Out of work, out of whack

jennleaving.jpeg

(This photo was taken on the last day of operations for the original Ann Arbor News in 2009.)

Last Wednesday morning, I stood in front of my closet and asked Joe, “So what do you wear to get fired?”

The line was kind of funny, in a gallows humor way; but this wasn’t just a joke, and I wasn’t speaking hypothetically.

After receiving a late-in-the-day Tuesday email – containing three clues that blinked like a neon sign, pointing to my imminent layoff – I’d stayed up late, uploading the hundreds of videos and photos (mostly of my daughters) from my work-issued phone, and sending documents and contacts I wanted to keep from my laptop.

It was like living out that “If you were stranded on a desert island” scenario, but with your two most essential gadgets.

We tried to hold to our usual morning routine on Wednesday, getting Lily to the bus stop, and dropping Neve off at preschool; but then I stepped back into our quiet, empty house, left to twiddle my thumbs until nearly noon.

Which led to the next question, “What do you do while waiting to get fired?”

I’d thought a bit about this the night before, while frantically uploading, and I’d decided that this would be the perfect window of time to finish up my year-end wrap-up of local theater highlights and news. I was off the clock, and year-end pieces like this had recently gone the way of the dodo, but I’d wanted to do it, anyway.

It would be my swan song, my parting gift to a theater community that had weathered a pretty tough year; and as it happened, this gift was mutually beneficial, in that I felt grateful for being able to focus on pulling together story under a tight deadline – just like old times – and leaving my nearly 12 years in arts journalism with a story that only I could write. Continue reading

Inevitably tardy letter to Neve on her first birthday

Neve at her first birthday party

Dear Neve:

In this age of blogs, when we share every (warts and all) experience as it happens, I sometimes wonder about how we will feel about all this openness years from now.

For eventually, despite my good intentions, you and Lily might be annoyed – perhaps justifiably – about your childhood being parsed and recorded and analyzed in this blog.

And when you finally read something like the post I wrote about not being at all sure about whether or not your dad and I should have a second child, as well as the panicky pre-partum blues essay I wrote while pregnant with you, you might feel stricken with worry about whether I feel I made the right choice.

But you shouldn’t for even a second, baby girl; I fell head over heels for you during your first 24 hours of life, when you firmly insisted that we both sleep right through what was supposed to be your 3 a.m. feeding. “A thousand blessings on your little head, Neve,” I said at the time, as you snoozed the night away. It sounds stupid, I know, but from the start, you seemed like an old soul baby who, for example, knew we could both use the extra rest after a crazy, eleven minute delivery (check out that story here); and this past year has only reconfirmed this idea, frankly.

For it often seems like it simply doesn’t occur to you to throw a fit. Generally, you accept the circumstances you’re in; you play with what you have in front of you; and you smile and laugh easily. Yes, you often suffer separation anxiety when I leave for work – which is hard on us both – but really, this underlines the fact that we have a healthy attachment to each other, and you recover quickly. And while Lily, as a baby, often wigged out when I put her in the stroller – which is why she sat on my shoulders as I walked her to daycare every day for months and months – you make peace with that and just about any other situation (longish car trip, running errands, restaurants) in which you find yourself.

Now I know this may be partly because, as the second child, you don’t really have a choice. Because you’re not, and never will be, the sole center of our family’s world, you just hang on and find enjoyment when and where you can. Plus, you have a highly entertaining big sister to watch. But regardless of why you’re the way you are, your low-key “roll-with-it-ness” makes me and others around you feel calm and at peace – an unexpected gift, to be sure. Continue reading