People Read Reviews?

So, in case you didn’t know, adding to our extremely expensive last couple of years, I also had a little visit to the emergency room several weeks ago. While our friends and their daughter were staying, I’d been complaining of what had felt like a UTI for a few days. Saturday morning, I woke up feeling more pain then usual, which ended up getting worse and worse. It was localized on the lower lefthand side of my back and was almost exactly what I’d experienced when I had kidney stones when I was pregnant with Bea. By about 9:30am, I was rocking back and forth on the floor, on my knees, in tears. It felt like I was in labor all over again.

We all attempted not to freak out. I called Charlie, who left work on personal time. Our guests decided to go to Lincoln Park Zoo, taking Bea with them. I was in no condition to argue against it. Through the haze of pain, I tried to imagine Bea doing hot laps around a hospital waiting room and screaming while people bleeding from stab wounds and elderly people with broken limbs cried and begged Charlie to take her somewhere else. It was a blessing our friends were here to attend to her. If there’s one positive thing I can say about the hospital visit, it’s that Bea got to go to the zoo, got food and drinks and ice cream, played with her friend, and had a blast.

I found the closest urgent care/ER and we drove straight there. The person at the front desk asked what was wrong. I said I thought I had kidney stones, so he directed us to the emergency room, which is where we went.

Charlie and I were separated, which was understandable. It was a very small triage room with 4 or 5 beds and I know they have to accout for potential domestic abuse, but I couldn’t get a signal on my phone, so while I was getting texts from him (“What’s going on?” “How long will it be?” “Are you feeling any better?” “Do they know what’s wrong?”), he wasn’t receiving mine.

The short version of the story is just that the place was super dirty, the people working there were super rude (with the exception of one lady who took pity on me and processed my paperwork so I could go home and free up space for actual emergencies), and I wished I’d gone someplace else. I spent hours and hours of a Saturday waiting to be seen, waiting to be treated, waiting to be scanned, waiting to be given prescriptions, waiting to be released . . .

A person identifying herself as a patient advocate for the hospital called and left me a voicemail earlier this afternoon to see what she could do about my “experience.”

I’d written a negative review of the ER on Yelp after this visit which included being told I didn’t know what I was talking about when explaining my symptoms (the nurse who I dealt with the most said “That’s not kidney stones.”), being asked to disrobe in plain view of other patients, being yelled at several times by the attending nurse, and using a bathroom that was filthy. I’m talking, there was urine all over the toilet seat, the floor, and even in the sink. Sprinkled in the urine were a variety of pubic hairs. One older man shuffled back and forth between his bed and the bathroom with the open back of his hospital gown flapping in the wind.

Apparently, the patient advocate read the review, identified who I was, called, and now wants to discuss what happened. I’m not really sure what to tell her. Clean the bathroom? Hire nicer nurses?

I’m sort of embarrassed about the entire thing. You write these reviews, hoping someone will find it helpful, then someone who deals with, I’m guessing, the “image” of the hospital calls to find out what they can do to . . . what?  Get you to write a more positive review? Delete the review altogether?

The most disappointing part of the experience is that I didn’t even get to use that wonderful hospital soap that I love so much. Whatever they had in the bathroom might have been a high-grade antibacterial soap, but it wasn’t the hospital stuff that I’m obsessed with.

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Three Weeks Away

One thing I enjoy about other people’s blogs is photos, which really drives home how lackluster mine is in appearance. But since the battery charger we got to replace one that got lost in one move or another pooped out, I haven’t been taking photos with anything but my iPod Touch. Which, unfortunately, has a pretty disappointing camera on it.

And to be honest, most of the photos I take (I’ll be generous and say only about 95%) are of the kid. People on Facebook and Google+ have to see enough of her, and since I’ve run out of free space on my Flickr page, I’m not going to subject any readers here to more. Well, not in this post, anyway.

What I would like to do is get another battery charger and start carrying the camera around with me wherever we go. This is a somewhat frustrating idea because I already have to carry so much junk. I think one of the things I truly never understood about parents is WHY ALL THE CRAP? And then I became one.

Every trip out the door is an event. Struggling with her to just put on socks is sometimes exhausting. Then shoes, and, now that it’s colder out, mittens, coat, a hat, eventually a scarf. On really chilly evenings, I might bring a blanket and put it over her in the stroller. Then I have to check and double-check everything. Do I have an emergency diaper and wipes? Does she want a drink? Milk or juice? Do I need to bring a snack? Should I have a lollipop available for bribes?

The longer and more involved the trip, the more copious the amounts of junk. On our trip back to Indianapolis last week, our Toyota Matrix was spilling over with bags, shoes, pillows, toys, books. Charlie made a trip back home to work for two days and, when he returned, he brought even more stuff because, apparently, I had not brought enough shit the first time.

The trip itself was relatively uneventful. And I mean that in a good way. My dad did not show up to our family Thanksgiving. He never replied to any of his siblings’ emails asking if he was coming, what he might like to bring. He just called my grandmother Sunday morning to say he wasn’t feeling well.

It was a blessing, though. Once I knew that, my shoulders relaxed and I could breathe a little easier. Although now I wonder what the chances are of him coming for Christmas. My family always gets together on Christmas Eve, leaving the holiday open for “other sides” of your family. We would do Christmas Day at my mother’s folks’ house. These past few years, since things have begun to get sketchy in my immediate family, Charlie and I haven’t done much of anything. I really like that.

This year, barring any hideous winter storms, we will travel to Indy again, spend a few days at my friend Jill’s, spend Christmas Eve with my family, and get Chinese or Indian food on the 25th. We discussed the possibility of attempting to find The Muppets movie at a cheap theater and seeing how Bea handles it. I don’t know that she would like being inside a large, dark room with really loud music playing. Movie theaters give me a headache, so I can’t imagine how it would affect a 2 1/2 year old.

I do like the idea of having some sort of relaxed family tradition, just the three of us. I also like a new tradition that’s started on my paternal family’s side. Last year, when we picked names, we decided to do handmade gifts. I got the song “Beautiful Bea” from Will and Ben (no one can ever top that), I made my aunt Vicki a sugar body scrub and an apron, Charlie made a table for my cousin’s (now ex) husband, and so on. Since some people didn’t take too well to the idea, we decided people could do one of two things: either make a gift for someone, or absolutely keep the gift under $20.

I got my cousin Peter (on purpose. It helps to be the one in charge of the name drawing to ensure not getting someone who is impossible to shop for). I have had a plan for a couple of months now for something I’d like to make him. After mapping it out, I came across a second idea and now I don’t know how to choose between the two. I have neither the time nor the energy to do both, as much as I’d like to.

For the moment, I am working on my friend Maureen’s personal statements for grad school and trying to steer her in a direction that’s helpful. This weekend, I think I’ll buckle down and start on Peter’s gift. Our family Christmas is just three weeks away, after all.

Holiday Anxiety

We’ve been struggling with holiday plans for weeks now. Of course, we’d like to have Bea spend as much time as possible with everyone, but we are at the mercy of long-distance travel with a spirited toddler, which is not easy.

Most of the time, she’s great in the car. But we usually try to schedule our driving time around her nap. Charlie wants to head to Indianapolis as soon as he gets off work on Wednesday, 5:45pm, the day before Thanksgiving. We’d spend the day at our friends’ – Jill and Scott – and Charlie would leave late Thursday (or early Friday morning, despite potentially encountering hordes of holiday shoppers) since he doesn’t have to be back at work until 10am.

Then he’d drive back down Saturday afternoon when he left work at 3pm, and we’d all come home Sunday after my family’s dinner.

Complicated enough?

The most irritating part is that we actually had an opportunity to stay even longer — Charlie was actually off today (Sunday) and tomorrow, so we could conceivably have driven down one of those days. But we are also at the mercy of finances, and the longer we are in Indy, the more money we’ll have to spend on food and activities with other people we want to see.

We’ve done a decent job of staying on top of bills until this past week. Charlie finally gave in and went into a debt management program (I did not know until about a month ago exactly how much he owed in credit cards — it’s a lot.), so this program have been a lot more helpful if he’d signed up earlier. Instead, we had to continue making extra payments on everything while they decided whether or not to agree to the terms.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving will be my paternal family’s get-together, which, of course, may include my dad. Though I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t turn up, I am really not looking forward to having to see him. While I’m relatively happy with the way things are right now, I just cannot imagine having a polite conversation with him about “how things are going” without gritting my teeth to keep from screaming something about how much better things would have been if he hadn’t leeched off of us for almost a year.

There would be so many things I would want to say to him, and so many things I would probably not allow myself to say. But Charlie is a lot more confrontational than I am, so I’m also concerned that he might just go off, too. The chances of that happening are much more likely than of me doing it . . . I think?

I keep imagining two things: one is this really angry encounter – seething, fuming, hateful – and the other is me feeling like a human being, feeling sorry for him. This man lost everything, including his wife and family (he certainly hasn’t gone out of his way to develop any sort of relationship with me or my sister), job, home, etc… And now he has this dinky apartment in some crappy building in the middle of nowhere and he just wants to make it comfortable.

But then I’m angry again. Thinking about all the times he lied right to my face, all the times I knew he was trying to bullshit or manipulate me, and I don’t understand why I continue to feel sorry for him. It’s what he wants. He really thrives on other people’s sympathies. I don’t know how many times I heard him exaggerate or flat-out like about a circumstance in order to garner sympathy from a listener. His mom, his brothers, me, Charlie, a random person on the phone, bill collectors, you name it.

I guess this is the part where people are supposed to tell me I go back and forth because I’m “a good person.” Or, at least, perhaps a “better” person than he is. I don’t know what to think, feel, or do. I just know that I’ve done a pretty good job of managing my anxiety over the past few years and the thought of having to see him for the first time in almost 8 months, with absolutely zero contact (did I mention, not even an email for his granddaughter’s birthday? Yeah, I’ve probably mentioned it several times) gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.

The Importance of Making Lists

There’s a point in the beginning of every semester where I feel like sitting on the floor, throwing all my papers and books into the air, and pulling out my hair.
It’s like everything is whizzing past me and I’m just trying to catch up. But then, after a few weeks, there’s a certain rhythm that’s achieved and I can find some balance between the projects, papers, articles, readings, quizzes, homework, and exams.
Notice I said, “semester.”

Now that I’ve been in graduate school for three (or is it four?) weeks, it’s almost time for me to register for the next quarter’s classes. The quarter is almost half over.

Plug your ears while I shriek for a moment.

Okay. I’m done.

So it sort of feels like that rhythm, the balance you find when organizing the courseload, is just out of reach. By the time I get there, things will be wrapping up.

One thing I find very odd about this schedule is that there is nothing happening for over a month. Between November 22nd and sometime in early January, there aren’t any courses to speak of. I think some people can register for accelerated classes during that time, but not my program. During that period of time, I’ll have no financial aid, my CTA pass will be deactivated, and there’s nothing really to do.

Charlie has a week off in late October, which he is required to take in order to avoid taking time off during the holidays. Which means our trips back to Indy for Thanksgiving and Christmas might be extremely short — if they happen at all. Christmas is on a Sunday this year, which mean if the bank is open on Monday, we won’t have much time at all. And my family always does stuff on Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, and, given his status as newest hire, Charlie will most likely not be able to take the previous or following day off in order to celebrate.

I will have time to work, though, which is good. I just learned the hard way that I can’t rush. Last week I was scrambling to turn in as many files as I could, to make as much money as I could before the pay period was over (we only get paid once per month). I took on a bunch of jobs that were two or three times longer than I have edited in the past. As a result, I got one decent review, immediately followed by a really bad one. The QA person was obviously irritated with me because I made the same stupid mistakes on both files, including some really glaring errors that could have been avoided if I’d just waited to turn the stuff in and reviewed everything one more time.

I just cannot balance work, life, and school very effectively right now. As usual, I struggle with the reality of bills and financial responsibilities, set against the knowledge that school is important and I need to do the best I can, paired with the fact that my kid and partner need me to stay present and focused.

I remember this period of time in my life when I was first working in social services, making something like $4.75 an hour. I had three major bills: a car payment, car insurance, and rent. I also began to take on a small mountain of debt in the form of high-interest, low-limit credit cards. Whatever someone would give me, I took. Each paycheck, I was able to take care of maybe two of those things.
I began to prioritize in order of importance. I had to have a car to work, but car insurance wasn’t something I could necessarily afford. So I let it lapse.  The credit card that didn’t have to be used at a store, I kept payments on so I could buy groceries and put gas in my car. The others fell behind and I honestly didn’t really care.

I ended up getting myself into a nasty credit situation and eventually went to a credit counseling agency where I managed to pay everything off in about 2 years. That was a good thing, but if I learned anything from the experience, it’s that I when I feel overwhelmed, especially with finances, I sometimes would rather pull the covers over my head and pretend I don’t hear any of it.

This is also an aspect of my personality that I have seen in both of my parents. And, if the past few years dealing with both of them has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to just stick my head in the sand. The reason they’re both in the situations they find themselves is because they refused to face the ugliness and reality that life sometimes presents us. Most of which is our own doing.

So, while I know that part of life is prioritizing, I also know that I have to continue to focus on the reasons why I’m choosing to make each decision in order of importance. Otherwise, I end up making choices in the heat of the moment that don’t pan out well.

As much as I’d like to bring in bigger and bigger paychecks, I’ll end up finding my contract terminated if I continue turning in sloppy jobs. So, while I have time off from school during this ridiculously long December break, I can focus on working more and doing a less shitty job at the same time.

The Mean Geek Clique

There are geeks and dorks, dweebs and nerds, weirdos and freaks. While each classification has its own definition, they all share one common thread: each is susceptible to bullying. Whatever it is about us that makes us stand out, seem strange or awkward, makes other people  uncomfortable enough to target us (at any point in life but, of course, more often when we’re young), some more horribly than others.

Chances are, those who are bullied are also smart and, as we get older and more self-confident, we can find clever ways to bite back when we feel threatened.

Sometimes, though, what seems like fighting back is just another clique bullying someone, and the cycle continues. Only this time, it’s not done out of ignorance or stupidity, it’s a direct, planned, nasty attack meant to make someone else suffer for his or her perceived ignorance. Because that attack is fueled by years of our own genuine or perceived suffering.

Take for example a site that makes fun of Etsy sellers (I admit I’m concerned about attacks from users), a web site full of geeks who love unique, handmade products, but make fun of the worst ones that are featured on Etsy. For sure, Etsy has turned in to a kind of homemade eBay, where some sellers are trying to make a buck off something that is usually neither handmade (unless it’s by an 11-year-old Guatemalan boy) nor unique.

Occasionally, I glance over the comments on the Facebook fan pages for each site. Etsy is full of a bunch of people verbally blowing each other about their cutesy crafts, and the other is full of people attacking the Etsy sellers or users for being stupid, then getting pissed at that person for having the audacity to be offended by being called stupid by a bunch of strangers on a web site.

A recent series of posts has turned the corner from occasionally ugly, light-hearted fun-poking to really vicious attacks. The thing that bothered me most was seeing users who disagreed with the group being attacked, called names, and encouraged to cry like the babies they are and leave the site.

The other night, the site pointed out a couple who had a themed wedding which was featured on the Etsy site. The theme was offensive to many people (1,199 comments and counting as of this post).  The couple admitted to spending something around $10,000-15,000 for their wedding, where they tied their boot laces together, “shared a single bean,” and made all of their guests dress in related gear (including creating a blog months in advance where the bride featured Etsy sellers who had products she felt guests should purchase, and making fun of anyone who came in “regular clothes”).

The angry response was exceptional. Users called the bride and groom everything from ignorant and racist, to referring to the groom as a c*nt, to having Twitter wars with members of the couple’s family who felt the response was out of line.

Fans toted out the stories of their own family members who barely lived through the Depression, suffered extreme poverty, starved half to death. Some referred to their own childhood or young adult destitution, shared sob stories about how they surfed friends’ couches, or talked about other people they knew who were essentially homeless. Hence, the wedding theme was NOT CUTE and these people were PISSED. They posted 15-paragraph-long diatribes about the Depression, what a hobo really was, how retarded this family was, why they deserved to be attacked, and how the user, themselves, can say all this because they know a poor person.

Don’t get me started on my lifelong financial woes, because the shared experience of homelessness does not make me any better or worse than those other people — the couple getting married or the people tearing them apart.

Pointing out the ridiculousness of the wedding’s theme is one thing. The deliberate, personal attack on these people was snowballing out of control. The creator of the site admitted to me that things occasionally get crazy like that, but usually burn out quickly. However, I noticed that first night that she was the one asking fans to post screencaps of the couple’s family’s Twitter feeds, which could only be found if fans took the time to search for those people online. It seems like a terrible waste of energy. And the comments have gone from the hundreds to over a thousand in a couple of days.

I love Etsy. I love the idea of a site that helps people who create individual, handmade items that any of us can purchase. I love the other site. There are lots of hilarious, weird things posted on Etsy, and this site finds that stuff and pokes good fun at them. The owner of the other site also encourages her fans to buy the products of sellers who are in desperate situations – a girl making bags to try and fund her boyfriend’s cancer treatment, a single mom of three kids making teddy bears to try and purchase a car for her family.

Sometimes, though, the snarky, witty, clever, helpful people turn into these rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth, vicious creatures. Their cultural awareness, education, and intelligence is backed by decades of anger at having been made fun of by Popular People. Suddenly, the geeks are the ones with the power, and their sheer numbers, shared hatred for all things cliquey, and skills allow them to completely tear down and destroy an otherwise harmless person who has made a mistake, a misstep, a blunder, a goof, an ignorant remark, or even an ugly dress.

Essentially, they’ve turned into a pack of bullying mean girls. They may support a cause they feel is worthy, but anyone they feel isn’t worth it is summarily trounced.  One woman announced her disappointment in the other users, and her Facebook comment was promptly recorded and posted on the site, where 300 people called her a bitch and a twat, told her to go screw herself, and other don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya’s.

It makes me wonder how strong the connection between the fans can really be when, as soon as someone says “this is going too far,” he or she is ostracized. I made one remark about how I think it’s okay if one out of 90,000 fans dislikes a post and was told to go perform a sexual act on myself by no less than eight people in five minutes.

You can’t blame their behavior on teenage ignorance. It’s adults being  intentionally mean. They want to TELL YOU LIKE IT IS, school you, educate you as to WHY YOU’RE SO FUCKING STUPID, and they want to make sure you suffer for your ignorance.

But what they don’t seem to get is that it’s still butthurt. When someone responds to say, “Why are you doing this to me?” And those fans rise up en masse to pound him back into his place, regardless of their rationale, it’s still bullying.

Vaguely Employed

Today I was officially paid for the first time for my freelance editing job. They pay monthly, which isn’t especially pleasing to me, but it’s a job. Or, rather, it was, until I ran out of regular work.

When I was contracted, they had an unusual amount of assignments and were looking to bring people on as quickly as possible. A potential contractor would normally have 4 weeks to go through their training, but at this point, they asked me to do it in less than 2. I finished it all over a weekend, at which point I was ready to take on paid work.

The first four jobs I took were smaller – between 3 and 25 minutes of edited work. They pay per minute of finished — transcribed or translated — audio or video, so the faster an editor is, the more work he or she can accept, and the more money the editor gets paid. Unfortunately, after my first four jobs, everything dried up and I haven’t done anything since.

They have email alerts, so I can get notifications when there are files on their “market.” But, for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to sign on and pick anything up as quickly as other people.

I’m really hoping this dry spell doesn’t last much longer. I don’t have a lot of time left in the summer to work and am not fast enough to pick up some of the longer files they need finished. Since the required turnaround is usually 24 hours, I have to be really careful not to accept work that’s more than I think I can handle. If I’m doing most of the editing and transcribing while Bea is asleep, then I really only have about four or five hours a day that I can really focus on the job unless I want to stay up all night working and then be with her all day while Charlie’s at work.

The editing program is set up so that each individual word must be placed in a specific cell to match up with the speaker’s voice, so not only does it take an understanding of language and grammar, but I also have to be able to focus all of my attention on it. I’ve attempted working while Bea is tearing around the house screaming at me. Ineffective.

There are two main things I like about this job: one, it’s strictly freelance. I can work from home on my own schedule, taking as little or as much work as I think I can handle. Second, I am certified to use their software and program which, if things go well for the company, will be something that will look good on my resume.

On the other hand, both of those things are also hindrances. If the company doesn’t do well (it’s still relatively new and small), no one will care if I’m certified to edit using their software. And, while I am under no obligation to take work, there is no guarantee I will get any. The people who have been with the company since the start have first dibs on the files; the rest of us have to fight to sign on fast enough to pick up files when they become available.

If necessary, however, I think I’ve been offered another job at a coffeeshop. Last weekend, I got a text message from a number I didn’t know. The message said something like, “Hey, I heard about what happened between you and [the district manager who fired me]. Someone who owns a coffeeshop in Lincoln Park is looking for help right now,” and, if I was interested, I should let the owner know I’d worked at the other place, however briefly. I texted back to say sure, I was interested, and to thank the person for thinking of me. I still don’t know who it was. She told me her name, and it’s not someone I recall working with or meeting during my brief employment. Although I’m pretty sure I met everyone that was employed there.

So I called the owner of this local coffeeshop (but not before removing my somewhat negative review on Yelp) and she said she’d already scrambled around to find coverage for the employee who was in the hospital. If I was interested in working there, though, she said she needs someone starting in August and would love to sit down and speak with me. I said sure, that I’d come in and turn in an application, drop off my resume, whatever.

So here’s the moment where I have to ask myself if I really want to go back to working at a coffeeshop (and one that also serves ice cream and lots of different kinds of food). Do I want to work at a restaurant, or do I just want to make coffee? I just want to make coffee. I don’t want to make grilled cheese sandwiches and soup and scoop out gelato. Just espresso drinks, please.

I also don’t want to spend all my free time at work. I’m still unsure of what a full schedule as a graduate student is like. Will I have to read 75 books per quarter? Will I have to start attending conferences and presenting papers? Will I need to spend every waking moment writing, reading, and studying? I honestly have no idea what the workload will be like in my program, so I’m not quite ready to commit to a regular schedule where I’m rushing out the door the moment Charlie gets home.

Then again, I’m getting really sick of shitty coffee. Most cafes will pay you an hourly wage, let you split tips with co-workers, and give you a half or a full pound of free coffee (or some tea) each week. The take-home would be worth it to work a few shifts a week and probably more lucrative financially than the editing job.

Homesick-ish

It’s been two months since we moved, and I’ve started to feel the twinge of homesickness. The loneliness and unfamiliarity, I was prepared for; the profound disappointment at missing the Indiana State Fair, I was not.

The video above is one I took, just a few seconds, when Charlie and our old housemate Cavan went on the swings at the fair. Every summer for a few years in a row, we would go with Cavan to gorge ourselves, take photos, ride the rides, and people watch. People watching was definitely my favorite part (a close tie with buttery corn on the cob, elephant ears, and those corn dogs that probably don’t qualify as “food”). It never ceased to amaze me how many morbidly obese people I could count who wore overalls with nothing else. Or people in bare feet. Or mullets and rat-tails on children and adults.

And the best part was jabbing Cavan or Leti or Sarah or Audrey in the side and trying to nod subtly at the person you were making fun of, but didn’t want to notice you were making fun of them.

So I guess I’m not just missing the fair, I’m missing the people we would attend it with.

For the most part, I’m okay with hanging out at home. I know it won’t last forever, I know I will make friends — or get some old ones here. Katie, who used to work with me at the coffeeshop and started last fall at Brooklyn Law is transferring to Northwestern at the end of the summer! I actually don’t mind not feeling too pressured to socialize because we are so broke right now. If too many people wanted me to go out to eat, have drinks, go shopping, or even hop on the train for sight-seeing, I’d have to bow my head and admit we have less than $15 in our checking account for the rest of this week.

So, I think laying low for a couple more weeks is probably just fine.

Pros and Cons

Our landlord is a 50-something widowed woman with a 25-year-old daughter who lives in Boston. We’ll call the landlady Anne, which is not her name. Anne has lived in this house since her daughter was born. When she bought it for $49,000, Lincoln Park was a ghetto. She said she used to have a 12-gauge shotgun hidden under her bed. Anne’s husband passed away when their daughter was seven, although I’m fuzzy on what happened to him.

When Anne remodeled the downstairs – the garden apartment we now live in – she said she always imagined a family with a small child and dog would move in. We were the first ones to ever rent from her. Her tenants till now have apparently been standup comics, potheads, drunks, a gay couple, some confirmed bachelors, and the occasional girl roommates, all of whom apparently never stay for very long.

I’m not sure why no one has ever stayed. I don’t know if it’s Anne’s personality that bothers them (she is extremely chatty – like, to the point that I’m trying to walk inside the house because Bea is in there alone and Anne just keeps talking and talking and talking). Maybe it’s the neighborhood? Ours is one of the busiest streets in Chicago, save for the downtown shopping areas. There’s a lot of traffic and not a lot of people stop along here to do anything. The businesses nearby either have their own parking lots, or it’s the kind of place where you just stop in for a little bit, then head back out.

I do know that Anne really, really wants us to stay. She has offered to have a washer and dryer installed in the utility closet off our kitchen – a brand-new, full-size stackable set – if we pay a little more in rent (because there is no plumbing, drain, or the right kind of electrical outlets to use a W/D in the house) and sign another lease. This would mean, if I graduate on time, our lease would be up as I finished my Master’s degree. So we would at least not have to worry about finding another place in a year.

I admit that we had already begun to consider where we would live next summer. There are a lot of pros, and several big cons to this apartment. It’s easily accessible to the train – there’s a stop about two blocks from us – and all the things I mentioned in my last post. It has a great privacy-fenced backyard, a good amount of space for us, allows dogs (we have both of them here now and I can’t imagine finding another apartment in all of Chicago that would let us have two 80-pound dogs), and there’s a parking space out back we can use for free when Anne’s business partner isn’t here. There are two great parks really close by, Bea has her own bedroom, and we’re all on one level. Anne is actually quite considerate and nice, including allowing us to pay rent twice per month – half on the first, half on the fifteenth – until we get back on our feet. The visit to the hospital was a bit of a blow, financially. I don’t think we could have asked for a more understanding landlord.

But the cons include an extremely chatty landlord. Honestly, sometimes, I just don’t want to talk for 20 minutes about the same things we did two hours ago. I like her, and she’s super-nice and funny, but sometimes I feel like listening to her tell the same story for the fifth time is my penance for accepting her help on the rent. We don’t have a functioning air conditioner. This hasn’t been a problem until the past two days, when the heat index took us into the 100s, and it’s gotten sweaty and uncomfortable downstairs. We hooked up the A/C unit we found in the utility closet two days ago, and it just blows out air that smells like my grandma’s house. We don’t have a washer and dryer — yet. If we get one, we have to pay more and Charlie isn’t thrilled about that. But, recall the twice-per-month rental agreement.

There is also a lot of moisture and bugs. So many bugs. I try to keep things really clean and dry, but that’s an uphill battle in a garden apartment. The dehumidifier actually makes it hotter in here, though dry. And, considering this place is over 150 years old, there are certain holes and crevices and spaces that I can’t locate or clean or fill up. I’ve found three wolf spiders – two dead, one alive that got away from me, so I spent that night on the couch – potato bugs, weird little round things I’ve never seen before, weird flying things I’ve never seen before . . .

We’re also right next door to a bar, three doors down from another bar, there’s no parking close to our house if people want to visit (it’s all side streets and you need passes after 6pm). We have discovered drunk people wandering in to our yard three times already, one of which stubbornly refused to leave because he thought he was in the right place. And, of course, Charlie’s bike was already stolen. The scary part about that is, someone had to come in through our gate, to the back door, and into the shed under the house where he kept it. Which means the thieves around here are super-ballsy, or it was someone who knew the bike was there.

I also tend to freak out when Bea tries to take off down the sidewalk. Like I said, it’s crazy-busy on this street and she doesn’t pay any attention to me when I ask her to stop or hold my hand. We’d probably have to stroll to the park and take a trike, rather than me letting her ride a tricycle on this sidewalk.

But, really, the pros are so big they tend to outweigh the cons. Yeah, it’s kinda dark down here, and occasionally there’s a weird smell I can’t eliminate, but it’s our first apartment in Chicago. Sometimes I’m a little hard on myself because I’m like, look, you aren’t 25 years old. You’re 35. You’re an adult with a child. But who the hell can afford $3,200 a month for the place across the street? And if you could afford it, why not spend less on rent or just buy a place?

Things Are Happening . . .

May 13th would mark the one year anniversary of when my dad came to live with us. Fortunately, it does not appear as though we’re actually going to have to celebrate that date. He found a place a couple of weeks ago south of Indianapolis that caters to people in bad spots; evictions, terrible credit, bankruptcies, foreclosures. They approved my dad’s application and he is apparently ready to move in this Sunday, March 27th. He couldn’t even be bothered to rent a truck. He’s just relying in his brother and Charlie to borrow vehicles for other people.

That is, to say, a bunch of other people are going to have to help him move. He is clinging to whatever amount of money he’s hoarding in his bank account, and repeating over and over again that there’s no way he can help us move.

Two weeks ago yesterday I got The News. I was accepted to DePaul University’s Writing and Publishing MA program. While I’m thrilled that they found my work acceptable for their program, I am disappointed that I was not accepted as a graduate assistant and will not receive a tuition waiver or living stipend for only working 20 hours a week on campus.

There are other options. I interviewed at Peet’s Coffee & Tea for a management position . . . except that was well over two weeks ago and I was supposed to hear a “definite yes or no” just five days after the interview. I haven’t heard anything. I have re-applied to AmeriCorps, but have not had any bites on the couple of positions for which I’ve applied so far. There are some work/study campus jobs, but they either don’t begin until classes start, or they need to be filled immediately. We’re sort of at a stand-still right now. We pay rent twice more before we’re free to leave, but we haven’t yet informed the landlord that my dad isn’t going to rent here. As soon as we do, I’m assuming he is going to want to list and begin showing the place. Since they don’t know about my dad and is four — err, three (one passed away Sunday night) — cats, we can’t put in that call just yet.

We also can’t quite look for an apartment since, if one is available that far in advance, we would need to put down a deposit to secure it. We’re doing everything we can to put aside money for Chicago, but it’s been tough. With my dad thinking he’s free and clear of any financial obligations, Charlie has begun doing side jobs for friends, helping someone finish a basement and whatnot, and I am trying to get in as many hours at the coffeeshop as possible. Prices went up a couple of weeks ago, and tips have been pathetic since then. I entered our Spring drink competition, which gets you a hundred bucks, but my drink didn’t win.

Now we’re going to start putting things up on CraigsList and Facebook to sell, and just put our heads together and down in an attempt to figure out how we can get rid of at least one car — short of literally handing over the keys to the dealership in a voluntary repo. Yipes. I don’t want to do that. Our credit is shot enough as it is . . . .

The really sad thing is how little responsibility my dad seems to feel toward us for helping him out the past (almost) year. It really makes me sad when he begins to rant about how little he has and how he is just “not in a position” to help us. Especially when you consider the fact that, two months ago, he was sitting on about ten grand. He told me this. Combining the “job” he had for three weeks and the prorated disability check, he had quite a prolific account balance. Never mind that he blew around two grand on stuff ordered from Amazon, alone. But now he needs “every penny.” I’ve tried to explain to him that our bills are twice what his are, but we are bringing in the same amount of money per month. Seriously. It’s sad.

I remember the sensation I had when I gave birth to Bea. Despite having an epidural (that was wearing off, mind you), I still had this tremendous feeling of relief wash over me when she popped out (sorry, gross, I know). When my dad gets the last of his things and hands me his key to the house, I imagine it will feel similar.

**WOOSH**

And if he doesn’t give us another dime, at least I’ll be done with the whole mess.

I hope.

Oh. My. God.

Bea in Her CribI don’t know whether to get rid of this blog altogether, or force myself to update it as I do Facebook. It’s pathetic, really, to have turned over to the darkside like that. But it’s so much easier and simpler to say how I’m feeling when I can be limited to just a few characters like that. Let’s not pretend you haven’t skimmed through some of my posts, wondering how the hell I could spend so much time talking about a dog or a coffeeshop or a college course.

Speaking of which, classes begin Wednesday. I just looked up where my classes were last night, haven’t gotten any textbooks, and discovered twelve of the people in my online course are already completing assignments. What the hell? I used to be so organized.

The child has sucked any and all interest out of me — as if there was any to begin with. I’m tired, stressed out, and worried about money. But every time I look at her face, everything else just sort of fades in the background. It’s sort of like being in love with someone for the first time. That pure, unadulterated infatuation that you have when you’ve just begun dating someone you can’t keep your hands off of. Only this time it’s a completely innocent infatuation. Every little sound she makes and look on her face seems a little different; every day she seems to learn to do something new.

In a couple of weeks we’re hosting a get-together/cookout for my family. I’m hoping everyone can pass around the baby and we’ll be done with it until Thanksgiving or Christmas.Hopefully I won’t be one of those new moms that freaks out over other people touching her kid. Thus far I’ve done pretty well, but we’ve only had over a few people at a time. This will be somewhere between 7 to 15 people at the most, and I can barely figure out how I’m going to clean the house and get the shopping done prior to that, let alone dealing with trying to entertain people and figure out who’s got hold of her now.

I mean, really, how you can you not want to squeeze this?

Bea Enjoying Her Swing