Friday, December 30, 2005

My Mother's Family

When my mom was younger, sometime in her teenage years, she found out that the man she thought of as her father, was not. The man who treated her unkindly, the father who didn't love her enough, was merely her step-father. Years of mental abuse suddenly made sense. But there were questions. Questions that went unanswered. My grandmother told my mother that her father was dead, he died when she was three years old. My mother had the name of a dead man and nothing else. She escaped that household and immediately began her own. One husband, eight children and eight grandchildren later, my mother wanted answers to the questions that none of us knew still tormented her.

With no help from my grandmother, my parents went to the library and searched the archives of city records and census papers. She found her father's name, along with the name of his mother, sister and brother. Were they still alive? Did they even live in town? She questioned my grandmother one more time and was inadvertently told that the sister lived very near. In a blind fury of emotions and tears, my mother opened the telephone book to what should have been her maiden name. She found the sister's phone number and dialed.

My mom was lucky. Uncovering a family, after 58 years, can be risky. It's like finding a name at random and owing them birthday cards and Christmas newsletters for eternity. In her rash moment of finding her aunt's name in the phone book, my mother didn't have time to think of the consequences. She didn't have time to think about the possibility of being disappointed.

And luckily for her, she wasn't. Her aunt and uncle knew the moment they saw her that my mom was "one of them." They came bearing stories and photos. And their non-bitterness helped my mother deal with the fact that this family had been hidden from her for this long. That her father didn't die until she was nine years old. That her grandmother didn't die until after I, the youngest child, was born.

Uncle Henry and Aunt Marion brought stories of my grandfather. Stories from when he was little, causing mischief. Stories from his adulthood, his many jobs, his marriage, and his subsequent death. When I first visited them, it was still new to all of us. Stories of my "new" grandfather dominated the conversation. Mentioning a relative's name brought confusion and a needed lesson in the family tree.

But something strange happened the next time I was in town and visited with them. My grandfather began to fade from the conversation. It was as though, having brought us all together, he could now step away. It was as if, almost 50 years after his death, he had played his role of ghostly matchmaker successfully. Up until recently, I had been thinking of these people as my mother's relatives, because she needed them the most. Suddenly, out of nowhere, they became mine.

Originally published in Maryland Woman Magazine, March 2000
In memory of Marion Dombrowski, June 2, 1919 - December 28, 2005

The Week in Review

Merry Christmas.
Happy Channukah.
Happy Kwanzaa.
Happy New Year.

The diet.
I've heard that the average American gains 10 pounds between Thanksgivng and New Year's. I'm not quite the average American -- but I came within a pound or two of it. Since my parents' anniversary party in mid-November and this morning when I finally got the guts to get on a scale, I've gained nine pounds. Fat and happy time is over. Tomorrow (not Sunday) begins the new year.

I've never liked starting new things on the 1st of the year -- or a Monday for that matter. So it's either wait until Tuesday or just bite the bullet and start tomorrow. Given the numbers on the scale, I vote tomorrow.

The job.
Still no word on the job. The neurotic part of me (even though I promised myself that I wouldn't freak out if I didn't get a call) is starting to think that I didn't get it and he just didn't want to ruin my holiday so he's waiting until next week to tell me. The practical side is telling me that he couldn't have possibly made reference checks around the holiday -- I know that all three of my references would have been tough to get a hold of the last week. And I heard from B before I left for Virginia last Wednesday that he hadn't gotten a call yet.

I'm starting to dread going back to word on Tuesday. I just don't want to. I'm thinking of this project and that project and just have no motivation for them. I've got three days to think of something else and then can psyche myself up to go back to work. I guess.

The other Ellie.
He was the sweetest man to put on a Baltimore Orioles uniform. And I heard two weeks ago from my former boss that the Orioles were treating him like shit. That they had taken his position of bullpen coach away from him, citing health reasons, without talking to him or his doctors. And now they weren't returning his calls. Elrod Hendricks wore that uniform longer than anyone -- first as a player, including as a member of the 1970 championship team; then as a coach -- and Flanagan, Perlozzo and "Uncle" Pete weren't returning his calls.

Maybe they were right to relieve him of his coaching duties -- but they could have gone about it better. He deserved better. Last week -- just a few days before Christmas, he died of a heart attack. Sweet Elrod, who always had a smile and wave from the field for me, who always have a hug, a kiss and a "hey baby girl" for me when I saw him. I'll miss his laugh. And I'll miss him telling me that I was too good for Sidney, "that fool."

Christmas in Virignia.
Lots of eating, lots of resting (did you read the first paragraph of this post?!), and lots of fun. I arrived a day early, surprised Tiffany at Panera. We shopped, we ate, we went to the movies. We never got out of our pajamas on Christmas day. And I didn't want to leave. And more than once, thought about turning around as I was headed north to Baltimore.

Aunt Marion.
My mother's aunt passed away on Wednesday morning, after a lot of health issues and a recent minor stroke. She was 86, never married and only came into our life in the past 10 years. (I'll post something specific I have about that.) I'm sorry that I didn't get up to Syracuse to see her before I left for Virginia, though I hear that I wouldn't have wanted to see her that weak.

I'll remember her as feisty, as a "ball breaker." I'll remember her yelling at my mother for eating too much cheese cake and telling me that I was getting up there in years and needed to stop looking for love and just find someone for security. I was sorting through a bag of pictures from the anniversary party (yes, I know it was six weeks ago!) and found a picture of her -- round and healthy looking, no oxygen tank. That's how I'll remember her.

Swing and a miss. Strike 2.
I stopped in Baltimore on Wednesday night. I had dinner with my god-daughter and her family, exchanged presents with them. It was too short, but it's so hard to try to fit everyone so I have to economize my time. After dinner, I spent the night with Bubbles in her spankin' new apartment. She got me sucked into "Project Runway," and I immediately set my DVR to record all new episodes when I returned to Ithaca. And because Elrod's memorial service was Thursday morning -- and J used to work for the Orioles -- I didn't get to see J.

I got home about 1:30 yesterday afternoon and immediately after unpacking my car (three baskets of clean laundry, and more Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl's bags than I care to count), I started to de-Christmas my house. Exactly four hours later, I was putting the vacuum cleaner away. Tree, ornaments, bins, candles, etc...all packed away for another year. I'm not sure how I accumulate all of this stuff -- it may have something to do with my love for shopping the day after Christmas. And this year was no different. Between the two of us, my sister-in-law and I spent about $600 before noon on the 26th. I got lots of birthday presents done and started Christmas for next year.

The big finish.
Yesterday I packed away Christmas. Tonight, after getting back from the funeral in Syracuse, I unpacked all the big buys on the 26th -- sorted them, made lists and packed them away. I still need to put away my clothes, some of my Christmas presents and sort through my Christmas wrapping paper. But in the words of Katie Scarlett O'Hara, "tomorrow is another day."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Chris called me last week to see if he could come for a visit this week. I told him I was busy, how about January 2nd? I don't have to work that day and it would be more convenient. He seemed put off a little, but I'm enjoying this new sudden control in our relationship. January 2nd it would be.

He called today to see if I had heard anything from the job (nothing yet) and to say that he has a client meeting on the 2nd, what else works for me that week. I looked at my calendar and we set a date for the following week.

And then there's J. We were to have lunch on Thursday on my way through Baltimore, but we had to cancel that. I figured he would be in New Jersey still next week with his family, but mentioned anyway that I would be back in Baltimore next Wednesday night and leaving on Thursday.

We'll be having a late breakfast on Thursday (sorry Bubbles...I know we planned to eat before you went to work). And so suddenly the possibilities and scenarios are running through my head as to why he seems so eager to see me. Is he separated? Did he kick the evil-never-wanting-to-have-children wife to the curb? Has he decided that he can't deny that "thing" between us? That "thing" that is real, but never acted upon.

Something tells me that I'll be eating a bagel with him at the Panera, or a nice greasy breakfast at the Double T, and then that will be that. A nice friendly catch-up. Nothing more.

I'm too tired to try to analyze any of this, to create some sort of generic, it could apply to most single women thing.

Nap Time

I'm beyond exhausted. I just want to lay my head on my desk and close my eyes. Between Thursday and last night, I worked 24 hours at my "real" job and 24 at my seasonal job at the mall. I think I could sell personal care products in my sleep. I'm surprised I didn't ask Casey if she wanted to get a box "for just a dollar more" for her treats this morning when I left for work.

I'm so glad I'm done until after Christmas. I just have to make it two more days at work, then I'm off to Virginia towards the end of the week. I can't wait to take a nap, with both dogs on my lap, in front of the fire. And it's going to be in the 50s this weekend. Who needs snow at Christmas? Not me.

No word on the job front. Though it seems a little premature to be thinking that I would get a phone call. They said they had another interview on Friday -- and hopefully the awful weather we had here Friday morning didn't delay it any.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Year in Review

Got this idea from my niece, who also has a blog. Take the first line, from the first post each month:

April 2005
Search for what? Love? Happines? Peace of mind? The perfect man? The perfect job?

June 2005
One year ago today, I left Baltimore, Charm City, Bawlmer for "10 square miles surrounded by reality" -- Ithaca, NY.

July 2005
I don't know if I'm doing this internet dating thing right.

August 2005
So, I've given up on my month's experiment on Yahoo personals.

September 2005
I love her. She's my mother...

October 2005
It's beyond liking B now.

November 2005
I e-mailed my friend JRK yesterday, about dating -- or lack of ...

December 2005
The PR Goddess could be making a comeback.

Hmmm....hers seemed so much more fun and cohesive. I'm going to take December's first line as a good omen.

The first BIG storm of the year

Snow! Snow!
Come out in the snow!
--P.D. Eastman, Dr. Seuss collection

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Interview

I had my second interview today -- in person, with eight people. Sometimes that can be intimidating, but it seemed okay today. They all had written out questions, so there was never that awkward pause of "is someone going to say something?"

I think it went very well....they did ask tough destination marketing, intergrated marketing, web optimization questions...but rather than try to sound like I was bull shitting them, I said I'm not sure if I've heard that term but I would guess it to mean....

I talked a lot about media successes and web marketing. No one had any questions about my sample press release that I had to write for them and then talk them through it (didn't know I would have to do that!!). I did mention that it was a very hard press release to write, that the event was so diverse that it was hard to get my hands around. They all laughed and said, that's why we picked it. Of course it is. I walked them through my thought process in how I wrote what I did, and also my strategies for creating a more complete press kit, who I would send that to, and what I would include in it.

I also brought a DVD of national, regional and local media (TV) clips that I left with them. It has clips on there from the Today Show, Nickelodeon, Comcast Sports Net (mid-Atlantic region) and the San Diego Padres pre-game show. Overall an impressive bunch of clips, if I do say so myself. God, I wish I had the Travel Channel clip. I remember saying stuff in that interview and then was like, "that was great...what did I just say?"

The have one more interview on Friday. When the director walked me out, I mentioned that I would be leaving for Virginia on the 22nd but available by cell phone if needed. And when I wished him a happy holiday, he said "we'll be talking before that." I'll take that as a good sign, but not get overly freaked out if I don't hear from him next week, knowing that things come up.

I also mentioned that I did include a reference from my current job, though not my boss (who he knows, but promised me confidentiality) -- someone who can speak to my web marketing strengths. And I had a great conversation with my former boss last night. He no longer hates me for leaving him -- he just remembers the good times, the times I worked my ass off for him, how much fun we had, and I'm confident that he will give me a great reference.

So...that's that. Glad it's was harder than most interviews, but going by how the phone interview went, it was about what I suspected and I think I did well. And now we wait. And then....and then we talk salary. And negotiate. Which is not something I do well. Money is not my thing. That's why I need a husband to give me an allowance -- but that's a story for another day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

An Unmatched Shoe

Sometimes I don't feel like I belong in my own family. I think it mostly has to do with everyone having a partner, or belonging to a unit. This becomes more and more apparent to me at the holidays, when all my local family members gather at one sister's house. And while of course having a husband or significant other would solve the problem -- it's not the only thing that would.

Everyone seems to be matched with someone or someones. My oldest sister has her husband, and/or her daughters. Her daughters have each other. My other sister, whose house we gather at, has her husband and her daughter. And that daughter -- that daughter used to be my partner, used to be my matching shoe -- has her husband and son. And on and on with my brother and his wife and two kids.

When I first moved back to New York, it was sometimes so hard to go to Syracuse and spend time with my niece and her baby. We're so close in age, and we've always pretty much wanted the same thing personally -- husband, baby, family. When I first came home, and saw her with all of it, it was hard. Sometimes too hard. Sometimes I would find myself crying all the way back to Ithaca, feeling an empty part of my heart, wondering what I did in a past life to not deserve having it all, too.

And so rather than deal with that, deal with that unmatched shoe feeling, I've decided to take myself out of that situation. Out of feeling lost at the holidays. And I'm going to Richmond for Christmas. Part of me -- the PMS-y, feeling sorry for myself, over-tired part of me -- wonders if anyone really cares that I won't be in Syracuse. If they'll even miss me. And of course they will -- it would just be nice to hear, I guess.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My 2006 Outlook

I take horoscopes with a grain of salt. If they say something good, I am hopeful. If they say something bad, I shrug it off. Either way, I wll always read my horoscope on my birthday and in magazines, especially the "year forecast" in the January issues.

The highlights from my Marie Claire horoscope for 2006:

Aries excels at creating order out of chaos -- exactly your destiny for 2006! Because you're famous for being so positive and outgoing, feeling discouraged takes you by surprise. This year, your Aries courage will return, and your resilience will be proven. At the end of March, a rare solar eclipse will make you feel like you've been shot from a cannon -- instantly removed from everything familiar and speeding toward an exciting opportunity.

Your love life: You're a woman with abundant gifts -- a sense of humor, a healthy sexuality and a generous heart -- yet many have taken the best you had to give and not fulfilled your needs in return. This year, Saturn will free you of a tumultuous entanglement, then bring security and commitment within reach.

What to change in 2006: What you most enjoy is the exhilarating buzz of creative work. But for your projects to succeed, you need to tend to all details -- not just the fun, exciting ones.

For In an important relationship, you must bravely ask a lover to take responsibility. You rely on the honesty and intimacy you share with him, so it will be worth everything to strengthen that bond.

Work: Careerwise, Mercury will bring a long-shot goal within reach. Spend more time on original, challenging endeavors. You can also demand top billing. No one will turn you down!

It sounds promising -- we'll see what becomes of the next year.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

December 8

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Have you hugged a veteran today?

I don't usually write about stuff like this. But I couldn't let today go by without saying outloud, even if I have no WWII veteran in my life, thank you.

Before I left Baltimore, I went to the WWII memorial in Washington. It was the weekend before its official opening, and there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of veterans walking around. Some acting like old college buddies, hugging and getting their pictures taken. But others, very solemn, perhaps remembering those who couldn't be there with them for the opening. I was glad that I had sunglasses on, so that no one could see my tears.

It was moving and touching, and I was glad that I was able to experience it. There was one veteran, in a wheelchair, looking at one of the stone tableaus. He looked at me, and I said simply, "thank you."

He smiled and grabbed my hand, and said, "no, thank you."

Thank you for what? Who knows? I was too choked up to ask. Maybe thank you for saying thank you, thank you for being appreciative, thank you for being in my generation and wanting to reflect at this memorial...or maybe just thank you for not overlooking him.

I don't know. And honestly, I don't need to know. If you have a veteran in your life, a veteran of any war, don't just say thank you on Veterans Day. They fought hard every day -- still fight hard every day -- they deserve to be appreciated more than just once a year.

And so on today's anniversary, it gives me pause to stop and think. And say thank you.

Flip a coin

I spent the last two days in computer training. Two days that I really didn't need to be involved in. It was all very technical, all very "over my head," and all very "not what I will be working on." I'm so glad its over. Suddenly, I've gotten very busy at work. And suddenly -- or maybe not so suddenly -- I am very fed up with most of my clients, one of whom now thinks he's a designer. He took the first proof of a postcard and recreated three designs in Photoshop.

Wouldn't it be nice to think that I have the next two days in the office, that they could be relatively quiet and allow me to catch up on some things? Yea, it would be nice. But it's not going to happen. The consultant, from a couple months ago, will be back with her report. First she is meeting with each of us individually or in small groups. The whole group will also meet with her for an hour tomorrow. Then on Friday, we have a retreat from 9 to 1.

What waste of two days. There are factions of co-workers who have gone behind my boss's back, who have talked to the vice president about things. It's all very political, it's all very shady, and the phone call for a second interview couldn't have come at a better time.

When I got home from the gym tonight, I had a message waiting. Second interview with the staff next Wednesday, and he would like me to write a sample press release and about the Lights in Winter Festival. It's been over a year since I've written a press release, but I've got time to work on it.

So the next question is, who do I use as references? The obvious choice, for what this job entails, would be my former boss. But has he forgiven me enough for "leaving him" to give me the glowing recommendation that I deserve? I might have to just call him this weekend and see. I have seen him, and I have recently communicated with him by e-mail. I just have to make sure that Bitch-stine doesn't get involved.

So there's one. J of Baltimore would be two -- not only is his title and company impressive -- but he would be able to speak to my organizational and event planning skills. And then I was thinking of asking B. I trust him to keep my confidence. And he would be able to speak to my web skills -- not counting the last two boring days -- my ability to re-architect sites and work with existing content.

And so I find myself at a crossroads, once again. Two sides of the same coin with my career, and who knows which side I'll end up with. I can only hope -- and try to believe -- that no matter what happens, either at the school or the CVB, that it's what is supposed to happen.

Monday, December 05, 2005

B is for Boob

I had my annual mammogram this morning. I have a lump, that my doctor in Baltimore found almost two years ago. Rounds of doctors, jags of crying, trips to the radiologist, thoughts of cancer -- and it turned out to be a cyst. But something that needs to be checked every six months. So I see my doctor twice a year, and get my "girls" squeezed once a year.

My doctor in Ithaca, perhaps being very perceptive to my neurotic personality, told me not to do self breast exams. That it would only make me worry, and that he would be checking them every six months. Probably a good thing. When the lump was first found, I checked my breasts every morning before I got out of bed, rather than the once a month that is recommended. Sort of goes along with the whole weighing myself twice a day thing.

But back to the mammogram...Can you imagine (ok guys, I know you can) mammographer for a job? Nothing but handling boobs -- literally -- all day long. And I realize that there is nothing sexual about all. But really....I almost starting laughing at the absurdity of it, when the technician was adjusting one of the "girls" and literally slapped the other one off the film board.

When you think about it, the whole experience is rather bizarre. You go into a private dressing room, take off all your clothes from the waist up and put on a hospital gown, and then go sit in a private waiting room. With other women. Who are dressed the same way. Dress pants or jeans, and a hospital gown, opening in front, tied at the side. And you read magazines or make small talk, as if this were the most normal thing in the world.

And then you go into the radiology room and you stand in front of a big machine with a small platform. The technician adjusts it so the platform is at your chest. Then because gravity does take over, she hoists your breast onto the platform, molding it in the way she wants it to lay and then holding it in place while another platform comes from the top, essentially squeezing it as flat as it can go. Hold your breath, don't move, and click, the Kodak film has an image of the inside your breast. Now let's do the other one.

I'll go to my doctor next week. He'll have seen the films, and he'll do an exam, and tell me I'm fine. He'll ask if I'm okay with everything, if I'm worried about anything -- and I'll ask him the same thing I always ask. "If I was your wife, would you suggest she be treating this any differently?" And he'll say no, and I'll tell him I trust him. And that's that for six more months.

Ithaca is Gorges!

The phone call went well. Very well.

I'm confident that I will get a second interview. In fact, he basically said that he would be calling me at the end of the week or early next week to set up a second interview next week. Ideally, he would want to make an offer before the end of the year (Merry Christmas!) and have the person start in January.

It would be a great job. I would actually be "doing" things, rather than pushing projects from this person to this person, rather than having meetings to talk about how busy everyone is, rather than dealing with the office politics of a college campus. I would dealing with the media again, creating long-range marketing and advertising plans, holding press conferences and writing press releases.

So what's the down side? Because, of course, there is a down side. And it is what it always comes down to -- money.

He did quote me a salary range -- that would be in the range of $8-10,00 less than I currently make. I asked if the salary was negotiable. He said that he wouldn't want to weed out a potential candidate over a dollar sign, so yes, he would be willing to sit down and negotiate.

That sounds promising enough, but I already have debt that I am paying off, from taking a job that sounded great, but didn't pay that well. A job that I stuck with for five years, waiting for the pay-off -- all the while, sometimes needing to pay for groceries on my credit card.

I don't need to be making more than I make now. I just really can't make less. Or I'll never be able to buy a house and have a baby, which are the goals. And perfectly possible under the current budget.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Monday, Monday


Everyone think good thoughts for me. Please.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

He Called.

The PR Goddess could be making a comeback.

I have to call him back tomorrow to set something up for Monday or next Friday.

Fingers crossed.