Sunday, July 25, 2010

Changes, and fears, are in the wind

As the start of the new school year approaches, we've been preparing for some big changes at home. For one thing, we're working on getting back to the "school year schedule." For another, I have started potty training Jesse, because I'm making arrangements for him to attend preschool in the fall.

As for me? My changes are getting back into an exercise routine and getting out of the house for a job!

Admittedly, I have the same old reservations about saying goodbye to being a stay-at-home mom. What if my kids need me and I can't be there for them? What should I do if the kids are sick and can't go to school? (I don't think hubby will be working the night shift forever.) How am I going to handle being apart from them? (It's hard enough being apart from Jennifer during her whole school day!) As to the last concern, I think if I make the transition slowly, then that would work best. This is part of the reason why I like Kim's schedule so much. It's only for a few hours for 4 days a week. Not 5 or 6 hours! EEK!

But aside from those usual concerns, I have some others, too. What if something happens at the workplace that puts me in jeopardy? What if someone tries to assault or kill me? (I am trying to get into a self-defense class, so I think that would help alleviate that fear.) What if I get hurt? What if I get into a car accident on my way to work, which would NOT have happened if I had NOT been on my way to a job??

I'm sure there are a lot of moms out there who have had to cope with these very same fears. I know I COULD just continue to be a SAHM and happily stay in my comfort zone. After all, hubby keeps telling me he's cool with it either way -- job or no job.

But I am doing this for me, first thing, and for my children, second thing.

I know it would help me a lot to just get out of the house for a while. It would also help improve my social skills, if not my communication skills (thereby opening me to new communication challenges I will face as a deaf person and challenging me to find a way to resolve those hurdles). I wouldn't be so isolated, and it would open me up to new experiences. Most of all, it would be a great opportunity to get new ideas for things to write about (like this transition, for example?).

My children would benefit because they would see me, a woman, going against the traditional expectations set in place for women. I keep telling my daughter that the whole idea of "a woman's place is in the home" is just so oppressive, archaic and out of fashion these days. Well, I think it's time to step up and practice what I preach! No, I don't believe a woman's place is in the home, and I also believe that housework/cooking/childcare should be split between parents on a 50-50 level. Not 25-75 or 10-90. So this is partly why I want to join the workforce. I grew up watching my mother bear children, cook, clean and take care of us kids (sometimes while in a wheelchair) while my dad just worked and didn't do much else (besides enforce discipline). I grew up thinking this is what women do. Now, at 36, I no longer subscribe to that belief. No way! A woman can work just as a man can. And a man can do housework just as a woman can. (Hubby actually cooks and cleans better than I do!) So seeing this message in action will only reinforce my teaching both of my kids that they should not expect one gender to be better than the other and that some traditional roles and ideas no longer hold as much weight in society as they used to.

So, with this goal in mind, I set to work researching the best job options for me. During the time I was signed up for Workers Rehab, my counselor went over several job options with me. I even had a doctor do a physical to see what kind of job environment would be best suitable for me. However, that was then, this is now. I am not in the same physical shape I used to be in (though I am trying to fix this problem, as well, if I can ever figure out how to get my hip and foot to cooperate!).

I started my research anew.

At first, I thought maybe I could work with herbs, since I grew up with a father entrenched in herbal remedies and who often shared with me insights on certain herbs to use for certain ailments, but after some thought, I decided not to pursue that avenue. Biggest worry? That I might accidentally kill somebody! (There are some real toxic herbs out there.) I don't think I could handle something like that. So I crossed that off my list.

Then I thought, childcare? Maybe I could work at a daycare center. After all, I could be close to Jesse. But the truth is, I have a short fuse. (Yes! I'll admit it!) I just don't have the patience to have that kind of job. (I am trying to resolve that problem, as well, but it's slow going and very hard to break away from. I know I must eventually deal with all the anger I carry around inside. I am angry about a lot of things. I know I must resolve those issues and not let the anger weigh me down anymore.)

I then thought of working as a freelance editor. This is still a possibility, but I need to go to school for that. And I have no way to pay for school at this time. And, anyway, that thing is iffy and better suited for my own home-based business thing. Not as a career. I need a career. (Technically, I consider being an author my "career," but that's apples and oranges.) So, I'm saving that for later. After I can go to school for that, THAT can be something I can do from home. (A Plan B, I guess. LOL) And, actually, I have worked as an editor before -- for magazines and even a few books -- but I would feel MUCH better about making that a home-based business only after I have educational training to back me up on it. At least so far, I have experience! Yay!

Next, I thought landscaping could be in my future. After all, I DO make a fuss over a yard looking nice. And I DO have ideas for making up a yard. Also, it's so embarrassing that I'm married to someone who thinks all you need to do is mow a lawn or trim some hedges to take care of a yard. (No offense to hubby, but there's so much more you can do with a yard besides mowing it! That's the creative in me, ayup.) But then I thought...naahhh. Don't wanna be working outside day after day after day after day. Plus, I want a job where I could wear something nice. Not work clothes; office clothes.

Hmm. Office. I know I'd probably go batty having to work in a cubicle or at a desk all the time. But maybe I will find a way to make it survivable?

So I thought and thought. Eventually, I recalled reading a blog post on Karen Putz's blog, on a profile she did of a deaf medical coder. So I thought, medical coding? Could I DO that?? I checked this job out on the Web, reading up on what's required, what the job calls for, the kind of person it would be best for. The job DOES involve calling up people, but after thinking of how one deaf lady worked around that, I think I, too, can work around that. After all, the people at the business would KNOW I am deaf, right? It's not like they'd put a gun to my head and force me to use the telephone! I mean, surely, they would make exceptions? The big part of this job is using a computer and working with forms. I could do that! I also liked how this job does not require you to work on weekends, which I'd definitely want to spend with my kids.

I contacted someone via email who teaches classes on medical coding and hope there will be a response. If not, I'll keep trying to find somebody who can get me started on that path. As mentioned, the funds available to pay for this is scarce, so I'm hoping I can get a job that will help me to pay for that, so that I can then start my training for that desired job.

And all this time, I'm thinking, wow. Job. Up until now, I've only done side jobs and the regular teen jobs. Babysitting, housecleaning, office cleaning, petsitting and I was even someone's personal driver (though minus the big black hat. Haha). This will be my FIRST REAL JOB! I will actually be joining the workforce for the first time. Wow. But as excited as I am about that, I'm also nervous. I mean, I AM 36 years old. How many 36-year-olds do you see flipping burgers? (I have actually seen some 30-somethings working in fast food places, but usually as a manager.) It's embarrassing. More embarrassing that I won't know what I am doing or that I have to learn stuff 20-somethings have already mastered.

But...this is just the way it is. Thems the breaks. This is what happens when a stay-at-home mom joins the workforce for the first time. As nervous as I am, I should also be grateful. Because, bottom line, this is not an experience everybody has. This is MY experience, sure, but it's also one that is not so widely common. Also, at least this way, my getting through this experience will teach me how to help my own daughter should she go through this very same transition later in life. And, on top of that, it's just one more thing I'll get to write about.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Just give me a book to read -- a REGULAR book!

Today, I came across an article about how a certain famous author's book is being "amplified" with spiffy videos and audio features one would not normally find in a regular book. In fact, these features will be more useful for an electronic version of a book, such as an iPad or iPhone.

After reading that article, I had to just shake my head over the whole thing. Apparently, a regular book to read just doesn't cut it anymore. Nowadays, publishers want to spiffy up a book with videos and audio and all that other techie stuff.

Granted, I realize that publishers are trying to target the tech crowd, attract young readers more receptive to the latest technological trends and grab hold of readers who prefer eye candy over using their brain. But when this kind of thing needs to be done at all in order to attract readers to a book, one can't help but ponder the sorry state of Americans' appreciation of good old-fashioned literature in a regular book.

The one thing that bothered me about this is how all of that fancy-shmancy audio stuff would be worthless to someone who is profoundly deaf. And I mean "deaf" as in "deaf as a post." I wouldn't be able to enjoy any of that audio stuff the same way a hearing person could, so what good would that do me?

Another thing about this was troubling: The fact that there were videos showing what characters look like and what the setting looks like. Excuse me if I take a little offense to this, but isn't that the author's job? If a writer writes well enough, describing a character or describing a setting, then I should be able to get a pretty good picture of everything in my head. And on that note, what's wrong with my own imagination? I mean, give me credit for being a little creative myself. I can imagine what a character looks like or how a character's voice sounds without somebody else telling me or making that decision for me.

Part of the attraction of reading a novel is to escape to that story world, but also to be able to imagine the whole thing as I read. Therein is how our imagination is strengthened: By reading a story with good description and good detail, so that we can process this information to develop a picture of the story in our head. So when a publisher decides to take care of all that for a reader, eliminating the need to be creative and use our imagination, then there goes our ability to have our imagination grow just from reading a good story! Excuse me for getting the shade of a character's hair wrong -- my bad!

The other thing that attracts readers to a novel, particularly a deaf reader, is that you don't need to be able to hear to enjoy a book. That's one reason why I have always loved books: You don't need to hear to enjoy them! The same goes for someone who is blind, because there are audiobooks and books available in Braille.

That said, I only hope, and pray, that the old fashioned print books will never be replaced by those spiffied-up techie books. If it's one way to get the younger generation to read, fine. But please leave print books and regular ebooks in the picture, too, so that the rest of us can continue to enjoy them.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Nothing says "neighbor" like cake

Today, I had the good fortune of having a long phone conversation with my mother. She has been very sick lately and in a lot of pain. The last time I'd called, she was in too much pain to talk on the phone. So I was happy today that we got to have a nice long chat. Even more so that hubby watched the kids so I could talk with her without interruption.

We ended up talking for a little over an hour. She told me about how my niece, Laurie, hadn't had a birthday cake for her birthday. She'd turned 6 on the 12th, and my mom had been too sick to get out of bed to make Laurie a birthday cake. She said something had happened at my brother's work on that day, and he couldn't get away to buy her a cake. My mom said Laurie'd been asking about it, and I could imagine so. When you're 6, it's a big deal to have a birthday cake for your birthday! Heck, I went out and bought my own cake for my birthday this year. I just have a thing about there being a birthday cake, or even a cupcake, for a birthday. So I was feeling upset about that.

I love my niece dearly. I hadn't seen her since she was an infant (and she is, in fact, the one niece I took in and cared for for a period of time when my brother and his wife were having problems). So I was not happy about this, but of course I did not make it an issue with my mother. She said she felt bad enough about it. They were going to try again to finally give Laurie her birthday cake.

Still, this bugged me. So I went into the kitchen with a decision: I would do for Laurie what I have done for other people in the family when it's their birthday and I can't be there to celebrate it with them. I decided I would bake a cake just for her.

Of course, I knew I couldn't send it to her. But, really, what I do is, I get a cake, or even cupcakes, and we say "happy birthday, Nathan!" or "happy birthday, Allison!" and we enjoy a "birthday" cake in honor of their birthday.

This evening, after dinner, we said "happy birthday, Laurie!" when we had our cake. (I know, it's 6 days late. I haven't done this kinda thing very often but maybe I should start doing that for everyone.)

But before we could even have our cake and eat it, too, we had company. Two of Jennifer's friends came over to play with her. I started making the cake while they played and it soon spread that I was making cake. Next thing I know, Jennifer comes in asking if her friend can stay for dinner, knowing cake would be for dessert. I said sure, but I had to smile over the whole thing. I smiled even more when the boy's uncle came over to meet us, thanked us for having him for dinner, and asked if we could send leftover cake home. I said no problem, there's going to be a lot, anyway. (And here I was, worrying over making a large cake that would VERY LIKELY go to waste since there are only 4 of us in the house and we don't eat much cake.) It made me think of this story scene I've been carrying around in my head. About two gangsters who only show up for a meeting just because they knew there would be cake.

The cake was pretty good and I was happy to have that for my niece. I only wished she had been able to have one for herself, too. I just hope that they will come through for her and do that. But if not, I will have one delivered to her!

And it was good to meet the friend's aunt and uncle, as well. (Met the aunt when we walked the boy home with plates of cake.) Always good to meet more neighbors. Now I think if I want to meet even more of my neighbors, all I need do is whip up another cake and make sure they all know about it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lazy days of summer too lazy for me

One thing I can't stand is laziness. Maybe it was being raised by a mother constantly speaking out against laziness and pushing my sisters and I to "get our butts moving" and always assigning chores or something or other (though she often let me off on the chore thing when she saw I was writing -- she always encouraged the writing). My mother was raised in a very UNlazy way. Growing up, she always had to help out, do chores and help take care of siblings. My grandfather instilled a very strong work ethic in his children, and my mother continued to maintain that work ethic even into her late adulthood years. So, of course, she passed this down to her own children, though it seemed like the girls were doing more chores than the boys. Nevertheless, one thing my mother's efforts did to make sure we did not turn out to be slobs is that it has made me feel the same way now, with my own children. I don't want them to be lazy.

But I went against this desire recently, when I made a deal with my daughter, age 8 1/2, that she could enjoy the first month of her summer vacation with some of the more stricter rules tossed out the window. While she has enjoyed not having a bedtime, sleeping in until noon on some days, playing computer games and watching TV at night and not having to clean her room so much, it has started to eat away at me. I, too, decided to enjoy some laziness this first month, but I have only been able to take that so far.

For example, I have not cut back on the cleaning. Sure, I still take it easy on weekends, but I can't stand to see dishes in the sink or laundry piling up. So I've definitely stuck with those responsibilities. I have, however, slept in, did not exercise so much (hardly at all), ate lots of junk food and just cut back on how much work I do. In other words, I've slowed down. That is starting to get to me, however, and I'm eager to get back into action and stick to my schedule. I enjoy waking up early, anyway. It's fun waking up with the day, not to mention a beautiful sight watching the sun come up.

But another thing about this bothering me is seeing how very lazy my child can be -- and just because she can get away with it! She has definitely become a couch potato and sleeping in. By nature, she's a night owl, and so she has regressed to that during this "one month break" from rules and routines. But just as I have adapted in saying goodbye to my night owl ways, I have explained to her that, because of school, she will have to get used to being a morning person, as well. For now, I let her be a night owl, even if I'm sleepily stumbling around the house WAITING for her to go to sleep or making sure she stays in her room so I can get into bed. (She has not exactly stuck to that rule, unfortunately, and this has meant dealing with one angry father who has come home to find her watching TV or playing a computer game at 2 a.m.) I don't like laziness and watching how very lazy my child can be has been pretty frustrating. Yet I remind myself of our agreement and keep counting the days when all that will change. She can have her fun for now, because it won't last.

While it has been hard for me to "enjoy" this break from the schedule and busyness, especially when, on some days, I'm still in my jammies at noon, it has made me stop and think about just how reliant we are on being so busy so much of the time and rushing through life without stopping for rest. I have literally had to force myself to slow down, lie around, just...THINK! Just take it easy. Enjoy this warm weather and bask in the sunshine. Take time to reflect on things. Not worry about the dishes in the sink or the toys on the living room floor. Not feel pressured about making EVERY SQUARE INCH of the house look perfect. Just...relaxing and enjoying this time of the year when vacation time is allowed for so many. If anything, summertime is prime time to enjoy togetherness with family, and that's what I have been doing with my kids. Just spending time with them.

As this "month of laziness" is coming to a close, I'm beginning to reflect on the lessons it has taught me and appreciate the memories I've created with my kids. I think we'll keep this a tradition for every summer, because it allows us to just take a break from life's craziness and stop to enjoy and nurture the bond we share with each other. If anything, it allows us to refresh ourselves and appreciate what staying busy and having routines can do for us and for life in general. Also, I think it's a good idea to do this, because it balances things out. If we're always busy, always sticking to a schedule, then that's a recipe for some serious burnout. So a month "off" from that once a year helps to avoid that stress and burnout. Also, it gives us something to look forward to, because then we'll have more flexibility to do other things. Things that are not so busy.

And as much as it has eaten away at me, I'm grateful I made the decision to do this. Now I'm even more grateful that, pretty soon, it will be time to get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Home town

Recently, I filled out this form that asked me where my hometown is. My normal answer is, "Everywhere." This time, however, I just didn't have an answer. The truth is, I don't really have a "hometown" per se, just a place that feels like home.

Growing up, my family moved around a lot. I was born in Southern California, but we lived in Southern, Central and Northern California after I came into the world. We also lived in other states: Nevada, Illinois, Missouri and Connecticut. In fact, one of my younger sisters was born in Missouri (which I nicknamed "Misery"). We have also visited Utah and New York.

I have no idea why my family was always so nomadic, just that we were always moving, moving, moving. I'd tell my friends I was moving away and a lot of them would reply with, "You just got here." Well, my mom pretty much wanted to move more than my dad. She just could never really find anywhere to call home. Even after I left home at the age of 19, she still kept moving around from one house to another.

That may be coming to an end, however, and I'll go into that in just a moment.

First, I wanted to get back to my reflection over how I didn't really have an answer for when I was asked where my hometown is. I guess it would have to be the California desert, since that's where I lived the longest (14 years). Even then, I call it the desert, and not some particular city, because in the desert, I went from Palm Desert to Rancho Mirage to Desert Hot Springs. (Actually, I lived in two different places in Palm Desert before moving to Rancho Mirage.)

Now I started to think, how would Jennifer answer this question? Or Jesse? We no longer live where Jennifer was born (in the desert), but we DO live where Jesse was born. At least one of my kids would at least be able to have the chance to say they were "born and raised" somewhere. In some city. I wanted to give them that chance, so why not now? Why not put into place what my kids could have as their "hometown"? A place to call home.

And why not make that Eugene?

Granted, I've had a love-hate relationship with Eugene, but I do love this new house we are living in. I could definitely see us staying here for a long time. So, why not? Why not go ahead and do that? Let my children have what I couldn't have: A neighborhood they can grow up in. (My husband's family also moved around a lot but he has fond memories of living in Ohio.) I hated moving all the time. Always leaving my friends. Always changing schools. Always packing, packing, packing. Then UNPACKING. And don't get me started on how many times I lost things in one move or another. I don't want to put my children through that. So, why not just establish our roots now? You know? Why not.

I was talking with my mother about this on the phone yesterday. I told her about how we're going to stay put here in Eugene. She agreed it was probably the best thing to do for the children (would have been nice if she'd thought of that when I was a kid!) and she told me she loves where she is living now, in Illinois. And she said she's probably going to stay there, too. In fact, she is buying a house out there. She said she wanted to stay there and she was happy there. (I could only imagine the amount of relief my dad must have been feeling had he been listening to her say all that on the phone. He was probably thinking something like, Thank God! It only took her 30-something years!)

It feels good knowing that now I have a place to call home -- even though I am still trying to find some way to fit in here and be a part of the community more -- but, more importantly, my children can know they have a place to call home, too. They don't have to worry about leaving their friends or changing schools. Or even having to change what grade they're in, since another state might have a different grade level for kids their age.

I don't think I'll be carrying on my family's tradition of moving from place to place to place so often anymore, and I'm glad I have decided on as much. I used to think that if anything happened to my husband, and it would be me and the kids, we'd all pack up and move back to California. I kept telling people, Oregon is not my home! But now, things are different. Maybe Eugene is starting to grow on me -- or I am finally seeing how good my kids have it here and how nice so many people are. We'll likely stay put. My children need one place to stay where they can grow up. Why not make it here? Maybe one of these days I'll find some way to be a part of Eugene, and maybe ONE of these days I'll get used to this crazy weather. Up until then, for now I think we are going to start calling Eugene "home."