Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Place to Call Home, Part the First

I applied for my current job on a whim.  I had beaten a path to the door of every school district in St. Louis and some outside; I had spent two (nearly three) hiring seasons chasing nearly every lead that I could track down and I was exhausted.  I had seen the posting on the site before but it was part-time, which was something I was not interested in (mainly because I was subbing in four different districts at the time and could easily score what equaled full-time weeks on a regular basis).  It must have been a late night, when all my insecurities come out to whisper, to cajole, to taunt.  I clicked the "apply" box and mentally filed the position with all the other fruitless leads.

At one point, at the beginning of my job search, I had begun a database of each job applied for; date applied; date rejected; in my naive optimism, there was a field for "date hired."  The database had long since been abandoned; I had applied, reapplied, fished, sought tenuous contacts through third cousins of acquaintances of my sisters... at a certain point a file detailing every move I'd made had become a monument to failure and I could not face it.  It was easier for me to picture a vague mountain of missed opportunities, regretful voice mails, and tersely worded letters not worth the postage paid to send them than it was to say, with confidence, "Ah, yes.  I applied to this school district seven times; three in 2011; two in 2012; and two in 2013."  All it told me is that that district wanted nothing to do with me, and that fact never deterred me.  I got discouraged, and sometimes I did want to quit, but perusals of job-search websites only led me down roads that led straight back to what I had quit in 2007 to become a teacher.  So the database was scrapped and I don't know how many jobs I applied for and how many interviews I got before I got the one at the tiny high school for Orthodox Jewish girls.

I got a call asking me to come in for an interview while I was at lunch.  My habit is not to answer calls from numbers I don't recognize but when you're looking for a job, you open every email, you answer every phone call, you begin to check pigeons to make sure they aren't carrying scrolls informing you of interviews.  The principal on the other end of the line was soft spoken and I had to move outside to take the call.  Embarrassed, I asked, "Is this the Hebrew school?" It was.  I was supposed to buzz at the door of the temple and be escorted into the school; I would wear a skirt that went past my knees and something that covered my clavicle and my elbows.

I owned nothing that met those specifications.  I have always been a proud pants woman and I have cleavage even in a turtleneck, so I embrace that and let the ladies breathe.  But off I went to Goodwill, to seek out cheap clothes to wear to an interview for a job that I probably would not get.  So frustrating was the search for high-necked tops that I declared to Facebook my intention to call and cancel the interview (said announcement was met with mixed feelings; some people said "This doesn't sound like the place for you anyway," but a couple people pushed me to go), but then I found a single faded navy t-shirt that was short-sleeved but high-collared.  I put it together with a green cardigan and ankle-length khaki skirt (I laugh every time I think about that thing; I have since hemmed it to just below my knees) and some brown flats.  My hair was newly short from a mental meltdown I'd had over trying to find a job, so basically I looked like a frumpier version of Maria from The Sound of Music.  And I didn't even have Julie Andrews's voice.

So I had the interview, with the principal of general studies and the Menaheles, which is essentially the principal of the Hebrew side of things.  It did not go well, at least not in my estimation.  The Menaheles clearly was not impressed with me and it appeared that the hiring power lay in her hands.  I hadn't had any experience, whether in student teaching or even subbing, teaching a block schedule (something I still struggle with, by the way), and I was given the standard "If you make it to the next round, we'll call you to set up a second interview."  I was waiting to hear about another job at the time, so I just let that "Don't call us; we'll call you" go.  I had had tons of other interviews that had gone far better, and I still hadn't gotten those jobs.  Ah well, I thought; every interview is good experience, right?

I went on with my summer and tried to ignore the pain that had developed in my foot from wearing heels on the two-hour drive to interview for the aforementioned other job.  I begged a friend's husband to squeeze my foot as hard as he could, but he deemed such an action "too intimate," and finally I broke down and went to urgent care, terrified.  While I waited to see the doctor, I emailed the principal of the Jewish school on my phone, asking him if he had made a decision; I had already added insult to the injury of my swollen, angry foot by finding out that I hadn't gotten the job two hours away, so suddenly the throwaway interview took on great importance.  The doctor came in, felt around on my foot, declared me the owner of a case of tendinitis, wrote me a prescription for anti-inflammatories, and sent me along; this all took about fifteen minutes, and by the time I got to my car and checked my phone, the principal had left me a voice mail.  I steeled myself for even more rejection or possibly a second-round interview but for once, even with a throbbing foot, the fates smiled on me.

Of course, I had gotten the job.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

At the Movies

April 5, 2013 was the 19th anniversary of my father's death.  I was 15 when he died, and I've always said that my one hang-up about being so young at the time was that I never knew my father as an adult.  I never got to know him as a real person, to buy him a gift that was a reflection of his personality and our relationship.  I realized this year that that void has slowly morphed into the belief that I never knew him at all, that maybe he was never even real.  I mean, there is empirical evidence that my father once walked this earth - I know my mother has his last driver's license secreted away; in fact, my own existence is proof of his.  No DNA test required - I look just like him in some ways, and my mother never fails to remind me when I do something the way he did.  But there are times when I could easily convince myself that it was all a dream, that I once had a dream that I had a father.

I made last-minute plans with an old friend (in fact, the first friend I made after my dad died) and her kids to see Jurassic Park 3-D on the anniversary of his death.  It didn't occur to me until we walked into the theater that I saw this film on the last Father's Day we had together, less than a year before he died.  I gave him a shitty fish statue.  That statue has lived in the acute corner of my brain where shame goes not to die but to malinger forever.  I saw the movie that Father's Day with my aunt and cousins, and they brought me home afterward.  My dad wasn't feeling great following chemotherapy, but he had enough spirit about him to bitch about the movie, which he had seen the day before.

That's right; this is a movie that has a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an 83% audience rating.  This is a movie that practically everyone in America loves, and not without reason.  It's not a craptastic action film that satisfies our bloodlust; it's an awesome action film that satisfies our bloodlust, and speaks to our emotions, and captures our intellectual imaginations.  It's a really good movie.  

But it wasn't enough for my father; it never was.  When he read Michael Crichton's book, he saw it as bigger, grander, more realistic.  My father wished that they had waited twenty years to make it to give technology time to catch up with the vision he had in his head.  This relentless pursuit of perfection (for other people, mind you) was the source of much friction between us.  During my elementary and middle-school years, I was a lackluster student, bored and frustrated.  I once ended up having to falsify data on a science project because I couldn't get a chicken egg to float in a glass of water, and my father admonished me: "Anything worth doing is worth doing well."

"I was not the one who decided this was worth doing," I responded.  I was nine; my fifth-grade teacher was forcing me to do the project which, for the record, was not worth doing.  But this was representative of the many lectures and shouting matches that resulted from my grades.  We argued about grades until the semester before he died - I had gotten a D in Geometry on a mid-term report card, but an A in Spanish.  He made me apologize for the Geometry grade en espaƱol.  

Twenty years ago I was fourteen years old, yet to begin my first semester of Spanish.  The Internet was not in widespread use, and I was trying (and failing) to save money for a peripheral for my computer but I couldn't decide if I wanted a CD-ROM drive or a modem.  The only people who had cellphones were pretentious assholes (doctors still just carried pagers), and those they carried weighed approximately half a ton.  Newspapers were how most people got their news.  Bill Clinton had just begun being the president.  Not only had September 11 not happened yet, but Oklahoma City hadn't either.  The point I'm belaboring here is that the world has changed in fundamental, significant ways.

Sometimes I look around at the way we live, and wonder what my father would have thought.  Cigarette prices and their attendant taxes would have enraged him, having been a lifelong smoker himself.  I don't know what he would have thought of having a black president - I remember him as being pretty racist, but my mother's own attitudes toward social change have mellowed significantly in the intervening years, so I wonder if his would have as well.  I think smartphones would have charmed him, but then I remember his attitude toward Jurassic Park and wonder if he would have all sorts of reasons why they weren't as good as they could be and how they could be better.

Seeing that movie that features high-waisted pants, "an interactive CD-ROM!," and Samuel L. Jackson smoking in an office made me fiercely nostalgic for something I never had.  It blindsided me; I hadn't seen the movie since its original theatrical release and was excited for it, but I hadn't expected an emotional reaction.  I hadn't known I could so fiercely miss someone I barely remember.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Woe Is Me... Is that Pizza?

I'm fat; we all know that.  I'm working on losing weight; I know that, you guys might not have, but you do now.  Here's the deal - I am SUPER fat.  I have a lot of weight to lose.  I blame no one but myself for the pickle I'm in, though I try not to be too hard on myself about it (I totally am, all the time).  I'm not setting a deadline for weight loss because I can only be in charge of my head; I can't rig my body to do what I want it to.  Half the time, I can't control my head, even.  I'm such an emotional eater, and I'm trying very hard to get to the root of that habit and channel that frantic energy I feel into something that's, if not useful, then at least not destructive.

During my first week of Weight Watchers there was a family emergency, and on the way to where I needed to be, you know what my thoughts were?  Not "I hope everything is OK," but, and in this order, "Milky Way bar, cheese pizza, McDonald's cheeseburger with extra pickles and extra onions."  Since it was my first week I didn't give in, being all saintly as I was, but still, those were my thoughts?  Ugh.  That's a computer that needs some reprogramming.

I'm in my seventh week right now, and I'm still losing, I'm not giving up (it's gotten boring, so this is traditionally where I have begun to go to meetings and pretend to be shocked that I've gained weight, but I'm still on track overall), but god, I see how far I have to go.  I know it's lifetime changes I have to make, and even once I lose the weight that I'm not finished, or else I'll just gain it all back, but I'm so good right now, why can't I be skinny right now?

Seriously, someone answer that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's Do This Thankfulness Thing!

If you're my Facebook friend, and you probably are if you're reading this, you know I've been doing the typical "Today I'm thankful for..." meme each day this month, and it's gotten a little crazytown.  I'm gonna get a little serious on you here, and do one thing for each year I've been alive.

  1. I'm thankful I finally got a job substitute teaching, even though I haven't actually been in the classroom yet.
  2. I have an interview next week for another sub job, which, if I get it, should allow me to be in the classroom every day once people start getting the flu (I really need to start taking a multi-vitamin).
  3. I was able to quit my job 5 years ago and get an education.
  4. I have one of my undergrad degrees.
  5. I will receive the other next month.
  6. Next month, I'll be halfway through my MA.
  7. A car that allows me to get to school without too much rigamarole.
  8. Christmas music.
  9. The chance to give mix Christmas CDs as holiday cards, a project I've been working on since 2010. It's an unusual way to reach out, and I'm thankful to have the equipment to make it happen.
  10. My mother, who has supported me (sometimes financially, at least until the loan money comes in each semester) throughout my education.
  11. My sister Lisa, who is my best friend.
  12. My best friend Amy, who is also my best friend.
  13. My sister Kathy, who always educates me.
  14. The fact that I live in the US.  You know I'm not an American exceptionalist, but when I returned from China last year, I realized how lucky I am to live here.
  15. A warm bed to sleep in.
  16. A roof over my head.
  17. Enough (too much?) food to eat.
  18. Access to Weight Watchers, which is helping me manage the too-much food I have!
  19. Clean water to drink, without having to think about it.
  20. Good, good friends who go to bat for me, who listen to me sound off, who celebrate my victories, who sympathize when I fail, who entertain me and make me crazy and do all the things the people we love do.
  21. Nieces and nephews who are alive and well; having lost some to stillbirth and miscarriage, my family knows what it means to be thankful for the little ones in our lives.
  22. The Internet.  It may seem trivial, and I know that as far as "needs" go, it's at the bottom, if not off the list altogether, but it keeps me connected with the folks I love.
  23. Clothes.  They don't always fit lately, but I have things to wear that are appropriate for all occasions.
  24. My dog.  If you think our furry friends aren't important, read this.  You will cry.
  25. My vote.  It counts.
  26. The president.  I know not everyone is thrilled with his re-election, and I respect that.  I am, though, and I'm thankful.
  27. Access to the medications I need.
  28. Hot water for showers whenever I want it.
  29. The vast, wide world and the opportunity to explore it.
  30. Art, in all its forms.
  31. The ability to make things.
  32. My mind, and all its quirks.
  33. My body, and the things it can do.
  34. Being alive, especially in this fascinating time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Back from the Dead

This is an apology to the three of you who read my blog.  That's not self-pity; that's stats.  But here's the deal: When something big goes on in the world around me, I lose my mind and put everything else on the back burner.  This is never stuff that happens in my life, exactly; that is, I did not compete in the 2012 London Olympics, but they happened nonetheless, and the hilarious TV snark blog that my friend David and I had begun languished and has all but died.

Last week, it was the election.  So filled with anxiety was I that I was paralyzed; I did minimal school work, I obviously didn't write here, and I didn't do much of anything.  It's not like I volunteered for my favorite campaign - oh, I tried, but my anxiety prevented me from doing that as well.  I'm a damn mess.

But all that stuff is over, so I should be good to go until Christmas, when everything goes to shit again.  I mean, I GOT A JOB as a substitute teacher! (Which may not sound like much to you, but I am THRILLED!)  So things are looking upward and onward, and maybe I'll have more to say soon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Watchin', Losin', Bein' Frustrated by... Whatever

Obviously I'm not being paid by Weight Watchers to tout their program or anything, since 40 people read my blog on a daily basis, and that's only if I remember to put a link to my entries on Facebook.  I just want to put that out there in an effort to be transparent, so in case one day my blog has enough readers that I actually do sponsored posts, you'll be like, boy that Sandy sure can be trusted.

So.  I've been on Weight Watchers since October 9.  I've lost 12.8 lbs.  When I began, I said that as long as  my weight was moving down each week, I wasn't going to get frustrated by the numbers.  I have a lot of weight to lose, and it isn't going to come off in six months.  And if it did come off in six months, the chances of my gaining it all right back would be astronomical, and who wants that? No one.  That's who.

Of course, maintaining a positive attitude all the time is difficult for anyone, and I tend to be a neurotic mope, so it's especially hard for me.  This week, when I lost just 1.8 lbs., I was frustrated as hell.  Despite the fact that, during the week I'd gone out for my aunt's birthday and we'd had this insane garlic-fueled Lebanese feast (oh my god, the baba ganoush), and I'd eaten a Milky Way bar.  Neither of these things is verboten on Weight Watchers, which I love, but the fact of the matter is, if you're not shoveling in the fruits and vegetables at every turn, and you're spending points on mashed potatoes and chocolate, you're just not going to lose as fast.

Not to mention, I have been a complete workout slug.  On Weight Watchers, when you work out, you get extra points.  You can use them or not, and when I do earn them, I prefer not to "eat" them.  I'm sure there will come a point when I get so few points during the day (as you lose, points are taken away, which makes sense) that I'll need to eat them, but trust me - I get enough to eat as it is.  So my triumphant return to gym is tomorrow morning.

And maybe, if I lay off the Milky Ways, I'll lose more next week.  But if I don't, I'm going to try to keep my head up, which will make it more difficult to tell that I have more than one chin.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Burden of Power

This stupid Hurricane Sandy business is driving me batshit.  I don't mind people posting headlines on my FB wall or anything, but I'm sick of hearing about how huge and destructive the storm is and I know it's ridiculous, but my self-esteem is really starting to take a hit.

Yes, yes, I know that, despite our shared name, this hurricane is not about me, but if you've learned anything by now it's that I can make absolutely anything, including the most destructive storm in US history, about me.  I now know how all those Katrinas out there feel.