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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A sneak peak...

I love it. I love it. I love it!

It's in the mail

I ordered some fancy and official-looking business cards last night with the help of Father in Chief. We used iPrint. FIC swears by iPrint for price and quality, but the user interface is rather difficult to follow.

Regardless, I'm totally excited to have them. It might make me feel more authentic. Because right now, I feel like I'm playing dress up. It's like I'm doing research for a school project or a college paper or something. Yes, I have years of experience behind me, but I'm rustier than an old tractor left out in the rain one too many seasons.

It's weird that I feel this way even with one super fabulous (and recent) cover story under my belt. Perhaps these tiny, 2-inch by 4-inch pieces of premium soft white linen paper with my name on them will change me mentally when it comes to my work. If a big chunk of success is mental, then I'm well on my way to being there. Someone will just need to ask me for one.

I'm giving myself the gift of legitimacy. And all this for the low, low price of $32.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

MIC needs business cards

Things are moving forward with my assignment. I’ve hired child care. I’m doing research. I’m making calls. I’m taking notes.

I even went out of the “office” today to meet up with a doctor that I interviewed for my upcoming article. He offered to lend me one of his books on the topic I’m researching, so I guess you could say I had a “business meeting” this morning. It was all very official.

But since I’ve been out of the professional loop for so long, I wasn’t even sure what to wear. I ended up in Capri pants and a white t-shirt. Sunglasses were propped up in my hair, which was all tied up behind my head. It probably wasn’t very professional looking. But for someone who just fed a toddler breakfast without ending the meal with toddler-sized jam-prints on my pants, I was very pleased with myself.

But here’s the kicker. After I picked up the very technical reading material for my story, the doc suggested I head over to his clinic and get some brochures on the topic, which just cover the basics. So I moseyed into the non-descript beige-stuccoed building behind the ER and the person working there wanted more than just my name. He asked for my card. I had nothing official to hand over to make my freelance career seem legit, so he spelled my last name back to me to make sure he got it right. I’m sure he immediately went to search for me online to make sure I’m not a crazy person.

Although if he lands here, he just might think I am--I certainly have proclaimed it numerous times.

But the moral of this story is this: I'm going to get myself some business cards to make this freelance writing thing all official. Although, just like my ID when I'm ordering a coctail, I'll probably never be asked for it again.

Friday, June 24, 2005

"I'll have to figure something out"

Those were the words uttered by City Planner Friend's boss last week. For the past couple of months, she's been subbing for her immediate manager while he's been out of the office for and she's been doing a damn-fine job.

Well the boss is coming back to work full-time soon, but where would that leave City Planner Friend?

She's been in the same job for five years (until this current arrangement). Because of her solid track record, she managed to work out a nice part-time situation. It allows her to keep working part of the time and still be home with her son part of the time. She even comes home for lunch most days to be with him. But usually with city planners, the way to get a promotion is to move to another district because jobs don't open up that frequently that would allow someone to move up and stay in the same city. But since she managed a nice maternity leave and a part-time situation, she's been apprehensive to move because her part-time gig would probably be nearly impossible to land in a new district.

But, things are getting interesting. Now that she has proven that she can handle extra responsibility in a modified work-week, it seems that it might be time for a change. And the boss says so. Now he just has to figure out how to give City Planner Friend the extra responsibility (and bigger, rightfully deserved paycheck) in the current organizational structure.

It's exciting and encouraging to see someone actually figure this work-parenting thing out with success.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Learning how to let go

The paperwork arrived from Bay Area Parent Magazine over the weekend for two of my three upcoming stories. I just need to sign my name and send it back.

I'm already feeling anxious about the deadlines even though the first is three weeks away. I now just need to do some organizing to carve time out of my schedule, hire child care, and get down to work. I really don't have many obligations during the week. All of our activities are voluntary, but Toddler in Chief and I rarely have an appointment-free day. So now relinquishing some of those items that are built into our weekly routine is all I need to do to get busy.

On the other hand, I need to grow as a parent. I need to get over the part about putting TIC into someone else's hands for a bunch of extra hours a week. Learning to let go has got to be one of the hardest lessons to learn as a parent. I marvel at how independent our child has become while aching for the closeness, intimacy, and dependency of our newborn boy.

As I sit and wonder about my upcoming research and writing, butterflies putter around my stomach (or is it nausea?). It seems that getting what I want is going to be at least as emotionally challenging as not getting it.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Full-time work without guilt, mostly

Now that Portfolio Manager Mom is back at work, we don't really ever see her or her son anymore because our playgroup meets during the week, during regular business hours. And the weekends are primarily for family time, which doesn't leave much room for playdates, unless it is coordinated and orchestrated by Father in Chief.

Anyway, that means that I haven't really seen or talked to PMM since she went back to work a month or so ago. But Portfolio Manager Mom held a birthday party for her son who was celebrating his second birthday last weekend, and of course, we were invited along with all of the other former playgroup pals.

It was great to see them and to hear about PMM's office and co-workers and commute and office parties and how she isn't really missing her son at all. He's doing great in daycare and she is loving work. She was grinning ear to ear. It's amazing how she manages to not be guilty at all (or at least a tiny bit guilty outwardly to the public). Since we were never that close to begin with, I probably don't really get the whole story.

But mostly it seemed like she was totally satisfied with her decision because she felt that she had maxed out on what she could provide her son at home. And she missed working. Which is okay. I don't think there is any rule that says a mother must stay home with her child. (Although, according to Angry Pregnant Lawyer, there are hordes of women who think that mothers should not be allowed to work, even if it makes them happier, better parents.)

When the thank you note arrived in the mail a few days later, there was a tiny bit of regret or longing: "Hope to see you soon. I miss our playgroups, but I also like working. It's too bad I can't have both."

It's so sad that for so many parents, it's one or the other. Finding a combination that works and fulfills both needs is a rarity. On the parenting road of life, there are barriers up on both sides of every lane. You get to pick the one to drive on, but once you choose, you can't really switch with ease.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My project has reproduced like bunnies

What started as a simple project has manifested itself into a whole bunch of projects in a very short amount of time. I was so excited with one simple project. It was one 1,200-word article. Call a couple of people, ask them some questions, write it all down. Simple, simple.

But instead of just taking on this one project, it has morphed into three projects--one per month for the next three months. After signing up for this one project with Bay Area Parent Magazine, my editor emailed me saying that there was this other, bigger, two-part project I might be interested instead. So feeling all puffed up because they contact me, I said that I could do them all, no problemo.

And I can. The work isn't the hard part. The hard part is accepting that I'm responsible for the outcome for a lot of work. Actual work. Work that will mean I need to hire child care so that I can do this work. During business hours.

These assignments are the most non-parental responsibility I have had since before Toddler in Chief was born. And it's a little scary, a little intimidating. It's like when we first brought TIC home from the hospital. There were no more nurses or machines beeping and flashing. Father in Chief had to go back to work and it was just me. All of it was up to me. I knew I could do it, but it was a little scary and a little intimidating as I floundered with breastfeeding and figuring out how to get him to sleep and stop crying. Without family nearby, it was all up to me to sort out, until FIC came home at the end of each day.

Now there are these projects I'm in charge of. It's just me. It feels good to know that I'll be working and writing regularly, but I've signed away part of my time. And I guess it's just going to take some getting used to. Oh, and "woo hoo!!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Silence is a tricky thing

Sometimes silence can be a good thing. And sometimes it can be a bad thing.

Good silence: your kids sleeps for 12 1/2 straight hours (go Toddler in Chief!).
Bad silence: that guy you like never calls.
Good silence: post coital snuggle-time.
Bad silence: you never hear back from that potential employer.
Good/bad silence: work prevents me from blogging.

It's true! I have real work brewing. And more than one project! Bay Area Parent Magazine contacted me to see if I was available to produce a story for them. Woo hoo. I had felt pretty defeated after they had changed their mind on a piece that I had pitched. That left me floundering on what to do next. My mind had gone totally blank about other story ideas (and I always have a million ideas!). And so the perfect thing happened. They contacted me with a story they wanted written.

Super easy!

Because coming up with the ideas and writing the proposals is difficult and time-consuming work, that can lead to nothing but a sore ass from sitting at the computer for so many hours. And that is potentially the case with my other side project.

There is no guarantee here, but I have a contact with a national magazine. And I finally got my proposal off to her after midnight last night. Writing proposals is like going through the thought process and doing the work without knowing whether or not it's going anywhere. I wanted my proposal to be fun and witty and emotional all in just a couple of paragraphs. Searching my brain for interesting and exciting prose can be like getting your kid into the car two minutes after getting to the park because you forgot they have a doctor appointment.

But it's off now and my fingers are crossed. And while I stress over whether I'm experiencing a good silence as they work my project into the schedule or bad silence as they decide I'm not right for them, I have this BAP article to occupy my thoughts. And if there's anytime left over, I can always write here too...which is my favorite, because after all, it's all about me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I'm not 21, but I'm out of control

As the name may imply, Forever 21 is chocked full of outfits that scream "fashion victim," yet I could not turn away. The store is packed with clothes that are simply wonderful, sparkly, sassy, and skimpy. I felt right at home there this afternoon with Attorney Friend. I have the shopping bags and credit card bill to prove it.

It's so exciting to go into a store and get excited about clothing because I remember a time--not that long ago--when my wardrobe resembled Father in Chief's. Plaid shirts that button up the front, GAP jeans, polo shirts. I hated shopping for clothes, probably because I hated women's fashions. But it seems that femininity and sex appeal have returned to women's fashions, just as I have become a confidant women. I no longer blush when I'm introduced to new people. I no longer have to hide behind my hair because I'm afraid that what I might have said was stupid. Now I just don't care.

It's wonderful to have grown into my body, mentally and emotionally. I no longer feel awkward and insecure. I'm not trying to hide my breasts in a minimizer or camouflage my figure in men's overalls. I like my body!! My hair isn't perfect. My skin isn't perfect. There are many flaws that are magnified in my eyes. But they don't own me anymore.

And while I'm not 21, I can shop in a store that makes me feel good about the way I look. Amen! There is no way I'd want to be 21 again, but wearing the fashions of the young, is okay by me.

I actually like being 31. I liked being 30. I'm not shy, awkward, inexperienced (professionally or sexually), as I was when I was 21. I'm sure much of my confidence comes from being in a long-term, committed relationship and well a bit of experience with life.

So if I'm so damn confident in myself externally, why am I struggling internally?

I'm proud of my professional accomplishments. I'm proud of my personal accomplishments. But there is still a lot more I want to do. And the only thing I can figure is that I'm so critical of myself and I'm so down on myself and where I'm heading professionally, career-wise, is that it is something that I can control. When I put my mind to it, I can scrounge up some paying, meaningful work. It's all up to me and I can do it, when I work for it.

My professional life is the one area I can examine and supposedly can control (if I work really hard at it). I cannot control other parts of my life. There are other parts of my life that no matter how hard I work at them, things won't get any better or make a difference. For example, Toddler in Chief's health problems have unknown long-term implications. No matter what I do, those things will not change. I cannot control those things.

So instead of getting lost in those uncontrollable areas, I need to put that energy to use elsewhere, I imagine. And that comes back to me--and the things I can control. What am I doing wrong? How should I be cultivating my career, my aspirations for another degree? How could I be a better mother? Why do I want things for me when I should be doing things for TIC? For my family?

I just wish this internal battle was as easy to remedy as a drab wardrobe.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Parenting, the blissfully-carefree way

I just can't be one of those women who can just zip up their own life and transform into a parent. It's just not me. It will never be me. I will continue to want sex for more than just procreation. I will continue to wear lipstick because it makes me feel sexy. I will continue to get (secretly) excited when random, adorable men smile at me. I will continue to wear silky, strappy bras and undies because I like knowing that they are there, even when no one else does. I will continue to want to write, even though it means less one-on-one time with my kid.


But then again, I sometimes think I envy those women who suck it up and forego everything except the kids in front of them. The ones who can just decide they are a mother. And that's that. They are on this earth to birth, nourish, clothe, entertain, teach, and love their kids. I manage some of those things--quite splendidly, I'll say--but I can not just ignore this other chunk of my life that existed. I wish I knew how they do it. Sometimes it seems like that would be much easier to handle. Just accept parenthood as all encompassing, all absorbing, and forget about the rest of it. Are they for real? Are they secretly struggling too? Just putting on that happy face to make the rest of us think we're nuts? Because I feel nutty.

Back and forth. Forth and back. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Even though I didn't always love my jobs, I usually felt pretty darn good about myself when I completed a project, published an article. Yes work does so often suck and get in the way of free time, but work is good too. I often think about the semester in college when I had to overload to make up a class. I was busier than I ever was, taking several tough classes at once. But it turned out to be one of my best semesters, for grades and time-management and overall satisfaction. On the flip side, when I took so-called easy classes, those were the times when I was usually most behind. There was an illusion that it was going to be a breeze so I'd slack off a bit. And then I ended up struggling.

Finding some way to work while also being a full-time parent would be the equivalent to that busy college semester. Working hard and feeling good about the work I'm doing. Super time management skills, cute, well-adjusted Toddler in Chief, a little buffed up ego from my gripping (and occassional) by-lines. It all sounds so easy, so attainable. Now if only it were that easy.

* UPDATE: I originally titled this post "Parenting, the ignorantly-blissful way," but then realized that ignornant is really the wrong word. Is there a word for being able to tune out all noise/needs, except for that of kids/family?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I'll take it in $1 bills, please

Four months after Bay Area Parent Magazine said it was interested in one of my story ideas, the check arrived in the mail. This is the first income I have earned since 2002 (my year-long stint at a local TV show was a non-paying, I'd-like-to-get-back-into-TV-job).

Anyway, this is a real check. It's for a real $450. Part of me wants to go to the bank and cash it so that I can hold the actual $450 worth of grubby bills in my hand. To feel the weight and importance of this $450. Sure it's a fraction of our monthly expenses. It can't pay the mortgage. It can't pay off my student loans. It can barely cover a trip to the vet. But it's wonderful.

I keep dreaming of fun ways to spend it. I hate for it to just get dumped into the checking account so that its identity is erased as it blends in with the other banking ins and outs. It should purchase or pay for something with grand importance, something decadent. Not just seemingly unimportant trips to Costco, the supermarket, or Target.

I've picked this rectangular piece of paper up and admired my name typed on the front. I want Father in Chief to scan it, so that once it is spent, there is actual proof that it existed in the first place.

Sort of silly that this little piece of paper and its value means so much to me. I suppose it's the non-monetary value that means the most. I worked so many hours on that story that I probably end up making $6 an hour, after we pay taxes on it. But it doesn't matter. It felt great to decide to go after something, and follow through. Not one of those, I should take the GRE, apply to grad school, get my masters, get my MBA, study Spanish, learn HTML, master the Millennium Cookbook, become a better belly dancer ambitions. This was the real deal.

And now that I've got the goods to prove it, I'm ready for the sequel.