Just call me Judy Btfsplk

I know I am dating myself with that reference but, I could care less about dating myself, since in fact, I am only dating myself.

Do you see now why my head spins when I think too much? And internets, my head is spinning.

Much like the trinity (“a mystery wrapped in an enigma” or so my catechism told me),* today was a comic-karmic cesspool wrapped up in a nearly perfect day. Thursday Obama announced a Cleveland rally featuring none other than “the Boss.”  I love Obama and I love Bruce Springsteen (who doesn’t?) so I RSVP’d on Obama.com, donated 5 bucks* (maybe please to win a front row seat on election night) and started planning.  Being single (alone again, naturally) and with a surfeit of absent and/or crowd averse friends, I was worried I would have to attend alone. And you all know how people look at single women of a certain age mumbling to themselves in crowds. Not pretty. So I started recruiting.

I convinced my good friends and neighbors the M’s to go; N and P (two of the finest people G-d put on this earth) said they might go.  Son No. 2 wanted to go but had a Leadership Conference this weekend and would be in East Podunk doing rope/rock climbing at a YMCA on Sunday. Saturday it looked like it was a go for everyone except the boy – by Sunday the M’s were still working out the details, N & P (wisely) decided to watch at home and the boy was texting me that he wanted to, oh and by the way, would I drive to East Podunk on Sunday and pick him up so that he could rock to witness the Boss history.

I am a softy, I would drive anywhere for the boy.  But my car (like everything else since I lost my job) suffers from lack of maintenance. I agonized over whether the bubble in the rear tire would be a problem; I worried about spending money for gasoline. But after 70 billion-ty texts and cell calls I decided I would pick him in East Podunk (over an hour away), drive to downtown Cleveland and find a parking place far from the madding crowd so we could rock the vote participate in history.

By 10:30 AM, I was scrubbed and dressed, ready to grab my keys and zip out the door when I reached for my trusty eye glasses –

cue foreboding music – dum dum dum

SNAP – they broke clean in half.

Broen glasses, insurance card and Mounds miniatures to dull the pain

Broken glasses, insurance card, tea and Mounds miniatures to dull the pain

Dammit I thought is this an omen?

No, I have to stop being afraid and worrying – get out of the house and get out of this isolation.

Bravely I grabbed a set of old glasses, logged onto to Map Quest to get directions to East Podunk. I printed everything while I tied my most comfortable pair of shoes.  I turned off the computer and grabbed the stuff from the printer and hit the road.

Sort of.

First, I forgot my cell phone, then I realized I forgot to print the directions to East Podunk. No problem I thought – I’ll get them on my cell. I googled map quest on my cell – WTF – no results. I googled google maps – WTF – had to install an application.  I was multitasking like Kate Plus 8 when I walked out the door. I moved the boy’s car to the street (it’s complicated the garage situation here) and made one last return to the house to get my ipod.

Finally in my car and on the road I was making progress, zipped out 271, got on Rt. 8, I was cruising to the Dixie Chicks not making nice and congratulating myself on getting out of my way and into the world.  So far so good – right?

Umm – no.

After about 10 minutes I noticed a lot more buildings than usual on Rt. 8 – hmm – lots of building – wait wait wait – dammit I am going the wrong direction – I am headed back home. I turned the car around and got myself going in the right direction which included LOTS road construction and 40 MPH speed limits and a 100 billion-ty text and calls from the boy – WHERE ARE YOU!

Finally I made it to the general vicinity of East Podunk in the middle of nowhere Ohio. One hand on the wheel and one hand trying to mapquest, I suspected I had gotten lost.  Spying 2 churches ahead I thought – SALVATION! and pulled into the lot to consult my map.  I couldn’t figure it out, but luckily a car was pulling out of the church lot, I pulled beside it and motioned for the driver to roll down her window.

She did. I asked do you know where Nimsalla Road is?

She replied – I’m deaf.

What are the odds? When I am not flustered I can sign enough to be polite but I was so flabbergasted I just mumbled – I am sorry.

Geez. Hey G-d it’s me Maragaret Judy Btfsplk – are you trying to tell me something.

I forged on, ultimately arriving at the YMCA camp where the boy was waiting. He jumped in the car, allowing me only the briefest of bathroom breaks**, and we were off to Cleveland. We arrived in Cleveland about 1:15 PM and parked a good distance from the Event. We hoofed it fast and got to East 9th and ran smack dab into the line for the event. We got in line and waited

the line

the line

and waited

more line

more line

and waited

We made it!

We made it!

until about 2 hours later when we inched our way forward as the last lucky few to make it into the actual event. We were way way way in the back, but we were happy.

the back of the rally

the back of the rally

After about another 45 minutes the Boss came on and he was awesome. I couldn’t see him but I could hear him.  About 30 minutes after that, Obama came on and he was even more awesome.  I couldn’t see Obama either; not only was he far away, but they had HUGE BRIGHT rapture lighting blinding my field of vision.

rapture lighting Bruce Springsteen

rapture lighting Bruce Springsteen

It was impossible to even look in the direction of the stage without being blinded.

But it was great and everyone was having a good time until Obama mentioned Dick Cheney’s name. Dick must have some heavy dark mumbo jumbo because right then it started to rain and it didn’t stop. Don’t get me wrong – it was still awesome – only now it was awesome and wet.

Rally over, aching from standing in one place on cold concrete, headache from the rapture lights, we headed back the seeming gazillion miles back to our car. Needing a drink and a bathroom by this point, we were frustrated at every block by our city’s non-existent nightlife. Finally just when I was about to pass out we spied a Starbucks.

AHHHHhhhhhh – we zipped in and while the boy got us coffee I stood in line for the one, now very popular, ladies room. Soaking wet, worn out and looking pretty ghastly, I was glad I had not run into anyone I knew when, dum dum dum, the bathroom door opened and there she stood.

A perfectly put together HR person who didn’t hire me for one of the jobs I applied for – dammit.

Maybe she won’t recognize me.

Then she looks me in the eye and says Clare?

Ahh no I said – Judy Btfsplk.

No time to chat, la la la, we got the heck out of there.

By now I am starving (no lunch, no supper, no coffee, no energy) and I still have to get the boy fed and back to his leadership conference, which I did cuz I am awesome.

Finally, 8 long hours after I left, I  returned home with visions of Advil and my jammies dancing in my head – but wait – the boy’s car is in the street and I have to put it back in the driveway. I can barely walk I am so cold and sore, but I hobble out the street, open the passenger door (the only one that unlocks on his jalopy) and climb my old tired ass into the driver’s seat.  I start the car and back up to pull into my driveway. Only, in the inky blackness of the night and unaccustomed to his car, I put it into reverse and

CRASH – right into my neighbor’s car.

Listen guys, I am tired, I am broke, I haven’t been able to find a job in spite of mad crazy wonderful skills and sterling references. The last thing I need is another day like today.

Send light, send prayers, send good thoughts.  I am ready for CHANGE.

* I know I am being irreverent – don’t hassle me – at least I am not talking about my ideas for Imprimatur panties or a Pop up Pope book.

** the East Podunk YMCA has the loudest most powerful hand dryer on the planet except maybe at the KFC in Roanoke Rapids, NC

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Employment

Funny, sad and revealing.

I am one of 760,000 Americans who lost their jobs this year – UPDATED

And it is awful and terrible at a level that is hard to comprehend unless you are living it.  I (usually) don’t write about it because, really, what does it help?

Over the past 10 months of unemployment I have used up all my financial and emotional resources.  In the beginning, thinking this would be a temporary situation, I accepted offers of help from friends for groceries, a haircut (before job interviews) or a tank of gas. But no more.

Why do I have regret?

Once you have accepted help from friends and you are unable to pay it back, and your situation worsens, if they stop calling you begin to wonder whether the reason they don’t call is that they are afraid you will ask for or expect help.  The calls stop coming, the emails slow down and the isolation deepens.

My situation as a single woman who receives minimal child support means I don’t qualify for any public assistance (even if I could bring myself to take it.)  I have a heart condition, no health insurance and can’t afford doctor visits or heart medication.  My stomach churns all the time from stress and my jaw aches from gritting my teeth. I think about dying every day. I cannot imagine ever being happy again.

I am educated, competent and middle aged.  At least I used to be competent.  I obtained an excellent result for a client in December, raised a lot of money for various causes over the past few years, but my previous successes don’t seem to count for much of anything. I have applied for jobs I am well qualified for without success.  I have applied for jobs I am over qualified for without success.  I have applied for jobs I am ridiculously overqualified for with no success.

Potential employers, if they communicate at all, tell me that so many people apply that they can get exactly the skill set/person they want even without consider everyone’s application, including mine. I would hang out a shingle except that people in my field who have worked for years to build practices can’t pay their office rent – business is tough, very tough.

Job loss makes life more challenging. Family stress rises when there is not money enough to cover basic needs. My family is no different. Things that are hard to deal with become unbearable when poverty is added to the mix.

My mother is slipping into dementia. She lives 65 miles away. I can’t afford to visit her very often.  I do call frequently and every time I talk to her she asks me the same question over and over again, “have you found a job yet?”  When I answer no, she repeats, over and over again, as if she cannot believe me, “nothing, nothing at all.”On days like today when I am beyond sad I don’t call her because I can’t stop crying. She shouldn’t have to share this burden; she deserves her last days to be happy.

My ex will not pay more child support – that is why my older son lives here.  It is my ex’s way of “helping.” In my ex’s defense, he is a good father, but no one disputes that he is the cheapest human being on the planet. For years I let this go because I wanted to spare my child’s feelings.  He loves us both and he cannot bear for us to fight.

But something was lost in the process – my child’s respect for me.

My choice to put him first, over career, was important. I was a good mother, and a good mother puts her  children first, especially when they need love and devotion through serious childhood struggles.  I put him first, I wouldn’t change that, it was my responsibility and what I wanted to do.  Always and no matter what I had to do, or do without, I did what I could for him.

But now his first words to me when he walks in the door from school is “have you found a job yet?”  His father, lives comfortably (he deserves it – he works hard) has taken him on his college tours, vacations, out to dinner and football games. I am selling the few things I have so I can buy him an 18th birthday present. He tells me I am no fun, I am always depressed, that he is unhappy with the living situation.  One home has money, plenty of it, with the security, comfort and luxury it brings.  The other has none of this anymore.  I understand his anger and frustration.

I was forced to let my older son move in with his family/children/pets to keep the lights on.  It is stressful beyond belief.  I feel like an intruder in my own home. Last week in a fit of anger he told me in no uncertain terms how pathetic I am.  Yesterday he informed that it would be “disrespectful” to him for me to put an Obama sign in my yard.

You can bet I walk on eggshells.

My friends are largely absent.  My phone never rings and, even if it did, when you really really have no money, you can’t go for coffee or lunch.  And accompanying friends while they buy for parties or fret about, what is now to me, luxury worries, it is a toss up whether being alone is less painful than being a third (loser) wheel.

One friend, in a moment of poignant clarity, told me (in reference to another friend’s troubles) that she cannot bear to hear anyone’s sad news.  She doesn’t want to hear it.  She herself is depressed.

She asks me “does that make me a bad friend?” I don’t know, but I certainly understand her need for self preservation.

The longer the unemployment, the more challenging it becomes. I send out resume after resume after resume – if you ask people in my situation how it works they will tell you it is like throwing a resume into a black hole. The months wear on. My clothes get shabbier and shabbier.  I can’t afford a hair cut or good shampoo.  I am looking older and more worn out.  After years of not looking my age, I fear that I look even older. Small things that would give me comfort, make me feel younger, cheered up, more well groomed are out of reach. I wonder for the next interview, if there is a next interview, how I will brighten myself up to the point where I feel I can sell what I have to offer.

I started this blog as a writing exercise. Through the first 4 or 5 months of unemployment it energized me.  Now I don’t know.  Although my real identity is not front and center it isn’t exactly a secret, and let’s face it, what I am writing here is hardly flattering.  I guess it is a mark of my pessimism (or stupidity) that I just don’t care.

Maybe it is my optimism; my calling, my dream job is advocacy for the less fortunate, and if my writing here moves one bureaucrat to vote with compassion, or one republican to vote for Obama,  it is worth it.

I wonder, with the state of the economy, how many women like me are out there?  Over educated elitists who gave freely when they had it, sacrificed job advancement for more time with their children, volunteered and served their communities, who chose unwisely in the “happily ever after” department and who find themselves middle aged, bitter, isolated and broke.

I am sure I am not alone.

You should not be surprised that John McCain, Sarah Palin and their ilk make me want to vomit.  I fear for this country where so many clamor “right to life” while so many, once born, suffer their ridicule and abandonment. Think Sarah Palin campaigning in Canton, Ohio with the head of Timken who was responsible for so much job loss. Think John McCain who canceled couldn’t be bothered to send a representative attendance at March’s Foreclosure Forum in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  If it were held today you bet your your unemployed ass he would be here, kissing yours.

Can Obama help?  Can he win the election?

With Catholics and the neocons focused on morality issues I don’t know.  With Jews focused on G-d knows what, Israel or racism, I don’t know. With the degree of racism that pervades every level of our society, I don’t know.

I only know that I am one of 600,000 760,000* and the past 8 years have been economic hell for me as a single working mother.

And I am tired – damn tired. And fed up, but way too depressed to be angry.

If you are supporting McCain please read my words and consider them seriously.  This country faces challenges that are beyond the capabilities of John McCain and Sarah Palin and the folks they surround themselves with.  And for you working class republicans – are you really truly better off than you were 8 years ago?  Are you safer?  Are you richer? Do you have better health care?

I think not.

If you felt safer you wouldn’t be so afraid of Muslims.  If you felt richer you wouldn’t fear tax cuts for the middle class or more accountability for corporations. If you believed all that McCain and Palin are selling you would be more compassionate.

I hope Obama wins; I hope, if and when he does, that he has the support of this entire nation, because it will take all of us, taking care of each other, to survive.

* Updated to reflect September job loss figures

Thornton Strikes Again

My hands are trembling (with fury) as I write this – sitting on the couch this evening trolling the online classifieds I was deep in thought when all of a sudden a black flare exploded onto my laptop keyboard knocking it straight out of my hands.

Helpless, I watched the case close and spin, as if in slow motion, and grabbed only air in a futile attempt to break its fall.

HP – I hardly knew ye.

And Justin Jason at the Democratic National Convention – today alone your cat Thornton broke 2 glasses and a cup and spilled an entire glass of milk on my kitchen floor. Oh and yea, did I mention he tries to trip me every chance he gets.

Obama Stealth Cat - Thornton

Obama Stealth Cat - Thornton

This cat is trying to kill me.

I just thought you should know that if he succeeds that is one less vote for Obama.

I am going to slink back to my hiatus which now includes a damaged laptop (update repaired) as well as unemployment, loneliness, depression and heartache.

Blogging My birthday, Arjewtino style

On June 24th I stopped by Arjewtino’s blog for my regular helping of his unique heeby wisdom (I do so love my people!). I was not disappointed – an ironic birthday celebration was in full swing. And I do love irony. So with a tip of the birthday hat to the master …

My Birthday is on the way here. In spite of my refusal to even think of the numbers 8 and 13 and 55, those self same numbers even now are arranging themselves for presentation at approximately 9:35AM. The 55 is especially troublesome. It does not seem to be the hippest number at the party. No savant am I, but to me this number looks a tad lumpy and gray; if I put on my rose colored glasses it takes a somewhat more pleasing form, but still, it is far from a beauty.

Rose colored view

Rose colored view

It wasn’t always this way. I can remember a time when 8 and 13 frolicked happily with 5 paired with various other numbers. Everything was new and fresh (including my skin which let me tell you was flawless).

There were years of balloons and song, frosted confections with delicate (yet large) pink roses. There were first bicycles and first kisses and first cars. There was a green record player that coincided with one first kiss that played McArthur Park over and over again while I tended a first heart ache. A heartache that paled in comparison to the pain I felt November of that same year when I lost my father.

I learned then what I know now all to well – life doesn’t stop. At some point the pain eases and you just get up and start living again. Our thirst for life is relentless and 8 and 13 knew it way back then. We rolled on.

Soon that little party and the green record player were but a faded memory and we jumped headlong into adulthood. Just past the magic 18, no longer content with birthday cake, 8 and 13 rushed to taste wedding cake only to spend 24 as a baby divorcee, drunk for the very first time, crying at the party.

You know the song – It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to …

And I did.

Not 8 and 13 though – they were invincible. Moving on and gathering steam they decided they had no time for tears. There were degrees to get, marriages to make and babies to have. They sped through the rock n’ roll years recklessly, joyously, and filled them in equal measure with joy and heartbreak.

Like a virgin for the very first time

Like a virgin for the very first time

Young mother

Young mother

Tough as they were though, they couldn’t outrun every trouble. There were years without parties and plenty of tears and broken dreams. As the song goes “that’s life” and it sure was.

Fall from grace

Fall from grace

After a hard fall 8 and 13 partied a whole lot less but still set out a great table. The players changed but there were by now two constant companions, Eric and Jacob. It seemed only natural and right that the boys take front and center and 8 and 13 were happy to oblige. So was I.

Front and center

Front and center

Jacob on a roll

Jacob on a roll

The table is both more and less crowded now – if that makes sense. Jacob brings a family and 8 and 13 share with a certain Ev the right to party with 16. Eric is often on the run and ready to charge out the door. My first party planner is fading away, very fragile and won’t be with me and 8 and 13 later today because I am sick. So tonight’s party, much like my life, will not be what I planned, but I will celebrate getting to 55, alive and intact.

This post is dedicated to my mom, who even before dementia set in used to send me cards captioned “To my good friend” and to my sons Jacob and Eric, who when I turned 50 presented the cake that appears below. We are dysfunctional, crazy, funny, smart, kind and a family in all its messy glory. I am grateful and I am so blessed.

You're Old

You're Old

Dear internets – this birthday if you are inclined to give a gift – please consider doing so to Lisa @Clusterfook who is going through her third battle with cancer or my neighbor Gary Balogh who, as I write this, is gravely ill and awaiting a stem cell transplant for Birkett’s lymphoma.

As for me, for my birthday I want a new, shiny job with benefits – ribbon not required. If you know of an organization that needs someone with my awesome skill set, feel free to email me.

Free Beer Tuesday

Life has been far too serious of late and I am suffering information/emotion overload. So today I am all about fluff and nonsense.

And I will write this post just as soon as I finish my beer.

UPDATE:

I never got my beer. I didn’t feel like writing either. Instead I went to my granddaughter’s spring concert “Now for something completely dinosaur.”

Then off to Dave’s Cosmic Subs – delicious!

An(Almost)Instanteous Rejection – What a Rush!

I spend my mornings following up on my RSS feeds from various job sites, trolling links to find mention of any jobs not listed on the big guys, tweaking my cover letters and resume to “fit” the need.  If I am so lucky to find one, after the time intensive process of joining yet another corporate site, I send my application off into the ether.

When I finished graduate school, prepared to enter the job market as a professional for the first time, Kinkos had just become the place to get your resumes done. You drafted it, they made it pretty. I diligently pecked out a resume, dropped it off and a few days later picked up the elegant looking copies on fine stationary neatly stacked in a cardboard box. I bought matching stationary and envelopes then marched home to type my cover letter on an IBM Selectric, mailed out a bunch and in return got some very nice rejection letters.

By the time I graduated law school it was slightly different, there were PC’s, but the routine was similar. Print them up, mail them out and wait for the call or the rejection letter. Only the rejection letters didn’t come, nor did requests for interviews. There was a recession; jobs were scarce and the HR folks were so inundated with resumes that they stopped sending out the rejection letters.

Today nothing gets mailed out. It is email or forms uploaded on web sites. The process takes hours and dealing with forms when you are attempting to change careers is enough to make a nun swear. Today I was lucky enough to find a position I was well suited for – I filled out the form, uploaded my resume and pressed submit. Within an HOUR I received an email rejection.

I miss the old days, at least there was the illusion of hope.

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