Tuesday, November 28, 2006

All new, all over again

What Happened to the Professor Archivist?

It was six weeks ago that I posted about leaving academia to go on a trip to Disneyworld.

Let's catch up a bit. If you'll remember, I returned from maternity leave to a less than ideal work environment. In the process of trying to work things out, the job only became increasingly worse. Things were horrible; I almost decided to give up on libraries and archives all together, but realized I needed to stay after much love from friends and family. I did all the things you're supposed to do: I read management self help books, I went through Comfortable U.'s H.R. office, we did "facilitation" (don't call it mediation!).

In the end, I just left. Several people (including a relation who works in HR for a big corporation) have told me I had a straight-up nearly textbook lawsuit against Comfortable U. for a hostile work environment. Maybe I'll regret not suing them in the future, but right now I could care less. The conflict pushed me to look for a better job, and I landed a sweet position in a corporate archive almost right away. I make more money now and I can ride the train to work again. I have a hard time justifying a lawsuit to myself when the worst thing that was hurt was maybe my pride - and even then, that wasn't really damaged, because no one really believed the old boss. Not even her own HR department thought she was in the right. But I couldn't stay because she was still my boss, and when someone really wants to make things difficult for you, it's awfully easy to do that when they're your boss. If I sued, it would only mean more work for other people at Comfortable U. And the truth is, I liked, and got along with very well, almost everyone there. Quitting was the best thing I could do - it hurt the old boss' reputation in a big way.

Plus, I don't have to work a night shift once a week now.

So, really, I've been having a great time lately. It does make me sad that I've given up on academia - I thought I wanted to be an academic for a decade, but once I finally got into a full time faculty position I realized there are few things I could want less. I was the last of my friends to realize this. Amy, Devon, Steve, Cindy, and a few others...they've all left academia too, for reasons that only seem different until you realize they all boil down to bad management.

The big corporation where I work now makes their employees attend extensive management training as one is promoted. There's no management training in academia at all. And we all know that what floats on the top isn't always cream. There's even talk here about the "work-life balance", and men are active in the discussion. Although I have to wear a suit each day, I like the corporate culture here. The rules are clear and the expectations set out cleanly on paper. I may have finally found the workplace where I fit.

Big hugs, blogland. This blog has been about my search for success - romantic success, family success, and professional success. Now that I might have all of those things to my satisfaction, I'm not sure if I'll keep writing or not. I guess we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Making Peace with The Mouse

Last week I went into work and wrote up my resignation and gave two week's notice. About three hours after advising Comfortable U. that I would be leaving, I was given two weeks of paid "administrative leave" and sent home.

It was the day before my 30th birthday. There was nothing to do, said Tony and Andrew, but to pack up the family and drive to Disneyworld. Dust had just moved onto our couch here in Atlanta, so we didn't even have to find someone to look after the cats.

So we went. I took my daughter to Disneyworld, and thus confronted head-on everything I am ambivalent about regarding our consumer culture and childhood. Best to figure out my feelings early anyway.

I didn't know if we would have a good time; so much when traveling with a baby depends on their moods and stages. We managed to hit Disneyworld just right for Dot's babyhood. She was small enough to be happy riding in her stroller or to be carried, but had no need to venture off with her newly acquired crawling skills. She wasn't frightened of the fireworks or large costumed characters, instead smiling or gazing with unfazed curiosity at each new encounter. While we did have to exit a few attractions that made ear-splitting volume part of their program, overall Dot was happy with the trip.

Surprizingly, I was happy as well. Disneyworld has managed to boil Halloween down to its two baisc elements: costumes and candy. Those are two things that Disney does very well with all around the year, so it shouldn't have been such a shock that they were able to adapt and sucessfully throw amazing Halloween events.

I also loved seeing Disney's normally pastel self turned out in faux-goth glory. Starting at sunset, everything Disney became black and orange, and even the costumed characters like Mickey and Minnie aquired masks or costumes. Twice during the night there's a huge "Not So Scary" Halloween parade, complete with all the Disney villains and a band of skeletons. The whole place become awash in free candy, with trick-or-treat stations set up everywhere.

I might have had more problems with Disney's trick-or-treating in the past, but the last year has seen a fundamental change in the Disney archetype of little girl costuming. While previously all little girls were meant to emulate princesses, dressed in the outfits of Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, now they have two new options: that of the Pirate, and that of the (Incredibles) Superheroine.

For every princess waiting for her prince to rescue her along our trick-or-treat path, we saw another little girl ready to board enemy ships and hunt for treasure. Sprinkled into this mix in a smaller number were entire families dressed as The Incredibles - an outfit uniform to everyone in the group regardless of gender, even if Dad's had fake muscles sewn in.

So, Disney wasn't so bad. Dot was a pirate one night and a superhero of our own making the next. While I did run terrified of the "Princess Makeover" portion of one Disney shop, there was plenty of other stuff to enjoy. I can hold my breath and close my eyes when walking past the princess crap. It's easy to ignore while surrounded by Eyeore dressed in mummy bandages and Goofy riding a giant gumball machine that spews bubbles and sweets.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's not you, it's them

People write me

If someone had to ask me the one reason I've kept blogging all these years, I would have to say it's because people write me. I'm throwing these huge open letters out into the internet every other week, and mostly they are for my friends (who I don't tell enough how much I appreciate them). My last entry was overwrought, full of too much information, and probably confusing. And yet, I'm glad I put it out there, because lots of people wrote or IM'ed me, saying the same thing that everyone always says about my writing. Basicly, the response I always get in one form or another is:

me, too.

I think Kati said it best this time though. She wrote:

I hope you're able to balance your creative life with your vocation. I
think you can have both, and like Winn, I think you have to. I think both
are a part of you, and I can't imagine Elizabeth without either. I also
think you're too conscious of yourself to be able to turn into your father.
Like Michael, you learned so much about 'how to do life' by watching what
your parents did, and then not doing it. I think you can be creative and
not become your father. I think you can have your vocation and still be

I think your bosses have sucked. And I know how a bad boss can really wear
you down. I was beginning to think it was me, these problems I've been
having at work the last year or so. I thought maybe I had a problem with
authority. But I have authority here at my new job, and no problem with it.
I have just had really sucky bosses before. So in case you were
wondering, it's not you. It's them. No worries, E.

Yep, less worries now. Kati hit the nail on the head: I was beginning to worry I had problems with authority. But I crave authority!

Still, it is partly me: I've got to learn how to handle this stuff better, personally. I'm pretty proud of myself for not crying once at this workplace. Not even when things have just been godawful. So I think I am learning how to respond better. One of my co-workers came into my office during the whole mess and told me she thought I was acting very professional and getting through some of the problems related to my return from maternity leave with grace. So everything's not all so bad. I will learn this too: how to work for and with people who don't always act their best.

And things will get better. I'm painting again, using thick acrylics to color in an old art-deco line drawing. It's taking me weeks because I can only do a little every night when Dot naps, but when the big picture is done all my patience will have paid off into something I can hang in my living room and enjoy every day.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Libraries and the Bottle City of Kandor

Your Own Bottle City of Kandor

I went to work one morning last week and opened up my email to find that Mat and Emily had done the fabulous; they had stepped off the grid, and tossed their conventional career tracks involving jobs and computer-generated paychecks. They had finalized their move to Baltimore and the opening of their own recording studio.

Maybe it was that I grew up with a recording studio in my back yard, or maybe it was because the thought of leaving my conventional career behind was suddenly and unexpectedly appealing, but the effect of reading this was something for which I was completely unprepared. Sitting there at my desk at work, I felt tears in my eyes. I've been under a lot of stress at work lately, and becoming a mom has pushed my personal growth forward a lot this summer. I've had to sit around contemplating exactly what it is I'm doing with my life, and acknowledge that I've left some things I wanted to do (like creative writing) behind in my quest for other things (like a stable home life).

I have known for a while now that I'd sacrificed my creative career on the altar of library science and archival preservation. Of course, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. But realizing what I've done isn't the same as realizing *why* I've done it, and that all came in a rush reading about Mat and Emily. I've been denying my creative self because I've been afraid I'd turn into my father. He had a creative career, and some people have blamed our unstable home life on his lack of a conventional job. But our instability as a household wasn't caused by my father's creative career, it was caused by his addictions. There are just as many scary alcoholic dads with office jobs as there are scary alcoholic dads in other kinds of fields. When Mat and Emily have their kids, they're going to be awesome parents. This will still be true even now that they've dedicated their lives to making art.

So, realizing my hang-up, I no know why I haven't published in nearly four years. Because I was focused on creating a stable and happy home for myself, on some level I thought that producing really good art was out of the question. Obviously, this idea is absurd. I think that a lot of my internal funk lately has been because I'm creatively backed-up; all that art and writing has to come out somehow. Sometimes, I walk around so full of words and images that I wonder why my hands aren't dripping carbon black ink.

I called the husband and told him of my revelation. At first I despaired, because I thought this all meant I should quit my job. I thought the husband was going to cry - he told me that he has always been envious of my career, and how much I really enjoy my work. I love what I do; archives are truly my vocation. I belong in a library; I love the architecture of information, and I've spent a lot of time becoming very good at my job. There's no sense in throwing away a highly refined skill set like the one I've managed to build up in the past eleven and a half years. But, I said, look at the last four years: a job where the supervisor was so completely unlikeable no one could work with them; a job that worked me so hard I used to come home and cry because I hadn't the energy to do anything for myself; a job where the supervisor doesn't think women with small children should work at all. The husband paused at this list, but said if I quit being a librarian and archivist just because my last few jobs had bad management, he'd be crushed. He would love to have a vocation he liked as much as mine, he said, and I shouldn't give up, because all management is transitory anyway. Personality conflicts may come and go, but Mylar is forever. He kissed my forehead that night and told me not to give up on my career or my creative pursuits.

I have been blaming my creative draught these past four years on my last incomplete project, a tarot deck I started when I moved to Little 5. I discussed all this with Dust, the person who put just as much work into that failed project as I. He told me that the tarot deck was like my own personal unenlarged Bottle City of Kandor, that project sitting on Superman's shelf that never gets quite put right. Even Superman fucks projects up sometimes; you can't make everything come out right, and sometimes it's OK to let things sit up on a shelf for a while. They'll be OK.

Since then, I've been seeing metaphorical Bottle Cities of Kandor everywhere. The library at Comfortable U. is like the Bottle City of Kandor: off scale for its true purpose and isolated by a higher technology it can't possibly fight or understand without help. Watching the relationships of your exes is like watching the Bottle City of Kandor: they're so small the people look really far away, and you can't understand what they're doing in there. Breastfeeding while working is like being a citizen of the Bottle City of Kandor: you're participating in a custom that people know is important to keep, but no one really wants to think about it too much.

Right now, my whole life is like the Bottle City of Kandor: self-sustaining only so long as it is self-contained, a micro economy supported by its own limitations. Sometimes when we put things on a shelf, we do so for good reasons. Everyone's got their own Bottle Cities of Kandor, sitting in a dated four-color universe, waiting for Superman to get off his superbottom and fix things. Still, those of us inside the glass go about our daily business finding happiness in our unique existance. As long as we aren't kidnapped by Lex Luthor, we'll all be OK.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The new old routine

This is a record of my current routine. I wanted to record it before everything changes again.

I wake up somewhere between midnight and four in the morning to stumble downstairs and pump about 4 ounces of breastmilk. I have to wake up in the middle of the night to pump because the pressure of milk builds up and hurts; if I ignore this pain, I will leak breastmilk on the bed.

This take about 20 minutes. Then I stumble back upstairs and sleep until the alarm goes off at 6.

After turning off the alarm, I gather Dot up from her co-sleeper. She's only half-asleep at this time, and sucking her thumb fiercely because she's hungry. I feed her and gradually wake up looking at my daughter as she eats. For this feeding, she keeps her eyes closed, demanding that I be the one to hold her and support her while she eats. She always looks like royalty to me, relaxed, reclined, and dainty. When she's done, she signals so by turning her head away, and I prop her up over my shoulder or against my chest. I pat her back and talk to her a bit until she manages to burp. This might take a few minutes, and it wakes her up a bit.

After Dot's managed to push any air she swallowed out, I lay her down on the bed and talk to her while I change her diaper. She's all smiles by this time, and the husband usually stirs next to us a bit, sometimes reaching out a hand to pet one of us while we go through our morning paces. After I've cleaned Dot up, I might play or cuddle with her for a minute or two, but not longer; she's tired and I need to get ready for work. It's always tough to lay her back down in her bed, especially since after the feeding she's all smiles and coos.

After that I pump again to get out any breastmilk I might have left, shower, eat breakfast, and drive to work. I try not to be late, but that's incrasingly more difficult as I find it hard to leave the baby and husband, whom I am sure to kiss before leaving for the day. I have to be in my car by 7:30 to make it to the library at 8. During this drive I will silently and fluently curse Cobb county residents for their lack of a train at least once every morning.

I work from 8am until 5pm. I miss my husband and daughter, and at the same time have anxiety about my job that is overwhelming enough some days to make me wonder if I need medication. Then I remember that I work in academia, and if you aren't a little paranoid in academia, then you aren't paying attention. Remind self at least once a day that paying attention is not something that really gets rewarded in public eduacation. Then I pay attnetion and work hard anyway, because that's the kind of neurotic overachiever I am.

Five to Five forty-fiveish - drive home through Atlanta traffic. Curse lack of train again. Ritually wonder why my iPod is oddly unsatisfying; perhaps use cell phone to talk to a friend.

I gt home before six, and the husband and baby are happy to see me. I put the breastmilk I've pumped at work into the fridge. We all kiss. I take the baby up in my arms and while talking to the husband about our day, and I make up a little baby cereal with breastmilk. The husband jumps on his online game while I push a little cereal into Dot's mouth. The husband and I talk about dinner and evening plans. If we have to go somewhere, we make a decision to eat before or after our outside-the-house tasks. At some point I make dinner. Too often, this dinner is the only meal the husband eats during the day; he's horrible about getting his own meals, even with microwavable frozen stuff in the freezer. Left to his own devices, he would live on gingerbread cookies and Mountain Dew.

We usually eat together around 7ish, because this is when Dot lays down for an hour-long evening nap. When she wakes from this nap she'll be ravenously hungry, so often we'll start a DVD while eating, and I'll continue to watch it while feeding the baby. We never watched so many movies before Dot; now, thanks to the baby and Netflix, I've been given the opportunity to enjoy every obscure documentary I ever wanted to see. While the husband is feeding the baby during the day, he watches obscure Japanimation and horror or kung-fu classics. We haven't had cable or braodcast TV in years.

I do small housechores as I can while playing with and caring for the baby at night. I try to help with the laundry or dusting or such, but usually I am too busy with dinner and the baby. The husband has been better at housework since he's been home during the day.

Around 10pm I use the breast pump one more time to empty myself out before laying down. I say my bedtime is at 10, but that varies; on Sunday nights it is closer to 10:30, and over the course of the week it inches back to almost 9:30 by Thursday night. As the work week wears on, I get more tired. I try to be consistant with my sleep schedule, but it's difficult. My sleep pattern wants to mimic Dot's, and she doesn't really start the day until 10am.

After I go up to bed around 10pm, The husband will wait for Dot to ask him for her last feeding. Then he'll give her the last bottle of the day, change her again once or twice, and sing to her until she goes to sleep. When she's trying to be grumpy (the I'm-tired-but-don't-want-to-sleep variety of grumpy), he will often sing to her while walking her around the house. She likes the motion. This also has the effect of sometimes wearing the husband out.

When Dot falls asleep around 11pm, the husband may or may not choose to go to bed at that time. Sometimes he puts her down in her crib and returns to playing video games online with friends. Sometimes he comes up and curls next to me. He will be in bed until 10am, when Dot wakes up for a diaper change and a bottle.

This is our weekday routine. We all agree that Sundays are best, when we can all stay up until about 11:30pm and stay in bed until 10am. Of course, I wake up twice in that time even on Sundays, since I'm still breastfeeding. On Sundays when Dot wakes up at 10, I can feed her in the bed and we roll around playing with the happy baby. Sundays are the best.

This week everything will change again; the husband starts law school at night, and I will have to start working one night a week at the library. Soon the husband will leave as I come through the door to get to his classes. He'll be out of the house for three hours, and then back to us for the nightime rituals. On Wednesday nights he will be home, but I'll be closing the library. We will have Friday nights together, and of course our weekends (except when I have a Sunday shift now and then).

I am happy that the husband is starting school, but sad that our routine is ending. I am happy that soon I will get to stop using the breast pump, but sad that this will mean loosing the closeness I feel with Dot in the very early morning. I am happy that my daughter is bright and healthy, but sad that she's growing out of this easy to manage stage in her life.

Nothing matters more than this.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Image of an Archivist

Portrait of an Archivist in Middle Adulthood

Next week I'll be at the big professional conference that archivists go to every year. I find myself agonizing over my wardrobe, something that would have been unimaginable to me just a few years ago. Before working at The Job That Ate My Life, I looked professional and never cared what other people thought of my dress. But TJTAML came with a supervisor who scrutinized my image, and I've been self-conscious ever since. It's been a year since I left, a year since I've been in academia, home of the happily rumpled and casually shod. But still I find myself worried over dress.

I have always envied the UGA archivists. A few of them have dyed hair, or unconventional glasses, or have worn chunky boots to meetings. They are comfortable with themselves, and with their professional positions. I used to be that way; I had navy blue hair when I got a perfect 5 rating for my job at Harvard. I want to get back to that place of comfort with myself. Not necessarily the hair (although I do miss having blue hair, it was a pain to keep up) but the level of self-comfort and self expression. I've told the husband I want to finally get the tattoo I've always wanted for my birthday. I've never been able to afford ink before, and now that I can indulge in the luxury of body modification, I plan to wear some art.

I look forward to going under the artist's needle with great glee. I've learned so much about myself these past few years, and I have become settled enough to commit to permanent ink.

Friends have helped me learn a lot lately. I had one of those big reveals in the past few weeks about friendships. Most of the best friendships I have are often distant, with visits at most once a month, and sometimes only once a year or so. In the past couple of years I was concerned about this pattern of visitation, but now I have found great joy in distance.

Who are my friends? What does that word mean to me, now that I'm getting on 30, and have a baby?

My friends are those with whom I get along because we give each other the space to grow and learn and change. When I was in college, friendship was all about getting as close as possible with someone. Now that I have grown into the next stage of my life, friendship is about accepting the time and space between people. It's about having lived enough to recognize the stages of life and the room we all need to move from one way of thinking and seeing without friction.

The people whose friendships I value most understand that right now, sometimes it's enough to just be around each other only every once in a while. Deep discussion is wonderful and needed from time to time, but right now we need to be off on our own learning. Discussion of things we learned/texts we enjoyed to follow.

That's what friends are; the people who will hold hands with you (but understand that this can be done at a distance) as everything, including yourselves, change. I used to think that my lack of constant socialization these past few years was lamentable; now I realize it's just a sign of maturity.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


It's mid-July in Atlanta, and we didn't have a good cold winter this year. So the misquitoes are out in full force, biting welts as big as a nickle should I be so bold as to water my tomatoes at dusk or dawn. So far I have managed to keep the bugs away from the baby, but I dread the inevitable appearance of her first bite.

In mid-summer here the sun is bright and fierce and everything will break down: our air conditioner, the dead small animals in the roadway, communication amongst difficult parties, the temperment of tested children and relatives. My computer broke last week after my sisters used it for MySpace, and the site overloaded my PC with spyware and adware. This has cemented my opinion that MySpace is of the devil, and also that I am old. I love every new shiny internet toy, from friendster to Lj to wikipedia. But now I'm old, because I dislike MySpace.

My sisters visit; my friends visit; we visit with extended family. I don't know what else to say about July, other than that I'm working and caring for my household. I wish I was more interesting this month. I'm not.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Returning from Maternity Leave

Libraries and Maternity Leave
With Devon and Alestar on the side

I returned to my archives work at Comfortable U. last week. I can't believe I was so naive as to think that going on maternity leave wouldn't affect my work, or how people perceive me as a professional. I have been profoundly disappointed to discover that now I am no longer expected to be the best I can be at my job, and that my boss has effectively tried to bench me from big projects.

The week before I returned from leave I emailed out meeting requests to my co-workers, along with my new work availability. The Library Director (L. D.) didn't respond. I emailed and called her the Friday before my return to try and set an appointment again. No answer. The L. D. then sort of dodged me for the next two days while I was back, again neither answering emails or phone calls. I had a meeting Tuesday afternoon, for a project I've been working on since November. At the meeting it turns out that the L. D. changed key components of the project while I was away. Everyone in the meeting knew about the changes but me. I was horribly embarrassed in front of co-workers and project team members. I think that was the L. D.'s intention. When I tried to talk to her about how I was embarrassed, and tried to ask for better communication, she stated that she didn't *ever* have to email me or call me if she didn't want to. The next morning, she cited me for insubordination.

I went out and bought a digital recorder. I'm now recording all of our meetings. The L. D. has terrified me into worrying that I could be fired at any moment; again, I think that was her goal. A person with an infant on staff is a liability, and worse, she's made it clear through side comments and actions that she thinks women with small babies should be at home. Never mind that my husband quit his job to take care of Dot full time. I spent most of last week sick to my stomach about work.

I woke up this morning dreaming about working at Borders again. If the bookstore had been able to pay me more, I never would have gone to grad school at all. I always had a good work environment at Waldenbooks and Borders; in fact, I still keep in touch with a number of old co-workers there, and sometimes when I'm in Nashville I stop in and say hi to my old bosses. I also had good working relationships with my bosses and supervisors in Boston, enough that I keep up e-mail correspondence with Jack, who taught me loads about library work. I'm still looking for that kind of good management here in Atlanta.

I shouldn't worry so much about this kind of stuff. Most people dislike what they do, and I actually love the *work* part of being an archivist and librarian. I even like sitting my shifts at the reference desk (although to be fair, I should mention they're short shifts). Most people have some sort of friction at the workplace. There's no mythical workplace Shangri-La where everyone gets along and all is lovely routine. If there were such a workplace, the lottery wouldn't be so damn popular.

Devon and Erin came to visit last week. Aisling came with them, wearing her bunny ears and hiding on my staircases with books. As always with visits from Devon or Erin, they brought with them a surge of tremendous creative energy. We ended up sitting around and talking about how in the past three years none of us has been satisfied with our creative output. We all decided it was because we'd been squished; Devon and Erin both had a horrid writing professor at UTK who tried to get everyone to sound like Hemingway, and that squished their ability to write; I had the peer reviewer from hell at my other job, and that squished my ability to write. We're all of us trying to regain the joy of writing, and none of us quite knows how. We're all devoted to trying to get the joy back.

Erin showed me a picture, a white page with the beginnings of a sketch of moutains on it. Just gray lines, the ghost of an idea of mountains. "This is where I broke down." she said. And she told me a story about sitting in a cafe in Italy, and how she looked at the mountains and instead of enjoying them all she could think was: "What can I produce from this?". And that's when she broke down she said, because all she could think about was product, and turning her experiences into something. She wasn't enjoying Italy or traveling because all she could think about was using the experience to produce a product.

She pointed to the page with the ghost of a mountain drawing on it. "This is where we are." she said.

That's where I am.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Class issues revisited


Maybe I'll Quit

My subtitle last week never got fulfilled. What I wanted to say about class never got written last week because I was all bunched-up and angry still at myself and the old roomies. But let me tell you about class, as I see it now -

When I was a kid and my parents moved me to (what was then) a rural factory town half an hour outside of Nashville, I suddenly became rich. It wasn't that my parents suddenly had more money or anything; it was simply that they had bought their first house, a small but new-ish thing covered in aluminum siding in a subdivision, one that possessed a generous front and back yard. When I went to school in this community, I discovered that I was relatively well off compared to my classmates. After all, I had clothes from stores in Nashville that they had never visited. As a teen, I was the first to have a Nintendo Gameboy, and my Junior year my parents bought me a little black and white television of my very own for my room. In a community where WIC rules were taught in the parenting class and most kids had no intention of going to college, I was considered well off.

My husband grew up in a far more affluent community just inside the Nashville city limits. His family traveled the world with him as a little boy, and he saw India, Egypt, and Japan all before the age of 13. He attended a very prestigious prep school, and would, over several years, ask his mother more than once if they were rich. Her answer was always to No. While I and my friends in the rural factory town would certainly have considered my husband's family rich, my mother-in-law did not think so, because she was looking at an entirely different group of people whom she considered to be wealthy.

My mother-in-law grew up surrounded by horses, and became a rider in horse shows in her youth. She rode horses in competition for wealthy horse breeders and owners, and so, to her, she wasn't rich because in her professional life she was surrounded by people who could afford to own the most luxurious pets of all, pedigreed horses. Some of these people not only traveled the world, but might own vacation homes in other countries as well.

My husband and I, we are not as well off as his parents, but we are more well off than my parents. By the standards of many in the world, we are wrapped in luxury. But to me, luxury means that I have been able to stay home for my unpaid maternity leave for the whole 12 weeks. I am certain that most families I know could not afford 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. I think of myself as middle-class, but who doesn't? I am sure that my mother law thinks she is middle-class, and that many of the kids in that factory town who had never seen a dentist thought they were middle class too.

Why do I think so much about class issues? What does it matter, really? I suppose ever since I went to Boston - ever since I went from walking around Murfreesboro, dirt-ass poor, to walking around the Harvard campus still dirt-ass poor but surrounded by a kind of wealth that I had never seen - I've been changed. I can't look at the world and not think about class divisions and comparisons. You can't go from using the foodbank because you can't feed yourself to eating at 4 star restaurants all within a space of less than a decade without creating some kind of schism in your head.

I bring all this up because I know that many of my friends now think I'm wealthy. I might well be wealthy one day, but I don't think I am today. Of course, it all depends on where you're standing when you think about these things.

Within a few hours of writing my last post, I realized how bitter I sounded when talking about the last few years. While I didn't take the post down after reviewing it (I have done so to other writings I didn't like in the past, only to suffer from deletion regret), this did kick off a series of thoughts about stopping this blog.

I've considered quitting blogging only once seriously in the past - that was right around the time I got married. Of course, the one time I let the blog sit fallow for a month was the time I won an award, and this blog got more traffic than it's ever seen. Devon has recently taken down all of her old blogs and journals; you can't see the livejournal entry where she writes about this, and about becoming a new person every seven years, because now she's only blogging behind a livejournal friendslock. Maybe it's time to quit this show. I've been blogging for one year less than Devon - I am almost a completely different person, cell by cell, than I was six years ago. Or maybe I should keep up this blog for just one more year to make the seven year cycle complete. I feel sort of defeated by open access blogging. The truth is that I've been cheating on this blog with my livejournal for almost three years, and I can poinpoint where this journal got less fun and livejournal got more interesting almost exactly. Livejournal gives one far more positive social feedback, and because one can friendslock entries - hide them behind a lock with selective access - sometimes I am torn over what to write there and what to write here. The livejournal was just supposed to be for writing about my pop culture obsessions and collecting links. Now it's more about who I am than this blog.

Maybe personal blogging is dead. It certainly isn't as fashionable as it once was, with people being mentioned in Newsweek and the phenomenon getting academic study. Nowadays, blogging is what you do for your workplace project, and even that's considered kind of tired. Next week I return to work, and soon I'll have to start thinking about writing professionally (publish or perish, it's called). I hate professional writing, ever since that job where my boss used to nit-pick every damn word I wrote. This blog is, and has, been, a great pressure-release valve for things I'd like to do or say. I can talk about rude subjects and over-use hyphens here and there's not a damn person who can make me stop. So maybe I'll go on just a little bit longer.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Long walks past and present
Class issues and friends revisited

I'm back to taking long walks through the neighborhood and parks again, now that I've recovered from having Dot. Earlier this week I decided to retrace my steps to old rental places in the neighborhood. I've lived here for three years now, and the walk down old familiar lanes was triggered by contact from a past acquaintance in Tennessee, Carl. Carl was looking for my old roomies, and I knew how to find them, even though we haven't spoken in since everything went so, so badly. After contacting the past room mates, Carl asked if I wanted him to pass along my information. I said, if they ask for it, OK.

Later I thought better of my answer. I tried to picture talking with my old roomies, and I couldn't see the conversation, I couldn't figure out what we would talk about. Still, it's not like I don't wonder what they're up to some times. In particular, I miss the roomie with whom I had shared my Freshman college year. I felt weird and conflicted, so I decided to walk back to our old rental house and figure out my frame of mind regarding people who were my friends for nearly a decade before we learned to hate each other. I hadn't been back to the house we shared since I moved away, but I've stayed within the same five or six blocks in Inman Park/Little 5 Points this whole time, so it's not like I don't pass by the place occasionally. I went down to the old place and walked up the steps, around the side, and to the back yard. It's a pretty huge rental house with more than one unit, so I figured if anyone saw me I could just say I was waiting around for a friend. I sat in my old back yard right next to Mr. Puck's grave, and thought on how much had changed in my life since the day I moved into this neighborhood three years ago.

Some things haven't changed; the owners of that rental property on Austin Avenue are still negligent, the bushes full of trash and the pond out back still dark and muddy. Mr. Puck's grave now has a small flowering tree planted over it, where neighbors are trying to screen out the badly maintained rental property. I don't mind that there's a tree over Mr. Puck now. I petted the leaves, wondering how much of my cat was in there.

My situation in life has changed so much in three years. It used to that I had emergencies all the time; a nail in my tire could once leave me scrambling to pay the bills, but three years of solid, well paying jobs have cleared me of that hurdle. The process begun when I went away to grad school is now complete; I'm white collar, and reasonably comfortable. I have no illusions that marrying well helped me along in this, but I'm certain I'd own a home and have a baby by now even if I hadn't married at all.

I've finally got the job I always wanted, working in a university library as an Archivist and Special Collections librarian. I have a husband who adores me, a healthy baby, and I can pay my bills on time. While we only have one car and don't go on all the trips we'd like too, it's because we choose to live within our means. I couldn't ask for a happier home life. I have achieved all the goals I set for myself when I moved here. I have achieved all the goals I set for myself when I went to grad school. I live in the place of my choosing with my sister just blocks away, and more success than I dared dream of.

So, sitting in that place, that backyard, I suddenly found I had to ask myself why I keep pushing myself to do better, both professionally and personally, while I seem to have gone backwards in the close friends department.

I am trying to further my professional reputation by working hard on exhibits and collections, and by being more active in my professional groups. I could just sit back and enjoy my job quietly; no need to risk my reputation by sticking my neck out, trying to be forward. I am constantly trying to think of ways to help my sisters. My mother is much better at helping them now that she's away from my father, and our new step-father has been nothing but supportive and kind, going out of his way to help both of my sisters. I needn't be so involved now, especially now that I've got my own baby to worry over. Why am I willing to keep pushing work and family boundaries, but when it comes to friends I'm so willing to let go?

Aside from not speaking to the old roomies for two and a half years (for very good reasons), I've been letting a number of friends drift from me since the pregnancy. I can tell the whole mommy thing makes them uncomfortable, and, well, there are only a handful of friendships I've been putting the work into since the whole falling out on Austin Avenue. As I sat in that backyard, I realized that the roomie falling out had made me kind of bitter; that winter in the rental house had been the beginning of me officially Not Giving A Shit about a number of friendships. I realized I was still hanging onto some of the hurt and anger generated in that house. I'm not ready, I don't think, to talk to the old roomies. I don't know if I'll ever be ready. I accept that I was just as bad in that situation as they were; while I'll never be able to forget some of the horrible things that one of the roomies said to me, I doubt he'll ever be able to forgive me for photoshopping him into Bush's visit to England. Oh, well. When given verbal abuse, I repaid in ridicule. I used to get so angry with him, and the way he behaved, that I would go into my room and shake with anger. There's no coming back from that kind of situation. I don't think it's the kind of thing one gets over.

I hope the old roomies are happy and well. I hope they're successful, and that they have a comfortable home and space that makes them content. I hope everything has gone as well for them as it has for me; I hope they've accomplished their goals. But I could no more pretend that I could go back to that friendship than I could pretend to be in the place professionally and personally that I was three years ago.

I'm sorry that our friendship got fucked up. I'm sorry that it made me trust people a little bit less, that the roomie experience was so bad that I quit letting people get that close to me, friendship-wise. I'm sorry that I know the old roomies check this blog from time to time and are likely to read this. No; wait; I'm not sorry. I do wish them well. Maybe in another three years I won't sound so bitter over the whole thing, and I'll be back to making and keeping friends in the way that I used to, with ease and grace and an ability to let people in and plan big dinners and brunches.

Soon Tony and Andrew, two other old friends, will be moving to Atlanta. I will never let the kind of things that happened with the roomies happen with them. But then, I don't think we'd ever get to that point with each other anyway. A problem as big as the one I had on Austin Avenue takes two people who work against each other to truly get off the ground.

I don't think I'll ever need to visit the old rental house again.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Local Politics

I feel uninteresting and boring lately; my days are filled with playing and caring for my new daughter, who certainly fascinates and delights me, but doesn't do anything really blogworthy. We have a healthy, happy baby girl who is about eight weeks old. And that's my main concern right now.

Other than that, I've gotten wrapped up in neighborhood politics. Last Christmas i got myself elected to our condo board, and the work has been frustrating if necessary. Our converted warehouse boarders a nasty urban brownlot full of trash, kudzu, weeds, and a vandalized trailer. The negligent owner of this blighted property says he'll clean up his trash when he gets permission to build on the lot. I, and a lot of other neighbors, are committed to making it as hard as possible for this guy to build because he's such a dishonest and unfriendly person. In addition to being a negligent land owner, he was also successfully prosecuted for fraud in a previous building endevour in our neighborhood.

Fighting the bad landowner means that I have to attend a condo board meeting once a month and keep up with my neighbors and some emails. I and the husband also now attend some meetings of the Inman Park Homeowner's Association. While it's nice to meet the other people whose homes boarder the brownlot, I also find the whole thing to be a giant headache. At least I'm new to the fight; evidently negotiations with this landowner have been going on for nearly a decade. The trash in the lot behind my house has been there for at least five years. It's obscene and absurd and just part of living in the city, I guess.

Our friends Tony and Andrew - Dot's Godparents, in fact - are moving down to Atlanta next month and I couldn't be happier about that. Skeet called this morning and will be visiting over Labor Day weekend. Our friends continue to draw nearer to us, and I am hoping that everyone will continue to settle here in the neighborhood. One of the midwives who helped with Dot lives within walking distance of me. I like walking around and running into my sister, her friends, our friends, the guy from the bank, our neighbors - I like bumping into people I know while just being out. We're lucky to live in a place like that. We're lucky, and I know this is true.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Home Dreaming

The Inman Park yearly festival has come and gone again, and this year was the first year I really got to enjoy it the way I'd always wanted. In the past I had always had family or work comittments that either took away my time or made me too tired to go out to see the parade and peek into the homes on the home tour. This year is different, this year is better. This year the husband and I took Dot out in her baby sling and met our friend Amy for lunch, and then we watched the parade.

I love my neighborhood; along with the local High School bands and politicians up for office, my neighborhood has a parade that highlights all the things that make Atlanta great. Marching alongside the conventional parade regulars were drag queens in masses of feathers, Klingons on custom motorbikes, war protesters of various stripes, a Harry Potter fanclub, a mass of neighborhood people dressed as superheroes just because they like superheroes, the local Youth Pride chapter, a crazy man with a placard informing us we were all going to hell, The Queen of Trash who rode atop the local garbage truck (it had been cleaned), The Queen of Little Five (who was massive and elicited reverential bows from the local punks), the local 'Possum Queen atop her opossum-mobile, The Sweet Potato Queen, and a local Homecoming Queen, who was the youngest of all the Queens by a good 30 years.

The husband took the baby home after that so Amy and I could have an afternoon out peeking inside homes open for the home tour. I had to go on the tour this year as a house on Austin/Lake Avenue near where I first rented was up for looking. When I first moved here one front corner of that house was held up by a car jack, and the rest was all crumbling at the edges. Today the house has been totally rebuilt as a dream home. We also took a look in some of the old mansions around the neighborhood. The husband and I joke all the time that we need to win the lottery so we can move three blocks from our warehouse...

It took me three days to get this posted; between breastfeeding and housework, I'm swamped. Happy, tired, and overwhemled, but in a way very different from how I feel when I'm overloaded in my professional work. Working at home is more difficult than working in an office. There is this dream that we all have, a dream of a lovely perfect house from a home tour, sparking clean. In that dream you stay at home all day helping your family and somehow everything is all relaxed. This is not reality. In reality, professional cleaners come and set the stage for those tours. In reality, I've got baby spit-up on me and my laundry isn't folded. In the dream, there are no clothes on the floor and we are all well rested and dinner is cooked every night. But still, I live in best of all real worlds - and soon we will have even more people I love best living near us.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Visiting and linking back

It's half past April already - I have hardly noticed the days passing since Dot arrived. We're still working out the circadian rythms, nights from days. Despite the lack of sleep, I have never been happier in my life than when I lay in our bed with my husband and baby. Easter has come and gone again; all we did this year was take my sister Sara out to eat at Mary Mac's on Ponce. The baby went too, and laid in her car seat carrier all asleep while we ate. Life is good and quiet right now - maybe too quiet - I am thinking about starting up creative projects again for the first time in four years.

I really don't have much to say this week; and so, being an archivist, I will take stock of my internet files, and see where I am since I started blogging in the fall of 2000, vs. how I think and feel and act today. Let us link back -

Five years ago today I had just finished my professional internship, and was focused on my grad program. Kinda boring.

Five years ago June, I announced I had big new plans for my life. I didn't say what they were at the time, but this was when I decided I really wanted to have kids before I turned 30. I will be 30 this October.

Four years ago today I was preparing to march in DC to protest the war. I had a lot of other stuff going on too. I'm still glad I went and marched in that protest, but it was the last big protest I attended. Watching the DC police manage the crowds made me more aware that the old protest style just doesn't work anymore. Call me cynical, but after the protests in 2002, I focused on making more money so I could donate to social causes. I tried working for a non-profit for a while to make a differance, and I did - but at a high cost to my personal life. I think I've paid my volunteer dues in full for a while, and now I push for change with my cash. The husband has recently talked about getting politically active again, and I might do that - the election cycle is coming around here in GA very soon. But I'll be focusing on local political change. I am now convinced that small local political change affects national politics more than most people realize.

Three years ago today I was getting used to being part of my family again. And thinking about babies. So really, not much change there, except that I am now far more comfortable around my family. Last week my grandmother came and stayed with us for several days to help out and play with the baby, and on Thursday Audrey and Laura and little Laura Kate came over to visit with Grandma and Dot and gave us a bunch of good baby clothes and blankets to use. I enjoy being around my family now and have managed to become relaxed around them. These things just take time.

Two years ago I didn't post about Easter; I was all wrapped up in my future husband. Also, I was starting to get burned out on the non-profit job, but struggling to stay positive about it. Things were coming together, and I was glad; I had no clue that in a few months I'd be engaged, and then married.

Last year we had just moved into the converted warehouse, and started trying for a baby. I was completely and totally exhausted from my work but proud and accomplished about the house and the rest of my life.

Today? Today I will put my new daughter into a baby sling and take her on her first walk through the neighborhood. I will walk down to the co-op grocery store to see my sister and to show off Dot's cuteness to our gocery store people and the pharmacist. Today I am enjoying my maternity leave and still loving living here, in Little 5, in Atlanta. I still have a good life. I hope you do, too.

Monday, April 03, 2006



Dot arrived last Thursday night at Emory Crawford-Long. After such a difficult pregnancy, everyone was surprised at the easy birth; she came out so fast the midwife had to catch her with just one glove on. I had been in labor for a day, but I only had to push for a few minutes.

Dot has a head of brown hair and big blue eyes. She's very alert, and very pink. The husband and I are very relieved. My sister Sara cut the cord, and we brought the baby home Saturday afternoon.

Breastfeeding is kind of complicated. We're working it out, Dot and I - learning together. You would think that if you have breasts and a baby these these would come together without effort, but that hasn't been the case yet. We get a little better at it every day.

I'm kind of tired, and busy cuddling with the new daughter and my husband. I'll write more next week.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Due Date

Since midnight I've been on that arbitrary date the medical profession calls a due date. Today is the best guess of the date I will start labor. I am doubtful. I am also very tired. I am also at work. I could go home and no one would fault me; but the idea of sitting around the house waiting for my uterus to contract in a meaningful way sounds tedious and boring beyond measure. Besides, it's just not me.

I woke up this morning in the middle of a nightmare. I dreamt that I had promised a lecture to my old Job That Ate My Life. I dreamt that for some reson I told them I would lecture today, on my due date, in Nashville. But of course I had promised to lecture on a topic that I knew but had never given before, and I didn't have my slides approved. I had no power point, no handouts for the students, and no idea why they were asking me to go to and from Nashville on my due date. So I took the train to my old office to try and sort the situation out, but when I got there the building was nearly abandoned; all the workers had left and the only people still there were too busy to deal with me. I thought about going into my old space and trying to cobble together a lecture from my old notes. When I got to my old cubicle, my former supervisor had gutted all my old notes and turned the notebooks into awful scrapbooks. I woke up confused.

Some time within the next week, I'll have a baby. This entry makes no sense. I make no sense. I know what comes next: labor, birth, 12 weeks of maternity leave, the husband quits his job, in the fall he starts law school. I continue along my career path, mounting exhibits and sorting through the lost letters and photographs of people long dead. Isn't it important to know what happened, so that we can try and imagine what comes next? I'm an archivist. I arrange, describe, learn, educate, I swim in the past but did you know chemistry is more important to my job than history? If the Ph balance is off in that paper, it's all for nothing, acids will eat our memories, photographs curl and fade, and the electric hum of the internet needs constant maintence in order to be readable.

That's what I would have said in my nightmare lecture, if I had been forced to give it. History is now chemical and electrical, just like your dreams. And just like your dreams, it's all about perception. I know what comes next, in my own personal chemistry. I just don't know when the hormones and water will release, when the specific nerve connections will fire, or for how long. I know that I am tired. I know I am typing nonsense. I know the hind parts of my brain dedicated to instinct will take over soon. I know I'll still be an individual when this is all over, but I will have a new and independant little person to help along for the next couple of decades.

I know everything will be just fine. I just don't know how much longer I get to be in this window, between the projected date of birth and the actual act. While I wait, I'll fight the decay of cultural memory. After all, that's my job.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Nashvillians in Atlanta

"[Tennessee]Senate Bill 3794 (House Bill 3798), legislation that would make it illegal to sell, advertise, publish or exhibit to another person any three-dimensional device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs. For that matter, if you offer to show someone your dildo collection, or possess a vibrator with the intent to show it to someone, you'd be violating this proposed state law.

The seventh set of Nashville stories

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18


In the past year and a half a number of Nashvillians I know have moved to Atlanta. The job market in Tennessee has always been tight, and, by my observation, only seems to be getting worse. The problem isn't unemployment, but underemployment. I always had to work two part time jobs there because I couldn't find a full time job in the service sector. The same is true today, and the problem seems to be growing as more local businesses are replaced with chain stores.

There's our friends Daniel and Raven, who bartend at the Fox. Recently they accepted another Nashville refugee, Cole, who is job seeking in Little 5. Both Raven and Daniel were able to get hired on, full time, in a job that was willing to train them in a skill that they can use to support themselves even if their current jobs at the Fox end. Daniel has used his year and a half here most wisely, and is now considering saving up money to follow his dreams to New York, where he'd like to work as a manager in an off-broadway playhouse. Daniel is a former theater major, and all he's ever wanted to do is work behind the scenes at theaters. He's thriving here. His other roomies are less complacent, but I have hope they'll find their place here before too long.

Then there's my sister, who has for the past 6 months worked at a vegetarian grocery store and has been trained there as a Vegan cook. She's thinking about culinary school now. Her job will be giving her health care benefits soon, something an 18 year old in the Nashville job market scarcely dream of. Likewise, a friend of my sister's moved down here last month with $300 in her pocket after months of struggling to get her bosses in Nashville to give her more than 25 hours a week. Within two weeks the friend had a full time hostess job at a local restaurant that begged her to work overtime when another employee quit - to go to an even better job!

I worry about the 10,000 Bell South employees that will be laid off here in Atlanta with the AT&T merger, and how that will affect our good job market. There are plenty of jobs here on the low end of the service sector for sure - if you want to work in a restaurant, hotel, or bar, your prospects are good in Atlanta. I'm more worried about the white collar workers. We were able to absorb so many people from New Orleans in the past year with scarcely an eyeblink, thanks to the aggressive expansion into tourism. But we need more jobs in the mid-level for people with kids - jobs in banking and other markets to replace those lost telecom slots and the ever shrinking Delta job pool. I'm curious to see how long the good job market lasts here. Curious and hopeful, for both a place a love and people I want to see succeed.

Heck, even Dust had an interview down here in the past week, down at our excellent puppet museum. He is planning to move here even if the job doesn't come through, because he feels the job market will allow him to find something theater related.


My in-laws drove down from Nashville last weekend to help us make the house ready for the baby. Our converted warehouse needed some spaces walled off. We made a pantry under the stairs, fixed my broken curtain rod over the laundry area, and even made spaces to keep the cat boxes hidden under the stairs as well.

The husband and his father also spent an entire day in the urban brown lot next to our warehouse shifting trash away from our building, where it was causing drainage problems. The irresponsible landowner next door keeps his lot junky, in part because he is angry the neighborhood won't allow him to build crappy duplexes there. The neighborhood wants single-unit family dwellings, and it's their right to use every Atlanta law on the books to block a man who has lost several lawsuits over his past construction projects.

My father-in-law was impressed by the quality of "construction trash" people just left laying around in Atlanta. I suspect he chucked several pieces of wood and pipe and plastic sheeting in the back of his pickup truck before he left. He just couldn't believe anyone would leave such treasure laying around. Most of the city mystifies and frustrates him. He didn't believe me when I told him it was illegal to leave your dog in a parked car here (I didn't try to explain how dangerous this is to dogs, because he wouldn't have believed that either).

The weekend ended with me nervously gripping the bottom of the pickup truck passenger seat as my very rural father-in-law rode down Peachtree Street at 15 mph, in the middle of two lanes, gawking at things as I tried to direct him to Cafe Intermezzo. The husband and his mother were following us in another car, and thank god, because I was sure that at any moment we might get plowed by an actual Atlanta driver. We did manage to convince the father-in-law that next time they drive down they should come in the mother-in-law's sedan instead of the truck, and that valet parking was perfectly safe. He remains irritated at the idea of not being able to park his own car.

My father-in-law was also confused by my method of dealing with racial jokes. He kept trying to make me laugh by telling me a joke about black drivers, but I just acted really stupid and kept saying "What?", and "But that guy over there isn't driving like that", and "I don't get it" and such, pretending to be totally uncomprehending until he gave up and stopped trying to tell the racist joke. I taught myself this method for dealing with people of his generation after long years of hearing much the same from my Grandfather. I love the older men in my life, and pretending that they're speaking a foreign language is easiest way around their nasty old jokes. I'm really, really glad my in-laws are so helpful. I'm also really relieved they live four hours away.


The baby will be here around the end of the month, and that will add one more to the Atlanta population, someone who is actually from here. But the numbers of people moving here from somewhere else are staggering. One of my midwives and two of the other couples in our birthing group are from the west coast. They all live on my side of town. Then there are all the Nashvillians I haven't mentioned who want to move here, but are scared to jump out of the relatively secure jobs they might have back in Tennessee.

My friends Tony and Andrew, the baby's Godparents, are the friends I most want to see get a chance at Atlanta. Andrew even works for Coca-Cola, and started chasing job prospects back in December. We are all rooting for Andrew, because he deserves to work for big Coca-Cola, and he's ready for that next income boost in his career. Plus, I want the baby's support network to be as big as possible.

I have to chase down Skeet and try to convince him again. I consider my friends V. and his new wife to be likely Atlanta prospects as V. also works for a corporation with a regional headquarters here in town. I am working on wooing as many people as I can to my area. Part of this is selfish. Part of this is because Tennessee scares me anymore, when I am there. The Southern Baptist Convention believes in theocracy as a viable form of government, and they are based in Nashville. Here in Atlanta I live between the crazy old hippies in Lake Claire and the crazy old civil rights preachers in Sweet Auburn. Jimmy Carter, both literally and figuratively, has got my back. I feel safe and a little insulated from the political neo-con waves here.

I have managed to successfully nest in Little 5. I have my sister three blocks away in one direction, the bartender guys three blocks in another direction. Then I have my sister's friends 4 blocks away, which I still count as support network. I have joined my condo association board to try and improve our property. I am helping more friends move here, and they are benefiting from the city I love. I am raising a family here, and it is better than Nashville in all respects I care about. I think my mother will leave Nashville in the next decade, and most likely move somewhere here in Georgia.

You should, too.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Winter is over

I'm going ahead and annoucing that winter is over here in Atlanta, even though I know this annoucement will come back and bite me in the ass. We never got our once-a-year snow day here this year; it was a winter of cold rains with no relief of having school or work closed because of ice. Still, when I stepped outside yesterday to the 69 degree bright and sunny day, the fruit trees were starting to bloom and there was the unmistakable air of spring about everything.

At my house we closed off the dark cold season with a horrible round of bronchitis. I was put on bed rest for three days and told that if I got dehydrated I'd end up in early labor, and so I was to drink a gallon of water every 12 hours. The husband stayed home with me to watch me worriedly as I faded in and out of nasty coughing spells and drugged sleep. We had to take my tempreture every hour or so to make sure I didn't get too hot for the baby. The husband ended up getting the same sickness himself, and is still at home in bed with the sweaty mess. Our baby was generally imprevious, rolling around in my stomach, annoyed by the change in daily routine sickness brought. A trip to the midwives Thursday night gave me the breifest of last ultrasound glimpses at the person who we'll meet at the end of the month. I saw only the top of my firstborn's head, and the midwife's sigh of relief:

"Plenty of water in there, and the baby's head is down. Look at that nice, round head!"

Strong heartbeat, lots of movement, and I had even managed to gain a pound despite sickness. The baby will be here in less than a month now, and I have become boring because I can write of little else. The husband worries a lot about delivery; I don't. I worry about bringing the baby home more than labor. Labor only lasts a number of hours. Having the baby home lasts 20 years or so, and the first bit is going to be the most challenging. Everything will be different, once again. Of course I am terrified and excited all at the same time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Glitter Fabulous and Gone

Last month the Disco Diner closed here in Atlanta. It was one of those things I always thought about when I thought of this town - a strange purple and white A-frame sitting on the corner of North and Juniper, serving breakfast at all hours. A decade ago, this was Atlanta for me - driving down to shop for things you couldn't get in Nashville, watching drag and dancing at Backstreets, people watching at the Disco Diner. Atlanta always seemed to be a midnight place full of drunkeness and fun and greasy food, a place where the glitter fabulous from all over the South washed up at 4a.m. because, well, where else would you be at 4am? It's not like we had much by way of alternative; no, if you were from any of the four surrounding states, Atlanta was the midnight party destination you fought to find gas money for.

Sure, the techno/disco/glamrock Atlanta of a decade ago was pretty gay. Some of my friends were gay, but not the majority of us. We drove to the gay venues of Atlanta for the same reason our Grandparents drove here to go to black venues 50 years earlier. Because our own culture and clubs were boring as hell, and all the good artistic breakthroughs in a society happen in the margins of what is considered acceptable. I guess in 2006, where one of the top-grossing movies out is Brokeback Mountain, that it's just time the glitter-fabulous Atlanta moved on to that great party graveyard in the sky. Boys kissing on the dance floor can't be as thrilling to younger kids as it was to me; they've seen it all already. And I am soon to be thirty, and heavily pregnant. I'm not allowed to be edgy and cool anymore.

The Atlanta I knew from my young adulthood is gone. The laws passed a little over a year ago restricting bars and personal smoking habits in public places have closed Backstreets and, by extension, now the Disco Diner and a bunch of other places that catered to the after midnight crowd. Some venues have re-opened in The Underground, and maybe right now there's a younger version of me rhapsodizing about how wonderful Atlanta is after a night of partying there. I can devote a little time to eulogizing it here, but honestly, the baby kicks so much now that I can't even plan a farewell party for a time that I loved. Years ago, the death of glitter-fabulous would have been an occasion for a theme.

I should not complain about the city changing so much when I have changed as well. One of my core beliefs used to be "work hard, play harder", by which I meant that I would work on 10 hour, 12 hour workday binges for a couple of weeks at a stretch, and then crash for a few days or maybe even a week into a few days and nights of parties. This strategy got me great grades and a shiny Master's degree and I was happy for a while. But on this day last year - Valentine's Day, for chrissakes - I was in GoddamnMiami working instead of at home for my first Valentines with my new husband. I booked that business trip because I felt manipulated into it by a supervisor who thought Valentine's was a stupid day. And I remember sitting in a hotel room by myself wondering how I ended up in Miami, a city I hate more than any other, when I should have been at home curled around my husband. It was insane, the misplaced priorities of a workaholic. I will admit that the excesses of my glitter-fabulous times in Atlanta were destructive. But the alcohol, the weed, the excessive sex were all easy to give up as my body got older and started to object to rough treatment.

The excessive work? I have yet to entirely kick the habit. But I'm getting better now at saying no to projects that would increase my prestige but run me ragged. I will be home on time from work for Valentine's this year. The husband and I will go to a restaurant that we normally don't allow ourselves to afford, and I will be at home curled up with the love of my life by 10 pm. If my dreams are sprinkled with glitter dust and rememberances of hair dyes past, it is because I spent my younger days well, and I am glad I live here near where I have always been most happy.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Another tooth gone

I lost another tooth yesterday; it was the companion, way in the back, to the one I had taken out in October of 2003. I now have the same bridle gap in the back of my mouth that a horse does. I probably spent about 4 grand between 1997 and yesterday trying to save that one tooth; add in the cost of its brother tooth and you might come up with a figure closer to ten grand spent over a period of 9 years trying to correct problems caused by poverty and bad dentistry and worse advice.

It's nearly over now; a little more tylenol, a few weeks of healing, a follow-up visit to remove the stitches, and 9 years of badness will be gone, with only a smooth place of healed flesh quietly resting in the back of my head to prove it all ever happened. Those smooth hollows along my top jaw will serve as a private reminder of how bad things were for a long, long time.

It's like this:

In October of 1997 I was 21, and had just landed my first stable full time job in years, working at a book store in Antioch, TN. I lived in Murfreesboro in a rental house on Bell Street with my first fiance. He was going to school full time and I was working and for the first time in a long time it seemed like everything would be all right, like everything could get better.

I woke up one night with an amazing toothache. We had no insurance and no extra money. It would take 4 weeks for me to see the local free clinic dentist. I chewed ibuprofen, aspirin, anything I could get my hands on that whole time. And then the dentist, when I got in, told me that one of my teeth needed to come out and its brother needed a root canal, but he couldn't work on me that day because all the pain killers I'd been eating had lowered my platelet count.

I made the appointment to loose my teeth. I couldn't afford a root canal; the tooth removal, because it is life-threatening, is free. When I got in the car and told my finace, I laughed and cried at the same time. I felt like we had hit rock-bottom poverty. I thought of loosing teeth and I thought of the gap-toothed brown smiles of Waffle House waitresses, of homeless people, of the indigent southern dirt poverty I had been fighting my whole life. Losing my teeth was like admitting to myself the truth of my life: I was poor,and I was gonna stay that way. There seemed like no way out of scratching just enough pay to buy food and cover the rent. My fiance and I decided to tell my parents, hoping they could help out. Thanksgiving was only a few days away.

November, 1997: My parents yell and scream in my fiance's face while I'm away. My Grandfather blames him for everything that's ever been wrong. I'm not there; I'm working at the bookstore while all this happens, the day after Thanksgiving. When we drive home together later that day he sits down on the bed, looks at me, and says "I can't take your family. They're awful."

Later that night my Grandfather drives to our house and lectures, no, preaches at us for an hour about how if I have that tooth pulled, it's a sign that my whole life is a failure.

By the time the holidays are over, so is my engagement. This has as much to do with my fiance as my family.

1998: The split with my fiance leaves me effectively homeless and carless. I survive the next 8 months sleeping at my parents house a few nights each week, and by relying on friends. I apply for a grant through my book store company. The company does *not* provide dental benefits, but they have a charitable arm that grants help to those in need; my grant is accepted, and I go to the only dentist in walking distance from my parent's house. The dentist turns out to be incredibly bad. I have two root canals, and both go rotten because she fails to clear out the infections, and should never have been doing root canals. I do make it back into school and dorm living by the fall, but only because of the intervention of my Great Aunt Beth. The pain in my mouth that year was a phenomenal low hum of a pulsing underbeat that drove me, every minute of every day, to focus on working my way out of the incredible pit I was in.

1999: My mother takes me to her dentist, who is disgusted at what the bad dentist has done to my mouth. He advises me to sue for malpractice and reports the bad dentist to his professional board. I don't sue; I threaten to sue and get all the grant money back. I start using the grant money to go to an oral surgeon in Murfreesboro, who, the first time he sees me, sits back and says: "Dear God. I am so, so sorry." I don't have enough money to fix all my problems, just to clean out the infections and get temporary crowns in place. My dad at first says he'll help, but visits to the oral surgeon end after the first time dad doesn't pay. I am embarrassed; the oral surgeon takes my dad to court for non-payment. The work is solid, and the temporaries will hold for years.

Spring, 2002: For the first time I have dental insurance through my job at Harvard. The minute it is switched on, I start going to an oral surgeon once a week, every week. She cleans out the infections again. She takes off the old temps and puts on new temps. I run out of money again, but unlike my dad, I pay for everything.

2003: The minute I have dental insurance again, I go to the best cosmetic oral surgeon in town. He's used to dealing with people who have been in car wrecks and worse; he is the first person to look in my mouth and say: "Well, that's not so bad, really." In October, he removes the tooth that had been reccomended for removal in the first consultation in 1997. The tooth was cracked all the way to the root, he said, and never could have healed. In December, I eat corn chips for the first time in 6 years.

2004: The process of root canals begins. By now I need many. In September I marry my husband, who has never known before he met me how hard it is to pay for basic dental care. I warn him before we are married that I have to help take care of my sisters.

2005: A cyst is removed from the root of the brother tooth. The dentist crowns it but warns me that it may not heal entirely. The operation takes 6 hours, and I am not sedated because I am trying to get pregnant. I do get pregnant; I also get Hyperemesis, which is caused by an abnormally high amount of progesterone in my blood. The progesterone affects my gums, amongst other things. The dental hygenist tells me my gums look like hamburger meat when I go in for an evaluation. My husband pays not only for my dental treatments this year, but also for those of my 18-year-old sister. Her dental problems add up to over $6,000 by the end of the year. It seems that after dad had his little run-in with my oral surgeon in Murfreesboro, he quit taking any of his children to the dentist. My sister had black holes in her teeth, including the ones in the front of her mouth. The oral surgeon shakes his head and gives us about $1,000 in free treatment on her. We've got weak enamel in our family.

2006, yesterday: The second tooth from that 1997 free dentist visit is removed. I'm in my third trimester, and manage to control my blood pressure through the whole operation, which impresses the technician there to evaluate me to no end. Everyone in the office is so surprized and please that I can control my breathing and heart rate while having a tooth pulled. I shrug and smile at them, and manage to croak out "Yoga" after the procedure.

It's not Yoga. It's just that I know I can make it through anything. The pain - it's not so much. While 9 years ago I was upset to think of losing a tooth, today I am merely relieved that it's over. The dentist says he'll set me up to get implants after the baby comes. Yo know what? I don't know that I want them. When I touch the vacant pocket of flesh with my tounge, it reminds me of all the bad times. It reminds me of nights of pain and poverty I made it through to get where I am today. From rock-bottom to white collar. Now? Now I just hope the baby gets my husband's teeth. Strong and bright and looked-after.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Skeet Should Call Me, Again

This weekend marks the last weekend I'll be traveling to Nashville for a while. I've managed to lose my friend Skeet's cell phone number again; he should leave a message in the guestbook here (which I will erase right away) with some sort of contact information.

Last weekend the husband and I made my last plane flight for a while. We flew to McAllen, Texas, a border town where my Great Aunt Beth lives. We walked across the border to Mexico twice, and ate fabulous food. You can get the best baked Alaska in Mexico, if you know where to go. You can also buy a bottle of Tequila shaped like a pistol, and some nifty hand-blown glassware. It was a nice trip; only once did the heat and dust get to me. Aunt Beth had a hard time with all the women who had babies and were begging in the street. I had a hard time with that too. I always do.

On the flight back, I sat directly in front of a screaming infant. There were two other unhappy toddlers on the flight as well. I think the universe put me on that flight for a reason; and that reason was to convince me that it's not a good idea to fly with infants and persons under the age of 3 if you can help it at all. It's a lesson I'm taking seriously.

My last trip in this last trimester of preganancy will be up to Nashville for MLK weekend and baby showers. After that, if Nashville peeps want to see me in the next 6 or 8 months, they'll have to drive down here.