Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trial by EDD


As you can tell by the previous post, things were really looking up this morning. And they still are, except for a temporary setback that could also be described as the financial lowpoint of my life.



So here it is: I filed for unemployment in the first week of August as soon as I qualified again. The 10-day processing period passed with no response from EDD. So I tried to call them. Couldn't get through. Based on information I found on the website, the fastest way to get help in these situations is to refile the claim, and I did.



The second 10-day processing period passed with no response from EDD. So I emailed them about my situation. No response. I tried to call them. Couldn't get through. I finally heard back via email that EDD was missing some information regarding my last employer in June. I explained that my last employer was the one I listed from September 2007, just as it was the last time I filled out the forms in June and received a check.



What's complicating the process is that I'm a very, very part-time contractor for three organizations and a private family, and I claim everything I make as instructed by the EDD. In mid June to the beginning of August, I temporarily made enough to go off unemployment. But now, my hours have been cut way back again. And even if EDD wanted to call them my employers, I've already provided detailed info about each of them, over and over again, not only on their forms but in more than one letter.



I heard back from EDD via email again. They just needed the information for my last employer in June. Just the last employer for a specific week. OK, there you go. A few days later, I got a voicemail from someone at the EDD, explaining that someone from her organization has asked me about the wrong dates. I already verified I was not qualified for unemployment on those dates. So I've been setup for a phone interview - a month from now - but I should expect my application for unemployment to be rejected. I am told to refile with the correct dates. I'm not the one who made the mistake with the dates in the first place but I dutifully refiled.



Several days later, I get the form I've been waiting for. The only thing is that it's not backdated to when I first qualified for unemployment. I still need to write a letter challenging the starting date. But it's the good form, the one you fill out and send in, and when everything is working the way it should, a check comes a week later. It's never taken longer. Except this time. So I called their automated system tonight and there's no record of a check being processed for me. In other words, there's no check coming.



I sent another email to EDD this evening. Back to the waiting period. I'll try to call again tomorrow. Wasn't planning to write in this blog again so soon but one, it's free and two, I'm hoping to sleep tonight. Sometimes writing helps. The other thing that helps: knowing that I'll be that much stronger when this matter is resolved. Not only will I be making lemonade when life gives me lemons, I'll be kicking ass while I'm doing it. I mean it. So stay on my good side.



picture: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=making+lemonade&l=4

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Entourage


Violet, my three year old, gets a lot of attention for her coloring and quirky looks. She's got red hair in ringlets and gray eyes that act like mood rings. They might look green or blue, and strangers often point out which it is. She's actually the shyer of my two kids but being with her in public is being in her entourage. When I meet parents at her sister's school, it's not unusual for them to say, "Oh I know who you are. You're Violet's mom."



People of all ages and nationalities approach us to ask questions about her, declare their admiration and occasionally ask to take pictures. One day on the beach this summer, there was a group of Korean tourists standing by and clicking away. I'd be lying if I said I never felt like a proud mom but part of the problem is that she's not my only daughter.



My older daughter, Daisy, has developed some issues around the constant attention her little sister receives. Ironically, when I was pregnant with Violet, I used to worry about how much attention my new baby would receive in comparison to her sister. Daisy is a beautiful blonde with blue eyes. I didn't have a sister but I knew my brunette mom grew up with a blonde sister who received a lot of attention for her looks.



But by some twist of fate, Daisy has gotten the consistent message from the universe that her little sister is special while she is invisible. She usually stands by her sister silently while strangers go on and on about how beautiful her sister is. Of course, looks aren't as important as who you are on the inside, but when the message from strangers is how remarkable Violet's looks are, if I say . . . looks aren't everything then I seem to be giving Daisy the message that she's a little deficient in that department, which isn't the case at all. What I find fascinating is how as young people we all have our menu of insecurities, but as an adult when you watch a child grow up, you can see with such clarity how many of these insecurities stem from random circumstances.



The attention Violet receives has inspired Daisy to put a lot of effort and focus on how she dresses. At five years old, the girl can accessorize an outfit better than I can. In preschool, she had a unique way of wearing a headband that became her signature style. She recently took a dress and transformed it into a really cute skirt. I wonder if all this attention to fashion might become an important part of her life, either as personal expression or a career.



Being in the Violet parade means that I often find myself in the position of having to talk to people in public. Taking her to the store is like chumming the water for sharks, if sharks were old people. I can see them coming from a mile away . . . with their slow and steady steps, sometimes in wheelchairs or leaning on walkers. At least if I'm not feeling generous, I can outdistance them quickly. And when they do get to us, they get all up in our world . . . standing less than a foot away from me, running their hands through Violet's hair and asking me personal questions.




What everyone wants to know is where she got the red hair. I can't figure out why a stranger would want to know that. During one crabby visit to the grocery store, a woman asked me that question and I answered quickly, "I don't know," trying to get around her. The woman gasped and lost her balance for a second, almost falling over in her walker. I sighed, telling her, "I mean my great-great grandfather and one of my husband's great-great aunts were redheads. She responded, "Oh, you're joking." She seemed sincerely relieved that I knew who the father of my child was.




But to some of my elders, a redhead seems to signify loose morals. I was once harassed by a bunch of drunk senior citizens after walking into a restaurant in Tahoe. They called across the room, "What . . . did the mailman have red hair?" The table erupted in loud, obnoxious laughter as they continued to make their jokes. Hello, I have my children with me. This isn't a good time to joke about that.



I worry about the attention suddenly going away. Will Violet be like one of those child actors, no longer cute and effortlessly earning positive attention? Will she hold up convenience stores and work at Hooters, or worse? Will she go out of her way to earn negative attention? Obviously, to be a parent is to worry. All I can say is I've learned to worry about the future a little less because it's usually much different than I imagined.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Bindy!


Bindy asked me to write a post about her for her birthday today. Bindy, Bindy, Bindy. She loves to see her fake name in print. This may not be my best work as I just got back from the grocery store where my kids demolished my sanity, but I'll give it a shot. It's either this or closeout underwear from my eBay store (if anyone's interested I still have at least a couple hundred organic cotton thongs).



I think this is the first time in 20 years or so that I don't have a birthday present already set aside for Bindy. She really, really loves birthday presents. I should clarify that she loves getting them. I honestly can't remember the last time I received a present from her, birthday or otherwise. But this probably isn't the type of post Bindy was hoping for.



On the way home from the store, I was trying to think of stories I could share about Bindy. There are some funny stories. Daredevil tells them the best. She once entertained an entire bar with them for over an hour in Bindy's hometown. But those stories will only upset the birthday girl. If you know me personally and want to hear, remind me the next time I see you - you should really hear the top five.



Bindy and I became friends when we took the same yellow bus across town to our high school. (In case you're wondering, it was a long yellow bus.) I can remember talking to her about her cheerleading tryouts. You can actually see Bindy if you ever watch Cameron Diaz: The E True Hollywood Story. She's the other blonde in the photo of high school cheerleaders. You have to look quickly before they blur her face out and zoom in on Cameron.



We lived together in "the apartment" in college. Bindy was very outgoing and always liked to try new things. This led to many, many hours of playing hackysack, pool, cribbage and more recently, Guitar Hero. With the exception of the card games, I was never so participatory. She was also good at making friends. All of my college girlfriends (and one boyfriend) were hers first. For awhile, I felt like I lived in her shadow.



Around the time I graduated from college, I decided to try some new things of my own. One of those things was to change my hair, which had pretty much always been the same with the exception of the bad perm years in high school. I made an appointment at my friend Madison's favorite hair salon in San Francisco instead of my usual $7 barbershop. Bindy decided to tag along at the last minute.



While Bindy waited for me to have my hair dyed deep red, the other stylist talked her into a new haircut. She told the stylist she wanted something sexy and sophisticated. He gave her a bob a la the 12-year-old girl in The Professional, and that's exactly how old Bindy looked when he was done. She started crying before we even left the salon. I was excited about my new color but also a little nervous because it was so different. I didn't want people to make a big deal about it or anything when we walked into a party that night. And as it turns out, no one did . . . because they didn't notice . . . because they couldn't believe how different Bindy looked. The only thing that made me appreciate my sidekick status was the miserable look on her face.



But that was before we were real grown ups. We're years past that kind of competition or insecurity. Now, we compete through our three-year-old daughters. Her daughter's ahead in speaking but mine's rocking the potty skills. People occasionally remark about how fun it must have been when Bindy and I were pregnant at the same time. Bindy gets this serious look on her face when she corrects them, "Being pregnant isn't fun." But it is fun now when my girlfriends get together. The kids practically take care of themselves. My five year old worships her ten year old; our little ones hardly ever fight, probably because we've been throwing them together since they were less than a month in this world.



I don't even want to know what stages we'll be sharing in future years. I just know that whatever happens, it will be so much better with Bindy.



Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cheap Thrill


I have a wicked headache that I haven't been able to chase off all day. It was in everyone's best interest that I cancel this afternoon's playdate. I had to break the bad news to my first grader when I picked her up from school, and she responded with the open-mouth cry, inspiring my three year old to fall to the ground with a shrill whine, "Me baby!"



I feebly offered to take them out for ice cream cones on the way home and knew that Rite-Aid was my best option, having $7 in my purse and $19 in the bank. The $1.29 single cones were on sale for 99 cents. (In my day, Rite-Aid was called Thrifty and cones were something like 20 cents, but the kids weren't very entertained with my golden childhood memories - too bad they'll be hearing them for another 50 years.)



When we arrived at the ice cream counter, there was another family in front of us. The little girl walked up to my older daughter, holding her face about an inch away from hers and asking, "Is that your little sister?" My daughter ignored her, instead pushing her way through the family so she could press her nose against the glass in search of the prettiest flavor. I do admire the carefree social habits of five year olds.



After we got our ice cream cones, we ended up following the other family to the new Halloween display. The kids tore through the costumes, trying to decide what to be this year. I grabbed the sexy devil costume with fishnets out of my older daughter's hands . . . no, not that. What do you think about the ladybug? "But Mom!" The other family distracted us by startling each other with a bloody, cut-off arm. After about 15 minutes of playing Halloween with the other family, my girls and I headed to the Thanksgiving section.



I have a fascination with Thanksgiving decorations . . . the gaudier the better. This is probably because I inherited a box of Thanksgiving decorations from my grandmother. I have paper fold-out turkeys that are more than fifty years old, I kid you not. When my grandmother first gave them to me, I thought . . . these will never be seen in my living space. But after being permanently tweaked by pregnancy hormones, I not only look forward to getting the box down every year, I add to the collection. If I would have purchased anything today, it would have been the fake rooster with real feathers. My daughters and I took turns wearing the rooster, so that the feathers stuck out of our hair.



From there we found the toy section, where things got a little heated. I had to explain what window shopping is about 20 times (or in this case aisle shopping). The girls added a bunch of stuff to their imaginary Christmas lists. My older daughter wanted the doll as tall as herself. I asked her why and she explained, "It would make me feel like I had company over." My younger daughter wanted a pink plastic intercom system but that was before we got to the outdoor section.



In the clearance section of the outdoor section, we found a large, light frisbee designed to look like the cross-section of an orange. It was actually really fun to throw so we spent a few minutes playing frisbee down the aisle. Strangely, this made my older daughter uncomfortable (what's up with the sudden social awareness?). The frisbee and a little pink outdoor chair were added to the Christmas lists.



As we walked to the car, I realized we had spent an entire hour at the store and my head felt a little better. Well worth the $2.97.



picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scurzuzu/1424528310/

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wink, Wink . . . Say No More






I was excited to do a little editing for Daredevil yesterday. I know, it doesn't take much. But anyway, I was unsure about an occasional grammar issue so I searched a few quick phrases, such as "starting a sentence with no doubt."



That is how I found a blog titled Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. It actually contains some useful information, including a series called "Can I Get a Ruling," where he invites readers to rule in on various grammar rules. He takes submissions and explains the process of getting published. You can find it on my reading list or here: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/09/can-i-get-ruling-quotation-marks-for.html



So after reading the first post, "Can I Get a 'Ruling': Quotation Marks for Emphasis," I ended up on the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks. It's really very funny and if you have time to read my blog, I'm sure you have time to check it out. Strangely, the writer seems to be a little challenged in using punctuation with quotation marks. Here it is: http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/



Picture 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnetbox/2403905493/
Picture 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/2461540816/

Picture 3: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scazon/3468161437/

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gratitude


I've been SO STRESSED OUT. A large portion of the stress comes from being without a substantial paycheck or unemployment check for a month now. Been trying to get the EDD on the phone since June because I knew my situation would confuse them and there were going to be issues. I've been going through their slow online process to get help.



Well, a lovely woman from EDD left me a voicemail on Friday. Apparently, someone from her department asked me for the wrong information and when I provided the wrong information, it really set her off. She lost it for a sec and yelled into the phone, "And if you do that, YOU WILL GET NOTHING!" then recovered enough to say, "I mean you will not receive any checks." I was beyond frustrated when I realized I missed the call, but maybe it's better we didn't talk . . . I'm sure her job is stressful but it's a touchy subject for me too.



After hearing the voice message, I literally had a panic attack. I couldn't breathe. Ever since then, I am just trying to calm down. In order to lower the stress, I'm going to channel Oprah and create a gratitude list.



I am so very grateful that:


*My girls knew to come this weekend without me having to ask.


*Tabitha coordinated getting everyone here without me having to call anyone.


*My younger brother was willing to be the manny.


*Bindy took over household, child and manny management when she arrived.


*Quinn didn't fall on the tortoise in her hula hooping accident, even though I am very sorry that she hurt her ankle.


*The girls brought groceries and party supplies then treated me to dinner at a non-brewery restaurant.


*Tabitha discovered a marathon of The Locator (http://www.wetv.com/the-locator/), which we watched until 2 a.m. last night while my brother cringed nearby. It's a totally cheezy, unnecessarily dramatic reality show about this guy who locates lost loved ones. All four shows made me go into the ugly cry, and that's probably just what I needed.


*Even though Daredevil FLAKED AGAIN, she generously offered me a little editing project and is pretending like she is going to be visiting sometime soon.


*My middle brother is moving our website project along nicely.


*Even though money is a very challenging issue for my husband and I, he is employed and has savings.


*My mom took Daisy shopping for back to school.


*My dad bought me a ticket to New York to visit my brother in October (and I hope to see BT in all his glory as well).


*It's raining pleasantly, I have the kids in bed, and the windows are open.



Really, I'm fortunate. I mean, what do people do when they don't have friends and family who are willing and able to help them? I am truly thankful and look forward to a time when I can give back.



picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/86910636/

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stair Porn

Couple of hectic days. Violet's been punishing me for everything I've done wrong in my life with her rugged 3-year-old behavior. Got a break today when the kids had dentist appointments. They LOVE going to the dentist. They are both eager to be the first one to sit in the chair; the other one stands in the corner like a statue so she can watch. It brings out their best behavior so I can relax in the waiting room with the magazines. There's a really nice water cooler and a wall fountain. Kind of like being at the spa.



I found something interesting while paging through Dwell, my most gratifying magazine experience of the visit. It's a blog called Stair Porn: http://www.stairporn.org/. It "showcas[es] cool stairs from around the world." Turned on an Xmen cartoon when we got home several hours later so I could spend some time with stairs. But the problem is that once you start, it's really hard to stop. How do you know when you've seen enough stairs? There might be something just a little bit cooler on the next page . . .



I like the Ee stairs (http://www.stairporn.org/2009/08/spiral-stairs-that-fit-in-one-square.html), designed to fit into one square meter. Our house has really tall ceilings but the rooms aren't that big. These stairs would work well if lofts were installed in the kids bedrooms. (The chances of this happening are beyond tiny but if you can't play along then leave me to my fantasies.)





I like these even more for my imaginary lofts (http://www.stairporn.org/2009/08/loft-house-by-ryan-stephenson-joey.html).





I just like this picture of stairs in La Praille, Genève
(http://www.stairporn.org/2009/08/up-to-down-spiral-staircase.html).






These reclaimed wood stairs by Garbage Architecture are my very favorite (http://www.stairporn.org/search/label/reclaimed%20wood%20stairs).





Those are some good stairs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Full Moon


*Pop!* That is the sound of another hopeful bubble bursting. Just heard from a friend who was laid off. His position was cut. I would say that I'm sorry for him but he'll really be fine. He was planning to leave anyway. You see . . . I wanted that job. That was the position I did some networking for . . . a local, meaningful job that I'm qualified for with good pay and excellent benefits. I was hoping to hear any day now that my friend had officially given notice.



I will just have to channel my energies into the venture with my middle brother. The faint outlines of a plan are beginning to emerge. I know it might seem like another fruitless scheme to those of you who have been there through eBay, mineral make-up, bible belt women in business, bargain barn and foreclosure inspections. But this one might actually work. Just you wait.



I took a walk at twilight to clear my head. Was rewarded with a full vanilla moon hanging low in a dusky lavender sky. Just as I was descending the hill on my favorite deserted street . . . a woman appeared behind a scowling boy in the middle of the road, talking on her cell. She was in shorts and a tank top, covered in fuzzy tattoos over wrinkled skin. As I passed, she declared in a raspy, sinister voice, "I don't know who you are but God have mercy on your soul."(My first thought . . . is that a job? Some kind of pay-per-minute line for masochistic Christians? I could do that!)



A few minutes later, I passed by the back of the senior center and came upon two of the senior ladies who were bopping their heads to Christmas music blasting from inside the building. Apparently, Christmas play rehearsals have begun. They repeatedly laughed and pointed at my dog and I, exclaiming, "You're both walking to the music!" Those two either just got their Oxycontin delivery or get REALLY excited about Christmas. I had a momentary pang of jealousy for their carefree retirement status.



That's normal, right?


Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arindam_soma/2807917224/

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Me . . . Annoying???


The weirdest thing happened this week . . . suddenly, my friend Jack is too busy to return my frequent and charming emails. It even seemed like I might be bothering him, can you imagine? I don't bother people, they bother me . . . ask anyone in my family. I never annoy them. My younger brother was totally joking last week when he dreaded telling me about something that happened recently . . . when he said something to my mom like "Oh god, you know she's going to ask a million questions." And when my mom decided to do him a favor and break the news to me, she wasn't annoyed at all when I got to like the fifteenth question.



Well, ha ha. Someday, I will be sooooo busy with my new important job that I will have no time to bother any of them. And then they'll all be begging me to shoot an email, be available for a quick chat, or pose a few questions. Since Jack is too busy right now . . . I will share something that I've been trying to remember to tell him, unless I babbled about it incoherently at the reunion and don't remember. Oh and from now on, Jack will be referred to as BT.



Anyway, I grew to appreciate BT during a high school exchange trip to Japan, the summer after sophomore year. For some reason, he was the only one of my fellow exchange students who didn't annoy me during the entire trip. Not that everyone was totally annoying. There was just some intermittent travel fatigue. But BT was a very good travel companion.



The reason I'm bringing this up . . . there's an image from the trip that was somehow imprinted on my consciousness. It's a random memory that will come to mind whenever I feel like I'm bungling my way through something, which happens occasionally.



One night, a group of us exchange students went to a bar and drank "California Coolers." No one seemed to care that we were about 16 and I think we got pretty buzzed. After we left the bar, I was walking behind BT and he accidentally bumped into a motorcycle and knocked it over. His reaction was to pretend like nothing happened, and my mind kind of locked down on the moment when he nonchalantly started walking a little faster. I remember what the well-lit street looked like, his posture, almost what he was wearing.



It seemed like the funniest thing that had ever happened at the time. Largely because of the drinking, I'm sure. What I can't remember is whether BT was ignoring me as I cracked up or if he was laughing with me. Maybe he laughed a little later when safely away from the crime scene. I think I was the only one who saw what happened.



I have no idea why that made such an impression. Maybe because it was a little out of character for BT. But I swear, at the end of my days . . . when my life flashes before my eyes, that will be one of the images.