30 January 2011

Accelerating

My husband and I are teaching our oldest daughter to drive.  On Sunday afternoons, schedules permitting, we take turns taking her to a vacant parking lot nearby and putting her behind the wheel.  In the beginning, when she first passed her written test, she had to be shown how to adjust the seat and the mirrors, put the key into the ignition, put her foot on the brake, and put the car into gear.  At this point, though, she has several lessons under her belt, and she is competently circling the lot forward and in reverse, parking parallel and head-in, and handling speed bumps.  In May, when she turns 16 and is legally authorized to be on the road with her learner's permit, we'll have her practice on "real" but quiet streets.  She'll learn to stop at stop signs and slowly inch forward before proceeding.  She'll learn to make left turns at green lights, yielding to oncoming traffic.  She'll be accelerating forward into the next stage of her life.

My grandmother used to tell me that a car was the only deadly weapon that just about any old idiot is allowed to handle.  In my state, where the laws governing the handling of other weapons are pretty strict, I believe my grandmother's saying is still true and correct.  It is absolutely terrifying to teach one's child to operate a piece of machinery that is, in itself, the number-one cause of death of people in her age group.  When she's off on her own, will she be a good driver?  Will she be able to focus on navigating the snowy roads with a car full of friends?  Will her desire for speed and freedom outweigh her good judgment?  These are the thoughts that go through my mind as we slowly circle the icy parking lot on this cold afternoon.

"Did you ever know anyone who died in a car accident?" she asks me.

"Yes."  I tell her about the teenager in my hometown who died late at night in a crash on the highway about ten miles from home.  I tell her about my college classmate who died on graduation night, hit head-on by other students as she returned from a celebration dinner.  A law student I  knew who flipped the Miata he was test-driving on the night he secured a job at the firm of his choice.  My brother-in-law's grandmother, who tried to get out of a car she mistakenly thought had stopped.

I am not trying to scare her, but obviously I have.  She becomes nervous and steps too hard on the brake.  I try to reassure her.  Sarah is actually a very sensible girl, with good judgment and good instincts, and I would not be next to her in the passenger seat if I did not think she was ready to take this great step toward independence.  One of the problems with teenagers (at least with mine, anyway) is that they are haunted by self-doubt and by a warped image of themselves.  Sometimes they think they are brilliant and invincible.  Other times they are convinced that they are stupid and ugly and that no one loves them.  The truth is somewhere underneath all that, and it will take them years before they straighten it all out.  It's part of the normal process of maturing.

We see a mockingbird in a tree at the edge of the parking lot, and I point it out to Sarah.  I show her how to identify it as a mockingbird:  the tail held upright, the gray body, black head, and stripes of white visible only in flight.  I think about how that bird learned to fly and wonder whether its mother held her breath as her baby fledged for the first time.  Did he soar right out into the sky on his first attempt, or did he fall and have to try again?

One night when I was seventeen, I took the family car out in a blizzard to visit a boy I was interested in.  The weather was horrible, and I drove very carefully and slowly.  I had to drive on the highway, with cars sliding all over.  When I returned home, late that night, my mother was absolutely furious with me.  I was angry and hurt too, because I wanted her to be proud that I had handled the storm well and had managed to get home in one piece.  She was upset about what might have happened.  I was proud of what had happened.  The space between us was about thirty years of experience - just about what separates me from Sarah now.

We hit a patch of ice in our parking lot, and I show her how to steer into the skid and regain control.  I hope she remembers the technique later, when she is out on the road by herself, so that she too will return in one piece.

What's in the crock-pot:  on Friday morning, I made a wonderful beef stew.  I set it up on the counter and turned it on, and I thought all morning about what a great dinner we were going to have.  Around 3 P.M., I got a text message from the babysitter:  "Do you want me to plug the crock-pot in?"  Oops.  We had pizza for dinner Friday night, and we'll be having that stew tonight.  It's warming up now, and it's just beginning to smell wonderful.

Jennie

27 January 2011

Enthusiasm

I had lunch yesterday with a friend who recently ended a long-term relationship.  "I wasn't moving toward happy," she told me.  She had put a lot of effort into something that was important to her, but she gradually realized not only that the effort was one-sided, but that the relationship wasn't "(a) what I wanted, (b) what I enjoyed, or (c) what I would have chosen."  She walked away, feeling liberated, and is now beginning the rest of her life.

I am familiar with the feeling my friend is experiencing.  I have a problem sometimes with what I will call overenthusiasm.  I begin a venture - a volunteer job, for example - that I am excited about and that I love.  I pour my soul into the cause and dedicate my every waking hour to it.  I continue to be enthusiastic about it long after I have outlived my usefulness at the task.  When people tell me to calm down, back off, or move on, I get sad and offended and redouble my efforts.  Then, one day, I suddenly wake up and realize, I love this a lot more than it loves me.  And I walk away and find something else.

I can't tell you how many times in my life this has happened with friendships.  Believe it or not (and I know you will find this shocking), there are actually people out there in the world who don't like me.  I  pursue them nevertheless, because I am just as shocked as you are at their failure to grasp what a great and fascinating person I am and how much fun I am to be around.  It takes a lot of stonewallling, a lot of cancelled meetings, and sometimes just blunt rejection before I realize that I need to move on, or at least back off a little.

It happens with volunteer jobs too.  When I started leading my Girl Scout troop, I threw myself into it.  I held parent planning meetings.  I taught the girls songs and actually took guitar lessons so I could accompany them.  We went camping.  We made crafts.  I taught them to ice skate and to frost cakes and to drop Mentos into bottles of soda.  We tie-dyed t-shirts and ate pizza and sold cookies at the mall.  We watched the presidential debates and learned about the electoral college.  We earned patches and pins and stuffed toys.

And then it began.  First, the parents backed off.  Then the girls signed up for other activities that conflicted with our meetings.  I forged ahead.  I was a great Girl Scout leader!  I was fabulous!  I sold hundreds of boxes of cookies and became the town cookie chairman!  We weren't only going to go camping, we were going to go camping on the beach!  Three hours from here!  In a nor'easter!  I'd show these kids a good time!

And then, one evening, I realized that I was alone in my living room, my guitar hanging from my neck, singing my heart out, and no one was listening.  They were all in the bathroom, trying on different shades of lipstick. I love this more than it loves me.  Time to move on.


I recently left a church where I had been a parishoner for twenty years.  Same situation:  I was the president of the Altar Guild.  I sang in the choir.  I taught Sunday School.  I was a pillar of that institution.  I snuck in late at night to polish the silver!  I answered the phones when the administrative assistant was ill!  I cleaned the keys of the organ with Pledge Wipes and ironed and folded all those little linen cloths!  I washed and ironed the robes the acolytes and choir wore!  I dusted!  I hemmed!  I sang!

And then, one day, I realized that it just didn't love me as much as I loved it.

My husband, fortunately, finds my overenthusiasm charming, so I'm pretty sure he's not going the way of the Girl Scouts or the church.  He comforts me when I realize that I have mistaken an acquaintance for a friend, and when I zip the guitar back into its case.  He comes with me when I visit other churches in an attempt to find a home.  He humors me when I buy a new set of craft supplies, determined to become an instant expert at something I have never tried before.

My friend, she of the newly-single lifestyle, meets me for lunch and listens to my story.  She encourages me to write it down.  She is tall, beautiful, blonde, and glamorous and usually seems to have not a care in the world, but I recognize myself in her nonetheless.  That's why we have been friends for thirty years.

We got another foot of snow last night.  School is closed today, and for the first time in my life, my office is closed too.  I was scheduled to attend a "Women in the Law" networking event at my old law firm this morning, but that too has been postponed to a later date.  The crockpot stands empty; the kids and I will whip up a great midwinter meal later.  I wish you all a wonderful day, filled with enthusiasm for whatever lies ahead of you.

Jennie

24 January 2011

Other Places

My high school overprepared me for college, and I placed out of most of the required courses my freshman fall.  It was the first time in my life that I had the freedom to study whatever I wanted, and I dove right in.  On a whim, I signed up for introductory German language classes. 

My professor was a quirky Austrian woman in her fifties, enthusiastic beyond all reason and possibly the goofiest person I had ever met.  I liked her instantly.  She approached me one day after class and suggested that I consider participating in the study abroad program the following fall.

Some of the rich girls in my high school class had taken a semester in France during junior year.  They came back fluent and fashionable, with Hermes scarves and a good command of French teenage slang, both of which they tossed around liberally.  I had seethed with jealousy, but I knew that, for economic reasons, I was not the study-abroad type.  I told my professor so.

"I'm a work-study student.  I can't afford to go abroad.  I'm sure it's expensive, and I wouldn't be able to work while I'm there."

"I can talk to the financial aid people about adjusting your award package for the trimester," she told me in her thick accent.  "They do it all the time.  All you'd have to pay for is the transportation.  You have a good ear, and I really, really think you should go.  You would get a lot out of it."

"My parents will never agree to it."  Meaning:  there is no way I am going to ask them for a plane ticket to Germany on top of everything else I am already making them pay for.

As it turns out, I had once again spectacularly underestimated my parents, and the very next September, I found myself alone on a plane bound for Frankfurt am Main.  I befriended a nice young German mother who sat next to me, and I held her baby for her so she could walk around and use the bathroom from time to time.  In return, on our arrival, she helped me exchange some money and buy a train ticket to Mainz, where I was to meet my fellow program participants.  She waved me off from the train platform and continued her journey to introduce her son to her parents.  I watched her fade away in the distance.  I was terrified.

In the end, I took two trimesters abroad:  that fall of my sophomore year in Mainz, and again in the winter of my junior year, in Berlin.  I cemented one of my best college friendships in Mainz, and my friend also went to Berlin for the second program.  She is still a good friend, and we've held hands, figuratively, through some of the bumpier parts of our lives since then.  I have stayed in touch with my family from Berlin, and I e-mail with them all the time.  I am currently trying to figure out how to get over there for a visit; my Berlin "parents" are aging, and I want to see them again, sooner rather than later.  I also want to spend an afternoon sipping coffee and knitting with my Berlin "sister," who could possibly be one of the kindest people alive on the planet today.  I want to hear about her husband's death and how she has coped.  I want to meet her children.

My son is eleven.  He has two close friends in the immediate neighborhood, with whom he spends almost all of his free time.  One of them is a Japanese immigrant, and the other is from Colombia.  My son is the only one of the three who speaks only one language.  My oldest daughter spends many a late night Skypeing with friends in Germany, Hong Kong, and Israel.  (By the way, I'd like to win a free trip to Hong Kong or Israel one of these days, too.)  It seems like everyone in my neighborhood is originally from somewhere else:  Japan, Israel, Brazil, Korea, China, Russia, India, Beirut.  There's a French-speaking guy who was a stay-at-home dad to some of the kids in our local elementary school.  The other mothers and I did not know his name, so we simply referred to him as "France" (the sign over his head at the kids' International Day banquet).

I try to imagine sometimes what it would be like to move someplace very foreign to me - Korea, for example - and to stand alone outside the elementary school waiting to pick up my children.  I would not speak the language that the other parents spoke, and I would not be familiar with their customs.  I have a sense of what that would be like from my experience in Germany as a student:  the helpless feeling of having gotten on the wrong bus because I did not understand the route map, the horror of having missed the last train home in the middle of the night and having to accept a ride from a total stranger whose accent I did not understand, and the profoundly difficult feeling for me of having limited communication skills, and being unable to ask or answer the simplest questions.

The experience of studying abroad made me fluent in German, but that is the smallest benefit I gained from it.  It also made me patient with people who do not speak English, or who do not speak it well.  It made me unafraid to ask for help from strangers and challenged my baseline assumption that anyone I don't know is probably a serial killer or out to take advantage of me in some way.  It has made me empathetic and thoughtful about immigration issues and about other people's religious beliefs and cultural practices.  It has made me realize, in a larger sense, that things that seem impossible (like a plane ticket to Germany for a work-study student) really are not.  They just appear that way from the current viewing angle.

Young people, if you are reading this, please make every effort to do what you want to do, no matter how hard it looks at the moment.  Enlist the help of family, friends, and strangers.  Do not be afraid to ask.  The simple process of asking can change your life in uncountable and unquantifiable ways.

Have a great day.  If you are in the Northeastern United States, where the temperatures reflect a record-breaking cold snap, please stay warm.  If you are already somewhere warm - well, good for you.

Jennie

23 January 2011

Sunday Morning: Strangers and Friends

Ah, Sunday morning.  Eleven degrees outside.  As usual, I am up first, sipping coffee from the Union Jack mug that my friends Claire and Alan sent from England.  Hi, Claire.  Hi, Alan.  Much love from across the Pond.



People are stirring upstairs, and I have about a half hour before all hell breaks loose and we need to scramble (Where are my mittens?  Don't forget the book you promised Uncle Dave!  Hurry up!  We're going to be late!) to get to a Sunday School breakfast.

What to write about?  It may not surprise you that I have been reading a lot of blogs lately, trying to learn a little bit about the genre and how it's done.  All the major news organizations have official blogs, including some quite good ones.  I am a big fan of Nicholas Kristof, and I have been reading my college classmate Jacques Steinberg's education blog, The Choice, almost from its inception.  I also read Motherlode, the New York Times' parenting blog, with which I have a love-hate relationship, and Tara Parker-Pope's very informative and thought-provoking health blog, Well.

But the blogs that intrigue me most are the startup ones, written from the basement desktops and kitchen tables of the world.  There seem to be legions of moms out there who spend their time decorating, doing crafts, and photographing their beautiful children for the world to see.  Some of them are coping with disaster and tragedy, like Heather and Mike or Stephanie, and some are just trying to make their worlds more beautiful, like Judy, or just "blogging and blabbing," like Debbie.

Debbie and Judy have both reached out to me, having read my blog and liked it, and offered to help me get off the ground.  What kind of a person contacts a stranger through the blogosphere and offers support, sight unseen?  It is indeed a remarkable age in which we live.  That such contact is even possible, and that people find the time in their busy days for it, astounds and pleases me.

Debbie and Judy, with their eyes for style, might like my blog, but I know for sure they'd be appalled by the state of my house.

I am out of time.  I'll post something more substantive as soon as I get a chance.  Thank you for reading.  You have no idea how much I value each new follower and each precious comment.

Jennie

22 January 2011

The Other Half

Now people are asking when my husband is going to make an appearance in my blog.  I have spent a lot of time talking about myself, and it appears that my audience wants me to branch out a little.

Here is my husband.  His name is Sam.


I met him just days after I turned eighteen years old.  I was a freshman at that college in the frozen north, but it wasn't frozen yet, because it was only October.  Instead, it was brisk and beautiful.  The leaves were all shades of red, orange, and gold, and some of them were on the ground, making a delicious crunchy sound as I walked back to my dorm from my freshman seminar.  I was with a classmate named David.

My college is a very old one in New England, and like many schools of its vintage and location, its buildings are roughly organized around a large lawn called a "Green."  (I am not sure why it's capitalized, but I think it's because the school color is green, and because of the great reverence accorded to that color in those parts of the world.)

In the spring and summer, people sunbathe, study, and play Frisbee on the Green.  In the winter, they cross-country ski, or just hurry around, head down, through the paths carved in the deep snow.  In the fall, though, they congregate on the Green and socialize.  In October, the freshman class builds a huge bonfire in the center of the Green, to be lit on Homecoming Night.  On that October day when David and I were walking across the Green, our hero was at the top of the bonfire structure, working on bringing railroad ties up from the surface to stack them.  He was wearing his orange high school swim-team shirt, and he was covered with creosote.

"Who's that?"  I asked David.

"That's Sam.  He lives in South Mass."

"Will you introduce us?"

"Nope.  He's a party guy.  You guys will never get along."

I tossed my backpack on the ground and climbed up the side of the bonfire.  "Hey Sam," I said.  "I'm Jennie."

Now, it is true that I was a nerd and that Sam was a party guy, and for the next seven years or so, we spent a lot of time not getting along.  We are enormously different.  I was raised in a religious Christian household in the suburbs; he was raised in Manhattan by a pair of pretty ardent atheists.  He's a night person, and I am a morning person.  When we met, he was athletic, and I was bookish.  I ate mainly to keep hunger at bay; he is a gourmand who seizes every opportunity to have a fabulous meal.

But we found out that night, as I ate the double chicken cheeseburger he bought me on our first date, that we both have sisters named Amy and we both have brothers named John.  We both went to New York City private schools.  We both knew what it was like to be picked on by the cool kids.  We both loved dogs and little children.  That spring, Sam, who in addition to being a ski patroller was also a water safety instructor, had a job teaching toddlers - mostly the children of professors - to swim in the college pool.  I would sit in the bleachers next to the pool with a book open on my lap, waiting for him to be finished, but I spent the whole time watching him toss the giggling babies up on his shoulders, holding them as they paddled in the water, encouraging them as they sat nervously on the edge.

We will be married twenty years this summer.

Our children are outdoorsy like their dad.


They have inherited his good-natured personality and his team spirit.


The best thing about Sam is that he is a tremendous amount of fun to be around.  When bad things happen (as they inevitably will from time to time over the course of a twenty-year marriage), you want to have on your team someone who laughs about the tree limb that has crushed the new car, who literally jumps for joy at the news of the third pregnancy in three years, who sleeps in the hospital chair next to the sick child so that you can go home and get some rest, who storms into the school to give the mean teacher what's coming to her, and who holds your hand when you cry because it seems like the world is coming to an end.

I'd say I've been pretty lucky, don't you think?

20 January 2011

Career Girl, Part II

When we last heard from Jennie, she had quit her job to be a stay-at-home mother to a couple of special-needs kids.  I hesitate to use that phrase, because there are a lot of people who say things like, "All kids are special-needs kids."  Let me burst your bubble:  not all kids are special-needs kids.  All kids are special, and all kids have needs.  But not all kids require endless doctor and therapist appointments, IEP meetings, psych-and-ed evaluations, and ADA lawsuits against the local board of education.  I have an acquaintance whose son has cerebral palsy.  If you told her that your soccer-star chess champion was also a special-needs kid, she might spit in your face.

But that's all I am going to say about that right now.  Right now, we are talking about my career.

Seven years later, I needed to go back to work.  To say that I jumped right back into the practice of law with a willing and joyful heart would be an outright lie.  I toyed with several other ideas first.  I responded to an online ad for writers, only to find out that the company in question ghost-wrote dissertations for lazy, dishonest graduate students.  We had a nasty e-mail exchange, and then I kept looking.  Because I had developed something of a reputation as a good baker, I thought about selling baked goods, but the barrier to entry was too high:  I needed a commercially-licensed kitchen.  If I had had the funds to come up with a commercial kitchen, I wouldn't have needed to go back to work.

I hounded everyone I knew.  I called my old heroes at my last law firm, but they had replaced me and didn't have the means to hire me back.  I canvassed the members of a professional group to which I belonged, looking for antitrust work in their firms, but they all became suddenly hard of hearing, and when I approached them at the Lawyers' Association cocktail parties, they started to sweat and ran for the door.  It seems there was something about being a stay-at-home mom that was even worse than being a working mom.  I had become a frivolous lady of leisure, unworthy of anyone's time or effort.

I took the New Jersey bar exam and set up my own little practice.  I represented people I knew in traffic court, and I wrote about twenty wills.  I did three house closings.  This seemed like a brilliant solution, but there was one problem:  no one wanted to pay me.  I drafted wills and then, on the night they were to be executed, my clients informed me that they had changed their minds.  Hours of work for naught.  One neighbor who balked at my quoted fee for assisting him in the purchase of a business actually said, "I didn't know you were going to charge me for this.  I thought I was doing you a favor, helping you to get started by giving you some work experience."

Someone knew a headhunter who knew a partner at a renowned antitrust firm, and the headhunter secured me an interview.  I drove an hour in the pouring rain, in a brand-new suit, to meet this gentleman.  He spoke to me for about ten minutes, told me he had agreed to meet me as a favor to his friend, and then actually crumpled my resume right in my face and tossed it over his shoulder into the trash basket.  "You've been doing nothing for seven years," he told me as I stood to leave.  "What made you think I might be interested in hiring someone who has been doing nothing for seven years?"

(The head partner at that firm has since been in the news for some high-profile pro bono work for a very good cause.  I get all sick whenever I see his face in the paper, which, for a short while, was every ten minutes.  But I digress.)

I cried all the way home.  When I got back to my computer, I did some searching.  I could not possibly be the first stay-at-home mother seeking to get back into the work force as a lawyer.  Someone must have gone before me, and I was going to find out who she was and what she had done.

And that's how I came across the idea of becoming a "staff attorney."  A staff attorney is something less than an associate.  All the major law firms hire staff attorneys to help them cope with the enormous volume of e-mails that need to be reviewed when a lawsuit is pending.  I could get a job as a staff attorney at a big firm, work long hours at a decent but not fabulous wage, and hope that they would eventually recognize my brilliance and promote me to the associate level.  I could start over again.  I regained my hope.

I did get a job as a staff attorney at a prestigious firm, but I learned, immediately upon my arrival there, that a staff attorney commands slightly less professional respect than a paralegal.  I interacted only with the most junior associates - people half my age who scolded me for leaving at 11 P.M. without their prior approval.  The associates sneered at staff attorneys in the lunchroom.  We were lawyers who were not good enough to get "real" jobs.  In two years of staff attorneyhood, I never once worked directly with a partner.  I liked the staff attorney supervisor very much, and I will always be grateful to her for taking a risk by hiring a stay-at-home mom.  But there was no meaningful hope for advancement.  One could become a senior staff attorney after five years, at which point one might become eligible for paid maternity leave and other exciting benefits.  But one could never, ever enter the partnership track from a staff attorney position.

I was a staff attorney for a couple of years, and then I fell into my current job by accident.  Someone I knew knew someone who knew someone who needed an attorney who spoke German.  I interviewed one evening after work, and I was offered the job before I got home.  It's been a happy ending of sorts, but it was a long, long road back for me. 

I now earn a fraction of that old 80% that I was so delighted with.  But my priorities have changed.  I now live leaner.  I know a great deal about the world of big law firms and the dark side of the legal money machine.  In the rare circumstances where I am in a position to farm out work to outside counsel, I try to steer it toward the young women.  The ones with babies and a nanny at home.  I never, ever stay late, and I never ask my outside counsel to work late.  My career experience has, like my experience with bullying, changed my outlook on life in ways that are subtle and ways that are decidedly not.

Another snow storm is on its way.  This is shaping up to be quite a winter by New York City standards.  I left work early last night to go help a dear friend appear in court on a minor traffic ticket.  She is a single mom who works at home so she can raise her son alongside her career.  I would not dream of charging her a cent for my help.

19 January 2011

Career Girl, Part I

A few people have asked me why I don't write about my job.  The answer is simple:  I'd get fired.  I actually need the paycheck, so until I can figure out how to get the blog ads up and running, and convince you all to click on them ruthlessly, mum's going to have to be the word about my current work.  I will say that I work as in-house counsel for a German company in midtown Manhattan, and I speak and e-mail in German all day with the management, some of the support staff, and many people on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean.

I became a lawyer because people have always told me that I write well, and I wanted to do something that allowed me to write but also brought in a liveable wage.  My dad tried to talk me out of going to law school ("Great.  Just what the world needs.  Another lawyer"), and my mom was concerned about what law school would cost, but I did it anyway, going to a reputable but not-so-expensive school and borrowing just about every last dime I needed.

I enjoyed law school, and I did well.  When I graduated, I found a job as a junior associate with a prestigious firm in Manhattan, and I couldn't wait for my life as a brilliant legal writer and orator to begin.  I was in for a rude, rude shock.

First of all, to my great surprise, it turned out to be a huge disadvantage to be female in this business.  I'm not going to open a can of hear-me-roar on you, but remember, I went to an all-girls' high school and a college where, at least in the classroom, my gender was irrelevant 95% of the time.  (I'll tell you about the other 5% some other time.)  My parents had always told me I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up, and they had educated me accordingly.  I was naive.  I thought that Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem had already done all the heavy lifting for me, and that I'd be able to focus on writing brilliant briefs.  Not so fast, lady lawyer.  Your chances of succeeding here depend directly on how many hours you bill to the client.  Being a wife and a mother, or having any interests outside of the office, will count directly and heavily against you.

Second, I was not writing, or at least I was not writing under my own name, and I was not appearing in court.  Those were the prerogatives of the older male partners.  I spent my days and nights doing research and writing summaries of what I found.  I quickly became known around the firm, and I was soon given more and more writing to do.  My words were incorporated into briefs, articles, and presentations.  Only none of the work was attributed to me.  I remember once writing a ten-page report for a partner on a hot legal topic of the day, and a month later it landed on my desk as the lead article in a glossy legal periodical, accompanied by the partner's byline and smiling photo.  I didn't know whether to be heartbroken or incensed.

Right around that time, I had my first baby, and it was clear to me almost from the moment of conception that this would be the end of my career as a high-powered corporate lawyer.  But I didn't care, because (a) I was in love with that baby, and no job was going to compete with her for my attention, and (b) I had had it with being a tiny cog in a huge wheel.  On my return from maternity leave, my request for a part-time schedule was denied.  I applied for a clerkship in an appellate court, secured the job, and moved on without regrets.

I ended up doing two clerkships, one in the state appeals court and one in the federal appeals court, and having two more babies over the course of the next three years.  I went back to the full-time law-firm life briefly right around the time my son was born.  I worked almost exclusively for a partner who kept a bowl of fruit on his desk and threw it at me whenever a court or agency issued a decision adverse to his client.  He also banged on the door and threw hissy fits when I locked myself in my office with a breast pump at lunchtime.  I could not get out of that place fast enough.  My partner boss searched the boxes of my personal belongings that I took home with me on my last day, to make sure I wasn't stealing any firm property.  I knew he was going to do so, so I packed my boxes full of tampons just to embarrass him.  (In case you haven't noticed, I have a snarky streak.)

A headhunter friend found me a part-time position at the New York office of one of the best law firms in the world, doing antitrust work.  Part-time was 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., and 80% of the salary that the full-timers were earning.  I was delighted.  The partners I worked for were true professionals, experts in their field, and genuinely nice guys.  (Yes, all still guys, but really, really great ones.)  I developed an expertise in their line of work (antitrust).  I co-authored professional articles with one of the partners, and I was given full attribution and even a byline.  I did pro bono work, volunteering to write briefs on behalf of indigent clients.  I made friends and connections.

And then the specter of autism cast a shadow over my home.

I hired speech therapists, occupational therapists, and behavioral therapists.  I attended classes (along with my husband and my nanny) on how to educate and parent children on the autism spectrum.  I consulted with pediatric neurologists.  I tried weird diets.  I read countless books.  I raised money.  I got to know other parents and children going through the same thing.  We met at the diner after hours and commiserated over coffee.

And then someone flew a couple of planes into the World Trade Center.  I gave two weeks' notice at work.

What happened next will follow in Part II.  I know you're on the edge of your seat, so I'll try to get Part II posted as soon as I can.  But in the meantime, I need to get back to work!

17 January 2011

Looking Up

On Saturday, we had the honor of attending the bar mitzvah of a young man whom we have known since he was a baby.  The service was held at his home temple, which is just a few blocks from our home.  I have worshipped and socialized at this temple as a guest many times over the years, and I was happy to see many of my neighbors there.  I don't see all the moms on a daily basis anymore, now that I am back to work.  I miss the social bond I once had with them.

The bar mitzvah boy is the son of good friends, and he has grown into a handsome and eloquent speaker.  He read his Torah excerpt beautifully, and he spoke about it from his heart.  The entire congregation was rapt.  It happened that the appointed reading for the day, from the book of Exodus, was the song sung by the Hebrews as they reached safety on the far side of the divided Red Sea.  For this reason, the rabbi told us, this particular Saturday was referred to as "Shabbat Shirah," or the Sabbath of the Song.

After our young man read his Torah portion and spoke about it briefly, the rabbi addressed him and the congregation in a brief homily.  He used the ancient Jewish tradition of midrash, telling an interpretive story to help us understand the teaching of the day.  The story involved two elderly Hebrew gentlemen who crossed the Red Sea bed from Egypt into the Promised Land.  The water had been parted, and the men proceeded on dry land, but the ground was wet and muddy, and they were concerned about the mud getting all over their feet and their garments.  They looked down at the mud and complained at each other about how unpleasant it was to walk through it, and how they were going to have a big cleanup job when they got to the opposite shore.

In fact, the two men complained so much, and so vociferously, that they spent the entire journey looking down.  They never once looked up, so they missed the entire experience of being part of one of the greatest miracles in the history of mankind.

The Sabbath of the Song served for me, even as a non-Jew, as a reminder that it is important, as much as possible, to look up and appreciate what I have.  It is so easy to get used to looking down at the mud, at the drudgery of daily life, that one can miss the fact that life really is miraculous.  Here, in the depths of winter, we have a warm home, good health, and dear friends who invite us to their simchas.  We are not members of their faith, but we are a part of their lives, and we are grateful for that.  I wish our bar mitzvah boy a long and happy life of looking up and appreciating the miracles.  I hope he is witness to many.

We celebrate today the birth of a man who looked up constantly, though he spent all of his life trudging through the dark mire of prejudice and hatred.  He was an example to all of us.  Many of us still walk in hatred and prejudice, or in its shadow.  The seas are parted for us, but we are not making the journey joyfully, and we are not singing the song.

What I am knitting:  I had occasion to be in a yarn store yesterday and I bought a sample skein of some really cushy yarn that I thought Becky might like.  I knitted a swatch of it for her last night, and she agreed it would make a spectacular sweater.  I'll try to get that done before spring gets here.

What's in the crock-pot:  We are expecting another storm, so it's Irish stew:  beef cubes dredged in flour, mixed with onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, a can of tomato paste, green peas, and a bottle of Guinness.

Have a good week.  Keep looking up.
Jennie

12 January 2011

Snow Big Deal

I have discovered (or maybe I have always known) that I am the only member of my family of origin who truly and deeply loves the winter.  My mother and older sister are beach girls; my younger sister is a self-proclaimed "snow grinch" (in fairness, she got two feet of snow yesterday and today, which does seem like enough to make anyone feel grinchy), and my brother is a paramedic who has spent a lot of time driving an ambulance in awful conditions.  My father has not weighed in on the subject lately, but since he grew up in upstate New York and is a deeply religious man, with a great love of nature, I suspect that he may be my only ally in my fervent reverence for this particular aspect of creation.

The house I grew up in had a little pond behind it.  Well, "pond" might be an exaggeration; my mother referred to it as a broken water pipe and, terrified of drownings, she forbade us from playing near it when it was in its liquid state.  The law was waived in the winter, though, when the frogs were silent and the surface of the pond was solid.  We were allowed to skate to our hearts' content, and skate we did, every chance we got.  When we outgrew the little backyard swamp, my friends and I skated at the golf course at the end of the street and, later, at the local rink.

We never skied; the logistics were just too hard, and, as I mentioned, my mother doesn't actively seek out snow in her limited leisure time.  I went to college in the frozen north, though, and one of the first things I did was sign up for skiing lessons.  It was hard, but it allowed me to be alone among the trees in the cold, clean air, and I fell in love with it instantly.  (I also fell in love with a ski patroller, but that's a story for another post.)

I ended up marrying my ski patroller, and we are raising three great skiers together.  I am still in awe of winter and everything that goes with it.  I love the exhilaration of the chilled air, the first few flakes that fall, the sleds, the skates, and the skis.  I love trudging through the piled-up snow, romping in it with my dogs.  I love waking early to the soft scraping sound of the plows on my street and watching, as I sip a hot beverage, while the snow continues to fall.  I pray for white Christmases.  I knit by the fireplace in my fuzzy slippers until I fall asleep.  I have months before I have to worry about what I'll look like in a bathing suit, so I make warm stews and hot bread and drink Scotch whiskey.

I am not insensitive to the plight of people whose travel plans are thwarted by adverse weather conditions, or who shovel snow day after day with an aching back, or who get caught unexpectedly in storms and skid all over the road.  All of these things have happened to me at one point or another, too.  But winter doesn't last forever, and I try to enjoy it as much as I can.  It's part of the cycle of life.

Writing in my pajamas

I worked in a restaurant when I was a teenager, and Department of Health regulations required us to wear head coverings while preparing food.  (There's nothing more disgusting than finding some stranger's hair in your salad.)  They gave us little paper hats to wear, and I hated them.  I had very long hair at the time, and I pulled it up into a ponytail and tucked it under the paper cap, and it looked and felt awful.  I was very happy to see a little piece in The New York Times this morning on the head coverings worn by baristas (people who prepare coffee) throughout the city.  They manage to combine their personal style with the health regulations, and I think that's wonderful.  You can see the little slideshow here.

I am very grateful now to have a job that requires no particular clothing items, just that I look neat and professional.  My husband told me long ago that lawyers who look like lawyers get more respect than those who don't.  In other words, you could be the smartest lawyer in the world, but if you show up in court in hiking boots and sweats, the judges aren't going to like your argument.  (This statement, while clearly true, always reminds me of the astronomer in The Little Prince who was laughed right out of the astronomers' convention because of his native Turkish dress.  Do you remember him?  Grownups really are morons sometimes.)

I don't go to court anymore.  I spend my days mostly in my office, interacting only with the other men and women who work for my company.  If I speak with an outside lawyer or a client, it is always by telephone, and most of those people haven't the slightest idea what I look like.  Nor do they care; as long as I get the job done, that's all that matters.

The advent of the internet has changed our way of life in so many ways.  There are people out there making a great living without ever having to get out of their pajamas.  (On snowy days like today, I wish I were one of them.)  Entire commercial enterprises are run from the comfort of one's home.  There are people who succeed at communication who, a generation ago, would have been too disabled to share their thoughts.  And there are people like me, aspiring writers who can reach a wide audience from a little basement computer.

My "Bullying" post has generated a lot of reaction.  To my great relief, my older sister not only liked it, but she republished it on her Facebook page.  Childhood friends from my old neighborhood reached out to me.  I had dinner two nights ago with a friend from seventh grade who told me that she had had no idea what was going on at the time.  (Most people didn't.)  At least two people have contacted me to tell me their own bullying stories.  I am encouraged and pleased by all of this.  Thank you.

And now back to shoveling out the driveway so I can go to work.  Have a great day, everyone.

10 January 2011

Bullying

On January 6, 2011, the governor of New Jersey signed a new anti-bullying law into effect.  The law, which was sponsored by my local state senator, requires public school personnel to be thoroughly trained to spot bullying, and it mandates the establishment of a "school safety team" to investigate complaints about bullying and to take action against bullies where warranted.  It has been hailed as the strongest anti-bullying legislation in the nation.

In the mid-1970's, when I was a student at the local public elementary school in my hometown, my older sister and I were bullied mercilessly.  In the beginning, my sister took the brunt of it.  (Dear sister, I hope you don't mind that I am sharing this.)  Back then, there was a pervasive blame-the-victim mentality about bullying.  If you were hurt in school and had the audacity to alert an adult to the situation, then your parents were called in to meet with the school psychiatrist to try to determine what it was about you that made you a target for bullies.  Perhaps you weren't athletic enough, or you wore uncool clothes, or you had a weak personality, or you were unnaturally interested in academics.  Steps would be taken to make you more acceptable to your peers.  In extreme cases, you yourself would be called in for counseling, and if that didn't help, your parents might be advised to enroll you in a private school for your own safety.  Under no circumstances were there ever consequences for the bullies.  Bullying was considered normal social behavior for young people.  In fact, I admit that I would have given anything to be accepted by the bullies and to join them.  I seized every opportunity to pick on someone else.

My sister was run through a battery of academic and psychological tests, and it was determined that her uncoolness was the result of superior intelligence that could not be accommodated in the public school.  She was immediately enrolled in a top-notch private school nearby, and her life improved.  Instantly and significantly.  My parents were roundly criticized in the neighborhood for failing to support the local public school system.

Things got worse for me as soon as my sister, a primary target, was removed from the scene.  By the beginning of seventh grade, I was threatened daily (by peers whose parents were friends of my parents; two of them were actually in my Sunday school class), and once I was physically beaten up.  The girl who struck me informed me, shortly before my beating, that the outfit I was wearing that day - comprised of recognizable hand-me-downs from a cooler girl - was "gay."

I feigned illness in order to stay home from school, which worked for a short time.  My mom is a lot of things, but she's not stupid, and the repeated negative mono tests finally made her suspect that something else was up.  She quizzed me about what was going on at school, but I refused to tell her.  My uncool clothes and my penchant for reading were not things I could change easily, and I knew my parents could ill afford to have two daughters in expensive private schools.  Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, I refused to believe that this was my fault, and I did not want to be counseled as to how I could make myself cooler.  I spent a lot of time in the library at the middle school, where I befriended the librarian.  I sat within her line of vision at every lunch hour and read things like David Copperfield and a biography of Golda Meir that she had recommended.  As long as I wasn't on the playground, no one could hurt me.  This strategy, of course, made me nerdier and less athletic, but at least I still had all my teeth.

And then, miracle of miracles, as if by answer to my prayers, my dad got a job at a private girls' school in Manhattan.  A prestigious, academically-demanding sort of place, where everyone wore uniforms and there were no boys.  With the help of my librarian friend, I did some research about this school.  It sounded like a good place, a place where I could thrive.  I raised the possibility of applying at dinner one night, and to my great shock, my parents did not dismiss the idea as nonsense.  In fact, they were intrigued by it.  I took the entrance exam and scored well, and by eighth grade, I was commuting to work with my father every day, and my bullying problems were over.  My younger sister followed in my footsteps the next year.

How different would my life have been if I had grown up in the current era of outrage against bullies?  I suspect I would be a completely different person.  For one thing, I would not suffer from my deep-seated suspicion of public schools, public school teachers, cheerleaders, and PTA presidents.  I know that my approach to child-rearing would be very different.  I watch my children closely for signs of bullying or of being a victim.  I intervene when necessary.  My Girl Scout troop had three members who emerged, around fifth grade, as the bullying type.  I came down very hard on them.

There will always be kids who are different, or uncool, or quirky.  Those of us who have survived such conditions, with the support of our parents or other understanding adults, owe it to today's kids to make things better for them.  New Jersey's new anti-bullying law is a great first step.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

08 January 2011

Undecking

When I was a child, trimming the Christmas tree was a festive family occasion.  Dad was the official lighting engineer of the family.  Once he got the lights onto the tree, we all took turns hanging ornaments and tinsel.  My mother also had an impressive collection of tabletop Christmas decorations, including a beautiful porcelain creche handmade by my aunt, and these were lovingly displayed on the back of the grand piano.  There were special candles that were displayed throughout the house, and there were electric trains that traveled in a perpetual circular path under the Christmas tree.  Special china came out of the sideboard for the season.  It was a Yuletide fairyland.

Then, when Christmas was over, the decorations just disappeared.  It was sudden, quick, and complete.  We went back to school in January, and when we returned on the first day back, the house was totally normal, as if  nothing had happened.  The tree was gone without a trace, and the ornaments were back in the attic.

The process by which our halls were undecked was a mystery to me until I was an adult.  It was many years before I learned that my mother had performed this task alone.  She told me it was a lonely and sad task and that she resented having to do it without help.  (I imagine she did have help until my grandmother's prolonged illness and death when I was a teenager.  My grandmother, who lived with us the entire time I was growing up, died the November right after I turned fifteen.  The loss of her mother's company must have been especially difficult for my mom to bear at Christmas and during the cleaning-up days of early January.)

An odd side effect of the secretive and magical undecking of my childhood home is that I was completely unprepared for and unschooled in this task when I had a home and family of my own.  I struggled for a few years with it, and then I tried to make it festive and social.  I always do it the weekend after Epiphany, and I try to resist the impulse to just do it by myself.  It really is a sort of unpleasant task, sweeping the dried pine needles, hauling a dead tree to the curb, packing away my own beautiful porcelain creche into a plastic bin in the attic. It marks the end of the holiday season and the beginning of the rest of the winter, which stretches ahead of us cold and long and without bells, lights, and Santa-shaped candles.

This year, I did most of the undecorating (as always, I made Sam do the heavy tree-to-curb hauling), but I wasn't alone.  The kids were working on homework, and the radio was on because something had happened in Arizona that I wanted to hear updates about as I worked.  We talked about the loved ones who had sent Christmas cards - two families in particular that I haven't seen in a long time and miss very much.  We discussed the news, and Sam read updates aloud from the internet.  I inventoried ornaments and creche pieces. (I seem to have only two Wise Men.  I have noted this for years but, whenever I'm in a position to buy the missing piece, I can never remember which one I need.  Gaspar?  Melchior?  Do you think I thought to make a note this year of which one it is?  Nope.)

Another mom whose blog I read has each child cut a limb from the tree, then throw it into the fireplace and make a wish.  I like that; it's warm and hopeful.  That particular mom has been through a lot lately, and sticking to traditions like that helps her.  Do you have "undecking" traditions?  How do you make an inherently sad task bearable or even pleasant?

What's in the crockpot:  Nothing.  It's the weekend, which means I am home and can actually cook a hands-on meal.

What's on my mind:  The attempted assassination of a congresswoman in Arizona, and the murder of several bystanders, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child, by the would-be assassin. Those poor people.  Our society has so much work to do.

Bush v. Gore

Flipping through a month-old issue of the New Yorker this morning, I was reminded that it's been ten years since the United States Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore.  Ten years!  It seems like that election happened yesterday.  I said to Sam, "Has it really been ten years?  Where did those ten years go?"

"Well, eight of them went down the toilet," he said.

"No, seriously.  Doesn't it seem like time is speeding up?"

"We were only thirty-four then.  We were young and newfangled.  Now, in five years and one month, I'll be --"

"No!  Don't say it!"

"-- eligible for AARP membership."

Did he have to say that?  I mean, was it really necessary to ruin my Saturday morning that way?  My most vivid childhood memories are from a time when my parents and almost all the grownups I knew were younger than I am now.  I distinctly and clearly remember a time when my mother wore a size six and my dad had plentiful black hair.

Well, enough moaning about the passage of time.  Yesterday's snowfall left my neighborhood looking like Narnia before Aslan's return.  Here are some pictures.  By the way, many thanks to the neighbor who cleared our sidewalk yesterday while we were otherwise occupied.  We're on a corner with significant sidewalk frontage, so whoever's responsible did us no small favor.






I had a few free minutes at work yesterday, while I was waiting for confirmation from a faraway state that I had successfully formed a new corporation.  The storm had cleared, the sky was blue again, and the sun was just starting to sink over the Hudson River.  I made myself a cup of tea and snapped a picture of the view from my office window.  You can see the incipient sunset reflected off the buildings, and a light cap of snow on the rooftops, if you are  looking carefully.



Happy Saturday everyone - whether you are resting or frantically getting things done, stay safe and enjoy the view.

Jennie

07 January 2011

The Music of Life

Happy Friday!  Here's Sarah practicing the piano.  Please forgive her spelling - she will never be a good speller, but she's getting to be a pretty good pianist.




It's just begun to snow.  The dogs and I had fun walking in the silent snowfall this morning.  If it's snowing where you are, stay safe on the roads!

Jennie

06 January 2011

Laundry

The new washing machine has arrived, and it’s a beauty.  


I told my husband, "We need a washing machine that will do 10,000 loads without a hiccup." So here's what we got. It's a Whirlpool Cabrio, and it's absolutely enormous - it will wash 50 t-shirts at once. I can't believe I am this excited about a washing machine. We’ll be doing laundry for days to catch up, but we don’t (really) mind.  The novelty of the new machinery seems to alleviate the drudgery.  There’s new high-efficiency detergent to measure in disturbingly small quantities, and there are so many options and different cycles that we could just get lost in the basement, caught in an endless cycle of cleaning up.

How do big families keep their laundry organized and moving along?  I saw this idea in a movie once, and I thought it was clever.  


Each family member has a drawer with his or her name.  Clean laundry goes into the appropriate drawer.  When the drawer is full, its owner (theoretically) takes it upstairs and puts the laundry away, and then returns the empty drawer neatly to its appointed space.  I say theoretically because, as you might imagine, no one actually checks their drawer until they’re out of underwear, and then they dash downstairs, grab a pair out of the drawer, and run back upstairs to get dressed.  Some family members are guilty of living out of their laundry drawers for as long as they can before Mom loses her cool.

In case you are wondering how I get all this done while I am working as a full-time corporate lawyer, I have recently received clearance to reveal to you my secret weapon.  


Her name is Patty.  Patty has been a part of our family since shortly before Bobby was born.  (I do mean shortly.  After I interviewed her, I asked whether she had any questions.  “Yeah,” she said.  “When is that baby due?”  “Tomorrow,” I responded.  “That’s why I need your help, and pretty quickly.”)

You could call Patty our housekeeper, or our babysitter, or our mother’s helper, or our nanny, but we just call her Patty.  She is a mother of three beautiful grown daughters herself, two of them with children of their own.  Patty has had some health issues lately, but she’s bouncing back, and we’re counting on her to stay well enough to be with us for a long, long time.

When Patty first started working here, she thought she would be doing one or two loads of laundry a week.  Ha.

In other news, today is the twelfth day of Christmas, also known as the feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or the Three Kings. It is the holiday that commemorates the arrival of the three wise men from the East at the cradle of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. It's the "epiphany" of Jesus's birth to the whole world - the Wise Men were the first non-Jews to become aware of Jesus's arrival.

In the English tradition, and in many places around the world, this is a festive holiday. (I understand from my buddies at work that businesses are closed in Germany today.) It's also the first day that we are authorized to take down Christmas decorations - it is bad luck to do so before the Epiphany. I'll post more on the undecking process tomorrow.

What's in the crock-pot: leftovers.

What's on my mind: another winter storm watch. Bring it on. Have a good day.

05 January 2011

Now therefore, be it resolved that:

I said I was going to talk about resolutions, right?  I didn't forget.

Last year at about this time, I resolved to get to the gym every single morning before work.  I signed up with a personal trainer and started leaving my house at 5 A.M. so that I could spend an hour on the elliptical machine before meeting the trainer for strength and conditioning exercises.  I started carpooling to the city with some early-rising neighbors.  I was going to get into shape, no matter what it took.

I kept my resolution.  And by mid-February, I had herniated two disks in my neck and was in so much pain that I couldn't move.  My left arm was completely paralyzed.  We took our annual ski vacation during President's Week, and I spent the first day in the lodge, crying in pain.  I finally got onto skis and braved the mountain, but it was excruciating, and I didn't enjoy it at all.  I couldn't carry my luggage.  I couldn't even knit; it hurt to look down.  I snapped at the kids and at Sam, who felt bewildered and helpless.  I spent a fortune visiting expensive surgeons (one of whom refused to accept my insurance because, his assistant told me, he was so prestigious and sought-after that "he didn't have to").  Friends gave me all kinds of advice, referring me to chiropractors, rolfers, "alternative healers," acupuncturists, and people who would help me reduce the stress (and thus the pain) in my life.  I got books in the mail about pain management through self-hypnosis.

And I had not lost a pound.

The year before - January 2009 - I resolved to use my kids' Wii to exercise.  I fired up the Wii Fit and promptly broke my foot.

I think resolutions can be helpful in a lot of situations, but I am pretty much through with them.  I'm still trying to lose the weight, but I am going a lot easier on myself.  I'm going to take the dieting route rather than the punishing exercise route for the time being.  We'll see how it goes.  What are your resolutions this year?

What I am knitting:  fuzzy gray socks for Bobby, and a mint-green baby blanket for someone to be named later.

What's in the crock-pot:  boneless, skinless chicken thighs layered with onions, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, and a can of low-fat cream-of-mushroom soup.

The new washing machine arrives today.  I'll let you know how that goes.

04 January 2011

A Funny Work-Related Story

My husband is a criminal defense lawyer, and he occasionally handles some high-profile cases.  He is assisted, in the operations of his office, by a spectacular secretary/paralegal named Icelsa.

Recently, Icelsa has been getting repeated calls from a television reporter who would like to interview Sam about a case that concluded late last year.  Icelsa gives the messages to Sam, but Sam is busy and just hasn't had the time to return the calls.  "I'm not avoiding him," he tells me.  "It's just that I have so many other things to do."

Yesterday, Mr. Reporter called Icelsa and told her that if Sam would agree to an interview, Icelsa would be the recipient of a beautiful gift bag of gourmet coffee.

Sam called him back right away.  "Let's just be clear," he told the reporter.  "I'm an officer of the court, and I am completely unbribeable.  My secretary, however, is eminently bribeable.  If I do an interview with you, Icelsa is going to get some really nice coffee, right?"

Do you receive work-related holiday gifts?  If so, what are your favorites?

02 January 2011

The New Year Begins

We're back from our little jaunt to New Hampshire for a quick ski vacation, and we've been jolted back into reality pretty quickly.  There are several things in our house that need repair (including two doors and a couple of shutters blown off their hinges by the recent snowstorm) and, as I discovered this morning as I was attempting to deal with the mountain of laundry that we brought back, we need a new washing machine.  Alas, real life returns to the suburbs of New Jersey.

My in-laws will be here momentarily to return Sparky and Trixie, whom they have been dog-sitting for the past week.  I'm looking forward to the dogs' return; the house will feel alive again.

Not everyone is up and at 'em early this morning, however.  There are teenagers still abed:


That's Sarah (15) and Becky (13).  Their younger brother Bobby (11) has escaped the camera's eye because he's sleeping over at his friend Juan's house.  Juan and Bobby's other best friend, Daisuke, are pretty much fixtures in our house; I'll post pictures of them when they emerge from their New Year's hibernation.

And so I set off to perform the tasks that must be completed before my return to work tomorrow:  a haircut, a trip to the supermarket for food for the week, pursuit of some sort of solution to the laundry problem, and maybe a little down time to knit or just to hang out with my husband.  Sam and I won't have much alone time together again until February, so I am going to savor these last few hours as much as I can.

Here he is in his Blue Devils cap.  (He asked whether he could take a picture of me, but I deferred until after my haircut.)



Happy New Year everyone!  In my next post, I'll talk about resolutions...