The most anxiety I have felt about 2 paragraphs

The other day, my child, who is in the second grade, came home with an essay assignment. Basically, he has to write two paragraphs and draw one picture about a holiday that we celebrate as a family, one associated tradition, and a food consumed during said holiday. Of course, this has spiraled into a massive amount of anxiety for me.

We are atheists, so I would rather not mention any specific religion’s holiday. Granted, I know that 95% of the kids, at least, will be writing about Christmas or Hanukah. I looked through a list of non-denominational winter holidays, and some of the possibilities I came up with were Festivus and Decemberween. And who could forget Boxing Day? But I realized that we don’t actually celebrate those holidays, so back to the drawing board.

Then, I thought about the Winter Solstice. After all, that’s what our kids think they are celebrating when they celebrate Christmas. But I got stuck in the facts of this astronomical yearly occurrence, and had my son draw something like this. Then, I remembered this was a writing assignment, and not a science project, so most of that was scrapped.

It’s important to remember that this assignment is of writing TWO PARAGRAPHS, and this entry is already twice that. Finally, I realized I was thinking too much about it, and I think I will encourage him to write about Yule, which is the name I grew up calling the winter solstice. He can write about the days growing longer, and how we like to bake cookies, and then we will bake and bring in cookies. And on the plus side, I already know what we can do for science project this year!

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Happy whatever you celebrate! (photo from 2014)

A past problem that haunts me still

While I may not be vocal about this, I spend a bunch of time thinking about a problem that is not currently a problem of mine. That problem is food insecurity, and if you don’t know what that is, you can read about it here: Understanding Hunger and Food Insecurity.

While I say this thankfully is not currently a problem of mine, it certainly has been a problem of mine in the past. Long ago, way before I had a well-paying job in a lucrative industry and was married to a person in the same position, I lived in the basement apartment of my father’s house, and did not have much of a salary. At 27 years old and with a recently deceased mother, I was going through somewhat of an emotional and lifestyle crisis. My dad had threatened to kill himself after my mother’s death, and asked me, his only daughter, to move in with him. I had a respectable job in publishing in New York City, but telecommuting was not done back then, so I quit and moved three hours north to one of the poorest counties in the state.

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My dad and me, a couple of months after my mother’s death. The door seen on the left leads to my apartment.

The house and property were large but extremely run-down. The main house itself had a living room, dining room, kitchen, one bathroom, and three bedrooms. It also smelled horribly of smoke, as both my parents smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. At first, I slept in the bedroom I had stayed in when I visited, but the daily smell of smoke was getting to me, and I asked to move into the basement apartment.

That apartment was not unknown to me, as I had lived there a brief period when I was 18-20 and going to junior college. It had a large living room, a very small bedroom, and an even smaller kitchen and bathroom. And I use the term “kitchen” loosely. When I was younger, the kitchen had a sink and a refrigerator. Moving back there, both of these items were gone.

Trying to make money in a poor, rural community is difficult. As a student at the local massage school, I got a student job in the bursar’s office. I was allowed to work a maximum of 10 hours a week, and I made $9 an hour. After taxes, that was about $300 a month. I had to pay for my classes, of course, and also gas for my car. My father allowed me to live in the apartment rent-free, since it would otherwise just stand empty.

Sometimes I try to think back on what I would eat on a day-to-day basis. When I first moved in with him, my dad provided me with every meal. But as I moved to the apartment and started school, I saw him less. In those days, I would have a granola bar for breakfast, a cup of free coffee at the bursar’s office sometime during the day, and whatever he made for dinner. I was hungry from skipping lunch every weekday, but there was no real suffering.

Eventually, we grew further apart as our lives went on. My dad met a woman and spent a lot of time with her, so there were no more prepared dinners most nights. I had a microwave in my apartment, so I started having microwaved popcorn almost every night. Remember, I had no sink, so I didn’t want anything that required dishes or utensils. Also, I had nowhere to store food that needed to be cold. So, I largely lived on granola bars and microwaved popcorn for two years of my life, and it wasn’t the worst that could have happened.

I remember being hungry all the time. A bag of microwaved popcorn is about 300 calories and a granola bar is about 150, so with the coffee, I was having about 500 calories a day, most days. As a comparison, I now eat about 1,100 calories a day, most days, and the average adult woman eats about twice that (2,000 according to Google). Of course, some happy days I did get other food. Sometimes my dad brought home a bucket of KFC. Sometimes I went to a friend’s house for dinner. Sometimes, when it was payday, I treated myself to a sandwich from the gas station when I filled up my car.

Let me be clear in saying that I did not have it all that bad. But what I do want to emphasize is that it is now many years later, and I still look back on that time of my life often and with a feeling of existential dread. I wanted to write about some things I do that help the situation and also alleviate my anxiety, but this post has gotten pretty long, so I’ll save that for next time.

Missing both my computer and imaginary friends

If you’re the type of person who likes unfocused, general blog posts, then you will love this one!

So, what’s going on with me? First, I don’t have a computer! That sucks for anyone in general, but if you are struggling to put out the last book in an urban fantasy series, it perhaps really sucks. It’s been over a month now, and I miss having a computer a great deal. However, I just started a new job after being home with the kids all summer (read: not making money), so while I’ll hopefully have one soon, it hasn’t been able to happen yet.

Another thing: I was in two regular RPGs, and now both are on hiatus. I know this shouldn’t seem like that jarring an occurrence, but these were two people who I was very close to, and I do miss them. This happened at around the same time when I finished writing the first draft of Fresh Blood, so I also had to say goodbye to my protagonist. And for those who weren’t clear from reading above, the people I am missing are the characters I played in the games.

Thing of change the third: My older son started attending kindergarten in a public school this fall. He had previously only attended a private pre-k at his daycare. For those who don’t have kids, daycare hardly ever closes. Public school is closed all the time, for holidays I would never have off from work. In addition, daycare gets out at 6pm. Public school gets out at 2:20pm. So it was a bit of an adjustment, to say the least, with a ton of scrambling for childcare. When both parents work outside the home (and in different boroughs) and both kids attending different schools, commuting can be very difficult.

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My son on the first day of kindergarten!

So in conclusion, there have been a lot of changes lately, and I am looking forward to having things calm down a bit, if that ever really happens.

First day of school blues

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All ready for school!
Today is my older son’s first day of kindergarten. When he was born almost five years ago, this day seemed so far away, but now, with seemingly no warning, it’s here. This day, and these last few months in general, have been somewhat of emotional roller coaster for me.
To make a long story into a somewhat shorter story, I was a stay-at-home mom for a few weeks this summer. Summer is usually a slow time for the work I do, and it seemed like a good time to try out my ideas of working less and being with family more. Did I enjoy it? Almost all of it, except for one big part. I worry about money all the time. It’s just my nature to do so. And that I wasn’t contributing to the household very much did upset me. So one day, I asked my older son if he wanted to go back to camp for the rest of the summer, and he said, “Yes, I really want to!”

Most kids like being around other kids. And while I took him to the playground every day, it obviously was not enough for him. Not everyone is like me and just wants to be left alone in the dark to read a book, after all (yes, this is something I enjoyed at age five). At that point, I realized it would probably better for both of us if I went back to work full time. I did feel some guilt with my just-turned-a-year-old son, who is going through horrible separation anxiety, and just wants to be with me all day. But I know that in a few weeks or months, he too will start playing with his daycare friends, and look forward to school.

And as for me, I’ve been at work for about three weeks now. I do genuinely enjoy editing, so that’s always a plus, to like what you do. The coworkers and boss are all as sane as you can get in the world of advertising, and as usual, the Diet Coke is free, so I can’t complain. The fact that I can go to the bathroom without anyone screaming for me and opening the door and place a hot cup of coffee on a table without worrying that someone will knock it over is just a bonus.

But today is my son’s first day of kindergarten and my first day off work, and as school gets out at the crazy time of 11:10, I am looking forward to taking my son out for a quality afternoon of movies and ice cream.

Doing less is sometimes more

Like many people who have their first child, I was in a hurry to sign mine up for a lot of classes. Even though he was in full-time daycare, he had to have soccer, music, or something else on the weekends. And even that wasn’t enough, because then we would also try to fit in plays, museums, and whatever else we felt was lacking. When I became pregnant with my second child, I was forced to slow down a bit. At the time, my older son was in a soccer class on Saturday mornings, but that was it. I was so pregnant and uncomfortable toward the end, that I maybe made it to every other class, if that.

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My older son kicks a ball at soccer class while I have to stand in a field for an hour very uncomfortable during my eighth month of pregnancy. 

Now that my second child is almost a year old (where did the time go?), I realize that that soccer class last summer was the last one that my older son was in. We have been relatively busy, and with the getting ready and the travel, an hour-long soccer class could easily eat up three hours of time. And time is one commodity that is non-renewable.

The other thing is that there are weekends when I spend a lot of time and money running around to try to do everything, and in the process, feel like I’ve done nothing. Then, when I ask my son what about the weekend he enjoyed the most, he will almost always say, “Going to the park.” This is somewhat annoying to me because the park is free, you don’t really need advanced planning to go there, and it’s only three blocks away.

Generally I think I could have saved a bunch of time and money, and been more relaxed in general, had we actually planned to do less on the weekends and instead spent time just sitting around in the park. (That would be me and the baby sitting around, while the older one goes off and plays.) So this summer I am resolved to relax more and plan less! This is our last summer before the older child goes to school, and I want it to go by as slowly as possible please!

My actual dream is to open the very first sock puppet school

Supposedly, we learn from our mistakes. It just takes some of us a little longer than others. One of my (many) mistakes that I have done over (and over) again is go back to school. In (some year, a long time ago) I graduated Pace University with a Bachelor degree in literature and communications. Never being one to leave well enough alone, I decided only a few years later to go back to school for something else. After all, if one degree is good, two are better, right?

What did I go to school for? I don’t exactly remember. I did take a bunch of anatomy classes, which I enjoyed. I also took pottery, which I enjoyed somewhat less. There may have been business, which I didn’t enjoy at all. At one point, when my mom had just died, and I was not exactly in my right mind, I even quit my job to go to massage therapy school. Where did rational thinking come into play during this decision? It did not. How much, in general, do I enjoy touching people? I do not. It has been pointed out to me that when a person tries to hug me, I will pat their back once and then pull away. The only good thing about massage therapy school was that I was able to give all non-massage presentations by sock puppet theater.

Nevertheless, I went to massage therapy school for almost two years. Please take note that I said “almost two years.” How long is massage therapy school in New York? Two years. That’s right, I dropped out with about a month to go. I developed painful bursitis in my hands, and also was offered a job as managing editor of a medical journal. After that epic fail, I stopped thinking about school for a few years. I would like to say more than three, but in reality it was exactly three. This time, I applied to acupuncture school. Although that sounds like it’s really out there, it did use a lot of the classes and credits from massage school, so theoretically that time and money would not be totally lost.

I am happy to report, however, that even though I applied, interviewed, and was accepted into acupuncture school, I did not go. It was around that time that I decided, after not wanting anything to do with children the first 34 years of my life, that I did want a kid. So at that point I concentrated on getting pregnant and having my first son, and temporarily gave up on the idea of school.

A few years later, after my son was born and my first book was published, I realized I no longer had the desire to go back to school. It took me a bit to think about how these things are related, but they very much are. My job did not fulfill me as a person, and I was looking for something that did. For whatever reason, my thoughts always lay in academia rather than, say, world travel or volunteer work. But by publishing my first book, something I had wanted to do since I was in elementary school, I fulfilled my inner need to express myself and do something I love, and thus did not need to go back to school.

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My elementary school, PS 229 in Woodside, Queens. It was there that I first said I wanted to be a writer. And made sock puppets.