Singing my kids (and my neuroses) to sleep

IMG_0631.JPGAt bedtime a few nights ago, the girls were giggling and telling Joe, “Do it again, Daddy! Do it again!”

So Joe re-entered Neve’s room, stood at the foot of her bed, and starting crooning “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” like a jazz singer wannabe.

My brows hunched in full-puzzlement mode. This was what led Lily and Neve into hysterics?

But then Joe arrived at the song’s bridge, at which point he started jumping up and down, and his face, though still smiling, became more intense. It was as if Black Flag’s Henry Rollins suddenly appeared, pounding out iconic lyrics as angry thrash metal: “Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far BEHIND MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

The girls both doubled over, laughing so hard their eyes watered.

And I thought, “Thank you, universe, for these crazy, crazy people.” Continue reading

13 things I’d never done before my layoff

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“Parks and Recreation”‘s Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) created a crazy-complicated game called The Cones of Dunshire while out of work. I’ve done nothing this ambitious.

Experiencing a layoff is, in many ways, like going through a brutally abrupt, heart-wrenching break-up, so it’s inevitably a time of change.

After all, this thing you’ve built your day-to-day life around is suddenly, bafflingly gone, leaving a Brachiosaurus-sized hole that you have no idea how to fill. (Sorry. My four year old is way into “Dinosaur Train,” so extinct giant lizards are my go-to point of comparison just now.) You do all the stuff people tell you to do: you update your resume; you overhaul your LinkedIn page; you schedule networking lunches and coffee dates; and you skim job listings, feeling hopeless and hopeful at the same time.

But doing these things only fills the earliest days of a layoff. After that, you find yourself staring into a terrifying, existential abyss. In this moment, people who aren’t on the verge of losing their house, etc. often dive into cross-fit or home improvement projects – both of which sound way, way more productive than anything I’ve done while trying to re-launch my career.

So as it stands, I’m in no better shape than I was before, and our house still looks like the world’s most poorly organized indoor estate sale. But I’m nonetheless having new adventures, whether I invited them into my life or not.

Here’s a partial list of things I’d never done before getting the ol’ heave-ho from my employer in January. (And my apologies to those who were hoping for more exciting fare, like hang-gliding or free climbing. Maybe next year?) Continue reading

You’re so vein, part deux: What the treatment’s really like

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One almost-healed leg next to one in the post-procedure stocking phase. (Pro tip: if you happen to share my painfully pale Irish skin tone, get the beige support stocking. No need to draw extra attention to your temporarily crazy leg situation, especially during shorts/skirt season.)

To follow up on my last post: last Thursday, I had the varicose veins in my right leg ablated, so I’m just going to tell you a bit about what the procedure is like, and what it involves. (Ablated = shut down. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the legs, while veins with “one-way” valves help the blood defy gravity and travel from the leg back up to the heart. When a valve leaks, the blood pools and enlarges the vein, causing varicose veins. Since the affected vein isn’t functioning properly anyway, the treatment involves using heat to cauterize/close the varicose vein. And that’s one to grow on.)

the more you know psa public service announcement the mo you know

First, after filling out even more paperwork, you’re led to a room with a few lockers, where you remove and lock up your super-valuable pants and pull on a big, stretchy pair of shorts and a robe. But don’t get too excited. It’s not a luxe spa or hotel robe; instead, it’s the fabric version of quilted paper.

2. You’re led into a patient room, where you read the same issue of Popular Science, with Obama on the cover, that you read at your last appointment until a nurse comes in, gives you a black Sharpie to write your initials on the leg they will be working on – to avoid any confusion, I guess?! – and asks you to stand with that leg extended in front of the other. With that same Sharpie, she marks up each varicose vein that they will be ablating on your leg. Which just feels odd.

I’d been through this before with my left leg, two weeks earlier, and because that leg had the lion’s share of visible varicose veins, I’d thought that the right would be a breeze. But then she kept marking. And marking. Crap. This might be slightly less intense then the first time, when they ablated 38 veins, but … not by as much as I’d expected. Shazbot. Continue reading

You’re so vein: when seeking a medical treatment feels like self-betrayal

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What my inner left thigh looks like. Aging ain’t for sissies, people.

When you’ve kept a specific part of your body hidden for years, it’s terrifying – to say the least – to make arrangements to expose it to a series of strangers, and have that area not only studied from close up, but touched, repeatedly and extensively.

Yet that’s what I did a few weeks ago. I called a medical office that specializes in varicose and spider vein treatment, made a consultation appointment, and said nothing more about it. To anyone. Because I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

Not just about my left leg – the area most plagued by the errant veins – but also because I’ve spent my life thinking that I’m someone who embraces the idea of natural aging. I always wanted to be Helen Mirren, not Cher.

Yet after several years of sheathing myself in leggings, pants, capris, and long flowy skirts, something I couldn’t look away from so easily arose, which is: now when I go running or do yoga, I feel some achiness, some pain in those varicose areas. Plus, I’d seen ads that suggested that health insurance companies usually covered varicose vein treatment, so I thought: “They wouldn’t do that if it was just a cosmetic procedure, right?”

With this in mind, a couple of weeks ago, I did a web search for local options, took a deep breath, called for an appointment. Continue reading

Family life in the Easter/Passover divide

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On a few mornings during this past week, my 4 year old daughter Neve has crawled out of bed and asked, “Is today when I can’t eat bread?”

When I say, “No, that starts Friday night, when Passover begins,” her whole body visibly relaxes.

It’s more than a little comical. Neve’s (admittedly very narrow) eating life focuses primarily on things not kosher for Passover: bread, dry cereal, and hummus. This is a girl who often eats slices of bread as a snack, so the thought of going without her first food love for several days is clearly causing her a little, well, tsuris.

In the past, only Joe kept Passover – since he’s the official Jew and all, in addition to being an adult – but last year, we took a step toward easing me and the girls into this holiday tradition. The compromise? We left bread items in the house, but none of us were allowed eat any of it when we were at home during those 8 days; and when the girls ate at school (and I ate at work), or out at a restaurant, all Passover bets were off.

This year, though, we’re trying to go all in. The girls are intrigued by the idea of gathering and selling our Chametz – though Neve keeps mistaking that word for “hummus” – to a neighbor and then buying it back after Passover; I am, too, since I’ve never done this before. And in this post-layoff time of upheaval and transition, I’m making a more concerted effort to be a little adventurous, and thus keep depression and self-doubt at bay. Continue reading

How ‘Spotlight’ helped me say goodbye to newsrooms

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When I finally felt ready to say goodbye to a career in a newsroom, I went to see “Spotlight.”

One of the first (and most depressing) things you hear when you’re out of a job is, “Don’t bother responding to a bunch of online job listings. Most of them are about fulfilling a legal obligation to advertise, and in many cases, the position has already been filled.”

After spending soul-punishing hours updating your resume and LinkedIn page, and writing cover letters, and scouting job sites, this truth-slap makes you want to frisbee your laptop right through the second-floor window.

You’re told repeatedly that getting a job comes down to networking. So I’ve packed my schedule with dozens of coffee and lunch dates, and I’m regularly pitching (and receiving) free-lance assignments; but I’ve otherwise found myself, three months into this layoff, flying in holding pattern circles, desperate for clearance to land.

I have applied to a few jobs – including a features reporter position at a big-market paper that sounded like a perfect fit – but the silence that’s followed has indicated that the journalism world’s just not that into me.

So getting my hair cut and colored a few days after losing my arts reporter job, in hopes of looking more “together” (and, who are we kidding, younger) for the interviews I’d surely be lining up, now seems naively foolish, and childishly optimistic. I might as well have stood on the curb in front of our house, waiting for a unicorn to pick me up. The struggling-to-survive journalism industry is having a dark night of the soul just now, so jobs are scarce, and the ones that are out there usually go to reporters in the early years of their career.

That’s not me, obviously. Continue reading

The weirdly comforting anxiety of kiddo sick days

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This is the winter of our discontent – or at least record low productivity.

Why? Because an endless series of inter-family illnesses and snow days have made my transition back to free-lancing way, WAY rockier than it might otherwise be. For when you’re the parent working from home, it only makes sense that you assume duties when one of your kids gets sick or has nowhere to go – even though figuring out how to get your assignments done becomes exponentially trickier then. And for many (mostly obvious) reasons, winter is a notorious season for repeatedly disrupting family routine.

For example, a few nights after we took 4 year old Neve to the ER with a croup-y cough – she’d had increasing difficulty sleeping the previous 2 nights – she woke up wailing about ear pain, so I toted her right back to the nearest hospital. (No ear infection, just pressure from the congestion, resolved with Benadryl.) Though she didn’t have a fever, and I had a deadline for two longer-form free-lance stories looming ever closer, I kept her home the next day to let her rest – which, of course, she didn’t do. At all. Instead, the two of us put together every puzzle in the house, played five different games, read a stack of books, and watched a few episodes of “Dinosaur Train” before I pronounced her more than fit to attend her gymnastics class. (Did I have a good time with my charming, spunky kid? Yes, and she happily ate up the one-on-one time with me. Did I also simultaneously get stressed out about the multi-source story I was behind on and struggling with? YES.)

Two days later, Lily’s school closed for a snow day, and because she’s nearly 8, she’s less and less content to hang at Neve’s preschool on such occasions. Which I get. But I had a morning class and business lunch scheduled, so I made a deal with her to pick her (and Neve) up much earlier than I normally would, bring them home, and we’d watch a movie together. I was as good as my word – and I made zero progress on my assignments. Continue reading