz" (foods made with wheat, spelt, barley, oats, or rye), as well as "kitniyot" (foods made with rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds).

So Coke, with its HFCS, is a no no. But Coke with sugar is kosher. Literally.

You can tell KFP Coke by the yellow cap and the symbols OU-P, which means it was certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union for Pesach (Passover). Sometimes it won't be in the soda aisle, but in the seasonal aisle, where other KFP products are sold. New York has a large Jewish population so there's usually plenty KFP Coke to go around but in other areas, like Toronto, it is selling out.

Once a year, I buy a couple of bottles and tuck into a pizza with tall, frosty Coke. That day will be this Friday. Yeah, I know. It's Good Friday, it's Passover. Lots of mixing of religions going on, the pizza is yeast-raised. L'chaim anyway!

Monday, April 6, 2009
Breaking It Off
Back in December, Sophie got some fancy x-ray that made the usual price of a dentistry visit skyrocket. For the past three months I've been making weekly phone calls to the insurance company to find out where my money is because, hello! THAT was a lot to pay five days before Christmas. The insurance company needs an "explanation" for the service and the only explanation I have is that the dentist made me do it. The insurance company has sent letters, except the dental office claims they've never received them.

A few weeks back I got a little testy and asked if they could maybe get off their duffs and call the insurance company for me? Which they didn't do.

So then I called and reminded them again that this issue was outstanding and they needed to resolve it because of a little car insurance bill that is due and it is amazing that one dental visit could pay for six months of automobile insurance in New York City.


This time I got to talk to the dentist, who assured me that the individual responsible for this would handle it first thing Monday morning (one week ago), and that person claims they tried to but could not reach anyone at the insurance company, which happens if you call before 8am and after 5pm. But in between? Lots of people to call. TONS.

This afternoon the dental office called to give me a friendly reminder that we have a dental appointment this Saturday to which I replied "Oh, really? Well have you figured everything out with the insurance company because I just know this appointment is going to be more out-of-pocket and I find it interesting how this issue isn't that important to you since you are paid right away but I can pony up a few more hundred dollars because you were friendly enough to remind me."

And the answer (of course) was no, it still is not resolved. And then I said "cancel the appointment. I shouldn't have to fight to get my money reimbursed because of your incompetence, and please prepare our records to be sent. We'll be finding another dentist."

So that's that. I broke it off, but I have a feeling the dentist herself will call me later. She's not afraid to pick up the phone when something is amiss or when she wants to lay the guilt on me. I just hope it's not like Seinfeld, where the first break up never takes.

Below the Belt
When I was on maternity leave with both children, I forbade myself from watching television during the day.

Our kids are winter babies, so there were plenty of reasons to stay home and cuddle up with an infant while watching the tube. But I knew, I just knew, that if I didn't set some rules up for myself, I'd find myself glued to it and the entire leave of absence from work would be wasted on Maury Povich and Passions.

I am ashamed to say, but it was with rapt attention that I watched the fourth hour of the Today Show in which Hoda Kotbe and Kathy Lee discussed vaginal health.

It is time to reinstitute this no television rule during my unemployment. Starting, um, right now.

Thursday, April 2, 2009
Day 2 of unemployment was spent taking Sophie to the otolaryngologist, aka the ENT doctor. The dentist thinks the plaque that builds up on her front teeth is caused by breathing through her mouth at night due to enlarged adenoids. The pediatrician agrees.

When I called to make the appointment, it was a 25 minute process. 15 of those minutes were spent on hold, four were spent being transferred from one person to another, two minutes were spent convincing the office that I don't need a referral in order to see their precious doctor and the remaining four were spent by giving them our insurance information and then being told the first available appoint was in April. Apparently otolaryngology is Greek for "no appointments for three months."

The doctor asked Sophie if she's more comfortable breathing through her mouth and the answer was a resounding "yes."

Then he asked if she snores. My answer was a resounding "yes," except Sophie told the doctor "I don't snore. If I snored I'd wake myself up, wouldn't I?"

No, she wouldn't. I know this because most nights, I have the husband snoring to the left of me and I hear Sophie AND Harry snoring through the monitor on my right. All that snoring (in stereo, too!) and I am the only one awake to hear it.

What we learned at this visit is that she has mild allergies-more of the year-round kind-so allergy testing will be necessary. She will also have to take a nasal spray for the congestion and if every thing gets better from that she'll be OK. If not, we'll discuss "the next steps," which is an adenoidectomy and Sophie thinks this is Greek for "post-surgical unlimited ice cream diet."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Unemployment - Day 1
After filing a claim for unemployment benefits, I headed out to meet a friend and former co-worker for lunch.

While we sat in the restaurant perusing the menu, we decided that a nice glass of wine would be a perfect accompaniment to lunch. And you know, after that glass of wine, getting a job lead from my friend and having said friend pick up the tab, I realized that there are worse ways to spend the first day of unemployment.

Thanks, Lou!