Terrible Twos Times Ten

It’s been two months exactly since we brought Miss Ellie home from the hospital. In that time, I’ve seen Bea go from a bright-eyed, clever, independent little four year old to a rabid, hysterical, tantrum-throwing preschooler.

I know her life has been turned upside down; new city and state, new house, new baby and now a new preschool. It took us two months after moving to get her in to a place we could afford, but all we can afford is 2.5 hours a day/4 days a week. It’s not enough. I take her at 1pm (when she would normally be napping), and pick her up at 3:30. By the time she gets home, she’s exhausted and cranky. And by the time we go to put her to bed, she has lost all self control.

I’ve never seen anything like it. When people talked about the “terrible twos,” I had no idea what they were talking about. At two, she was so sweet and cute. At three, she was inquisitive and clever. At four . . . I’ve heard stories of tantrums, but this . . . this is something else. Foot stomping, screaming, wailing, crying, jumping up and down, throwing herself on the floor, “no no no!” and whatnot. I was sort of, kind of prepared of her to resent the baby. Instead, she loves Ellie and hates us.

It seems as though, every night, once Bea is finally passed out, Charlie and I are having a conversation where we devise a new plan of attack. But since I’m the one home with both kids all day during the week, I’m the one who has to implement it all.

We’ve tried talking to her about it, reasoning with her, sticker charts, time outs, threats, taking away TV or toys or games, and we’ve both resorted to shouting at her to just stop screaming (super helpful and effective, as I’m sure you can imagine). It’s getting to the point where I can’t even deal with her anymore. I get so angry that I just have to remove myself from the situation and I don’t feel like going back to give her a hug and kiss. It doesn’t help that I feel “touched out” from holding and carrying the baby, feeding and nursing her. By the end of the day, I just want to pass out and not move for like 12 hours.

The baby’s great, though. I thought Bea was an easy baby, but this one has been a breeze so far. Good sleeper, good eater, healthy (a slight cold Bea brought home when she started preschool), happy. The birth was pretty traumatic and a story for another day, but I worried throughout the pregnancy and right up until the moment she arrived that something would go wrong.

Charlie is still working full time, but is close enough that he can ride his bike. We have the car most days, but no money to do much of anything exciting. Trips are limited to grocery stores and walks around the neighborhood. We were hanging out at the coffee shop some mornings for a bagel and coffee, but then I started working there again. Just weekends when Charlie is home, but enough that I don’t want to hang during the week.

To top it off, I found out after my second week back that they’ve been paying me like a new employee, not like someone who spent almost six years there. When the manager told me what I’d be getting paid, I just started laughing. “Oh, were you making more than that before?”
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “Do you know how long I was here?” Granted, it took many months of badgering to get the raises I received, but it was still $2.50 more per hour than they apparently think I’m worth. So now I have to badger and argue to get more.

The manager at a nearby restaurant offered me a weekend gig waiting tables there. The tips sound fantastic. But the pay is really the only positive of working there. The employees are catty. The cooks are perverts. The owner is a bitch. The customers are wealthy, entitled assholes. I’d have to be on my feet ten hours a day just to make enough money to send Bea to preschool full time with nothing left over. People are like, “You should take that job. If Bea was at school during the week, you’d have more time to yourself.”

Except there’s now a newborn in the house. Despite being a great baby, she doesn’t really give me a lot of time to myself. So selfish.

So while I check job web sites in the hopes of finding something that pays more than Charlie’s working so that he can stay home, he’s studying for a personal training certificate. If he passes, he could go to work for his old employer and work 20 hours a week to make the same he’s bringing home now. If he doesn’t pass it, I have no idea what we’re going to do. There really aren’t any opportunities for advancement where he is now, and the pay just isn’t enough to change things at home.

And while I’d found positions at local universities that I wanted and for which I felt qualified, I was turned down twice in a row. Once was on my birthday. Ouch. But I know these are the kinds of jobs I want. And if I’m not qualified, how can I be? I started looking at other graduate programs and settled on one that I think I’m actually going to apply for, for next fall. If accepted, they require graduate assistantships, which means a guaranteed job related to what I’d be studying, a paycheck, tuition remission, and a practicum later on. Right now I just need to get the letters of rec and write the damn personal statement (300 words! Ugh). It at least gives me something to work toward.

If I could, I think I would just stay in college forever. If I can’t, I at least want to work for one. Not as an adjunct, though. I’m making more working 15 hours a week at the coffee shop, which is terribly sad and ridiculous. And if the grad program or university-job-finding doesn’t pan out, I have no fucking clue what’s next.


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.

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.

A New Day

Today marks the beginning of my fourth week as a Chicago resident. Over the course of the past two(+) years, I’ve gotten pregnant, had a baby, graduated from college, brought my unemployed and mentally ill father to live with my family, found him another home, applied and was accepted to graduate school, found a job in Chicago, and moved.

Oh, my god. I’m so tired.

The funny thing is, I just made a personal commitment to myself to start blogging more frequently again because, as it so happens, I have “lost” that job in Chicago.

The short version of the story goes something like this: I applied to a chain coffee house as a manager. I interviewed twice for the position but didn’t get it. I was offered a shift supervisor position but didn’t take it. I became a lowly barista again, assuming they would pay me at least what I was making at my old job. They allowed this. Two weeks in, and right before Charlie started his new job, it became apparent that we were not going to find any trustworthy child care on such short notice. The district manager of the company that hired me did all their scheduling because the store where I worked did not have an official manager yet (six months after I’d applied for the job!). She put up this week’s schedule on Friday afternoon and I scrambled all weekend to find someone to watch Bea. Never happened.

I also did some math and determined that the cheapest babysitting option was still 30% more than what I was making. Staying home with Bea is our most affordable option. Also, Bea got sick, we had no one to watch her and I kinda got terminated. It was more of a mutual decision. I admit I was leaning towards that conclusion, but when the DM said she would begin “filing the termination paperwork,” I was a little surprised. Especially considering how well I was doing there.

Money’s going to be tight for a bit, but surprisingly, not as bad as it was in Indy taking care of my dad. Who, as it turns out, is not interested in keeping in touch with us. I haven’t heard a peep out of him in two months. The last time he contacted me was when I emailed him, asking if he’d be able to help out with our move. His response? “I’m not sitting on anything, if that’s what you think.”
I did think that, actually.

When he was approved for disability in December or January, he received a huge check which totaled the amount he would have received per month if he’d been approved right away. He’d also worked a job for three weeks that paid over $60 an hour. So at one point the beginning of this year, he would have had around $13,000 in his account, if not more. Perhaps closer to eighteen grand.
He paid us rent three times ($300 per month), and paid to have our car window repaired. Which had been broken out in June of last year.

Yes, I’m bitter. Yes, Thanksgiving this year is going to be SUPER AWKWARD. I am, however, excited to see what the next few months have to offer.

More to come . . .

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

But the Good News Is . . .

We’ve already managed to cut out almost $175 from our monthly costs by: getting rid of cable TV and the DVR (sniff, sniff), discontinuing Charlie’s gym membership (a place he hasn’t visited in a few months), and switching our cell phone plans (bye, iPhone).

Have you heard of Credo Mobile? If we moved to them, 1% of the profits from our phone plan would go to a progressive organization of our choice. Not only that, but we could get two phones for $40, and the same service as we have now for about $40 less per month. Unfortunately, it’s on Sprint, which means most of our calls to our friends on AT&T’s network would no longer be free. However, I rarely use my phone, because I can’t get a signal in the house.
If we could get better service, though, we could also get rid of our land line (another $30+ per month). Charlie said if that were the case, he’d prefer to keep a limited cable package in an effort to not have to go out and buy digital rabbit ears for both televisions.

We have one item on the table that would benefit us in terms of Charlie’s schedule (no more working till 5 or 6 in the morning), and which would contribute a portion towards healthcare each month. I can’t say anything more about it in a public forum for the time being, though.

I did the math (I have a calculator) and my loans and grants from school these next two semesters, properly budgeted, would equal more than I make at the coffeeshop in the same period of time. Isn’t that sad? And what I’ve heard from my friends with babies, it sounds as if daycare, alone, is about what I make working full time. So it doesn’t seem cost-effective to go back to the coffeeshop just to use my checks so someone else can watch my Bea.

I’m trying to keep a positive outlook, which I know sounds impossible for me, given my previous post in all its glory. I’m reminding myself that I can spend a lot more time with the baby than I would if I stayed at the coffeeshop. And, as Mel pointed out, I can expect a much higher salary once I have my degree. I’m so close to graduating. As burnt out on school as I am, I would much rather get paid to learn and spend time with Bea than making this ridiculous chit chat with customers who could give two shits about my financial circumstances. People will want me to bring in photos of my baby for them to see. People will expect me to work really hard, make their drinks really fast, with no consideration to how difficult it is for me to be there just four weeks after giving birth. They’ll say the same thing over and over and over again: “So, gettin’ any sleep?” And they’ll laugh at how clever they think they are.
Don’t get me wrong, though — there are some super-sweet people I’ve become acquainted with (even made friends with) from working there and I’m really glad for that. But for the most part, it’s selfish assholes.

It’s difficult for me to make polite chit chat with them now, when I’m just going in once every couple of days for an americano. The best is when they can’t believe I’m going back to work so early. They can’t imagine why I wouldn’t just take off the entire 12 weeks. And I say I need the money. And they ask “Doesn’t your husband work?” And I say of course he does, but I don’t point out that he isn’t an attorney or a politician; he wants to be able to sleep at night knowing he isn’t ripping people off.

When It Rains, It’s Like a Monsoon Over Here

It seems like every day of the past week we’ve gotten more bad financial news. First it was the hospital bill, then I got the bill for the baby (not knowing they would separate it and we’d owe two different things, both of which are just stupid amounts of money and I have yet to determine what, exactly, I’m supposed to pay for either of them). Then student loan after student loan started coming due because I dropped out of classes last semester. Every afternoon I’m calling a different 1-800 number to go through a mind-numbing series of menus and questions, pressing one and two and one again and then hitting every button on the phone in a desperate attempt to get a real person on the line.

This, despite the fact that I’ve been registered full-time for classes since March (just one month after I withdrew). The loan people don’t seem to have access to that valuable bit of information – only that I wasn’t in school for a period of time long enough for them to tell me I need to start paying them. As it turns out, IUPUI is a part of something called a national clearinghouse (I think that’s what they told me) which means they refuse to sign in-school deferment forms for student loans any longer. They just tell you “We’ll update the system when classes start.” Thanks, but my loans are over 30 days late, so I can’t really afford to let it go any longer.

Then everything else is due for the first time that I have no paycheck: rent, cell phones, insurance, you name it. As Charlie is budgeting his checks to cover all that stuff, we suddenly have to buy diapers (people have given us a ton, but Bea couldn’t fit into anything but the newborn size until just a few days ago and we had zero of those on hand). Then Trinity’s eye medicine prescription runs out and the vet wants to see her before he calls in another script — like anything has changed since the last time he saw her — but we manage to talk him into calling it in “just one more time.” That would have been another $90 just for a visit, on top of the $70 for her prescription.
And then the dentist sends us a notice that I still owe them for my last cleaning, which I completely forgot about, my credit card payment is due, and the OB is calling to reschedule my 6-week follow-up visit after delivery. Except no one can get me in on a day when I’m not already working, or I have to wait until after August 31st. I honestly don’t even care anymore. It all seems fine down there and we can’t really afford yet another bill.

I also am unable to breastfeed (let’s not get into the guilt over that) and we’ve had to taper her off the boob juice and supplement with formula. As it turns out, I have a total of four out of a possible thirty pores that are open on my nipples (sorry), which explains why she was cluster feeding and needing to be on me twenty four hours a day: hardly anything was coming out. I was completely engorged, raw, in pain, and trying to find any way I could to relieve the discomfort. I discovered this when I was pumping one afternoon and took the advice to turn myself towards the ground to ensure that it was “spraying” rather than dribbling out. There was only a minute dribble and I could see exactly where it was coming out: one pore on the left and three on the right. Apparently, most women have a total of 10-15 on each side. So we can add the cost of formula to our budget.

Today I get a text from work saying my insurance paperwork is there to add Bea to my coverage (which I have to do and turn in within the next few days or they won’t pay for any of her hospital bills). Stapled to the paperwork is a note from the owner with a breakdown of what I owe them. After taking off barely five weeks in maternity leave (a week and five days of which was before I had the baby), I owe the company almost $300 for what they couldn’t take out of my check in health insurance because I didn’t get paid during that time. This could be completely naive and ignorant of me, but I had no idea they were going to ask me to pay for that. Adding Bea to my insurance is going to cost me about $110 per month, which wouldn’t be so bad if I got paid more or could go right back to full time. Instead, I’m probably not going to get any checks for the first month as I get “up to date” as the owner put it.

Only one problem with returning to work next week: Charlie has three concerts that week, all of which conflict with when I’m working. He’s either got one the night before I’m scheduled to open, or an evening when I’m scheduled to close. He has to be at work no later than 6:30, I wouldn’t get home until 7:30 or later. And, my first day back is on a Sunday and I’m going to be closing. There is absolutely nothing worse than having to close on a Sunday at that place. Nothing.

To top it all off, we went out Wednesday night for Audrey’s going away party and a huge group of really loud, really rude people was seated right next to our table. I honestly wasn’t ready to take a three-week old out to a restaurant, but I couldn’t miss Audrey’s last day in town. In hindsight, I should have just gone alone and had Charlie watch her. Bea started to get really upset and, I’m assuming, overstimulated, so Charlie and I had to make a quick getaway. As we’re strapping her in to the car, she starts getting really riled up, so Charlie hops in the driver’s seat and is trying to back out of the space as quickly as he can. When the car gets moving, she usually calms down.
Unfortunately, there was a large cement pole sticking out of the ground which we promptly ran into (in our brand new car that’s supposed to last us the next fifteen years). There’s a huge gash and dent on the back driver’s side, and he managed to almost pull off the entire bumper. Bea started screaming even louder, and as Charlie got out to check the damage, a panhandler came up to us to ask if we needed any help. I’m trying to tend to the baby and Charlie’s all pissed about running into the pole and when he tells the guy no, we don’t need any help, the guy asks him to spare some change. Charlie snapped, “Dude, I’ve got a f-ed up car and a screaming baby. I don’t have time for this!”

The good news is, if I stay in school, my student loan refund for the next two semesters is about what I’d be making at the coffeeshop working thirty hours a week, so now we’re trying to figure out how to cut non-essentials and budget for her doctor’s visits, as if we didn’t have any insurance. I mean, how much can a handful of vaccinations cost? I did some looking around online and well-baby checkups plus vaccinations for the first year (average cost for the U.S.) are about what I would pay out in insurance every month for the both of us. And she’s already had one, plus her next one would be covered by insurance.

I guess we’ll find out when I call the pediatrician’s office on Monday. I know sometimes doctors give discounts for people who pay by cash or check and don’t have insurance. It may not be worth it to stay full time and be completely miserable, in which case, any money I made on top of the budgeted student loans could go towards doctor’s visits, and I wouldn’t have to try and schedule myself around Charlie’s shifts . . . Better yet, maybe I could just quit and get a job somewhere else.

The Local Flavor: Daisy Trump

Yesterday and this morning when I walked Alvy over to the coffeeshop, there was this one regular who no one really likes making small talk with me about how I’m still pregnant. A few customers stop and speak to her every day, but she tends to say really off-putting, offensive things and the number of chatters has dwindled significantly during the time I’ve been employed there. I’ve actually had people ask me what’s wrong with her, or admit me to me that they come in less often or at odd times in an effort to avoid her. She comes in every morning of the week the moment we unlock the door except for Saturdays, when she comes in an hour after we open. In four years, I can count on one hand the mornings I have worked that she never showed up. Usually, holidays, and she announces it in advance. I guess so we won’t worry.

We’ll call her Daisy Trump. She has this weird, thin, grey-ish (not blonde, not brown, not exactly grey — almost colorless) comb over thing going on with her hair that looks a lot like a female version of Donald Trump’s style. She’s also apparently a big fan of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, because she regurgitates things she’s heard on TV and the radio without giving them much thought. She wears Mom Jeans — high-waisted, tapered, light-washed denim that does nothing for her figure — and hunches over a little when she stands and walks. She’s sort of pigeon-toed and has an almost-imperceptible lunge, like the top half of her body is propelling her against her will and the bottom half is just along for the ride. I’m assuming she has this gait because of a car accident she never stops talking about that happened in, like, 1983.

We all figure she has probably never had sex in her life. If she got laid, she might not be as irritating and nosy. But her life revolves around the coffeeshop and gossiping to everyone about everyone else. I know how old she is because she once asked me how old Sarah was. I told her and she responded, “Oh! I thought she was closer to my age, 46.” Ummmm, no, there’s a twenty year difference. “Well, you know,” Daisy went on, “It’s hard to tell because of her body . . .” And proceeded to make this top-heavy motion with her hands. “And she just looks and acts really tired all the time.” You can’t even dignify stuff like that with a response. This is what I mean about Daisy — she tries to make things sound like simple observations, but she’s really just being insulting and negative.

She once tried to strike up a conversation with me about universal health care after (or right around the time) Obama had been elected. She was saying that Canadians will move to (or attempt to somehow defraud) the U.S. in an effort to receive “decent” health care here because the “socialized medicine up there is so bad.” She then volunteered the fact that her insurance company sued her for a settlement she got from her car accident and she had to file for bankruptcy. This came up during the same conversation, which I found odd. I pointed out that, in a universal health care system, she would not have had to worry about hospital bills and could not have been sued by an insurance company but she just ignored me and kept talking about whatever Bill O’Reilly told her.

No one is sure if she has a job. I’ve seen her around campus at IUPUI, at two different libraries miles apart, and once at a Target store, all at odd times during the day. She drives to our store from her apartment downtown every morning. She turns off her headlights when she pulls into the parking lot, which I find extra-strange because it’s often still dark out at 6am and she just coasts into a parking space. She has scared more than one unsuspecting person by doing this. She has used to “N” word twice while talking to me. I asked her to not use it because I thought it was offensive and she said she only meant it in the “literal sense, like an ignorant person.” I said using that term was ignorant and she didn’t speak to me for almost a week. That was nice.

She also enjoys making homophobic jokes (which is amusing, considering she throws herself at every man who walks into the coffeeshop that isn’t wearing a wedding ring — about 75% of these guys are gay). Apparently she used to bring in comic strips she printed off from the Internet that were sexist, as well. One of our former employees snapped at her for doing it once and asked her to never bring in something like that again. She once started to say something really racist about the Olympics — implying something about black people and people of African descent being better at certain sports and this somehow being unfair to white competitors. I’m sure my mouth fell open as she was speaking. Then, one of our other regulars (who just so happens to be black) walked in and Daisy stopped talking. I asked her to finish what she was saying, and said, “Oh, no, I’m done.” And I was like, “Go ahead, I didn’t hear all of what you said. Finish.” And she just clammed up.

A young black guy worked at our store briefly a few years ago. He was training to be a supervisor and came in to open one morning. Apparently, Daisy pulled up and saw him inside. With all the lights on. Wearing an apron. Clearly baking and putting things in the pastry case. So she called 911 and reported that the store was being robbed. Take from that what you will.

Daisy is a nasty gossip. I say “nasty” because everything that comes out of her mouth sounds like she’s telling on someone or making fun of them. I’ve heard her say, at least half a dozen times, that Sarah’s little boy “has so much hair he’ll probably be bald by the time he’s 30.” She’ll meander over to the register where we have a photo of the boy for people who ask to see it. Daisy snatches the photo and shoves it in people’s faces, laughing about how witty she thinks her joke is. To me, it just sounds like she’s making fun of an infant.

She was in the store when Sarah called right after having her baby. I’m told she got up from her table and stood as close as she could to the people on the phone in an effort to hear every word, then asked them for details after Sarah hung up. She then proceeded to share this information with every single customer who walked in the door that morning. The next morning I worked, a customer who is nice and chatty with her walked in. Daisy jumped from her chair and lunged over to the other woman. “Did you get my email last night? About the baby?” The way she said it made it sound like gossip: SARAH HAD A BABY. Gasp! Also, I can’t believe someone would willingly give her their email address.

Yesterday she made a remark about how she was surprised to see me at the store. Of course, I just said, “Well, here I am.” Because, duh, I’ve obviously not had a baby and when she said it, it didn’t sound like “Oh! You poor thing.” It sounded like an accusation. Today she walked in while I was talking to Sarah and said the same thing. She accused me again: “Weren’t you due yesterday?” It bothers me that she has this piece of information. How does she know what my due date is? Clearly, she asked and asked until she got it. I purposefully shared with her almost nothing about my pregnancy so as to avoid being a topic of conversation for her to gossip about.

As I made my way towards the front door, she asked if there was “another date.” I just looked at her and said no. “Oh, so whenever it comes, then?” She continued to pump me for information and I had this visual image of her sitting at a public computer at the library, trying to email as many people as she could: Did you hear? Courtney’s overdue. She’s going to be induced on such-and-such date.

But she got me a few moments later when she said “I can’t believe that thing hasn’t come out yet, considering your size. You’re really massive.” She then said something about how difficult my labor is going to be because it’s such a huge baby. That pissed me off, especially coming from a woman who’s never had children, let alone gotten laid. I hate it when people say things about how large my belly is. For Christ’s sake — I’ve been effing pregnant since September of LAST YEAR. I stand barely an inch over five feet tall. What do you expect me to look like?
So I said, “Well, we just had an ultrasound and she wasn’t even seven pounds.” I immediately regretted it. Daisy’s eyes got really wide and she said, “Oh, it’s a she, then? I didn’t know that yet.” She was super-pleased with herself for gaining this priceless bit of info. As if we’ve been holding out on her and she tricked me. Which we have been, and which she did. And I am so disappointed for letting that slip. I’m sure she’ll be telling everyone that walks in the door this morning. Courtney’s having a girl. Did you hear? Courtney’s having a girl.

It’s like a skill. Daisy Trump just has this innate ability to make the tiniest or most positive of things into something negative or nasty.

False Sense of Hope

Yesterday afternoon some new, weird stuff was going on. Then, around 8 or 9pm, it all settled down,  I went to bed, and I woke up this morning feeling just fine. Well, as fine as can be expected 3 days from due date, I suppose.

I had a strange sense of peace when I was walking Alvy to the coffeeshop around 7:30. I know the baby will come when she’s ready and, despite trying a significant portion of the stupid old wives’ tales to get labor rolling, nothing has worked. But the moment I walked into the shop and saw the looks of expectation on everyone’s faces, my peace faded. I just wanted to start crying.

Why do so many people have so much personal investment in my pregnancy? Why are they so disappointed in me for not having had her already? (I’m not talking about any of you guys, dear readers, I mean people who are basically strangers.) The other afternoon, a customer actually said to me, “Jesus. I didn’t think you could get any bigger, but you did.” And she didn’t say it in a nice way. I wanted to say, “Yeah, well, I’m 9 months pregnant. What’s your excuse, fatass?” Her friend was quick to point out that I was “all belly,” and haven’t gained that much weight. But the woman who’d made the comment isn’t known for her tact or diplomacy, so I shouldn’t have let it bother me. Half of the time she comes in she’s indifferent and short with us. The other half she’s downright mean.

Yesterday morning Charlie texted me from work to tell me there are some problems with his potential raise and bonuses. I should have known. I mean, I always put in that disclaimer about how things are talked about but action is rarely taken. But I guess I really thought this time there would be follow-through. Essentially, the owner is going through some divorce stuff and money is either tied up or accounted for in some way because of his ex-wife. I don’t understand exactly what’s going on, but the latest news is that she’s trying to file for something besides child support and Charlie doesn’t know how long any of this stuff is going to take.

I did what I always do when money stuff comes up: I panicked and started trying to figure out what I was going to do in the next couple of months. With our current bills, there’s no way Charlie could afford to support himself and two other people. Our rent is too high, we have two car payments, and gas heat. To name just a few things.

All these questions kept popping up . . . How much time can I afford to take off from work? 12 weeks? 8? 6? How am I going to afford health insurance for the kid? How many hours will I be able to work with a two-month-old at home while I’m registered full time at school in the fall? Am I going to have to drop classes? Am I going to have to start paying back student loans? Will I need to start looking for a “real” job so I can contribute more financially? Will we have to put the baby in daycare right away? OHMYGOD, the hospital bills. And so on. As I always do.

And there isn’t anything I can really do about any of this stuff right now, so I might as well not freak out about it.

The Waiting Game

I have been spending a lot of time waiting. Waiting for things to happen. Waiting to see if that twinge is something new or different. Waiting to see if these contractions can be timed or if they go away. Every little twitch and cramp has me stopping what I’m doing and “listening,” trying to see if it’s something new.

I know I technically still have 16 days before I’m officially due, but I have only met one person recently (of the seemingly millions who have had babies in the past year) who was overdue. Everyone else was a week, two weeks, five days, a month early. Something like less than 5% of women have their babies on the actual due date (which leads me to ask what this date really means, anyway), so I’m not expecting to go into labor the afternoon of the 19th. For a while I thought I might be like my mom; going way over and having to be induced. But after having Braxton Hicks contractions for the past three months straight — something I don’t think she experienced — I kind of assume it will be a little early.

And, yet, nothing has happened. I’m tired, I’m bored, I’m swollen. Walking hurts. Exercise and activity makes me dizzy. I don’t feel hungry that often and I have to force myself to eat. I feel nauseated a lot. The baby has gone from breakdancing on my guts to barely moving at all, so I know there isn’t any more room left for her.
Working wears me out. Last night I was scheduled a measly four hours and I still barely made it through. I was supposed to work this morning, but one of our college students is back in town, looking for shifts, so I called her to see if she wanted to come in. I have a tiny shift tomorrow and I don’t know if I want to work that, either. I’m lucky to have that option, but I know every shift I lose eats into my maternity leave.

Charlie and I haven’t thoroughly discussed finances yet, but I have made up a list of the bills I pay and how much each one is. Of course, that doesn’t account for the future hospital bill, but I’m trying not to think about it. It will come and we will have to pay it. Luckily, hospitals have to work with people to get their money. I’ve already set up payments on two other big bills, one of which is now paid off and the other has a balance of about $700. But he is now just a few weeks away from a solid contract with the owner which would put his salary, at the very least, right above what we bring home combined right now. It wouldn’t be enough for us to, say, never worry about money, but it wouldn’t make a difference if I worked or not for a while. Except for the whole I’m-the-one-with-the-health-insurance part.

Another subject that keeps coming up is the name. For months I thought I had it all figured out, then someone mentioned how many syllables there were and how it was a mouthful. (Let’s not even discuss how many people say they just don’t like it and it sounds like an old lady’s name.) We have an alternative name, but it isn’t my favorite. My favorite seems to cause problems, no matter what middle name we come up with. The kid’s initials would already be B.M., which, of course, is an old term relating to poop. The middle names we like spell out things like B.A.M. (I don’t want someone calling my kid “Bam Bam”), or B.J.M. (I also don’t want a girl known as B.J.) I kind of want her (or him) to have my maiden name, since I still go by it, but then you’d have a B.W.M. which practically spells bowel movement. If it ends up being a boy, I’ve got that all figured out. No problem. The girl name is what’s bothering me.

My aunt tells me not to get too hung up on the initials; she went through the same thing with my cousin whose initials are B.M.W. and she said it’s never been an issue. I know we’ll just have a few options and, when the kid finally comes out, maybe she’ll look like one or the other. Of course, at first, they all just look kind of gross.

But, seriously. Let’s get this show on the road.