Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Economic stimulus rant

YO Dudes.
In congress.
Thanks so much for

A $600 check in my mailbox is NOT an economic stimulus package. It won’t pay off the debt I have had to run up just to keep up, a debt with loan shark rates. It’s not going to cover the property tax increase I am getting this year because the state and the schools and the county are drowning in unfunded mandates. It’s not going to get my daughter, currently in a public school ranking in the bottom 20% of the state, into a private school, or pay for the tutoring and enrichment to keep her apace with her peers in the world. It’s not going to help me buy a house in a better neighborhood with a better school because the median price of a house in my town is TWICE what a median income in my town can afford. Its not even going to cover the increase in our insurance deductible for next year. So while this economic spending package may be making you all feel good and pat yourselves on the back, what I really need is a job that is not threatening to be cut every single year, so I can actually PLAN my family budget. A woman who has to buy winter coats and boots at the thrift store is not really the economic engine you all can count on. What I really need is for you all to stop spending money on a war that is eating up cash faster than you can print it. What would really stimulate my spending is to have the same health insurance and pension package that you all up there on the hill get, and get raises like you all voted yourselves. It also would help if the gas prices would not jump 20 cents in a single day, but hey, that’s a free market. Sounds like a plan. And by the by, where the heck are you getting this money from to PAY for this economic stimulus????? With the interest on the national debt, it sure doesn’t make good financial sense to borrow MORE.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Organizational skills

ADHD is contagious.
I know there is not a medical or psychological expert in the world who will agree with me on this, but if you live with a person with this way of being in the world for any amount of time (I come from a 20 years perspective, and I got at least two in the house at any one time) you will find yourself becoming scattered and easily distractible. This is not an entirely bad thing. The ability to get off the beaten path and follow winding trains of thought allows you to end up in marvelous destinations that there are no guidebooks for. However, you must develop an advanced, supercharged tolerance for chaos.

All you folks out there with kids on Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall, clip this and file it in a time capsule and give it to the person your child marries. I have just saved your child and their future spouse about 5 years of marriage therapy.

No amount of screaming, rewarding, investing in Container Store Solutions, Franklin Planner workshops or Personal Organizer services will grow an Executive Function in a brain. But do remember that, as the close proximity to someone who sees the world through scattershot lenses slowly begins to erode your own internal compass and sense of organization, people with ADHD make wonderful dinner guests, amusing companions if you don’t have a productivity agenda, and fabulous artists.

I have discovered all this the hard way. I no longer need to actually meet a person to know if they have the unmistakeable signs of this way of perceiving our world—just as Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding is evident by the piles it leaves, ADHD has a distinctive signature in Interior Decorating—which is how I know I have, after 20 years of exposure, caught it. When the piles and accumulations of fascinating flotsam lose their rhyme or reason, when I , the steel trap schedule maker, can no longer even recall with photographic memory, what was ON the schedule, then I know. I have caught this chaotic, unsorted way of chasing down ephemera. I am part of the club. Unfortunately, if you catch it this way, the pills will not help. The only thing that can help is to hire domestic staff. Outsource the organized brain. Of course, timely application of domestic assistance could have contained the contagion to begin with. I mean, there have been these type of people long before it was labeled—back when I was growing up, disorganized folks had stay at home moms and grew up to have secretaries.

I am trying to get myself help—I posted this ad over on campus:
Artist mom with brutal day gig needs organized domestic assistant. Duties can include supervising a baking or art project with the kids, reminding children ad nauseum to pick that up and put it back, walking a dog, organizing the linen closet, search and recovery mission for a lost library book. NOT a childcare gig—children are very clear they are TOO OLD for a babysitter. NOT a housekeeper gig—we have a cleaning lady. Must like kids, animals and be comfortable with a certain amount of chaos (two people in the family are ADHD) Ability to devise rudimentary file system a huge plus. Sense of humor ESSENTIAL. Driver’s license preferred. Dad works at home but is clueless on the domestic front. Really flexible schedule—5 to 10 hours a week.
Salary commensurate with the amount of my sanity preserved.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Winter Sledding

They have outlawed sledding on the Big Hill , well the only hill, in my town. Yes here in the flatlands of the Midwest, we have but one solitary hill, a retired landfill of a lump, landscaped over and set in a broad flat park of ball diamonds and soccer fields.

We live in a town full of lawyers, successful lawyers (no one else can really afford to live here anymore) in a region full of lawyers, in a state and a country full of lawyers where anyone who has ever been hurt by anything can win the lottery of a lawsuit. And little municipalities like mine, worn out from defending themselves from their citizens own stupidity are fighting back and cracking down. They throw you off the beaches at dusk in summer, and now, when we finally have a real ball breaker of a winter with decent snow, they are hiring a security firm to keep us off the best sled run in the suburbs. You are not completely banned, of course. The slow sloping baby hills that shoulder the sled run are still open for business with huge red No Trespassing signs. But there is no sport in riding down a hill with less slope than the stairs of my front porch.

And so, in a land of couch potatoes, we corpulently sit at our glowing screens seeking excitement, since the thrill has gone out of an analog childhood. In a world where everything must be safe to be sanctioned, a world where nothing is really safe—where families are suicide bombed at weddings, flattened like pancakes in earthquakes as they sleep, or swept out to sea in tsunamis, or stranded on rooftops for days after hurricanes, in such a world, sledding down a hill is too dangerous to be allowed.

Sense of Place

Passing through a neighborhood in a city you once lived in for years is like turning the pages of a scrapbook. I was a grad student here, I walked the baby here, I met my husband here. We grow older, the neighborhood gentrifies, we all change, but the memories stay the same, fading like photos in your head.

I was young here, once. But then you move on....

Before we all began shuffling ourselves
Like Tarot cards across the globe
Our names and families and places
Held us like pushpins
Into the surface of a place
Living and dying where your people
Had lived and loved and died.
Their bones, the dust you breathe.
Only great love or catastrophe
Could move you behond meters
From where your parents and people were.
Rooted like trees in place.
Catastrophes like poverty or pogroms,
Starvation and War.
Great love, like longing for food
And a better way of life
For your children.
We belonged to the smell of a local ocean.
To the sound of a certain bird.
To the green of a certain meadow
which you knew as well as your name.
Now, we all move about disconnected from our places.
Unknown to our people,
Unstuck to the surface of the place
Not knowins to what or whom we belong.
With bits of places stuck inside of us.

Friday, January 18, 2008

waving the white flag

My job is up for being cut as a budget saving measure, and its been stressed that we should mind our p's and q's during the limbo period while the decision is being made. So of course today I am late in to the office because I have to find the math pages, help my LD kid finish homework, find some field trip permission slip that apparently never came home, and essentially making myself nuts with the administrative duties of keeping up with three active kids and two folks with ADHD--so I surrender--in the spirit of the memos I have been getting:

To my children’s school and activities:

Due to budget cuts and recent organizational restructuring, we have lost the children’s personal servants and secretarial positions. We ask your tolerance moving forward as we continue to support their educational and social-emotional progress. Due to recent shifts in the economic outlook, our organization has returned to its core business of food, clothing, shelter, medical care and unconditional love, as well as values training.
In practical terms this means that future communication with our offices should be in electronic form. Do not rely on voice mails because the staff servicing the phones has been eliminated. We have found the United States postal service to be unreliable. An email address has been provided for your convenience but be aware that it has a spam filter and limited storage capacity. We are no longer staffed with detectives who can hunt down flyers and missives. Alternatively, you may post information to updated detailed calendars and websites which will be accessed by our newly outsourced assistant staff. Please note that the children’s personal homework and sales staff was also phased out. They are now completely responsible for those tasks themselves and we ask that they be realistic and developmentally appropriate. If there is a product you wish the children to sell, please train them accordingly and accept some range of mathematical discrepancies that are bound to occur. Discretionary fund budgets have been cut entirely and each child is responsible for their own revenue stream. Requests for volunteers will be forwarded to our service department for evaluation and allocation. The number of hours available has been severely curtailed. We thank you for your patience as we move through this exciting period of change.....

Monday, January 14, 2008

My house

I spent the weekend trying to recover from the fact that I am never home. You know, the 22 loads of laundry that has not been done, the fact that no one in the family shops or cleans out the science projects in the fridge. But this project is always very interesting. A Scandinavian friend told me I live in Villa Villakula, the house of Pippi Longstocking.

But actually,I live in Mildred, the Magic House.

All houses have personalities. My house is a bona fide Character.

As Magic Houses go, Mildred is getting on in years, and her mind is not what it used to be. She can be a bit, um, scattered. You ask her for something, she will always deliver –but it will turn up although you are never quite sure where. Say that you want a fabulous hat to wear to the Ballet . It shows up inside of the freezer. You want a new novel to read at bedtime and Mildred will leave it for you in the oven. Mildred is full of surprises, that’s for sure.

Mildred has absolutely EVERYTHING you could ever want and many things you’ll never use. For example I have never found a use for the top half of the meat grinder that showed up in the basement. And then there is the dead 1960 Cadillac with 4 flat tires in the garage. And the vintage paper holiday decorations. And the Time Life everything you ever wanted to know about anything in 1978 books. Book, oh Mildred just loves books—she stashes them everywhere. We use them as doorstops and coffee tables and they just keep appearing. You cannot hide from them, every room in the house has at least 20 books in it, even the closets.

Mildred is overly generous, like a Jewish Grandma who considers it her mission on earth to overstuff you with noodle kugel. If one of a thing is good, then 12 might be better. Mildred’s taste tends towards the eccentric—many of the things she delivers have feathers, sparkles, glitter and huge fake jewels. She is also quite fond of the odd assorted bit of hardware that is essential for the operation of some unnamed mechanical contraption.

There are folks who prefer the clean lines of a more modern house, and whose houses look styled and from the pages of a magazine. That’s NOT my Mildred, but I have grown to love a house who along with stuffed animals collects dust bunnies and drops plaster on important dinner guests. Mildred is tolerant towards children, mice and the squirrels who chew upon her, can handle over 50 people for parties with her open porch smile and her bizarre layout out of little rooms. Mildred sings in the wind and hunkers down in a storm. My bathroom would not back up and I could stay organized in a younger house, or in a house whose previous owners had believed in rehabilitation or at least new kitchens and baths, but my life would not be as interesting or full of surprises without Mildred

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I am stunned
by the evocation
of a smell.
The equation
of a moment in time:
Cat pee, a baby's head, the smoke
Of a campfire.
The musty smell of a vacation blanket.
An entire world,
Like a hologram,
called forth.
No photograph can pull memories
so clearly,
so fully fleshed
For the olafactory is buried
in the base of the brain.
Where we begin,
before emotion
is fully formed.

I am packing up the holidays again. I am not quite ready to say goodbye and buckle down to the part of winter that proves how tough I am, the grey part, the seasonal affective depression part. A grueling work schedule which had me in my "office" by 7:30 am most mornings over the kids entire winter break meant a lot of cut corners. I never really sat looking at the tree, squinting at the lights and inhaling the pine smell. The scent of balsam wafts through the whole house and it will sure get a jolt on Saturday when I yank it out through the halls and onto the parkway for recycling. I always leave the needles a little too long-- a tribute to my slovenly housekeeping skills, but a little reminder that, yes, I did the holiday essentials: tree, menorah, cookies, latkes, family, friends. I read all the stories I always read. We did all the things we had to do, the ones we "always do". Those smells of sugar and oil and chocolate and roasts and eggnog all layered into my brain for another year. And now its time to pack it all up in plastic cubes and take it to the attic for another layer of dust and squirrel footprints, the fine patina of my organizer boxes.

I can wax nostalgic at this point because I finished my holiday camp, and I have had some sleep.

But in the middle of it, I wasn't so peaceful:
This from my diary---
Christmas 2007
This year, I gave in to the holidays. More accurately, I gave up. Face it: its going to be chaotic, stressful and fattening. I wanted to, at some point, kill every single member of my family. I stood in a semi-darkened room way too late at night, cupping a glass of something with a kick, surrounded by the flotsam of a project totally overdue (whether thats the 42 dozen cookies I was supposed to bake for the teachers, the postman,the soccer coach or wrapping the nephews gifts which I will now need to spend a fortune Fed Exing because I have missed every possible shipping deadline) I will gain at least 5 pounds unless I get the stomach flu or food poisoning, which has happened 2 years out of the last 15.
Add I will do it all again next year. In fact, I will look forward to it.