Tuesday, December 26, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I have six sisters and three brothers. For the mathematically challenged, that's a total of 10 children. Stop and think about it for a moment before arguing: 6 sisters plus 3 brothers plus me (1) = 10. In case you can't tell, I need to explain that often.

People often marvel at the size of my family. Some are crass enough to blurt out, "Did your parents not have anything better to do?" (Yes, they did but there is time to have sex 10 times throughout decades of marriage.) The misadvised may say, "So, your parents are Catholic?" (No, they're not, and plenty of other faiths believe in no birth control.) The less socially astute bluntly ask, "Are they all your parents' kids?" implying that we're a blended family. (We are.)

It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I learned what a "blended family" is. Either I was sheltered or that is a phrase that made it into the vernacular as the last of the Generation Xers reached adulthood.

I didn't grow up realizing I was part of a blended family. Whether I was blissfully unaware or, again, sheltered, I believed that the children were all, collectively my parents' kids. Not biologically, though. I always knew that some children were my dad's alone, some were my mother's alone, and some of us were theirs combined. But, I never questioned that all children were loved and wanted equally, in spite of the disparate amount of grief that one child might cause over another. In fact, my mother used to sing a little song to the last three of us. Since Blogger won't allow me to score music, you get the lyrics alone...

"I love Timmy, I love Mildred, I love Tiffany, too! I love Sam and Debi, I love Elmo and Ruby, I love all of you!"

Notice there are seven children only listed. Well, I believe there are two reasons for this. First, my dad raised my mother's children, whereas my dad's children were raised by his ex-wife. Consequently, my mother didn't sing about them. But, I generously think that the real reason is the melody wouldn't really have worked for 10 names, nor for any more syllables.

So, did anyone sing a song of love about 10 children? I'm sad to say, no. My mother didn't for reasons mentioned above. And my dad just isn't a "sing about love" sort of guy, unless it's an aria written by Verdi. (And even then, my pops has a strange preference for singing songs from Rigoletto, either because he really likes them or he's a sexist at heart. The verdict is still out on that.)

I did have some awareness about step-siblings, although I didn't understand the concept of "half-siblings." I remember at five or so, I watched or read about Cinderella for the first time. Learning about the evil step-sisters was devestating to me. I remember, later on, as my older sisters Debi and Ruby were leaving the house, I walked up to Ruby crying and told her that I hope she doesn't hate me because that's what step-sisters do. I don't remember her answer. She probably laughed it off as she went out for the night. That's generally how someone 17 treats a child of 5, and I probably would've done the same.

When I was an young'n, I used to have fantasies about all 10 of us living in the same neighborhood. I drew pictures about it, and thought about how wonderful birthday parties and Christmas would be, with my siblings and their children around. (There's a huge age gap so I had many nieces and nephews before I hit the age of procreation myself.) I had a house design picked out for each of them. This was childhood fantasy at its best, not just because I was so ridiculously innocent of the family political dynamics but because this was in the time before Sim City, so creating a neighborhood from scratch was really quite an effort. Maybe if The Sims had been out back then, I would've been able to better project how people would've acted. Computer games imitating life imitating art, as it were.

So, now I'm an adult. And I appreciate that I don't have 9 siblings and my parents don't have 10 kids. Instead, I have percentages of siblings with relationships that are too fractionalized to even be represented by the biological "half" or "whole" sibling designation. To wit: Image a human-being-shaped measuring cup, where the crown of the head is 100%. Now, fill the human-being measuring cup to about the ankles. That represents the degree of siblinghood I share with my brother Sam. Take another human-being measuring cup and fill to just below the knee and that's siblinghood with Debi. No one sibling is filled to the crown, although some probably reach about to the shoulders, which is probably more than enough and more than some siblings enjoy. However, by comparison, if my brother Bert and sister Magda were measuring siblinghood to each other, they'd probably both be full to about the ears in relationship to each other.

This is really a sad thing because, in my opinion, family relationships, particularly among siblings, should get better as you get older as the petty rivalries and disputes (e.g. who threw rocks at the other, who drew fangs on the other's dolls' faces, and who stabbed whose waterbed with a steak knife) should matter less. Indeed, some families do seem to work that way. (I don't know this from any personal experience, obviously, but I know of other families where it happens.) But, for the rest of us, it seems that our human-being-shaped measuring cups are fated to be of the half-empty volume, and the issue of who got the larger room is a more heated debate than any political conversation you could have.

Where I'm left with this reflection is knowing that we're still all pretty young folks and we still can't move beyond these trifle issues of yesteryear. If we can't sustain strong, caring, and acrimony-free relationships now, what will we have to show for ourselves when we really are old and we don't have those common parents (however they're counted) to bind us together any more?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Scrying Using the Diaper

I should've known that yesterday was going to be a momentous day when it began by my toddler, Pollux, using the potty for both No. 1 and No. 2. You may think that's a little overkill. After all, one could rightly claim, haven't you had good days where no successful potty training has occurred? Well, yes. But having a day start off with successful potty training just gives the day a fortuitous kick start that is hard to ignore.

Now, there may be some folks out there reading this (ha ha!) who are already concerned by this post. After all, my only other post of note also references earthy biological functions. Believe it or not, I'm not unusually preoccupied with thoughts about the human digestive tract. However, there are three humans in my household (including me) for whose clean bottoms I am directly responsible. That's an important job, requiring a lot of awareness, so I can't help but to mention it a time or two. Anyone who disputes how important it is should pause a moment to reflect on a time when their biological functions ceased for an unbearably long period.

But, yet again, I digress. The point was, Pollux had a good potty training day, which made me happy. I was made happier by Castor doing some tricks on the rug, namely rolling over several times. Ah me, what could make my day more complete?

Yes, a call offering me a job beginning this coming Monday!

As mentioned before, I have been involuntarily unemployed for six weeks now. I say "involuntary" because I wouldn't have quit if I hadn't been laid-off. But, even from the first, I've had a pretty philosophical bent about the whole deal. My job at EmbodyEl Corp. was kind of like a humdrum relationship with your boyfriend. You don't really plan on marrying the guy, but you would've liked to be the one to end the relationship first. Now that it's over, what really bothers you isn't the absence of the boyfriend, but all of the people you met through him who you really liked.

Addressing the whole unemployment deal has consumed much of my time daily and it is frustrating to say the least, in spite of the support lent by family and colleagues in the same boat. The job search effort is like one of those itches that you feel but can't scratch. You just can't put your finger on the successful formula because it's different for everyone. Should you spend time just applying for jobs online, or networking with other professionals? Do you work with recruiters or do direct hire only? What impact will a contract job have on your resume and unemployment payments? There are many permutations with mind-boggling possibilities.

But, at the end of every day, the decisions made really just depend on what my mental state was. Basically, did I have a good day or a bad day? As a reasonable stable and sane person, you always hope for more good days than bad, and that's generally how it works out. But the bad days can be rough, and the snake-like tentacles of your funk can permeate even your strongest relationships, including the one you have with yourself.

There's a lot more that goes into that "good day/bad day" scenario than you might think. It's really not just about diapers or infant carpet tricks. You question your value as a person and a professional, your life's decisions to this point and as far back as your grades in high school, and more. At its most ridiculous, you ponder, "Maybe if I'd been invited to Little Janie's birthday party when I was 7, I would've built better social skills that would've helped me ensure I kept my last job." A bad day can pivot to a good day so quickly that it'd make a bipolar person shocked...and vice versa.

Bad days as an unemployed person are characterized by the little things that wouldn't be seen by even the most intimate companion. It's the decision to not have that coffee at Starbucks because that $3.50 cuppa joe is an unnecessary expense. ("Only water and stale bread," cry the Old Hollywood-style Biblical taskmasters in your mind, "until you demonstrate your worthiness!") It's looking at the people who are homeless and panhandling on the highway: you simultaneously thank your blessings that things aren't that bad, and then feel selfishly guilty because even at your worst moments, your life is light-years better than those poor folks. At its most ridiculous, the insecurity of an unemployed person manifests itself in a thousand little petty economies, like reducing the heat by a degree or saving on that extra rinse cycle for the laundry.

But, there are good days, similarly inscrutable to the average person but characterized by a dozen little luxuries: an extra large dollop of premium shampoo in the shower, doing some window or Web shopping (without purchasing, of course), or treating yourself to a $1 ice cream cone at McDonald's.

So, today I'll not only have that ice cream cone but probably that coffee, too, as I foolishly cavort with Pollux singing the Potty Celebration Dance and praise Castor's acrobatic talents with words so gooey that a honey bee would get diabetes. And on Monday, I'll start a new job.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Great Expectations

It is critical when launching any new communication avenue to define how often it will be published or refreshed in order to set the expectations of those devoted fans (in my personal case, my dear ol' pa only, I think) so they (ahem, in my case again, he) know how often to check back.

How often I post will really be determined by how often I have a rant (please, don't guffaw yet) that is of enough length and substance (aha! Now that narrows it down, doesn't it?) to justify posting it for those thronging masses beating down my door for pearly words of Timberly wisdom.

In my not-so-humble opinion, many things make a great writer (not that I am one, but everyone should have aspirations). Attributes include the basics (good form, style, punctuation, etc.), as well as the more inspired (an interesting or at least useful topic). Humor is helpful (which I have in fruitful abundance) but most important of all qualities is knowing when to write...and when to stop.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Life as a Run-on Sentence

A few questionably insightful thoughts have occurred to me recently. Let's pause for a moment for Deep Thoughts with Timberly.

"Supposedly life is a story. If that is true, then right now I'm caught in a run-on sentence."

What does that mean? Well, here are the days of some folks described:

today i woke up somewhat earlier
i pressed snooze many times. it seemed like the alarm was going off every 5 minutes. i got up around 10am and showered. i brought my cd player upstairs to listen to the modest mouse cd while i shaved. i turned it up so i could hear it over the shaver.
i put on an extra jacket in case the weather stayed cold. i felt like i looked good, with my collar poking out over my jacket.

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David Copperfield
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.
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Note the concise, matter-of-fact sentences of the first example. Observe the evocative prose of the second (ah! Dickens!). Neither of these passages in their eloquence were written by me nor in any way relate to my life. When one's life is a run-on sentence, eloquence is not necessary. In fact, it's a near impossibility.

So, here is my day as a run-on sentence. Like so many badly written stories, the first and last few sentences are calm but the middle is a jumbled progression of thought and activity. (Note: For those who may demand a little more truth-in-advertising, please be advised that "my day as a run-on sentence" is meant euphemistically. This is really more of a run-on paragraph.)

It's 7:52 a.m. I wake up feeling groggy today to the wails of my youngest child, Castor, in the crib as the oldest one, Pollux, cuddled closer to me in my bed clutching at my neck looking for additional comfort. I need to use the restroom. Pushing Pollux gently to the side, I roll out of bed taking half the covers with me, then turning to ensure that some fraction of the warmed covers still rest over my child's body. I walk into the baby's room and check in on the smiling baby inside who reaches up for me, then grabs my shirt. He smells of sour milk, warmth, and baby urine blended with baby powder-scented diapers. I change Castor and he giggles as Pollux stumbles in, rubbing his eyes, asking for cereal, his voice repeating the request over and over again until I give him the affirmation he needs by repeating his request ("Yes, honey, you want cereal. Just a second!") and then continuing with what I was doing before which was ['One second, I've gone into auto-pilot...what was I doing? Oh, yes, changing a diaper'] changing a diaper that is heavy and must weigh at least a pound ['that's 16 oz. of urine approximately,' says my internal voice that just now is coming to wakefulness without the luxury of coffee or breakfast, 'which means,' that voice continues, 'that originally it was probably about 24 oz. of milk, so you should weigh at least a pound lighter today, but of course you've had stuff to eat and drink so maybe you shouldn't weigh yourself until after you've used the restroom this morning just to make sure you weigh as little as possible but then that means you can't eat or drink anything today yet either so how will you have breakfast with Pollux like a good mother should?'], which I now drop into the Diaper Champ, the tool of yuppy moms everywhere, where it drops softly with a resounding plop on decaying older diapers that are piling every day higher in the diaper pail until finally the entire bag is removed, cinched closed, dropped in the garbage dumpster where every Friday it is picked up by our local friendly garbage collector ['actually,' I muse, 'I think they're called maintenance engineers and I believe they make more money than I do. Well, really,' I correct myself, 'they make more money than I did since now I'm unemployed!' But that line of thought is part of a totally separate run-on sentence that is playing presently on Timberly Internal Dialogue Channel 102.7] where it is then taken off with the diapers of countless of other children and then dropped in a landfill where my children's diapers have the opportunity to live sub-terraneously until the time that cockroaches claim dominion over the earth and Twinkies are the only viable food product to have survived some sort of impending nuclear fall-out that will be no doubt the result of some ridiculous diplomatic climax that is the product of some piss-poor diplomacy between the Bush administration and Kim Jong Il that will surely send us all to hell in a hand basket...


I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes. My life is a run-on sentence.

It is 7:56 a.m. I'm unemployed presently ['No,' I sardonically remind myself, 'I'm pursuing other opportunities or POO'] so that allows me plenty of time to "sleep in." With one child on a hip and the other child plastered to the front of me, we proceed downstairs to breakfast. Put Castor down in bouncer. Put Pollux down on the floor to run around like crazy. Walk to the refrigerator and remove frozen wheat-free waffle (check), veggie bacon (check), orange juice (check), and fruit (check). Turn around and remove from cabinet Nemo drinking cup (check) and Nemo plate (check). Pause. Notice uncomfortable feeling of abdominal pressure. Hmmm. Restroom? "Mama, waffle. Bacon! Oooooooo juice. NEMO! NEMO! NEMO!" Pollux runs around the kitchen chanting. "Pollux," I say humbly, "Mama needs to use the potty. She'll be right back." Since when did I start talking about myself in third person like Elmo? Probably around the same time I welcomed an Elmo-in-a-chicken-suit-that-dances-to-the-chicken-song in my house. "Mama? Mama!" comes the whine. Ooooooohkay, I guess the restroom will wait a bit. ['Isn't it interesting,' quips sardonic Timberly on Timberly Internal Dialogue on Channel 99.2, 'that you complain that Pollux resists potty training because he doesn't want to take the time away from his toys to use the toilet, and yet you do the same thing?'] Waffle in toaster oven, juice in cup, add water to dilute sugar in juice, slice fruit, place on plate, toaster oven dings, put bacon in microwave for 90 seconds only otherwise it burns, pick up hot bacon gingerly inevitably burning tips of fingers, break up bacon into bite-sized pieces and do the same with the waffle using a fork and knife, give plate full of food, juice, and fork and knife ['Wait, not the knife', I remind myself] to Pollux, strap him in the booster (this is inevitably the result of me having first chasing him down to get him into the chair which seems to be a ritual game in the morning), and then tell him, "Mama is going to use the potty. She'll be right back." Pollux snarls with displeasure but it's quickly managed by the stuffing of food into said child's mouth. Castor is now bored with his toys ['What did children in the 1500s do for entertainment? They got a freaking leather ball wrapped in some cloth to play with and they were content for hours!'] and is starting to whimper but, frankly, I'll just have to risk irreparably scarring his psyche for a few moments whilst I heed the call of nature. Hopefully my 401k cash out will cover the cost of his psychological counseling. And so, now, I take a moment to rest on the porcilean god and come, at last, to the close of this run-on paragraph.

It is 8:22 am.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Ceci N'est Pas Un Blog

Welcome to my blog.

There. I wrote something. Supposedly the hardest part of writing is the first sentence. Of course, since everyone knows that, why doesn't everyone just start everything with the words first sentence? It certainly would be less complicated than the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair that sufferers of writer's block experience.

All good writing begins with a thesis statement, an objective, a goal. I don't think I have one. Well, that's not quite true. I want this blog to be filled with insightful commentary, generate hundreds of thousands of hits, and be purchased by some media conglomerate like about.com or News Corp. for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But, I also want to be thin. I think the latter is more likely to happen.