Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009: You're Lookin' Fine!

What is Joan Novark doing for New Year's, you ask?

Well, she's getting Snookums all bundled up to go out in 39-mile-per-hour winds!

And she's going to drive into Manhattan! That's right: the SAME NIGHT EVERY BRIDGE AND TUNNEL PERSON IS DRIVING IN!

Once we pick up Zany Dad at his Dreary Job in the Financial District, it's off to the Upper West Side to visit Zany Dad's zany sister and her rich, eccentric BF!

(Zany Dad once said he hated the Upper West Side so much he could never go there without hurling. I plan to roll down the car windows the minute we cross 59th Street.)

No, seriously, my ultimate destination is a party downtown in the West Village. I plan to leave Zany Dad and Snookums' at Zany Sis's and high tail it out of there for some raw oysters, roasted suckling pig, Prosecco and obscure 80s music.

Things it's not polite to discuss at said parties, but I might anyway (cf: Prosecco, above):

1) The idea of serving a suckling pig. After all, Snookums is still suckling, and when she was really little (and pink) she resembled a piglet. Zany Dad said he couldn't eat a baby pig in good conscience. I suppose I should be more principled, but I'm too friggin' hungry.

2) Did you know you should only drink wine from Italy, Argentina or Brazil? It's true: I read an article about the high levels of heavy metals in wine, especially from Eastern Europe and France. That's why I'm bringing Prosecco and an Italian pinot noir to the party. Eccentric BF, however, apparently went out and bought NINE bottles of wine and Champagne in expectation of our arrival, even though I'm the only one who drinks.

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mommy and Me in the Garden of Eden

Last night I went to a party and asked someone I hadn't seen in several months how things were going since her baby was born in March. Her response?

"Things are OK now, but I went through three different episodes of postpartum mania."

It all started exactly three months -- to the day -- after her baby was born, and she took him on a self-designed meditation retreat. In a cabin in the woods in upstate New York, she bonded with her baby when he was awake and meditated or wrote in her journal when he wasn't.

Eventually, she became convinced she could read his every move. Literally. "I thought he was signaling to me with his hand gestures," she told me. When he waved his hand in the air, she thought he was telling her to write in her journal. So she did. In four days, she wrote 143 pages.

"I wrote this whole religious-ecstasy vision thing about how we were in the Garden of Eden together," she said. "I felt very euphoric and peaceful, like everything was perfect."

But just as it did for Adam and Eve, things turned dark. Her husband wasn't bonding enough with the baby, she decided. Her voices or visions told her to "implode," which she took to mean withdraw into herself and meditate more intensely, making her husband take care of the baby. So when she got home, she told her husband to watch him while she meditated.

She put the baby in his bassinet. Pretty soon, he was screaming. She ignored him. So did her husband, who was on a work call. Then she was screaming and not making sense. Her husband called her mother and his sister and they came over. She was delusional for two days, but they finally convinced her to check herself into a psych ward.

"The thing was, I agreed to go and I signed myself in, but I didn't realize they'd take my baby away from me," she said. "The first three days without him were a nightmare. I was screaming, inconsolable." Her doctor tried to put her on antipsychotic drugs but she refused to take them because she wouldn't be able to breastfeed.

After 10 days, she was released. Then, on the day her baby turned four months old -- exactly a month after the first episode -- she had another Garden of Eden vision in which she and her baby were in paradise. She went back to her doctor and agreed to take the antipsychotics, "but after four days I stopped, because they turn you into a zombie."

On the day her baby turned five months, she had the third episode. "The other two times, I felt very positive, very euphoric," she said. "But this time was bad. I was paranoid." She became convinced her baby was the Messiah and that she had to smuggle him out of New York to another state. "I thought my husband was in on it and that he was going to meet us there," she said.

In the middle of the night she snuck out of the house with the baby. "I kept getting into taxicabs and then feeling scared or upset about something the driver said or did," she said. "Finally I realized I was in a fear state and it wasn't a good place to be, so I just went to a friend's house."

Long story short: She took antipsychotics for about two months, which meant she had to stop breastfeeding. But today she's OK and off the medication.

I'm not a shrink, but I play one on the Internet, and my Google search tells me she had postpartum psychosis, an extremely rare illness that only affects one or two women in a thousand.

On the other hand, it's possible she really did have a religious experience. Maybe her baby really is the Messiah. (He's awfully cute.) If the Virgin Mary were around today, wouldn't we put her in the psych ward the minute she said her child was the son of God?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gratuitous Butt Shot #2

Some of you might remember a story I told a few weeks ago about how I saw one of the people I share office space with retouching a photo of a woman's butt.

Well, today it happened again. Only it was a different guy this time. Who works for a TOTALLY DIFFERENT COMPANY.

I was in the office for only a few minutes today -- just long enough to walk by this guy's office and see a photo of a woman's naked butt up on his computer screen.

The woman in the photo was wearing some sort of sequinned garment that just happened to be open so that her ass was completely exposed. The nudity seemed too out of context for a women's magazine, and the shot wasn't really cheesy enough to be soft-core porn, nor was it artsy enough to be considered, well, artsy. I couldn't figure out where a shot like that would be published.

I would have asked the guy who was working on it, but he was on the phone engaged in what sounded like a very intense conversation. Probably about butts.

Oh, and another thing that's weird about my office: This place is on the second floor.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Great Classic NJ Diners

In my previous job/life, before I had Snookums, I used to travel all over the world. I ate squab in Egypt, fried caterpillars in Mexico, and freshly slaughtered pig (yes, it had been screaming moments before) in Borneo.

Nowadays, if I can spend the weekend discovering some great diner, I'm happy as a clam. Fortunately, New Jersey is famous for its old diners. Here are three of my favorites -- two discovered just this weekend!

1) The White Mana Diner, corner of Tonnelle Ave. and Manhattan Ave., Jersey City.

Launched at the 1939 World's Fair (and it looks every bit its age), the White Mana features a circular layout rather than the typical rectangular, railroad-car design of most diners. Kinda run down and dingy -- both inside and outside -- but the White Castle-style hamburgers are great. And cheap.

2) Summit Diner, 1 Union Place (corner of Summit Ave.), Summit.

This tiny spot (only eight booths and 20 stools) is the place to be in Summit on a Saturday morning. You'll have to wait for your table, but you can amuse yourself eavesdropping on the regulars. Service is, shall we say, indifferent, but the prices can't be beat. Afterwards, you can walk off the food by strolling around Summit's Fifties-style downtown, which even features -- gasp! -- a movie theater.

3) Bendix Diner, 464 Rt. 17, Hasbrouck Heights.

I just went to this place today for the first time and can't believe I didn't know about it. It's a classic American roadside diner that's been featured in umpteen TV commercials and the odd bad movie (Jersey Girl). Built in 1947, it's also in much better shape than Summit or White Mana -- and is sparkling clean, too (even the bathrooms). The service is also a lot better. And while it's not dirt cheap like the other two, you won't go broke eating here either -- I'm still full from the Reuben and fries I chowed down eight hours ago.

Special bonus: The White Mana and the Summit diners are accessible by public transportation.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eat Your Butt Out

Today Zany Dad and I spent the day at the house of friends in Summit, NJ. The husband, who is from Poland originally, served us this delicious honey-soaked poppyseed cake that's some kind of national delicacy, and Snookums couldn't get enough of it. She kept pointing her tiny finger at it and angry-moaning -- kind of like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- until I gave her more. And more.

At one point Zany Dad looked down at the black clumps of poppyseeds that were sprinkled all over the chair and floor.

"Oh no -- we are going to have to clean this up!" he said. "It looks as though she is eating it with her butt."

Come again?

"It looks as though she is eating it with her butt," he repeated insistently, as if I were deaf.

Normally Zany Dad speaks near-impeccable English. (His idea of bedtime reading is Nathaniel Hawthorne and Joseph Conrad.) But every once in a while, he slips up.

Like one time he referred to the Beatles as "the Bittles." And another time, he said, "I think our tenant has a crunch on you."

But this time I have NO idea what he's talking about. But it kinda sounds good -- like "talking out of your ass." So I'm going to start using it, and to hell with what it means.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Aloha, Snookums!

Snookums went to a Hawaiian party today. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with our new president and everything to do with the fact that a member of the mothers' group I belong to is originally from Hawaii. She even plays the ukulele. (That is not her in the photo, by the way.)

So we brought some musical instruments -- a tambourine, a shaker, a squeaky toy -- to the playroom of Malia's apartment building. She played "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "The Hokey Pokey" -- the usual playlist for the one-and-under set -- on the ukulele, and the babies just sort of sat around and stared at each other. That is, when they (meaning Snookums) weren't crawling over and grabbing another baby's stuff, or playing an instrument at a totally inappropriate time, or COMPLETELY IGNORING THE DIRECTIONS (it's your right foot, dammit, not your hand! You put your right foot in and you shake it all about!).

The other babies mostly sat there placidly and smiled while their mothers fed or changed them and chatted. Not Snookums. She didn't stop moving for a second. Finally she found a way to amuse herself by pushing another baby who was sitting on a little car around the room endlessly. Every time she got to the wall, the other baby's mother would turn the car around, and Snookums would run across the room to the opposite wall, pushing the other baby. This went on for a full five minutes -- an eternity in Snookums-time.

Maybe she has a future as a pedi-cab driver.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All Hail the Baby

This'll probably be seen as sacrilegious, but it's Christmas, and I tend to take things literally, so I can't help thinking that this holiday is all about worshiping a giant baby.

Considering I spent the past year in the thrall of Madame Bossette, that makes me wonder what the Baby Jesus was like.

Was he cranky? Colicky? Did he keep his parents up all night for months on end?

Did he throw his food on the floor?

Did he grab Joseph's nose and pinch it really, really hard, then grin when admonished not to?

Did he point at whatever an adult was eating or drinking and make incessant, angry noises, demanding to be given whatever foodstuff that was -- even if it was a glass of wine or something else children aren't supposed to have?

Did he demand to be breastfed constantly? Did he bite Mary's nipples? Did he rip her blouse open to try to reach the milk?

Oh, no, you'll say. He was a perfect little angel. Well, don't forget: He was a man, too. A man who started out as a baby. One that we all worship. . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snookums: Indifferent to Her Jewish Heritage

On the fourth night of Hanukkah, Joan Novark brings to thee . . .

a Dancing Dreidel bear! Snookums, unfortunately, couldn't care less.

Was anyone besides Joan unaware of the second verse of this song?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

If the Shoe Fits, Sniff It

A friend of mine recently placed an ad on Freecycle listing a bag of women's clothes she was giving away. A few days later, after the bag was already gone, she got the following email:

Any old/used flat heels pumps too? I can take from your hands.

When she replied to say that the clothes had been taken, the person wrote back:

Any other well worn shoes you may have???

"I thought, 'This poor woman has no shoes,' " she told me. So she wrote this response:

"Hi, I don't have many shoes as I tend to wear the same ones forever. I have a pair of black flats from Urban Outfitters I don't want, they were very uncomfortable to me -- I only wore them once. I also have a pair of weird clunky pink shoes with heels that aren't too comfortable either. You can have these if you want but I doubt you would be that comfortable -- though maybe people's feet are different."

The answer?

These are not for use. I only want your oldest/worn/well worn shoes. Only shoes from a nice beautiful lady, worn by her, so I can feel the scent, and really want to kiss her feet, rub them to my face, and become her slave.

I cried for the man who had no shoes, until I met the shoeless man with a shoe fetish.

Monday, December 22, 2008

There Goes My "Retirement"

Today at work we got into a discussion about credit cards and how much interest they charge, etc., and how before you know it, you owe so much money you can't pay it back.

I brought up the example of a friend of mine, who recently declared bankruptcy because her husband, who had a small (and unsuccessful) business, was using their credit cards to pay his employees' salaries.

My boss said something like, "Yeah, when you're not bringing in any income . . . " and trailed off.

A couple of minutes later, after we'd talked about this and that, I, being the kind of tightwad responsible consumer who pays her credit card bill in full every month, said, "Whatever you do, don't charge payroll to your credit card!"

I was thinking my boss would laugh, or say something like, "Of course not, how stupid do you think I am?"

But he didn't do either. He didn't say anything at all.

Which makes me wonder exactly where he's getting the money to pay me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Do I Look Like a Cow to You?

Last time I checked, I had only two legs, one stomach, and no horns. Yet when Snookums looks at me, all she sees is Big Ol' Bossy (with apologies to one of my favorite bloggers).

Witness this video, in which I chant, "The dairy's closed!" while Snookums is thwarted in her attempts to reach her milk faucets.

p.s. My mother said she'd never seen girl babies act like this before. Does this mean that Snookums is tending towards the, ah, Sapphic persuasion? If so, I hope she gets her own talk show.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Human Pincushion

I'm now on my seventh day of Repronex injections and my second day of Cetrotide, some new hormone thangy the doctor put me on to lengthen my cycle for this round of IUI. I still have to take Repronex and Cetrotide injections every night until Monday, when I'll give myself an injection of Ovidrel to make me ovulate in time for the insemination Tuesday morning. 

I've gotten used to giving myself shots by now, but I'm still not used to having to do two injections instead of one. It's difficult to find two spots on my belly where I'm not going to mind having a big red, sore patch the next day -- especially since Snookums likes to kick me in the stomach while she's nursing. 

Hmmm . . . Maybe I should have called this post "The Human Punching Bag." 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Jersey City Sucks

Dear Jersey City, 

I've been with you since the Clinton Administration -- longer than I've been married to Snookums' dad, even. And I tried to stay faithful. I even bought property here, in a decidedly NOT gentrified neighborhood. 

When New Yorkers put you down, I always defended you. And what did I get in return for my loyalty? Nothing but lies, misdeeds, caddish behavior 
. . . Well, I've had it. They're right. You SUCK. And here's why: 

The other day, I was trying to catch a bus at Journal Square. The first rule of Journal Square is,  no one knows anything. And yet there are so many, many questions! Such as, "Why is EVERY SINGLE ESCALATOR being repaired during rush hour, when you guys just replaced all the escalators only a few months ago?" Or, "Why the hell can't I find a goddamn trash can ANYWHERE in the station?" Or, "Why did you get rid of the one and only mailbox? Was it because you wanted to FORCE me to have to carry my mail to Manhattan before I can send it?"

But on the day in question, I didn't ask those things, because I know better. Rather, I approached a man in a tie and shirtsleeves, who was standing at the bus station with a clipboard in his hand, and simply asked, "Do you know what time the Society Hill bus is coming?" 

"I DON'T KNOW! I DON'T KNOW!" he shrieked, as if he were one of Saddam Hussein's minions being asked, post-invasion, if he'd ever heard of a little something called the Baath Party.  

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, taken aback. "I thought you worked for the bus company." 

"I DO work for the bus company!" he shrieked. 

"And you don't know when the Society Hill bus is coming?" 


I gestured toward the clipboard in his hand. "Would you maybe let me take a look at that?" 

"NO!" he shouted, snatching it away. 

At this point, another passenger came up to us. "The bus comes every 10 minutes or so,"  she said. 

Thanks, lady! Asked and answered! You'd think a guy who works for the BUS COMPANY would be able to provide that information, wouldn't you? 

Oh, I forgot -- he works for a bus company in JERSEY CITY. 

We've got bus dispatchers who refuse to tell you the bus schedules! We've got city councilmen who pee on the crowds at Grateful Dead tribute concerts! And don't even get me started on our cabdrivers, who tell you where THEY'RE going, rather than the other way around. 

No wonder we're the laughing stock of the nation. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

She Woke Up Screaming

I recently came across some notes I took during a few days when Snookums was about three months old and barely slept. Reading them over, I wonder how I got through that time: 

3/26    3:45 - 6:45 slept. 
             I woke up first; she was v. agitated but still asleep. Changed diaper (wet). She 
            SCREAMED for several minutes. 
             Fed 6:55 - 7:10. 
             Slept 7:20 - 9:20. 
             Nursed 10:00 - 10:20. 
             Slept 10:30 - 1:40. Diaper wet only. 
             Fed 2:00 - 2:15. 
             Slept 4:15 - 4:45. 
     Fed 5:40 - 6:00. 
     Changed diaper 6:45 (dirty). 
     Fussy from 7:00 - 7:30. Put her in Bjorn. 
     Slept 7:30 - 8:00. 
     Slept 9:00 - 9:15. 
     Fed 9:30 - 9:50. Fussed. 
     Slept 11:00 - 11:45. Woke up screaming. 
    Fed 11:50 - 12:00. Tried various sleep strategies: rocking, Snugli, weak Sleepytime tea. 
    Didn't work.
            Breastfed again 12:30 - 12:41. Calmed her down (she had been SCREAMING) & she fell
    asleep but woke up the minute I took her off breast. Gave bottle 12:45. 1:00 - 4:00 Zany
    Dad up with her. Slept 4:00 --  

I'd like to come up with something funny to say about this, but it's late, I'm getting over the flu, and Zany Dad is next to me watching Charlie Rose interview Henry Kissinger. So I have NO sense of humor right now, sorry. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ai Yi Yi!

Take a swan and wring its neck. Skin the bird and, under a full moon, lay its skin in a shallow hole with the feathers face-up. Add eggs -- five for every child you want to bear. Atop each egg, place the talon of a blackbird and a black stone. Circle the hole three times, clockwise, then close it with a clod of earth. 

That's an ancient witches' spell to help women become pregnant, from the latest issue of Archaeology magazine

I thought about this today because I'm getting ready for another round of intrauterine insemination (IUI -- or as my mother calls it, "Ai yi yi!"). Only instead of wringing swans' necks and putting blackbird talons and black stones on eggs, I'm taking four vials of Repronex, mixing it with saline solution and injecting myself in the stomach. 

After five days of doing this, I'll go to the doctor for some exams and he'll give me a pre-filled syringe of Ovidrel to take home to inject myself with. Then I'll go back to his office the next day for the insemination. 

I hope it works this time. The injections aren't nearly as bad as I thought they'd be, but the whole thing is expensive -- though cheap compared to IVF -- and I just want it to be over. 

Oh -- the end of the witches' spell goes: 

As soon as you are with child, empty the hole, or terrible things will come to pass. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Since She Came Out of Her Mother

I've been thinking a lot recently about the day Snookums was born, and it made me remember a funny story that happened to me a few years ago. 

I was waiting on the subway platform on my way home late one Saturday night and got into a conversation with the guy sitting next to me, a kid who was probably about 19 or 20. He started telling me all about his car. And what a car it was. 

For starters, the only person allowed to drive it besides himself was his mother, who had taken it to Atlantic City for the weekend. He told me how much it had cost to have it custom painted, what his monthly car payments were, how he always parked it in shade to protect the finish. 

He also told me how he'd adorned it to celebrate the many aspects of himself. The driver's seat had a customized Italian-flag design to celebrate his Italian heritage, the passenger's seat had an Irish-flag design to celebrate his Irish heritage, he'd had a rainbow painted along the bottom of the car to celebrate his bisexuality and placed a giant decal with his boyfriend's name on the passenger side. 

(Oh, and did I mention he was from New Jersey? Perhaps you've guessed that by now.) 

After listening to this for a few minutes, I realized this was the kind of person who definitely had a name for his car. (I am not such a person, by the way. I loathe driving.)  "What's your car's name?" I asked. 

"Madonna!" he blurted out, almost before I'd finished the sentence.

"Wow, that's cool," I said, mostly just trying to make polite conversation. "You know, I have tickets to her concert this summer at Madison Square Garden." 

"Getouttaheah!" the kid exclaimed. "I been lovin' huh since I came outta my mother practically." 

And that's how I feel about Snookums: I've been loving her since she came out of her mother. 


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Snookums!

Snookums turned one today. I spent a lot of time thinking about how tiny she was when she was born and how little sleep I got. She slept in such short stretches I didn't even bother trying to sleep when she slept, the result being I often didn't go to bed until 4 a.m. Then when she woke me up again crying, I'd be so sleep deprived that she looked like just a big head with a pair of tiny waving arms underneath, and no body. 

And she'd be so wide awake I'd think, "Is she on cocaine?" And "Can I have some?"

And our boiler kept breaking down and it was the middle of the winter and the air in our bedroom was so cold and dry that went I picked her up, blue sparks would fly off her blanket. 

And I remembered how she didn't have a typical newborn's face when she was born, such delicate, well-formed little features  -- long lashes and perfect lips, and pretty little hands and feet. 

And how I loved the smell of her little neck. 

But mostly, I remember how at first she suffered from gas pain until she finally discovered how to release it, and in the middle of the night I'd hear these little angry yells from her bassinet, followed by long volleys of farts.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Halfy Holidays

This week I realized the value of completely ignoring your husband. 

See, Snookums' dad had been saying that because he's Jewish, he's against Christmas and Santa and he wasn't going to celebrate it and didn't really want his daughter to celebrate it and etc., etc., and no, you couldn't celebrate BOTH Christmas and Hanukkah because it didn't make sense since the religions were opposed to each other and besides, Hanukkah was really just a made-up holiday anyway, to compete with Christmas and blah blah blah. 

I got his point. (Especially after listening to him go on about it for 20 minutes.) But I wasn't looking to have Snookums accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior -- it's just that I grew up with Christmas and I wanted her to enjoy it too. (Besides which, it's totally pagan anyway. Christ was born in the spring, not the winter.)

But none of these arguments worked, so at a certain point I decided to just ignore him. I started by buying her a "My First Hanukkah" book, which got him all enthusiastic about getting her a dreidel and lighting the menorah and so on. Then I bought her a Christmas stocking and he didn't object, even thought it was cute. 

THEN, we went to a holiday party held by the mothers' group where we live. There was a Santa in the corner taking pictures with the children sitting in his lap. And suddenly, Zany Dad was all, "Let's get Snookums' picture with Santa!" So we did. 

The next day, I said, "I was really surprised at how enthusiastic you were about getting Snookums' picture with Santa. I thought you were against promoting Christmas." 

And he said, "Look at this way: Imagine we were in Saudi Arabia and there was an old Arab man, and Snookums sat on his lap." 

Whuh? So is he saying it's just some sort of cultural custom you follow because you happen to be there? OK, fine -- except that contradicts all the speeches I heard for months. And also, an old Arab man is not a religious symbol. Now, if Muhammad wanted Snookums to sit in his lap, maybe this argument would make sense. 

But it doesn't make sense. And you know why? BECAUSE SNOOKUMS' DAD IS BATSHIT CRAZY! 

Especially since (as he confessed while placing Snookums on Santa's lap), he had his OWN picture taken sitting on Santa's lap, 40 years ago, in Rio de Janeiro. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Help, My Husband Is Gay!

I've written previously about Zany Dad's fascination with macho professions -- truck driving, tugboat captaining, buffalo farming (OK, I didn't mention that one, but that was the main reason he wanted to move to Brownsville). 

So when I went upstairs to the computer room the other night, I was quite surprised to find Zany Dad enrapt in an article about Liza Minnelli's new Broadway show

"Can we go? Can we get tickets?" he asked. 

"Oh, I didn't know you were gay," I said. 

Zany Dad insisted that in Brazil, Liza Minnelli is not a gay icon. At least, not exclusively. Well, all-righty then!  

If I look back on this years later and wonder how I couldn't have noticed, um, certain tendencies, I can't claim I wasn't warned. . . 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Zany Baby Daddy

It occurs to me that I've been neglecting to talk much about Snookums' dad, other than that he hates his New York paralegal job. (That's not him at left, by the way -- it's character actor William Fichtner, who looks like him.) So here are a few more facts about Zany Dad: 

He used to subscribe to American Tugboat Review

For years, he wanted to be a truck driver. Or a tugboat captain. 

If it were up to him, right now we'd all be living in Brownsville, Texas. (This video gives an idea of just how much that would suck.) 

Oh, and he's Brazilian. And Jewish. Oy vey. . . 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Preacher Feature

(Continued from previous entry.) 

The cemetery seemed to be where this family liked to hang out. When we got there, the girls and I took me on a walk while they pointed out the graves of people they knew. Then we all went up and sat in a little gazebo while the father led the whole family in about 10 minutes of hymn-singing. 

What was supposed to be a spiritual, or at least pleasant, experience just seemed creepy. There was a military flavor to the whole thing -- especially the way they all fell into song in a split second, as if they'd be punished if they didn't. 

Which they would be. Back at the house, while we had lunch and I tried to keep Snookums from crawling out of the high chair and onto the table, "Teresa," the mother (not her real name) explained that they start "disciplining" their children at three months. 

"Whenever they touch something they're not supposed to, you basically give their hands a little flick," she said. She also tried to claim that this didn't hurt them -- but this didn't make sense because she'd just finished saying that they would associate the "sting" with that behavior and therefore not do it again.

"You don't childproof your house," her husband added, "you houseproof your child!" 

As I tried to hold Snookums down so she wouldn't fall off the high chair, she started fussing. Shoki -- a young Indian guy who was hanging out with the family for the weekend -- joked, "Looks like you could use some of Teresa's discipline." 

"It's not Teresa's discipline. It's God's discipline," Rachel said. 

As we were leaving, the family gave us a creepy Amish book about disciplining your kids called To Train Up a Child. It advocates using "switches." 

Now, whenever Snookums misbehaves, I tell her, "If you don't watch out, I'll send you up to Maine for some Amish discipline!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Stephen King Weekend II

(Continued from the previous entry.)

It took us about 15 minutes to walk to the cemetery, during which time I chatted with "Leah" and "Rachel" (not their real names), who are eight and twelve, respectively. 

As Leah pushed Snookums in the stroller, she confided that she was so glad Snookums was a girl: "If she'd been a boy, I would have been so disappointed." 

Before I even had a chance to ask why, she explained: "In our community, people of the opposite sex who aren't related have to keep at least an arm's length from each other." 

Ohhhh-kay, I thought. From BABIES? 

"Ninety-nine percent of all marriages end after the first year," Leah went on, eerily confident in the way she parroted misinformation. "This is because of all the inappropriate behavior between men and women. You have to keep Snookums away from older men now, so that it doesn't develop into a habit when she's older." 

Uh-huh, I thought. I'll get right on that, sister

By now it was pretty obvious that any question these girls asked me was not innocent, but had an I'm-better-than-you-because-you're-a-Godless-sinner agenda behind it. As in: 

"Do you ever let Snookums wear skirts?" 

"Sure," I said. 

"How much of the time?" 

I mean, what kind of question is that? Am I supposed to say I let her wear them 30 percent of the time? 50 percent of the time? 62 percent of the time? 

"Oh, sometimes," I replied. 

"Are you going to let her wear bangs?" 

Here, I wasn't sure what the right answer was. Were bangs good or bad? Somehow the question implied they were bad -- but why, for Crissake? I answered something noncommittal. 

"Do you know how to sew?" 

"Not really," I said. "I mean, I can sew on a button or mend something if it's torn, but I don't really sew." 

"Well," said Leah, very pleased with herself, "when we get back to the house I'll have to show you the dresses I made, and the quilts, and the sweaters. . . " 

We hadn't even gotten to the cemetery yet, and already I was starting to hate this smug, self-righteous little bitch. 

"How can an eight-year-old be a bitch?" you ask. All I can say is, That's what I used to think


Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Stephen King Weekend

Greetings from the Howard Johnson's in Vernon, Connecticut! I haven't been able to blog the last couple of days because Snookums and I have been trapped in a Stephen King novel.

First, we drove all day Friday from Auburn, Mass. to Bangore, Maine, where we stayed at the Fireside Inn. Not a bad motel -- free Wi-Fi and continental breakfast, fireplaces (gas) in the rooms, but our room smelled like there was a gas leak and when we had to switch rooms, I tried to convince the staff to give us some of our money back. No dice.

Anyway, the next morning Snookums' dad's friend came to drive us out to his little family compound in East Corinth. It was REALLY in the middle of nowhere, and seemed more Stephen King with every passing mile -- windy roads and frostbitten trees, little depressed trailers with junk strewn around them, churches of every Christian denomination imaginable. When we finally got to the Crazy Christian Compound, there was an amazing vegan breakfast awaiting us. But the first sign something was odd (besides the fact that mother and daughters were dressed identically in dresses that reached to the ground) was the fact that when I went to use the bathroom, I couldn't find the soap.

I asked the oldest daughter, who -- as my husband described her -- is 12 going on 22. "Where's the soap?"

"We don't use any," she replied, a hint of smugness in her tone.

Thank God I'd brought my hand sanitizer. Snookums' dad later found out from the girl's mother that this is for religious reasons -- something along the lines of, "Moses and Jesus didn't use soap, so there's no need for us to." They do, however, use soap to wash their dishes and their clothes. Go figure.

Things got even weirder when we all took a walk after breakfast to the local cemetery . . .


Friday, November 28, 2008

On the Road . . . with Huggies

I'm writing this from the La Quinta Inn in Auburn, Mass. (yay, free Wi-Fi!), where we've stopped en route to Corinth, Maine. The other day Snookums' dad decided he wanted to take a road trip to visit a friend up there who runs a cheap vegan restaurant in the Wall Street area and -- believe it or not -- commutes between Maine and Manhattan several times a week. 

I've mentioned before that Snookums' dad is very unsatisfied with his job as an overworked, underappreciated paralegal. His friend, who happens to be a Seventh-Day Adventist, says he'll teach him a franchise method so he can learn to open his own vegan restaurant/bakery. (I have to say, their baked goods are amazing -- all the more so because they contain no eggs, milk or butter.) 

We originally thought we'd stop in Lowell, Mass., since this was more or less halfway between Bronxville (where we had Thanksgiving with some friends) and Corinth. An old friend of my dad's lives in Lowell and is the executor to Jack Kerouac's estate. He's kind of a weird, mean guy, but I thought the enticement of seeing his old friend's grandchild might make him more amenable. 

But we took a different route, and now we're in Auburn, getting ready to leave for the remaining five-hours-plus journey. I know ol' Ti-Jean (Kerouac's childhood nickname -- it means "little John" in French) would never have taken a baby on the road with him. Worse, he would have refused to admit his paternity.  And Sampas would have ultimately taken his side.

Still, there's Snookums' dad behind the wheel, his copy of On the Road tucked into his suitcase, alongside the diapers and onesies and baby cereal. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And Snookums' First Word Is...


Yes, she's very self-referential. 

She's been saying "baby" for weeks now, but randomly, as she babbles, so I wasn't sure if she knew what it meant or not. Then I showed her a photo of a friend's baby and she shrieked with delight, pointed straight at it and said, "Baby."

I still wasn't totally convinced. (I used to be a fact-checker in a former life; can you tell?) But then I showed her the picture the next day and she did it again! So now I'm a believer...  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Viva Glam

My friend Goody 2 Shoes came up with a great description of this blog: "It's about how to have a life, a 'glam' urban career, and a baby and still keep a great sense of humor."

Naturally, I was flattered. And I'd love to agree. But I can't resist pointing out all the unglam things about my "career":

-Exhibit A: I just finished updating a spreadsheet -- and it's after midnight.

-Exhibit B: The bathrooms are dirty. AND unisex.

-Exhibit C: You've all seen the room where I pump breast milk.

-Exhibit D: Having to read -- or worse, employ -- phrases like "integrated solutions," "human capital," "leveraging content."

-Exhibit E: Last week I interviewed a guy who actually DICTATED the PUNCTUATION. As in, "In July my title changed from quote manager unquote to quote director unquote, period."

-Exhibit F: Conference calls. Tomorrow I have three -- back to back. 'Nuff said.

I guess no job is really glamorous when seen from up close. Which reminds me of that old joke about the guy who cleaned up after the elephants in the circus. When someone asked him why he didn't look for a better job after so many years, he replied, "What? And leave show business?"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pain at the Pump

Hi there! Welcome to the room where I pump breast milk every day. See how spacious it is? And so many windows!  If you look closely, you'll notice a vacuum cleaner right alongside my chair -- it's just that clean. 

Another sign of cleanliness: that bucket and mop right by the door -- a door made of glass, by the way, so it lets in tons of natural light! 

Of course, we wouldn't want any pesky co-workers peering through the glass while Joan was busy manufacturing milk for Snookums. This is New York, after all, not Amsterdam. That's why I've cleverly devised a tasteful privacy screen out of an old whiteboard. It's not for nothing that some consider me the Martha Stewart of Medela-land! 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How to Get Back into Singing After Having a Baby

A friend sent me an email a few weeks ago inviting me to a Tierney Sutton vocal workshop at Birdland. I signed up immediately -- it had been a year since I'd taken a voice lesson and months since I'd sung in front of anyone except Snookums, but I figured the $100 would be worth it if it jump-started my jazz diva ambitions again.

I took a couple of brush-up lessons with Nattacia, my voice teacher, did my vocal warmup in the morning, left Snookums with her dad and headed out to Manhattan. The song I'd brought with me was "Down with Love," which I used to sing at pretty much every open mic I attended.

After I sang the song -- too slowly, which was my fault because I counted the band in wrong -- Tierney said, "I like the pissed-offness!" She also said my voice had improved in pretty much every way -- which she attributed to the baby, but I'm sure was really the three years of intense vocal technique I'd done.

So how do you get back into singing after having a baby? Be fearless. Take some brush-up lessons. And practice, practice!

Friday, November 21, 2008

She'll Totally Be Rocking It By the Summer

Snookums' friend Claudette arrived from China, bearing adorable baby clothes (bottom photo). The top is a super-cute fleece hooded vest that masquerades as a bunny costume. The bottom is a pair of Hello Kitty red corduroys with lace-trimmed pockets. Even better, the pants are lined to make them extra warm for the winter.  

The above photo (first from left) is of a onesie I bought for a friend who's about to have a baby boy. As you can see from the design, Elvis lives! I bought Elvis and the Brigitte Bardot T-shirt from a street vendor in Soho. The Brigitte shirt is for Snookums' first birthday in a few weeks. I was uncertain about the size, because it seemed too big, but the vendor (who silkscreens the shirts himself) reassured me. 

"She can wear it over a long-sleeved shirt for now," he pointed out, "and she'll totally be rocking it by the summer." 

If you were here with me now, I would do an awesome imitation of his Swedish accent while repeating, "She will toootally be rrrocking it by the summer," and we'd both laugh really hard. But you're not here, so just do your best to try to imagine how funny it is. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sheila Jordan Turns 80

When I started this blog, I promised you fun! Excitement! Stories about exotic travels and brushes with celebrities.

Well, maybe I didn't, but that's what I had in mind. Honest. 

Anyway, instead of conference calls and breast pumps, tonight I'm able to bring you a little glamour. Last night I went to hear Sheila Jordan sing for her 80th birthday at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. (For those of you who haven't heard of Sheila, I urge you to listen to this.) 

Unlike other aging divas I've seen recently -- like, ahem, Julie Wilson and Annie Ross -- Ms. Jordan can still sing. Not perfectly -- there were some wobbly notes here and there -- but she doesn't embarrass herself like Ross or just cop out and do a Rex Harrison like Wilson. 

Sheila was backed by a wonderful band and had a great set list. I'd post the names of the musicians and the songs, since I wrote them down, but I'm just too tired to go find that scrap of paper right now. 

(By the way, if you'd told me 20 years ago that not only was I going to LIKE jazz one day, but I would eventually become such a jazzhead that I'd sit in a dark club writing down the names of all the songs and musicians, I probably would have punched you in the mouth.) 

Anyway, happy 80th birthday, Sheila! May you continue performing for many more years. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And the Bad Mother Award of the Week Goes To...

Ms. Joan Novark, for letting her daughter get soaking wet in a torrential rainstorm! 

For taking her out in the freezing cold without a hat!

For letting Snookums cry herself to sleep! 

For feeling annoyed -- not sympathetic -- at such crying! 

For giving her back her bottle when she throws it on the ground -- without cleaning it first! 

For feeding her breast milk that was left out all night! 

For letting her play with used hypodermic needles! 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to Interview Someone Who Doesn't Speak English

I've been reading a lot of articles about a small seaside town in Japan called Obama that launched a pro-Barack publicity campaign called "Obama for Obama." I wanted to learn more, so I decided to write my own article about the guy who organized the campaign and victory party, Seiji Fujihara (pictured here). 

Google searches revealed that Mr. Fujihara is the head of the Sekumiya Hotel in Obama. I called the hotel, but the man who answered the phone didn't speak English. 

"Can I speak to Mr. Fujihara?" I asked. 

"Go home tomorrow," he answered. "Hi! Thank you!" 

After a few minutes of this I finally said goodbye and hung up. 

At first I laughed about it, but I was disappointed. I had really wanted to write the article. Then I remembered that a friend of mine speaks a little Japanese--she used to live in Japan while working as a jazz musician. I called her, explained my predicament and she emailed me some handy Japanese phrases. 

The next day, I called the hotel again. This time a woman answered. "Konnichiwa" (good day), I said, very slowly. "Eigo o hanashi-masu ka?" (which means, "Do you speak English?").  

To my amazement, she replied, "Yes." 

"I'd like to speak to Fujihara," I said in English, and then -- just because I didn't want to waste my friend's work -- repeated it in Japanese: "Fujihara ni hanashtai o kudasai." 

She put me on hold for a few minutes, then Mr. Fujihara himself came to the phone. But after I introduced myself and explained I wanted to interview him for an article, he said his English wasn't good enough for an interview. 

But I wasn't ready to give up. So I asked if he could respond to questions in writing. He agreed to have me fax him some questions he could write answers to. 

So far so good. Then I got his answers. They were short and cryptic, almost like haiku. 

For instance, I had asked him to name the most challenging aspect of planning the Obama victory celebration. 

He wrote, "The hula of man named OBAMA BOYS. I made our debut on November 5."

I asked, "Is there anything else you would like people to know about planning this event?" 

He replied, "I told you that I owned the friendly feeling in Japan, and I was good, and President-elect Obama knew Obama-shi in that." 

I couldn't really use his quotes, but I still managed to file my story. So here are my tips, kids, on doing interviews with people who don't speak English:

  • Don't give up. If I hadn't called back, I never would have connected with Fujihara.
  • Reach out. Think, "Is there anyone in my network who could help me with this?" 
  • Be flexible. Non-native speakers will probably find it easier to do a written interview, so be prepared to accept their answers in that form. And also be prepared to, as journalists say, "write around" their answers when they don't make sense. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's in a Name?

I was browsing the job classifieds recently, as is my wont, and I came across a listing for an editor at the magazine for Alcoholics Anonymous members. 

The magazine is called Grapevine

Um. . . is it just me, or is this a really bad name for a magazine for people who shouldn't drink? Isn't this kind of like naming a magazine for people who've kicked heroin The Main Line, or for ex-nicotine addicts The Smoking Gun?  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Snookums' First Fashion Shoot

So I left the house at 7:15 a.m. yesterday with Snookums and Dona Maria, Snookums' nanny, to go up to Central Park for the Babytalk fashion shoot. It's a good thing I allowed so much time (our appointment was at 9) because the trip involved three subway lines, at least two miles of walking and lots of schlepping of a big, ridiculously heavy stroller up and down stairs during rush hour. 

Finally, we were there by the fountain at Cherry Hill. Inside the trailer, I scarfed down some lemon-poppyseed muffins and coffee while the stylist bundled Snookums into a white Ralph Lauren down coat, worn over a magenta fleece hoodie with toggles and tiny distressed denim jeans. 

Outside by the fountain, a crowd of about seven people -- the stylist, photographer, a woman whose job seemed to be waving toys and tickling Snookums with a feather and otherwise trying to get her to laugh, and assorted technicians -- crowded around making endless minor adjustments to the angle, lighting, positioning, etc. 

After about an hour, we were done, and Dona Maria and I headed back toward the subway while I called a client I was supposed to have a conference call with and told her I was at the pediatrician's because Snookums had been up all night crying and I thought it was an ear infection and I just wasn't going to be able to call in at 11 a.m., so sorry! 

The client said she would have the call recorded because the new manager wanted to spend the first 15 minutes "setting the tone" and that way I could listen to it later. First time I've ever heard of a someone SETTING THE TONE for a STATUS CALL. You know, like "How's that interview with So-and-So going? Think you can get it to me by Friday?" WHERE IS THE TONE IN THAT???

But I digress. The main point I wanted to make here was that Snookums may be on the cover of the February issue of Babytalk. Then again, she may not. It turns out that magazines routinely shoot several different babies for a cover and then decide at the last minute which one they're going to use. But at least we got $100 out of it -- minus the agency fee, of course. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When Work Is Not Safe for Work

My office shares space in a loft in Chelsea with a bunch of other companies. I don't know what most of them do. Today a messenger arrived with a package for one of them and when I went to tell the guy, I noticed he was retouching a photo of a woman's butt. The weird thing was, it wasn't a very erotic photo -- it was an exaggeratedly large butt, and not in a good way, as if someone had Photoshopped the wrong-sized derrière on someone else's body -- and he just sort of casually looked up at me with an expression like, "So what?" 

I logged on to his company website and one of the things they claim to do is "corporate communications." Which is what I do. Unfortunately, I don't get to sit around all day retouching butt shots. Most of the time I'm in annoying conference calls listening to people drone on about messaging and strategic this or that and integrated whatever. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Snookums Passes the Audition

Snookums had an audition yesterday at Babytalk magazine, and today the modeling agency called to tell me she'd gotten the job! Pretty amazing considering she's only been on three auditions since I registered her with the agency a few months ago: Baby Gap, T.J. Maxx and now Babytalk

Tomorrow we'll have to get up at the crack of dawn to head into Manhattan. The shoot is in Central Park and the agency said Snookums will even get a trailer to hang out in! Call me a stage mother, but I just hope her modeling career takes off so her father can quit his job from hell and become her manager. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cacophony of Talking Toys

"Green triangle!" declares the turtle before launching into the first verse of "Camptown Races." 

"Hel-LO!" shouts the telephone. "It's for YOU!" 

"Wanna play?" asks the cell phone. 

"Red circle!" replies the turtle, and begins belting out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." 

"A is for apple," whispers the table. "B is for baby." 

"Mary had a little lamb..." chants the turtle. 

"The buttons on the phone go beep beep beep, beep beep beep, beep beep beep," announces the telephone, to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus." 

"Let's count!" says the turtle. "One, two..." 

"...the buttons on the phone go beep beep beep," continues the telephone, "when you call your friends!" 

"I am Edison Wise Wings," announces the eagle. "Remember my children. Be grateful for what you have." 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Random Observations

  • Sometimes when Snookums is nursing she rolls her eyes back in her head like a heroin addict. She slaps at my breast like a junkie trying to find a vein. 
  • When Republicans talk about "energizing the base," it's not just a noun. It's an adjective. 
  • McCain's losing formula: AGE + RACE = RAGE 
  • Obama's winning formula: RACE - AGE = ACE 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New President Commits #1 Most Annoying Grammar Mistake!

I watched Obama's first press conference the other night. And while it was wonderful to once again see someone with a brain up there at the podium answering journalists' questions, things took a turn for the worse when Obama described his meeting with President Bush. 

"President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to visit him and Laura. . . " 

No, dammit, he invited Michelle "and me." Me, me, me, me, me! 

Friday, November 7, 2008

Welcome to My Brain

Hello there! Come right in. I know it's a bit cluttered in here. I hope you don't mind. Just push some of those papers out of the way and pull up a  chair. Fix yourself something to eat if you feel like it, while I think out loud here for a few minutes. 

Let's se. Where was I? Trying to pick a blog topic. The possibilities: 

-Obama's Victory. Could call it "Oh! Bama!" Of course, like the other 52 percent of the electorate, I'm elated, and -- like our next First Lady -- for the first time I'm proud of our country. Especially since I was so afraid of a last-minute Republican surge that I personally called 50 strangers in Indiana and Nevada the night before the election to BEG them to vote for change. 

Naaaa --- too obvious. Everyone's talking about our new, black president. Booooring! Need to find a different angle. 

Wait, what's that? That New Yorker article about psychopaths that I need to finish. OK, later, later. Concentrate...

-The Eighties are Back. About the aerobics class I went to the other day, and how cardio is the new aerobics. It's like the eighties again, but with a twist. The instructor was wearing a sweatband and we boogied to revved-up Janet Jackson tunes. Could end with the point that, just like 20 years ago, the most important man in the world is African-American (then: Michael Jackson. Today: Barack Obama). Could illustrate with a photo of Jennifer Beals from Flashdance

I hear my daughter's voice downstairs. I wish I could be with her instead of upstairs in front of this computer. Maybe I should look at the want ads for a while, get  a different job. Hmm... research chief at a travel magazine. Must have eight years' experience and speak fluent Spanish. Who are they kidding? Anyway, it's yes to the second, no to the first. Wonder if I have a shot... 

OK, Joan, OK! Back to work! 

What am I going to eat for dinner tonight? Rice and beans again? Dumplings from Panda Express for the third time this week? Maybe just  a few handfuls of granola straight from the box. It's so hard to cook anything with Snookums crawling all over the kitchen like a a potato bug. I need a new diet. Better yet, I need a chef who will prepare tasteful yet healthful meal made of organic ingredients, preferably vegetarian. 

Maybe I should buy that vegetarian cookbook by Mark Bittman, for inspiration. 

I can't believe my editor complained that my description of the leadership seminar was "too laundry-listy." Now she wants me to come up with another way of saying leadership has to be earned. Leadership is a two-way street? Leadership is as much bottom-up as top-down? Will non-native English speakers even understand this? Because it sounds kinda kinky if you ask me. 

Obama won! I almost can't believe it. The politics of hope beat the politics of fear. I wonder what my father would say if he were alive. 

The best response came from Maya, the eight-year-old daugher of my friend Jeanne in Chicago. When Jeanne told her daughter that for the first time, someone of African ancestry had been elected president, Maya said, "But we all have African ancestry." 

Amen, sister. 

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote for Whitey

I've been volunteering for the Obama campaign, and while making calls from home tonight, I spoke to my first out-and-out racist: a 79-year-old man in Indiana who, when I announced myself as an Obama volunteer, started calling him a "nigger" and a "black bastard" and going on about how "blacks have destroyed this country." 

I hate the old "what about Hitler?" ploy, but I figured it was a pretty safe bet that this guy didn't admire Hitler, so I asked him if he would conclude that white people were bad based on the record of Hitler, a white man. He started using profanity and accusing me of being "rude" because I was from New Jersey. I knew it was a waste of time talking with him, but I was actually finding the whole thing pretty amusing, so I pointed out that I hadn't used any profanity or racial epithets with him, and here he was using them with me while accusing me of being rude based on what state I was from. 

He apologized, but the next thing I knew he was calling me a "nigger lover." 

"Do you live with a nigger? Do you live with a nigger?" he demanded. 

I refused to answer the question and asked him if he was planning to vote tomorrow and who he was going to vote for. (I wouldn't have bothered except that I was working from a script that wanted me to get answers to these questions.) He shouted, "I don't have to tell you that!" so I said, "Well, I'm going to put you down as voting for McCain -- the white candidate." Then I smiled and hung up. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

First Halloween

Snookums had her first Halloween the other day. She dressed up as a bumblebee (actually, I did it for her) and went to her father's office for a party for the families. I wore her in the Bjorn and tried to pretend my back wasn't hurting while I ate grilled cheese and cupcakes and other food I wouldn't let Snookums eat. Thank goodness she's not old enough to notice the hypocrisy. 

On Friday we gave out candy to trick-or-treaters. I'd bought peanut M&Ms, Jolly Ranchers, and Hershey's Kisses (dark chocolate). I ate most of the M&Ms myself and gave away nearly all the Jolly Ranchers. (One fat little girl who came to the door said, "I love Jolly Ranchers!" and took enough for three.) This year, the kids all had costumes -- not like what happened when I first moved to this neighborhood and the only kids who rang the bell were too old, and not wearing costumes. I remember asking one kid where his costume was. "It's in my backpack," he lied. "Well, go home and put it on and come back and I'll give you some candy," I replied. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Most Annoying Grammar Mistakes

1. "Between you and I." 

It's ME, dammit -- ME ME ME. Would you say, "Between she and they"? Of course not. So do you realize you sound like an IDIOT when you follow "between" with the subject "I" instead of the object "me"? 

2. "Companies who . . . " 

It's "companies THAT." "W ho" refers to people, not things. So don't come to me with tales of companies "who" care/make money/give back/etc. Not until you correct your grammar, anyway. 

3. "Feel free to contact myself or So-and-So." 

This is a standard closing sentence to company memos. For the record, "myself" is reflexive -- as in, "I asked myself why I was working for a company that, between you and me, accepts less than operational excellence." 

Here is an example of the correct way to use "myself."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Damn, I'm a WAHM

For those of you who don't know, that stands for Work-At-Home Mom. That's what I was today --normally I go into the office every day, but today we had a client meeting not far from my house, so I spent the morning in conference calls (and let me tell you, there's no more fabulous way to spend the morning!), then we drove out to a client's to take her to lunch. 

The experience brought back memories, good and bad, of the first seven months of Snookums' life, when I worked exclusively from home. At first I tried to make do without professional full-time help, filling in with relatives and the occasional babysitter. 

Big mistake. 

I quickly learned I couldn't possibly focus on my job without being able to hand Snookums off to someone so I wasn't endlessly distracted by the sound of her fussing from another room. 

But on those days when it was just the two of us, I'd often put her on the breast just to keep her quiet during a client call. Other times she'd be sleeping on my chest in the Bjorn while I edited documents and answered emails. 

She did that tonight, for auld lang syne, and after I knocked off work I decided to do some phone banking for the Obama campaign. In the midst of one of my calls she woke up and started babbling -- "goo ba di ba hee." 

It got me thinking: What if the next time I'm in a conference call I just let her talk? After all, what she's saying is about as meaningful as the stuff I hear all day in those calls -- "integrated solutions," "human capital," "customer-centric," "relentlessly focused on operational excellence." Goo ba di ba hee, indeed! 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mommy, Where Did I Come From?

My husband had surgery for prostate cancer last year. I don't know if you know this (I didn't), but prostate surgery renders you sterile. As in, you can't have kids. Up until then, he'd never wanted kids, but faced with the knowledge he'd never be able to have them, he changed his mind. 

So we started trying. And lo and behold, I got pregnant just a few weeks before his surgery was scheduled. 

That was then. Now that we have Snookums, we've decided she should have a sister or brother. And we wanted to do it right away -- before we thought about it too much, as Snookums' dad put it -- so the other day I found myself in the doctor's office awaiting IUI. 

IUI is the new name for artificial insemination. (Sort of like ADHD is the new hyperactive, Latino is the new Hispanic, etc.) Here's how it works: I injected myself with Repronex for six days, then gave myself a shot of hCG, the hormone that causes ovulation, the night before I went in for IUI. (Note: You don't have to take fertility drugs to have IUI, but given my age and the fact that we only have a limited number of sperm samples banked, my doctor thought it was best.) 

On the morning of my IUI appointment, I arose, cursing, at 5:30 a.m., in time for my 7:30 appointment. Out on the street, I marveled at how many people were on their way to work -- already there were hardly any seats on the bus. On the way, I listened to a subliminal recording on my iPod. 

At the doctor's office, I waited in a tiny room while he defrosted my husband's sperm samples (which had arrived in some sort of liquid nitrogen tank). The procedure itself was clinical and totally painless. It's basically like getting a Pap smear -- he opened me up with a speculum and squirted the sperm inside me with a syringe. 

Couldn't he at least have played some Barry White?  

Friday, October 24, 2008

How to Survive the Coming Depression

As much as I'm required to use the word "leverage" in my day job, I don't believe in it. That is, I don't believe in holding debt. I always pay my credit card (yes, I only have one) bill in full. My mortgage is less than $1,200 a month. (I was lucky to have bought my house in 1999, before the market went crazy, but I also bought it in a neighborhood I could afford. ) 

I drive a 14-year-old car.  I don't have cable TV. Until a few months ago, I had a dial-up Internet connection that cost only $10 per month. (Now that I have high-speed wireless, it's about twice that.) With freelance income, I make close to six figures. Yet I recently started bringing lunch from home because I decided I could no longer afford the $30-plus per week I was shelling out. 

Why do I live so frugally? Partly, it's just my nature. (As a kid, I spent a lot of time tagging along on my parents' visits to thrift shops and flea markets.) But the reality is, my salary goes to pay for health insurance (which my employer barely covers) and my nanny (who works about 55 hours a week). 

And that's what pisses me off about the economic mess we're in. From Wall Street fat cats to deadbeat homeowners, it seems everyone is going to get bailed out but me -- when it's people like me who should be rewarded, because we had the sense to actually live within our means. 

For instance, in my working-class to lower-middle-class neighborhood, a suspicious number of people drive new cars, often leased. Can they really afford them? In at least one case, I know they can't -- one of my neighbors confessed recently that her husband declared bankruptcy last year. Yet the last time I saw her, she was driving a brand-new SUV. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Am Winston Smith

The new performance management tool is doubleplusgood! Head and shoulders above the 3.0 version! 

The new performance management tool is a definite improvement over the 3.0 version, but it still needs work. We have received excellent feedback from employees and are addressing their concerns! 

Given that the new performance management tool was rolled out two months ago, there is no particular reason to publicize it right now. Let's cancel publication of the intended article! 

This is how I spent my day as an editor, sorting through these points of view, changing copy to reflect the orthodoxy of the moment and tossing the old copy down the memory hole. In this world, "high level" means "low level" -- as in the following editor's note: "I don't understand what XXX means. At the very least we need a high-level definition." 

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.  


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Who Wants to See Me Naked?

The people at my office evidently do. Yesterday, I was in the supply closet, strapped to my Medela Pump in Style, when someone gave a single knock on the door. 

Thinking I might be hearing things, I hollered, "Hello!" over the Medela's incredibly loud motor. The next thing I knew some guy was barging his way in. (The door doesn't lock.) 


Note: I have a sign on the door. It says, "If the door is closed, please knock. Do NOT enter without knocking first." 

Now, I admit I didn't shout, "GO AWAY!!" when he knocked. This is, after all, a workplace, and I was trying to be polite. But I didn't exactly say, "Come right in! I'm not doing anything -- I'm just sitting here, with little vacuum cleaners attached to my nipples!" 

Maybe my sign should have been more explicit. Maybe it should have said, "Do NOT enter without knocking first, unless you have an uncontrollable desire to see your co-worker's breasts smashed into small funnels and squeezed like pastry bags." 

Monday, October 20, 2008

If Babies Could Talk

Like a lot of mothers, I often think, "If only Snookums could talk! I can't wait till she talks!" But today I realized what life would be like if she actually could talk: 

Me: Snookums, I'm home!


Me: OK, just a minute. Let me wash my hands and take off my coat. 

Snookums: NO!!!! Want milk NOW!! NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!! (Crawls over to me and starts tearing my blouse open.) 

Me: OK, OK, OK. Just a sec. (Opens bra, removes breast.) 

Snookums: YAY!!! MILK WHITE THIRSTY GOOD WHITE WHITE WHITE... (Puts nipple in mouth. Stops talking.) 

(Five minutes pass.) 

Snookums: (Pushes away breast, stares at nipple.) Need MORE MILK!!!! MORE MORE MORE MORE!!!! (Pulls my hair, pinches me.) MORE MILK NOW!!!!!