Thursday, November 20, 2008

Out Came the Sun and Dried up All the Rain

When I got there yesterday, she was on her knees in the middle of the rug, surrounded by dancing toddlers. The Itsy-Bitsy Spider played on a CD and she bounced up and down, throwing her arms over her head and waving them around. She saw me over her shoulder and smiled, then stood up and bounced so ferociously she was almost jumping. She twisted her wrists and threw her head back, laughing. The Itsy-Bitsy Spider is her jam. No matter her mood, if I start with the hand motions and the singing about the spider, she is quietly mesmerized.

Last night when we got home we cranked the music in the living room and bounced around like idiots on the rug, trying to inspire Mirabella to dance for her daddy. We blared Ben Folds and Regina Spektor and Mirabella broke it down. She got low. The Boy captured it all on video, along with her giggly antics and several weeks of other milestones. After dinner and bath and bed I opened the camera to review the footage. I saw nothing but videos from months ago. Everything was gone.

"I'm not mad at you; I'm just mad," The Boy fumed when I sniffled into my pillow and asked why he was blaming me. I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, and I knew it didn't really matter. I knew it was a few big weeks, not a life. But still.

She walks now, and it looks about as natural to me as if our puggle, Mosotos, started walking on his hind legs. She's gotten good enough at it now that she can be nonchalant, only rarely pausing to cheer for herself. When I got there today, she stood in her dancing spot in her tiny pink Pumas.

"Did you have a good day?" I asked

"Miss Thing went to timeout today," Aunt Nae reported. "She and Devin couldn't stay away from the stairs."

This is not her first trip to timeout. My mother likes to tell me I've got a "strong-willed child" on my hands.

Tonight while we ate grilled Asian turkey skewers and scallions, she cried in her crib. She's been on a veggie strike, and don't even think about feeding her from a spoon. I brought her a bottle, guessing she was hungry. We sat in her rocker, wrapped in a blanket and in the glow of her ladybug nightlight she leaned back to smile and wave at me, several inches from my face. I sang the Itsy-Bitsy Spider and she stared and wiggled her fingers and hummed. I squeezed her and laid my head on her head, snuggled beneath my chin, squinting my eyes and telling myself there are some things videos can't touch.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get Your Own Frickin' Coffee

He was talking about the frustration of having a diverse student body in engineering training classes.

"Some of the students are clerical and they just thought it would be an interesting class. But it's not beneficial to have these discussions with clerks." He patted my back, "No offense Christina."
Because we had company in the form of a high-ranking customer, I tried to minimize my outwardly expressed horror. I'm not sure I succeeded. I turned toward him, the People's Eyebrow aloft, leaning back in repulsion. "Umm," I said.

"Not that you're a clerk," he corrected himself, too late.

"No. No, I'm not," I said with a fake smile.

"Christina's been around this material long enough, she could be an engineer," he overcompensated, once again.

"That's right," a woman who has recently befriended me chimed in, "She certainly could."

I interrupted their stumbling and directed a comment to our audience in reference a point the customer had just made, citing a recent on-the-ground example. I tried to deflect. It makes me tired.

I haven't been a "clerk" since my first job out of college when I was really more like the small Armenian's indentured servant. I drove his cars and he paid for my gas and cell phone; I pretended to enjoy kayaking in his backyard and being spat upon my his spoiled daughter. He asked every inappropriate question in the book and criticized my newspaper-folding abilities. It did not last long.

It's difficult enough to be one of few women in an office or an industry, but I've mostly gotten used to that. It's not unusual for me to be the only woman in a room. But that fact, coupled with my nontechnical title and work, seems to equal in many male minds, an only slightly glorified secretary. There's nothing wrong with that title or job, but it's a far cry from mine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Working on Mars

"Those are some crazy jeans there," one of my managers said too early this morning.

I advised him they were corduroy and kept working. I didn't say I didn't care how they looked, just that I was actually able to fit into them again after two years.

"That's a pretty wide belt," he went on.

"Does it remind you of the '70's?" I said, wondering if that could have been construed as a dig and if I could have honestly said I didn't mean it.

"Yes!" He said, "Those are 70's pants. And look at those shoes!" He gestured to my berry-colored, patent leather, platform Mary Janes.

"My mom says she should have just saved her clothes and shoes for me," I said, trying to stay good natured while steering the conversation back toward our impending deadline and my pile of work.

"Okay, maybe I'm being too observant here, but. . . did you stripe your hair?"

I smiled and told him that's not what we call it while silently moaning since my highlighting was always meant to be as natural looking as possible. Evidently, I failed.

"Christina, I can see a distinct stripe right there," he approached me, then pointed to it. "You mean that's not your natural color? It's definitely striped. It's dark right there, Christina." He just kept going on. "Maybe if you just brushed it or combed it or something it would blend in better."

"So I'm wearing 70's pants and crazy shoes and I've got striped hair that it looks like I don't brush. Anything else you'd like to tell me?" He was finally done.

Then, at a LASIK consultation, "Wow. You know the girl who just left here, she would have killed to have corneas the size of yours."

This is what happens when you work on a Federal holiday, I suppose.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Tongue-tied Flagellation

Call off the hounds; here I am. Thanks for checking back in. Think I can blame it all on the pumpkin pictured below? Think again.

Miles separate me from many of the people I love. Most of them would agree, to my face (and some have), that I'm terrible at keeping in touch. The ones who have stuck with me are the ones who do not take an unreturned phone call or email-- or several-- as an unspoken write-off. I'm not proud of it; I don't like it about myself, but it's true. I could blame it on being a mother and a wife and full-time employee, and I wouldn't be untruthful, except that this fact predates my current predicament. I have never been good at it.

My freshman year of college, I learned that a high-school friend was mad at me. "I thought we were close," she said, when we talked.

"We were," I agreed.

"Well it really hurt me that you didn't think I was important enough to keep in touch with." I was kind of baffled. Then, we lived in a world without the now-disruptive Facebook, Myspace or text messaging. Without any sense of malice or irony, I tried to explain that I figured since I was in North Carolina and she was in Pennsylvania, we were done. I wasn't sad or upset about it, I just figured that's how it went. She, clearly, had not. I wince now at my certainty then, but that happens a lot these days.

Another dear friend, Mindy, lives in Vermont. A couple years ago, I intended to call her on her birthday, which I always remember. Time got away from me. So instead of calling her a few days late, I didn't talk to her for at least several weeks (and if she's reading this, I'm sure she'll correct me that it was much longer than that). When I sheepishly answered the phone I explained to her, again, in all sincerity, that the reason I hadn't called was because I hadn't forgotten her birthday. "Well, I was upset that I didn't manage to call you on your birthday, because I really did remember. But then the more time passed, the worse I felt for not calling, so I just kept not calling." Because she's one of the ones that love me anyway, she laughed at my flawed logic. Still, I wish I could tell you this was an isolated occurrence. It is not.

Unfortunately, it's gotten worse. Whereas I used to think I was really busy, now I know it. And another friend, now in Texas, who has never minced words about my severe inadequacy in this area, reminds me we are all busy-- I'm not the only one. I can't argue with her point, and it's not for lack of feeling guilty or having good intentions that I don't call.

In the not yet 10 years since high school, Alex has been in Pittsburgh, Charleston, San Diego, and Southeast Asia. He called a few weeks ago to tell me he and his lovely bride have recently moved to D.C. Compared to how separated we've been, we are practically neighbors. But his call remains unreturned. He is perhaps the most persistent and patient of them all. He is the only reason we remain friends, and I'm so grateful for his persistence. If I were him, I wouldn't waste my time on me.

I don't know how people like Jennifer in Salisbury can remember not only to call and text on birthdays but also to send homemade gifts and handwritten letters. Instead, I intend to send photos of my baby playing with the gift a far-flung relative sent, but I never get around to taking or printing the photos, so I don't send the thank-you until it's embarrassingly late. I hope I've crystallized it for you.

All of this to say, yeah, I've been busy, but that's not why I haven't been here. It's been more than three months since I've written. The same friend who rightly says, "we're all busy," on one occasion told me, "I can't really believe you haven't had a few minutes alone in the car when you could have called." She was right then, and it applies now. Of course there have been occasions since August that I've been putzing around online, wondering why other people can't find the time to update their blogs. But a lot can happen in a few months.

A few months, in my daughter's case, is the difference between pureed foods and finger foods, crawling and walking, one tooth or four. For me, it's gone from barely making it through the week day to being noticed and weighing opportunities. It's losing touch with many I love and then, shockingly, hearing from a ghost I haven't known in years. So on my first day back to you, with all of that behind me, what do I choose to talk about? What do I say?

I guess I'll echo the ghost, in typical, understated fashion and say, "it's been a while," and go from there.
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