She’s 5

My baby girl turned 5 today. Five whole years old.

My birthday wish for her this year is freedom. I would give anything for her to have the freedom to be her authentic self without a pandemic and an inept government holding her back.

Five. It needs a better world. It deserves a better world.

Into the Unknown…

Today, my parents delivered breakfast from a favorite spot, and we all ate in my back yard while maintaining as much “social distance” as we could. Fortunately, our yard is big enough to accommodate that, but I don’t know right from wrong anymore. A month ago, I would have told them absolutely not, but now—well, now we’ve all been living in fear of the air we breathe for two months and it’s taking its toll. So pancakes in the back yard it is.

When they were leaving, Charlotte looked at my dad and said, “I wish I could give you a hug and a kiss, but I can’t.” Their car pulled out of the driveway and she curled into us and sobbed those big heaving sobs that make your heart hurt for them.

She sees them and she interacts with them, but she feels the disconnect—the fear of the unknown. She needs to feel her people and she needs them to feel her.

This was supposed to be her last year at her preschool. She was accepted to the school we wanted her to go to for kindergarten, and we have been SO excited. I was looking forward to all of the end-of-preschool festivities, and the new parent/student orientations. She was going to go to summer camp at her new school so she could get to know the kids and the teachers before the school year starts. Now, none of that is happening. Is she really supposed to start kindergarten online? What does that even look like? I feel like we’d do better with an official homeschool program that we manage ourselves, but then she may lose her spot at this school for first grade.

I have never done well with unknowns. A few weeks of unknowns felt reasonable. A few months of unknowns felt challenging, but manageable. More than that, though? More months? A year? Two?

I read a dystopian YA book years ago about a young girl navigating a changing world as the earth’s orbit slowed and the days and nights grew longer and longer. There was really never a resolution. There was no happy ending. There was no dramatic ending. Everyone’s lives just continued on in the face of a new world, and people adapted however they possibly could. Nothing would ever be the same, and the changes society was making to try to make the new world livable were probably not sustainable beyond a generation or two. It felt so unsatisfying to put that book down because everything just was. No answers. No solutions. They just kept going on with their grim reality.

That story has been haunting me ever since this began. I need a better ending to this. I need solutions and answers and the ability to hope that someday we’ll see some semblance of “normal” again. I need to know that my daughter will run freely with her friends. I need to know that we’ll celebrate birthdays and graduations and births and deaths alongside the people we love most in the world. I need more than this seemingly endless abyss of unknowns as the world comes apart at its seams.

I am very fortunate to be able to spend this time of unknowns with these lovely creatures who continue to both challenge me, amaze me, and love me through it all.

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The Hound

This dog. She is everything.

Can you believe Twix is 14? She’s been my best girl since she was 6 weeks old. It’s hard to believe everything she’s been through with us. (And everything we’ve been through with her!)

There’s enough heavy, hard stuff in the world right now. I thought maybe we could all use some puppy pictures. I mean, just look at her next to that box of tissues. 😍

Safer at Home Day Whatever

We swam at my parents’ house again today. This time, we brought the dogs. Snickers got out and went for a little joy ride through my mom’s neighborhood. I’m not sure how long she was gone before we realized she was missing. She wasn’t wearing a collar because she’s had issues with infection in the folds of her neck. It was terrifying.

Fortunately, we found her within 20 minutes. Three of us were driving around the neighborhood and two were on foot. She was discovered in the open garage of a neighbor who was cleaning. They said she immediately went belly up for them and thoroughly enjoyed the attention.

Little fucker.

She’s lucky she’s cute.

Water therapy

Today, we swam with(ish) my parents. Social distance-style. It was much-needed, and lovely, but also… socially distant.

We rescued a ladybug from the water, watched the lizards sun themselves, and began many sentences, “When this is all over…”

Look at those freckles. I adore them.

The evening ended with a predictable angry, emotional breakdown. Something about amoxicillin does this to her every time. After two doses, it’s all downhill. 2 doses down, 22 more to go.

Just like the COVID quarantine, the only way out is through.

What a world, what a world

I’m sitting down at the keyboard tonight because I feel like things are only going to get worse if I don’t. I have no idea what I’m writing about, but hopefully the words will just start flowing after a bit.

Charlotte has an ear infection. I’d guess it’s probably the worst she’s ever had because I can’t recall her being in this much pain with prior earaches. For the first time ever, she was prescribed antibiotics via video chat with a doctor. It wasn’t even her doctor. She just trusted my gut and handed over the pink shit. That is what the COVID world has come to… doctors just handing antibiotics out willy nilly because no one wants to step foot near a medical center.

Catch broke her big toe. It was a freak accident, and I don’t think the scenario could ever really be duplicated. Basically, Snickers knocked the little step stool she uses to get up on the bed as she was jumping, and it tipped over and landed on Catch’s toe near a joint, and just… ouch. Poor thing was doubled over in so much pain and Charlotte was laughing because she thought her gasps for breath and yells of pain were funny.

I really miss the world. I miss my family something terrible. I miss babysitters and date nights. Me time. Knowing what day it is. Feeling hopeful about pretty much anything.

The days have been gorgeous for several weeks, but all the sunshine in the world isn’t helping my mood this week. I feel like I’ve hit a wall of defeat. Is this what life is, now? Will my mom ever hug my daughter again? Will I ever find a job that can support us?

I know in my heart that over time, the world will re-acclimate. People will gather again. Grandparents will hug their grandkids. But will this ever be far from our minds? This fear that the very air we rely on for life could also be the death of us?

And the protesters… oh, what a sorry bunch they are. They make me so angry standing there with their weapons trying to intimidate people who are doing their best with a horrific situation. No one wanted to shut down the country. No one wanted to sit at home and slowly watch the economy collapse. None of this is ideal. But lives are worth saving. All lives. When it comes to COVID, all lives do matter. Or at least, they should.

I’m going to try to write every day for a while. Hopefully tomorrow’s post will be a bit less uninspired.

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Photo from a few weeks ago. I let her scooter around an empty park provided she touched absolutely nothing, and we left if any people arrived. This is what every playground here looks like right now–all equipment roped off with caution tape.

Day 20

It’s 7:30 pm and my wife and daughter are settled in a tent in our back yard with Snickers. I can hear Charlotte singing to Snickers. This is how we try to distract ourselves from “the corona sickness,” as Charlotte calls it.

We’ve been “safer at home” since March 13th. No work. No school. We have not shared any space with my parents since the 14th. My wife is trying to balance teaching her own students online with both parenting and teaching our own child. We are exhausted and frustrated.

On the surface, Charlotte is fine. Her outbursts tell us otherwise. Suddenly, my sweet little girl who was always the first to offer to help a friend or bring a gift to a neighbor is having none of that. Sharing is out. It doesn’t matter if I baked 4 dozen cookies intending to share them with our two neighbors and their families, my daughter is going to throw herself on the floor in a fit of tears screaming, “IT’S NOT FAIR!” at the top of her (mighty) lungs.

Nothing is fair, according to her, and honestly she’s not always wrong. None of this is exactly fair.

The economy tanked and suddenly record numbers of people are unemployed when I was already desperate for a new job. We are fortunate that I have a healthy IRA to draw from (with early withdrawal penalty, of course), because I am not eligible for unemployment.

Charlotte’s preschool teachers are not being paid while the school is closed. They are also not charging tuition, which is as much of a blessing for us right now as it is a curse for the poor staff who have lost their income.

Grocery stores are rationing essentials after being completely wiped out in the days before the virus took hold in Los Angeles. The week before safer at home protocols were requested, I stood in Costco mid-morning on a Wednesday staring wide-eyed as a crowd around me rushed to fill their carts with toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and cases of water. I was only there to pick up a few grocery items that were on my regular shopping list. I wasn’t quite ready to prepare for a pandemic, and I was certainly not prepared to be caught in the midst of a frantic crowd of people who were.

I bought toilet paper anyway. It wasn’t on my list, but it would have been by last week. I would not jump off a bridge just because my friends are, but apparently I will purchase toilet paper simply because a crowd of strangers is, too. I also bought some for our friends across the street. I’m pretty sure our block now collectively owns enough toilet paper to help our asses stay clean through a true apocalypse. Another couple on our street works at two major grocery store chains, and the husband actually begged us to take a box of cereal off of their hands because his wife was stress-buying cereal after her 12 to 14 hour shifts in the market’s bakery ended.

It’s a bit frightening to watch our world come apart at the seams. Today, the world has 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and who knows how many un-confirmed cases. People are dying. I lie in bed at night and plead with the universe not to take my mom from me, but last night I started wondering if I also need to beg the universe not to take me or my wife away from our daughter. A friend of a friend posted a photo from a local hospital building entrance where a COVID-19 patient had collapsed and died right there between the two sets of double doors. The area was taped off and secured and the body covered by a heavy white sheet while they waited for the coroner to arrive. The caption read, “We lost another one.”

It’s hard to know which way is up right now. It’s hard to keep track of the days. It’s hard to keep track of the fears. It’s hard to fathom how long this will be our reality.

I’m trying to enjoy the small things. Having my wife home on weekday mornings is lovely. The feel of my daughter’s small hand wrapped around mine as we walk the dogs as a family is grounding. We are dancing in the living room, singing in the rain, and making art on the sidewalk. We are cooking, and cleaning and learning.

And yes, we are drinking. I mean, we’re only human and this is hard. There is no way I can stomach sewing a child-sized face mask for my daughter and her 3-year old best friend across the street tomorrow while sober. I don’t have super powers.

Peace be with you, world. May we all stay healthy and whole.

An Open Letter to Hiring Companies Everywhere

Hi there, employee-seeking world:

You don’t know me very well. I’ve only been perusing your fluorescent aisles for 6-ish weeks, so I realize that my forthcoming advice may be along the lines of those well-intentioned child-free friends who offer sleep advice to the parents of newborns. I hope you’ll listen, anyway. I really do have your best interests at heart.

See, those of us who wander through your vast digital expanse in search of gainful employment aren’t doing it because it’s particularly fun. We’re doing it because we have families to support and mortgages to pay, and we’ve chosen to abandon all hope of ever winning the lottery.

So we sit here, day after day, hour after hour, sifting through every job post that LinkedIn et al. informs us we’re qualified for to find the jobs we are actually qualified for.  Then we try to determine whether the job offers what we need to function on a basic human level. We appreciate the information you offer to us. “Benefits! 401k! Vacation!” It’s a great start. I do wonder, however, whether you really believe that a listed salary range of $30k to $100k is helpful to those of us desperate to join the ranks of the gainfully employed.

See, the thing is that for every job us lotto-failures decide to throw our hats into the ring for, we are sent through a maze hoops similar to the following:

  1. Find interesting position and decide it’s worth pursuing.
  2. Click on link for “Easy Apply!”
  3. Enter basic contact information into an online system
  4. Upload resume with the promise that all of the data within your detailed little bundle will be neatly imported into the system
  5. Sigh audibly as you examine the results of step 4, which includes articulate extractions such as: “2005-2007    CA      ; strategic    — variety.”
  6. Manually re-enter every single aspect of resume.
  7. Spend 30 minutes crafting a meaningful cover letter that really highlights your desire to surrender to indentured servitude.
  8. Answer–for approximately the 987659869876th time–the exact same questions about race, gender, military service, and disability status.
  9. Wonder how it’s even remotely possible that such information is being used for anti-discrimination purposes.
  10. Contemplate whether I should start identifying as a white male for employment purposes.
  11. Remember that I really don’t look good in ties.
  12. Although their dress shoes do seem dramatically more comfortable than any of mine.
  13. But then there’s the whole “stand to pee” bit that might prove to be problematic.
  14. Didn’t I used to have a a friend who had some kind of contraption she used to pee standing up at Burning Man?
  15. Eh. Screw it. Honesty is the best policy. If they don’t like me because I have a vagina, I don’t want to work for them anyway.
  16. Click submit.
  17. Lather, rinse & repeat.

When I finally emerge from the acid fog of human resources-related disclaimers, I hear a distant voice shout, “May the odds be ever in your favor!” I clutch my fistful of poison berries tightly to my chest because in this Hunger Games-style rendition of my imaginary reality TV show, Job Seekers, I will look that human resources drone in the eye, flash my berries and demand that she hire all of us or none of us.

You know what would make this easier for all of us? More information about the aspects of the job that seem trivial but are actually critical to human beings: What is the actual salary you are prepared to offer? Will I need to find a new primary care doctor? How much of the benefits do you actually cover? Will you be up in arms if I need to work from home because my daughter wakes up with a fever? How many ACTUAL hours a week do you expect the position to require? 40? 50? 80? If I can’t make the holiday party because the babysitter cancelled, are you going to mention it every time I see you for the next decade?

Seriously. Inquiring minds need to know.

Very Sincerely,

One Exhausted Unemployed Warrior

Tl;dr: Although you are in a position of power right now, it is exceedingly likely that someday, you will join the ranks of the unemployed. Treat us the way you’d like to be treated when that time comes.

Politics: It’s Relevant

45494906_10216950943113398_2678467452622340096_nOur current political climate in the United States is unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’d imagine that many Gen X-ers and Millennials share in that sentiment. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself questioning why I ever thought bringing a child into this cesspool of hatred and bigotry was a good idea. That’s the conundrum those of us who conceived our children in President Obama’s era of hope and change have been faced with as we sit slack-jawed watching our current President engage in name-calling worthy of a jealous kindergartner.

For a while, I participated in a parenting group on Facebook that seemed idyllic. Parents supported on another through their most challenging moments. We shared in each other’s joys and offered safe harbor on the bad days. It was a lovely space; a welcome reprieve from the harsh glares of strangers in the supermarket who think your overtired and overstimulated toddler’s chaos is a direct reflection on your lack of parenting skills.

The bubble burst for me when it was decided that politics had no place in a diverse group of parents. We could discuss practically anything except politics. Supposedly, political discourse doesn’t belong in parenting-related discussions. I could not disagree more.

Think about it for a moment. Is there actually anything more relevant to our children than the branches of government at work deciding their future? Our children are too young to vote. They’re too young to fully comprehend how these elected representatives are laying the foundation that will define many of the opportunities they’ll have in adulthood.

This goes far beyond the debate on abortion, vaccines, or LGBTQ equality. Laws made today will impact our children’s inheritance. They will affect the air they breathe and the water they drink. Legislators will decide whether many of our children can afford to go to college and whether the jobs they’ll work later in life will provide a living wage. They’ll even dictate whether our children can afford to seek medical care when they’re ill.

Do not tell me to pretend politics and parenting don’t go hand-in-hand. Don’t tell me that my political posts don’t belong on my Facebook page. Don’t tell me that political discussion doesn’t belong at the family dinner table. Don’t even tell me that I shouldn’t ask employers about the political leanings of the organization before I decide to spend the majority of my waking hours helping to line their pockets.

Parenting is political. Life is political. To separate ourselves from politics is to turn a blind eye on our futures as well as our children’s.

Dear Hiring Manager:

Looking for a job has been overflowing with both inspiration and defeat. It turns out that I actually do know what I want to do with my professional life, and all I really needed to do was buckle down and start reading the descriptions on job listings to figure that out. There’s a good reason why I was drawn to marketing communications throughout my career: I’m good at it. I also enjoy it. I just didn’t enjoy my previous work environment.

When I started this job search three(+) weeks ago, I was a bit picky about where I sent my resume. I focused on non-profits with missions I believed in or private firms who offered something important to better the world. There were national political organizations, health advocacy groups and clinics, environmental groups, schools, and even a large food bank. I felt uplifted by the sheer volume of opportunities available in my field that seemed like they might be fulfilling.

I’ve reached the point now where the rejection letters have overtaken my inbox and the vague sense of imposter syndrome I’d been fighting has become significantly less vague and harder to battle. I can’t tell you exactly how many carefully crafted cover letters I’ve distributed (4-5 a day for several weeks-ish), but I can tell you that my enthusiasm for writing them is waning along with my enthusiasm for the remaining pool of employers.

Today, I am taking a step back to try to re-frame my approach a bit. I don’t have to work for a non-profit to find fulfillment in my work. I simply have to find work and then make it fulfilling.

If you need me, I’ll be sitting here drafting cover letters in my pajamas, occasionally grimacing from a sip of cold coffee because I failed to realize that it’s been sitting there untouched for over an hour.