Tuesday, November 30

and you thought it was just paranoia!

Yes, motherhood does have its particular sweetness, but enough of that. I've always noticed how the more children a woman has, the older she looks; there's a shitload of wear and tear in devoted mothering! Now scientists have discovered the biological mechanism involved in the degenerative process: Prolonged psychological stress actually speeds up the destruction of the DNA protecting our chromosomes, weakening the immune system and leaving us vulnerable to endless age-related disintegrative processes.

What's more, the linked article also warns of the same effect from another of life's major, common stressors: commuting -- which I've always avoided like the plague knowing how hard it is on the nerves:

Commuters can experience greater stress than fighter pilots going into battle or police officers facing a rioting mob. Many workers feel extreme pressure when their journey to work goes wrong, said psychologist Dr David Lewis, who carried out the research. While fighter pilots or police officers feel stress, they have the advantage of being relatively in control of their situation. Hapless commuters, on the other hand, can do nothing if their train breaks down or they get stuck in a ten-mile traffic jam on the motorway.
I like to think I'm terribly clever, but just breathing presents us with stresses whether we like it or not. Even though I've made it a habit -- no, my life's mission, really -- to minimize stress wherever possible, to avoid complications (unless they have a very good payoff), and to reward myself with relaxation wherever preventing stress wasn't possible, I still chose to marry, have a child, and live in a country not exactly known for an attitude of "hakuna matata". Go figure.

Keep popping those antioxidants!

irene chang -- death of a warrior

Compassion kills.

I'd never heard of Irene Chang before yesterday. And now I feel a heavy grief after reading the story of this young, brilliant author who apparently could no longer bear the weight of her own open-heartedness. On November 9, she killed herself at the age of 36.

A beautiful eulogy to Irene, written by her friend Paula Kamen, describes a woman of extraordinary energy and drive, whose code was to "think big!". She was incensed by "the forgotten holocaust of WWII" -- the brutal 1937 Japanese occupation of ancient Nanking, China, -- and wrote the bestseller, "The Rape of Nanking".

Of her own writing, she was quoted as saying, "I've always felt that in every writer there is something that dictates the theme of what she writes. For me, that's injustice."

At a congressional tribute to Irene, it was said, "The world has lost one of its finest and most passionate advocates of social and historical justice."

Writer Jeff Guinn also eulogizes Irene, saying of her:
She was brilliant, breathtakingly beautiful and young enough to have her best years ahead as a human being and as a writer... Yet there was an immense softness to her as well, a genuine empathy for others. If she felt sweeping indignation for the actions of some, she felt equally intense pain for the suffering of victims, and I believe this is what eventually caused her to take her own life. We talked about this quite often, a few times in person, more often by phone or e-mail. She would discuss her most recent research efforts -- lately, she was preparing a book on [the horrific] Japanese mistreatment of war prisoners in the Bataan Peninsula -- and she never seemed quite able to adopt a scholar's emotional distance from her subjects. Apparently, at some point a few months ago on a research trip, the agony she felt for all those whose sufferings she chronicled finally caught up with her. She returned home to California, was treated for depression and never really recovered. ...

Iris Chang was a genius, the most brilliant intellect I have ever encountered. The advantage of genius is the ability to know and feel things to a greater degree than everyone else. But that's the penalty of genius, too. You lose the ability to compartmentalize, to put harmful things out of your mind, at least for a little while. I'm certain Iris was finally overwhelmed by the sadness she couldn't stop feeling for victims whose stories she didn't want forgotten.

Because of her, they won't be.

Sunday, November 28

update on job front

The weekend sort of got extended today: The kid's cough was full-blown and she's been blowing her nose for at least 3 days, so I let her stay home. She pretty much stayed in bed watching tv and reading and being grateful for the day off. There's such a weird paradox about mothering a sick kid: It both feels like hell and gives the greatest feeling of meaning imaginable. I first noticed this when she was about 18 months old and got me out of bed repeatedly to minister to her virus-suffering needs. And now, at age 12, nothing much has changed; I still feel like a righteous, blessed, loving angel bringing her goodies on a tray to eat in bed, enjoying her delight at being spoiled. It's a pleasure of life that comes right out of left field. Who knew?

So back to the job front. It was looking like a depressing day, still waiting for the phone to ring. Then I got a call that was a referral from someone else, to do a freelance job that didn't sound at all convenient, given the current situation, so I passed but offered to post the job for her on the writers list I belong to.

Then I just started feeling like I had to hear something from Company No. 1 -- it's been several days since they asked for the reference, and nothing has moved. Feeling terrible dread and almost suffocating nerves, I called the woman who I sent the homework assignment to, and she answered right away. She was pleasant and told me they liked the work I did but that the manager is out of the country for another week, and has not made any decisions yet. She said, "I'm trying to get some information for you guys, and I know this waiting is a difficult situation. I'll let you know as soon as I can."

After I hung up, the dread in my gut didn't go away for a long time. Being unable to take decisive action is difficult when you're living with someone who's putting pressure on you to help him with the burden and start contributing financially already.

But around 7pm I got a call from Company No. 3 -- where I interviewed last week -- and they want me to come back again this Wednesday. I wasnt very keen on this place at all, by far preferring No. 1, but now I'm not so sure. What it all comes down to for me is the the chemistry of the atmosphere and people in the place I'm working -- work is mostly crap anyway; I don't expect much satisfaction from my forced labor -- and atmosphere and people are elements that are very hard to judge until you're in them.

Saturday, November 27

amusing afternoon in familyland

It was a dark and stormy afternoon -- 4:30 and already dark, still more than 3 weeks from the winter solstice. But, better than Toronto's winter, I keep reminding myself. So we did a rare thing: We spent 103 shekels for the 3 of us to go to see "The Incredibles" with hundreds of screaming children. Not to mention the requisite popcorn.

It could have been a delightful respite from cold, wet life, but Mr. S. unfortunately entered snitville just prior to our leaving the house, and the afternoon was basically a washout in more ways than one. What got him upset this time was the shouting horseplay with the kid which ended with him deciding she was being "violent" (actually disrespectful, but he likes to put a twist on it) when they ended up play-kicking each other. I didn't see what happened, but it's nothing new, and is always the strange outcome of something else eating him. In this case, that the week has once again ended with me still unemployed and him carrying the financial burden. I knew this, because when I tried to talk to him about the problem with the kid, he would just spit out in non sequitur fashion, "You should be working! Get a job!"

Though the movie was a lot of fun, he was sullen throughout. In this situation, the only thing that works on him is the silent treatment; he can't stand that for long. (My challenge is to teach the kid to keep her mouth shut instead of trying to endlessly defend her fundamentally innocuous actions; her talking just fuels his bad mood.) By the time we were back home for an hour, ignoring him had brought him out of the funk, but the rare "family outing" was wasted. Too bad I didn't just take her and let him stay home and watch his soccer game, which was all he wanted, apparently.

Thursday, November 25

another day, another interview

Yes, am I not the interview queen?

Spent almost three hours at a company in lavish offices on a high floor of a ritzy building in beautiful downtown Tel Aviv this noontime. Impressive view of sea and city all around. Startup makes good -- big time (though still private). And how did they do it? By appealing to lovers of online b*tting, c*sino g*mbling, and other g*mes. And since what they are ALL about is se*rch *ngine opt*miz*tion for said g*mblers, I'm doing my best with liberal asterisk sprinkling to avoid having them find ME, since I told them I have a blog and being very clever geeks they might just try to google me with some choice terms. I would if I were them.

(Doesn't everybody google people they've just met? I once googled a guy I'd just had a blind date with and was shocked to find a newspaper story about him which also talked about the accidental drowning of his youngest [of 4] children. Which he hadn't mentioned, perhaps understandably. But it sure colored my view of him.)

The prospective manager for this job grilled me on my attitude to advertising, spam, and popup boxes and how I would feel writing copy for such media. Naturally, I said I have no problem whatsoever spending my day spewing crap for crappy purposes.

I am, after all, the Interview Queen. And you don't get to this exalted position without circling Yes to all the following questions, as I did today (after resisting the rebellious urge to circle nothing):
  • Are you willing to work overtime hours?
  • Are you willing to work weekends?
  • Are you willing to do shift work?
  • Are you willing to travel out of the country?
The question he neglected to ask me in his in-depth search for reservations about me was how I would feel about the gruelling commute from my suburb to central Tel Aviv through monstrous traffic every morning and evening. (Even returning home at 2pm, traffic was at a snail's pace for 30 min. of the 45 min. trip. I shudder at the thought of it at 6pm -- in the dark.)

Good thing he didn't. I might have blown my cover.

Tuesday, November 23

the howling, whistling, moaning wind...

...or is that me?

It's been mostly stormy, cloudy, and very windy the past few days. Umbrellas out in force, winter jackets and sweaters suddenly out of storage. That's how it is here: summer one day, winter the next. Put the heavy blanket on the bed and warm it up with the electric sheet to boot. Turn off the ceiling fans and turn on the heat, just like that. The abrupt transition always leaves a lot of people sneezing and miserable.

Yesterday evening we had to go to my daughter's school to endure the scholastic torture of many teachers (not just one any more, now that she's in grade 7) reporting on her poor performance. Each one shaking her head (yes, they're all women) and telling us she needs to be properly Assessed by a psychologist in order to officially receive the special relief conditions (I can't think of a proper word in English) such as more time to finish tests, or doing tests orally instead of in writing, or other kinds of extra help such as tutoring or a lighter workload. Without this Assessment, they are forbidden to give her special treatment. The only problem is, the Assessment costs a big whack of money, and Mr. S. thinks it's a huge ripoff to pay for something that will actually not tell us anything we don't already know. (Actually, it probably will tell him something HE doesn't know, assuming he believes it, since he thinks the kid is just lazy and needs to work harder. But having grown up with the same label applied to myself, I know that's not accurate. There's a real concentration problem and a disconnect between what she knows and what she does.)

So when we came home we also disconnected her tv. Now we need to work on upping our own patience factor to endure the hysterical frustration that daily accompanies the Homework Issue. Much screaming, crying and slamming of door ensued. Today she had a "make-up test" in History, on which she scored 40% earlier this week after minimal (but painful nonetheless for all concerned) studying the night before. Last night she studied (not harmoniously, I assure you) the poorly done test until she could fill in all the blanks correctly. Today she got 86% on the exact same test, this time with a word list provided at the bottom so that minimal thinking was required! Am I the only person who's surprised she couldn't do better at this point? Not that I actually care about the number, but I am a tad concerned about her thinking skills.

Oh, who am I kidding? I flunked both History AND Geography at her age, they were so boring! The challenge is to figure out how to parlay the painful knowledge of my own school years into patience, tolerance, and perhaps even helpful guidance for her benefit. If anyone knows where THAT magic potion is sold, do send me the url.

howling, moaning, part 2

Oh, the indignity! Remember that job interview where I supposedly killed last week?

You probably saw this coming a mile away: Not only have I not heard from them, nor have they called my reference, but yesterday they posted the job on the local list again.

But they loved me! And I have tons of experience in the skills they need! Why? WHY? WHY???!!!!

Never mind that this isn't my first choice -- I definitely want it if I don't get my first choice. Perhaps I didn't make it clear that I was interested? I decided to call and make sure they knew.

Me: Hi, N, this is me. I was there for an interview last week?
N: Oh, yes, how are you?
Me: Fine thank you. I was just wondering about the status of the position? I wanted to let you know that I'm very interested in it.
N: Thank you. Well, we're still interviewing some people, so we haven't made any decision yet, but we were definitely impressed with your resume and your interview, so it's more positive at this point than negative.
Me: Oh, okay, because I saw that you posted the job again, so I wondered if perhaps you weren't that satisfied with the candidates you'd seen so far.
N: No, but we changed the job requirements slightly, so we just want to see who's out there with all the necessary qualifications.
Me: And you do remember that I have a lot of experience in both aspects?
N: Yes, indeed, but we just want to make sure we've seen who's available.
Me: Okay, great, thank you for letting me know that.
N: Thank you very much for calling; we'll be in touch with you.

Okay, now I feel a certain relief. Both knowing why they feel they should keep looking for the moment (misguided as that is!), and feeling sure I've now made my interest clear. At the interview, there had been a possibly inopportune discussion (initiated by the over-confident yours truly) regarding the risk level of this smallish company, which I thought might have given them the impression that I preferred a big company, so it's possible that this concerned them, and I wanted to erase that concern.

I've done what I can there, and now I must sit and wait a bit longer for Company No. 1. I'll probably need to call them by Thursday to see what the status is.

UPDATE--> Got a call this afternoon from Company No. 1!! HR woman (who interviewed me the first time I was there) said, "First of all, if you get a rejection letter in the mail, just ignore it; it was a computer error." Okaaaay. And? "Do you have any references you can give me?"

ALRIGHT, now we're talkin'. I gave her my one reference phone number, the guy who managed me before the dot.com bubble completely exploded in 2001. Good enough, I hope. I'm into the finals, people!!

Sunday, November 21

blogito ergo sum

If I don't post for 3 days, does anyone notice? My life seems to be on hold as I wait for the phone to ring. I am to the job world what Breakup Babe is to the dating world. Which I wouldn't mind, if I could get a book deal out of my loser experiences too.

I have even taken to carrying my cell phone into the gym, which I always think is a social sickness when I view it in others (the cell phone having become the ultimate symbol for our obsessive need to feel Not Alone), keeping one eye on it as I power-walk the treadmill. I won't be able to hear it since I'm earphoned into the music box, but it will flash if someone calls. No one does.

Still, Mr. Squarepeg is optimistic that my unemployment is drawing to a close, and there has been harmony on the homefront this weekend. Quite a relief. No frustration, bitterness, harping or recrimination for a full 3 days. (Note to self: call Guinness people.) We even had a date sans-kid on Friday evening, and pigged out on sushi and other yummies at a noisy but friendly place not too far from home.

As arranged, I went to see my Plan B employer today -- English "school" which is really just an English business -- it sends teachers out to the wealthier hi-tech companies the same way a madam sends out call girls. Pretty much consistent with the way I view the working world. Fearing to commit in case I get the job I want, I told them I was starting a part-time job and wasn't sure yet of the hours, but that I'd get back to them within the week.

If I don't hear from those #@!#%$^&*(#*%$ by Wednesday afternoon, I'm going to have to call them myself and see what the story is, cause I need to commit to something that's going to bring in some cash.

Thursday, November 18

sugar shock

My blog's gone wonky. What happened, I don't know; I only noticed yesterday but it may have been longer. I've spent about an hour comparing the template to the original template of the design and I don't see any problem. I'm open to suggestions. Help! (Have written to Blogger Help, but am not holding breath, L.)

--> UPDATE: Thanks to the great Lioness, I fixed the problem, which may have been imaginary or only on my main computer screen, but in any case, it's now gone. Good riddance. Onward.

P.S. Salsa class kinda sucked. Just 10 women came, no men, and that's a little sterile for me. The teacher, who pissed everyone off by arriving 15 minutes late, had to dance with each of us one by one while everyone else stood around. Still, when he played the music it was fun. I'm going back next week, but first I'm gonna see if posting a message on our local newsgroup can scare up some chicos.

Well, maybe I didn't exactly kill yesterday. Since if I had killed, I would assume my phone would be ringing off the hook today. But no. BAH.

On the other hand, the owner of the English school I've been making half-hearted attempts to contact for the past month finally called today to invite me in to talk on Sunday. At least it's something -- my backup plan. I really don't want to teach English anymore. I got sick long ago of hearing myself repeat the same grammar explanations over and over. But it's lucrative part-time work, so I really shouldn't complain.

There I was, yesterday, fantasizing about how I was going to juggle two job offers. And here I am, today, eating old ice cream with cookies crumbled in it. Right after a Milky with extra whipped cream. Excuse me for a moment while I purge.

Oh my god, this is so Bridget Jones. ... I feel nauseous again.

Fortunately, I'm going to a new salsa class this evening, so that should perk me up. Haven't salsa'd for many many months ... now I'll get a weekly dose, and not far from home either.

This is the second night in a row I'm getting some culture: Last night I went to the first lecture in a series on Philosophy in Film, which was riveting. If only it was in English! Concentrating in Hebrew -- at that level, especially, as the professor from TA University is no language slouch -- was exhausting, and I miss good bits every now and again. But it seems that philosophy in film (or anywhere, really) can basically be summarized in one word: alienation. The cell phone has become the ultimate symbol for our obsessive need to feel Not Alone. And great film reveals the emptiness of the human soul, searching in all the wrong places for ways to fill it up.

In short, life as we live it is like a dish of ice cream. With crumbled cookies and extra whipped cream.

Wednesday, November 17


It's pouring rain here today, off and on, but not just light rain ... a deluge, in fact -- mabool, as we say in the Hebrew-English. That's the language that comprises a certain group of Hebrew words never said in English, which even people who don't know Hebrew use in the middle of their English sentences: words like mirpesset (balcony); machsan (storage room); dood [shemesh] ([solar] water heater); hamsin - Arabic, actually, or sharav in proper Hebrew (heat wave, basically; hot & dry climatic condition); freier (sucker, fool); and of course the ever-popular (what else would we eat?) shipood (shishkebab). Okay, now that I think about it, mabool may be a little higher up in the linguistic food chain, and not casually used by your average oleh hadash, but it was a good excuse to get the Hebriglish out of my head.

In any case, it may serve as a metaphor for my current state of the jobhunt, as it were, psychologically at least. I have just come from yet another interview where I believe I killed, and it may very well be that I was so impressive there because I am (perhaps inadvisably) confident about the other job I'm waiting to hear about. This one today is the first place they've actually asked for the phone number of my reference (ex-boss). So now, in my (perhaps overly optimistic) mind, I might even have TWO job offers! Mabool!

Why am I sharing this with you? Why am I not prudently keeping my own counsel like a two-months' pregnant woman who fears she will miscarry and then have to inform a bunch of people about something she'd rather keep private? Why am I not superstitiously clamming up and knocking on wood, lest I "open my mouth to Satan" as they say in Hebrew (is that like 'spitting in the wind'?)?

I will tell you why: It is because I am not superstitious. Faith is different than superstition. Faith, in my interpretation, means I trust that what will be will be and it will work out fine in the end, and that being open and vulnerable is not what will influence that event, not in any bad way at least. I choose to be as authentic here as I can possibly be, a certain degree of family-necessitated censorship notwithstanding. I think this makes more interesting reading, by the way, because when you get to the end of this chapter, you won't be able to put the book down; you will feel compelled to know what happens next.

As am I.

Tuesday, November 16

musings on a non-birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I've pretty much given up on making my birthdays any big whoop, and choose instead to spoil myself all year whenever I get the chance. Even in my small group of friends and acquaintances, I don't make it known that my birthday is coming up, because I'm very wary of "duty-cheer" -- or maybe it's just fear of people not caring anyway. Either way, it's easier just keeping it private.

Got a surprise phone call, though, from a girlfriend in Greece I haven't talked to in months. And a smile-warming e-card from another unexpected source! ... kisses to L xxx ;)
And I gave my daughter lots of kisses and told her truly, she is my all-year birthday present, and nothing else really matters. She spent more money on me than she ever has in her life, with a couple of cute things she bought from her favorite chachka store. As for the mister, I certainly could be showing more appreciation, but he's really not very good at birthday servitude.

In any case, I needed to spend yesterday working on my writing test assignment for the job I want. Unbelievably, I spent the ENTIRE day on it; it was much more difficult than I'd anticipated. Basically, I had to take 3 pages of verbose text on a technical product and distill its essence into 1 page of scintillating marketing blather. I thought it would take me 4-5 hours, and it took more than double that. Okay, I stopped to make guacamole to eat with the taco chips that were calling to me comfortingly from the cupboard. And I did my usual one hour of meditation. I fed my daughter lunch, but not dinner (until about 10:30 pm when I made her a peanut butter sandwich rather than let her grab a chocolate pudding). I pretty much made myself and everybody else miserable yesterday. The kid couldn't really understand why she was the only person taking my birthday at all seriously, and was annoyed with her father for not making any effort at all. Oh well.

I decided I would just pretend it was my birthday TODAY instead, now that I have the time to play a bit. I sent off the assignment to the woman at the company, and called her to make sure it arrived. She sent me back a nice email saying she got it, and she'd be in touch with me next week. That was encouraging! I'm feeling optimistic. If I actually land this job, I will have conquered big odds in the job-search paradigm, having beat out competition from scores, if not hundreds, of applicants. And I figure I'm about 85% of the way now.

If it's meant to be, it will be.


Sunday, November 14

over and out, and movin' on

I was incredibly nervous about my interview this morning, and felt my stomach spasming whenever I thought about it, but it went fine. The good news is I'm into the next stage of the process: I've been given a homework test to do that will give them an idea of my writing skills (it's a marketing writing job). The bad news is that I think a lot of people are in this stage with me, so I can only hope my skills will outshine theirs. The other bad news is that I may not know for about 3 weeks, since the decision-maker is going to be out of the country. So I have to find a stop-gap for about the next month, at least. I do have an interview with another company on Wednesday, and I've made contact with the English school I used to work for, so maybe I can get a little cashflow going.

What happened, meanwhile, with the psycho witch? I had told her I would be in today, and I couldn't really deal with the guilt of not calling in at all, so I did call right after my interview. I steeled myself talking to her, by knowing I was not going to take any more crap from her, since I have the upper hand now (she needs me, and she doesn't owe me any money at this point). I asked her if she wants me to come, and she answered with a snarky, "What do you think?" So I said, "Just so you know, this will be my last day." When she started complaining about that, I said, "Sorry, but all the goodwill's burned off." She continued with some bla-bla bitchiness, and I cut her off, saying, "Do you want me to come in or not?" She answered primly, "Yes please." So I drove over there, leisurely getting myself a croissant in the neighborhood first, building up my inner swagger. I was not going to give her a millimeter today.

Supposedly, I was at a meeting with my daughter's principal this morning, as I didn't want to tell her about the interview. She tried to ask me about that, as if she could possibly be interested. Conversation gambits for her are just ways of opening the door to personal criticism. "What happened with your daughter?" she asked. I said, "Not much," with no intention of going further or explaining it. She gave me one of her arched eyebrow looks that said, "Go on; you're not getting off the hook; ANSWER me!" and I just said, "I really don't care to discuss it; let's just get to work."

And then she said, "With the attitude you're displaying, I'd just like you to go right now." I'm sure she was bluffing, in an attempt to get me to bend to her, but I was delighted. "Fine by me," I said. I picked up my bag and walked out the door without even looking at her again, saying, "Have a nice life." She called after me, "I hope you have a better time at your next job with that attitude." And I countered, "Right back atcha, lady." It made me smile knowing she's totally screwed without my help right now. I laughed all the way home.

My birthday's tomorrow, but I felt like I started it today!

Thursday, November 11

aaaaaand...we're clear! (sort of)

It's Thursday, last day of the work week for standard Israeli wage slaves. I thought it would never end.

I didn't post yesterday because my last post made my mother cry, and I started to worry. No, really, the reason I didn't post yesterday is BECAUSE I WAS EXHAUSTED!!!!

I can't bear to recap it all again but suffice it to say that this very privacy-loving, quiet-time loving, telephone-hating introvert searched desperately through her cell phone contact list for someone to ventilate to yesterday, and thank god I found someone -- a new friend who's a psychologist, to boot! She listened very very well, and I found it interesting that she had already picked up on the fact that a close-quarters kind of job (like this one) would be totally inappropriate for me. "You need to get lost in the crowd, be over in the background." How true. Never again will I accept a job, no matter how desperate I am (yeah, sure), where I have to spend the entire day looking across the desk at my boss. THAT'S SUCH A SICK SITUATION!!! When are you supposed to check your email and catch up on the news, for godsake?

Anyway, for your reading pleasure, a few tidbits from these past two days:

a. being told that I never listen by someone who has never let me finish a sentence; being told that I don't absorb information, when she never lets me work, but keeps talking and talking and talking, every item being the highest priority, and "are you listening to me?" (while I'm still trying to keep the information of the previous instruction in my head), "then let me see your eyes so I know you're listening." I hear the voice of myself talking to my attention-challenged daughter. It's scary.

b. being corrected for writing "the details of the transaction are as follows" because, she insisted, is must follow the singular noun transaction. When I responded, honestly, that it didn't sound right to me, I was told in no uncertain terms that it is a fact, and not a matter of opinion. When I attempted to NOT respond to this, she demanded a response. I said, "I've never seen it that way, but if that's the way you want it, no problem." This, too, was met with derision. "It's NOT because I want it, but because it's RIGHT!"

c. at the post office, being surprised by her demand that I list the names of people we had just sent packages to on an itemized receipt, and having her fly into a tantrum when I didn't know the name on the small envelope we'd just sent out -- an envelope she'd brought along which had nothing to do with me. She then made the postal employee fish into the sack to try to find HER letter, since we must have that name. Later she told me it was a check to someone -- how did she not know who she'd just written a check to? And how was I supposed to know if she didn't? She stood there in the post office berating me. "What do you think I brought you here for? You just don't listen!"

d. trying to get a package ready for FedEx pickup (you never know when they'll arrive, but you shouldn't call before the package is ready because the delivery guys get paid by the number of pickups and deliveries they do, not by the hour): she'd insisted I call them when we weren't ready, then kept making and taking phone calls, refusing to give the package the attention I was requesting in order to be able to seal it. FedEx guy arrived, got annoyed but appeared to take pity on me and didn't leave, while she took her sweet time checking it out carefully on his dime. He was impatient enough to throw the stub we needed (for tracking) carelessly on the floor, half-hidden by a bag, and we couldn't find it right away, so she sent me chasing after him, blaming me for my incompetence in not ensuring we had it. I chased him, I caught him, he said, "Don't worry; it's there," and I believed him and went back and started searching, while she shouted at me that I needed to stop "making it so difficult again" and call FedEx to alert them that we didn't have, so I got on the phone, sure that we did have it, and then she found it. But that didn't stop her from telling me that I do everything except the thing she needs me to do.

e. repeatedly hearing her telling the person she was "laughing" with on the phone, "I desperately need an English assistant, not just English-speaking, but English, with the English mentality." I even heard her suggest she needed someone humble. Clearly the person on the other end inevitably responded that her many requirements ("light, bright, and agile"; "extremely computer literate"; "knowledgable in desktop publishing"; and what she didn't say: highly intelligent but willing to take no initiative) made for a tall order, and she would just as inevitably reply, "I know, but I've had it, you see, and I must find it again."

Yes, she had it alright, and that person has put as much distance between them as possible, having extricated herself with the story that she "needed to get away for some R&R after an acrimonious divorce" ... because getting out when your self-esteem has been that battered is not as simple as it looks on the outside. It's the new thing I see this week. I literally feel I know a new experience: what it must be like to be a battered wife, a feeling of competely eroded self-esteem (which was never this obvious) -- a gut-grabbing feeling of being defective. It will take me a while to recover.

Have I mentioned that her older daughter has disowned her? How tragically easy that is to understand.

Really, I could go on and on, but I'm feeling better already, having bitched it all out here. Thank you for listening.

So about halfway thru the day she asked me if I was coming back next week, and truly this is the last thing I want to do, but marriage is a "funny" thing, and sometimes you are compelled to do things someone else's way, which sucks, but it's good for a kid to have two parents. I made about 2,000 shekels for this week's work (well, actually I took half of it out in product before I even started), cash in hand with no paperwork, and that makes mr. S kind of drool. He loves that his wife has taken the car test payment or some other big bill off his back for change. I understand that. But I'm already not going on Sunday morning because of my 2nd interview at the great company. And Monday's my birthday, which I don't really celebrate, but I don't really see torture and humiliation as a good alternative either. Wednesday morning is another interview. And I bet I could set up a couple more this week if I really tried. It's about time I got ready to return to teaching English if something more serious doesn't come through, and the private English schools are looking. I've let her believe I'm coming on Sunday, because I didn't want to make a final decision, and I've managed to avoid discussing it with mr. S. She seems to think I'm slightly better than having nobody to help her, but won't express appreciation for anything I've done, or the fact that I've basically learned the workings of her business in 5 days. She's too overwhelmed with her own resentment at needing people (who are mostly so incompetent), I think. I do need an exit strategy, but I don't see how I can do this again. Today HAS to have been the last day, even if cutting out doesn't look very honorable and it means I have to put up with several day's of sullenness on the homefront. I think it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, November 9

day 3: the crunch

Even on the way home yesterday, I knew I was so sick of my new boss already that I didn't know if I could bear going in for more abuse again today.

Yes, it is abuse what she does, and I have never suffered abuse for long. Not nowhere, not no how. Bosses do this a lot, and I've never figured out why, not that I haven't tried. I'm sick of trying to figure it out; I just want a mature boss, for a change. Where ARE they?

Obviously, the work has rarely been interesting enough to overshadow the personalities I've had to cope with. Such seems to be my fate. God knows, poor long-suffering Mr. Squarepeg has been through umpteen versions of the same movie: Me, miserable in my job because of a screwed-up power-tripper of a boss, trudge home every day and spend the evening trying to psychoanalyze the bastard/bitch in the office.

But never, before now, have I had a boss who has spent so much time trying to psychoanalyze me.

This one's a Scientologist, and she's got some twisted stuff goin' on. Since the day we met, I've been hearing about her Scientology shrink (I don't know what he is, but she refers to him the way people refer to their shrink: "My therapist said I need to start taking responsibility for what happens in my relationships." etc.) The first day I came for an interview, she spent much of the time trash-talking the young man who was hovering around, doing her bidding, which was nit-picking and endless, saying he was seriously damaged, was constantly going into his "victim dramas" (an expression I was to hear a lot of) and making hard work out of every little task. She had sent him to her Scientology shrink, though, and was trying to help him come out of his many problems. The guy had an obvious physical disability, the result of a childhood car accident, she told me, and when she spoke to him, it was in a sharp voice, the sort one might use with a stubborn child. She told me right off that I shouldn't be bothered by the way she speaks to him, because it's the only way to nip his "victim dramas" in the bud. A little doubtful, I said, "Just as long as you don't start talking to me like that." She assured me that wouldn't happen. But it turns out grannie's got a bad little habit there.

I'm going to skip all the blood-boiling crap I endured in days 1 and 2, and cut right to juicy day 3. By this morning, I'd decided to keep all conversation to a bare minimum, not answering anything that didn't require answering, nor prolonging any conversation with niceties. It was going to be strictly professional: she jumps, I say how high. Stoicism. No personal or emotional involvement.

And then the first thing she says to me is that she wants to start every day with us doing an exercise together where each of us says what's not working for us, and what is working for us today.


I don't need to give any personal details, she said, and it can be as mundane as "The traffic was terrible." ... just so we get off our chests whatever doesn't relate to the here and now, or something to that effect. This is supposed to clear the air so that we can work with less baggage, I suppose. "Does that make sense?" she demanded.

"uuuuuuhh, not from rational point of view ... maybe from another point of view," I choked out, because all I could think was, "YOU are not working for me, you sad, hostile, angry, arrogant bully!!!"

Since I wasn't forthcoming, she started talking about what "wasn't working for her" -- like the fact that she'd be with the ScientoShrink until after midnite and hadn't gotten to bed till 1:30, so was operating on less sleep than she'd like.

OOOHH YEAH, now I get it. She's spent the evening discussing me with cultguy and they've cooked up some groovy solutions to the challenges I was presenting with my clearly dysfunctional behavior.

I kept hoping the phone would ring and she'd forget about the game, but finally she put me on the spot. And already knowing how this bully operates, I knew it was a no-win situation. Anything honest I could say would be met with defensive attack. So I tried diplomacy on a subject that was bothering me since day 1: "It's not really working for me that we have these long, wonderful lunches, and then you don't want me to leave at the time we agreed on." Immediately she shot this one down (Hey, is this really the way the game's meant to be played by the ScientoCult book?) with, "The long lunches have nothing to do with how long I want you to stay; we've just got a lot of work to do; one thing has nothing to do with the other!"

Uh. Okay. These lunches are command, by the way. She pays for it, she obviously wants the company so she can feel comfortable going somewhere nice, and I'm actually afraid to say I'd rather not go with her, because I know I'll be met with an interrogation about why. Gracious, she ain't.

Finally we move on. Another crisis, this time involving her bank. She angrily demanded that I listen to the voice options on the bank recording and tell her what they said. I told her I have trouble with those myself, and am often guessing at which button to push, can't translate that fast while they're already giving the next option, and in many cases don't even know what they're saying. This was too much for her. She was having a bad week, and I was the scapegoat. I tried gently suggesting she tell me what she was looking for, and I'd try to guess which option it was, but she demanded that I JUST DO WHAT SHE'D ASKED ME TO DO AND STOP MAKING IT INTO A HUGE DRAMA. This woman is sick. She's a child with a constant tantrum, nicely covered up in that Dame Edna veneer when she's talking to anyone who she's not expecting to be servile to her. Very

I kept my cool, and eventually we, that is I, figured out which button to push. And so the hours passed.

At 3 pm she said let's go to lunch. I decided not to fight it, but that's the last one. We drove to a nice seafood place and she ordered the "seafood platter" (incredible array of crabs, shrimp, squid, octopus in a to-die-for wine-garlic-butter sauce). Even before we began mopping up the yummy salad starters with their fresh focaccia, she started in: "So, how do you like it?" I knew she wanted me to talk about the job, and I so didn't want to, not over this beautiful lunch. "Well? Well? How does it feel?" Like a jackhammer. I had to find something authentic yet non-inflammatory to say.

"It's unremitting pressure," I said very carefully. The big mistake with this woman was to give her any ammo, and, a major-league deflector, she certainly isn't capable of handling any honest criticism. I learned that on day 2.

"So," she said, very pointedly, "Does that mean that I should start looking to recruit someone else for the position?"

Wow, the time had come to tell the truth, so suddenly -- like ripping off a bandaid. "Yes, I think so," I nodded. When asked a direct question, I cannot tell a lie.

This knocked the wind out of her, but her immediate response was, "Thank you very much for being honest." But then she seemed to come to her senses and realize how wrong she must show me I am for apparently having been so dishonest as to take on the job in the first place. I reminded her that we agreed to a trial of two weeks, at the end of which either of us could call it off -- knowing full well that if she wanted me to stay, it would be a terrible blow to her plan. She kept saying, "But I told you it would be high pressure and you thought you could handle it! What happened?" How could I tell her the hard truths about her ugly side? I will leave that task for others. She already has a strong-willed daughter who has "disowned" her, and she's living with that guilt and remorse -- though no doubt cultguy is giving her a hand with that.

Her anger began to build up a head of steam. I was giving her very little ammo, so she seized back on my previous comment. "Unremitting pressure," she echoed heavily. "That's very heavy. Unremitting pressure." She was going in for the kill. "What is pressure? What is this pressure for you?"


The waiter came, brought some plates, removed some plates; another waiter brought the platter. How I hoped she would just eat.

"What is pressure for you?" she bored into me.

"This is a perfect example of it: you're on me all the time." What I really meant was, I can't take being in a closed room with your volcanic energy anymore, but I was TRYING to avoid a personal attack.

"I'm all over you? I'm all over you? What does that mean?" I knew this wasn't going anywhere except explosionville. Staying calm, but feeling completely trapped -- the cockroach in the corner, and here comes the pointy boot -- I quietly asked her if we could please not do this over the food. I mean, what really was the point of ordering this amazing repast and then having a poisonous stinging session over it. Really, is she insane?

The curl of her lip said it all, but the poison flowed anyway. The stream of invective was shocking, but it was all the words I'd already heard her use over the past few days -- her repertoire is not very broad -- so I could hardly take it personally. I stayed quiet, and eventually I think she heard herself and stopped. As she ate, she made a phone call to You-Know-Who, and left him a voice message. After awhile, I made a comment about how delicious the sauce was, and she finally started talking normally again, and we made nice conversation.

And when we went back to the office, whaddaya know? She was a perfect lady all afternoon, no tantrums, no bullying. We just worked together smoothly. It was clear to me that she knew she needed me desperately (until she finds a replacement), and that if she continued with her abusiveness I might not even come back to the office. But how could she have changed her behavior if she didn't have some awareness of how she'd been before and the result it's had?

Just now, I was thninking about her past, all I could feel was a wave of tragic sadness for her. She was one of those very unlucky children who, at the tender age of four, was sent away from London in 1943 with trainloads of other children whose parents were trying to protect them from the bombing of the city. She was the youngest child at the children's camp somewhere out in the country, and didn't return home until the war ended, when she was greeted with a younger brother (who she never got along with until they reached their sixties). That angry child is still living through this grown woman, and the wound is so painful. When I think about it, I can imagine myself putting my arms around her in an attempt at comfort, to stop the suffering bully from lashing out.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

Monday, November 8

life of a minion

from Merriam-Webster: minion a servile dependent, follower, or underling
Etymology: Middle French mignon darling

do not like the environment of my new job at all, and am hoping to make it temporary v. soon. received call for second interview at major corporation in decent location and squealed with happiness. challenge: how to fit second interview into newly packed schedule?

My new boss is under extreme pressure and although I want to help her very much, I have been with her in the same small room with barely a break for the bathroom for 20 hours over the past two days and I also haven't had much sleep, so today really sucked. Strangely, though, she takes me out for long, lazy lunches where we pigged out today on baby backribs AND sushi! This feels very incongruous with the tenor of the rest of the day, and I'm uncomfortable with how long we loll, but it is the only joy to be had in this job.

This is what she calls me in her Margaret Thatcher accent: "Dahling" ... but what she really means is "minion" -- or she who must obey, or be bullied and spoken to very sharply.

"There are no small parts, only small actors."

Sunday, November 7

what's in a name?

It's been a long day so I'll just leave you with a great joke I found trolling through my new boss's deleted email folder (always a good source of juicy stuff).

This good looking man walks into an agent's office in Hollywood and says, "I want to be a movie star." Tall, handsome and with experience on Broadway, he has the right credentials.

The agent asks, "What's your name?"

The guy says, "My name is Penis van Lesbian."

The agent says, "Sir, I hate to tell you, but in order to make it in Hollywood, you are gonna have to change your name."

"I will NOT change my name! The van Lesbian name is centuries old, I will not disrespect my grandfather by changing my name. Not ever."

The agent says, "Sir, I have worked in Hollywood for years... you will NEVER go anywhere in Hollywood with a name like Penis van Lesbian! I'm telling you, you will HAVE TO change your name or I will not be able to represent you."

"So be it! I guess we will not be doing business together," the guy says, and he leaves the agent's office.


The agent opens an envelope sent to his office. Inside the envelope is a letter and a check for $50,000. The agent is dumbstruck ....who could possibly be sending him $50,000? He reads the letter enclosed...

Dear Sir,

Five years ago, I came into your office wanting to become an actor in Hollywood, and you told me I needed to change my name. Determined to make it with my God-given birth name, I refused. You told me I would never make it in Hollywood with a name like Penis van Lesbian. After I left your office, I thought about what you said. I decided you were right. I had to change my name. But I had too much pride to return to your office, so I signed with another agent.

I would never have made it without changing my name, so the enclosed check is a token of my appreciation. Thank you for your advice.


Dick van Dyke

Saturday, November 6

...and optimism will rule the day

Like a lot of people bitterly disappointed with the results of the US election, I've been thinking quietly rather than blogging out loud. Considering how close Kerry came to winning the brass ring (he just missed by about 150,000 Ohio votes) it bugs me how much commentators have been talking as if Kerry was a loser from the outset, and how badly he ran his campaign. Sure he made mistakes, but it sounds like a sour-grapes rehash of the criticism so many made of Gore's campaign 4 years ago.

The real problem here is a fundamental truth that just wasn't as clear as it has now become: As someone writing at Salon put it, contrary to what so many of us once believed, the heartland of America (most of what lies between New York and California) is neither secular nor rational, and the Democrats will never win on an intelligent, secular, rational platform. Clearly, the voting majority of Americans are under-educated and governed by the same forces as those primitive peoples studied by anthropologists: fear of the elements out of their apparent control. Bush and Cheney are masters of that domain.

Even so, Kerry was powerful enough in the dignity and integrity he radiated to nearly overcome the irrational terror and come awfully close to beating the dark force. And that was some achievement, even if he didn't win it for us.

In Why Bush Won, Farhad Manjoo mentions "the Armageddon theory of politics," something that many are employing to hang in there these days. He says, "Bush and the GOP majorities in the House and Senate will make things so bad in the next four years that the country will never elect a Republican ever again. So here's hoping things get much, much worse!"

On a more optimistic note, Salon's David Talbot offers an editorial entitled, We Won't Give In. If, as he says, "you're insulted by the rise of a news media that seems dedicated to lobotomizing the American public," you owe it to yourself to check in with Salon regularly. They will never be cowed by the machiavellians.


the grail finds me

And so we move on to other matters. It seems I've found myself some employment, temporary for the moment, but possibly permanent. At least for now it pays a decent hourly wage, and also scores me the product being sold at a sweet discount. The business involves Royal Jelly, the food created by worker bees to feed the queen bee, that which in fact turns her into a queen bee and keeps her alive years longer than the worker bees. I'm just learning about this stuff, though it's been used in China for centuries, I gather. If it works on my migraines and on my kid's attention-hyperactivity challenges I will be one happy worker bee myself! We've just started taking the vials of Royal Jelly once a day, plus oxygen drops in our water, and I will report on what happens. I don't expect immediate results, but kids are always supposed to respond to these alternative therapies faster than adults. As always, I'm hopeful for relief from that which ails us.

As I will be working full time, there will be much less time for blogging and everything else I want/need to do, but I'll be here when I can be.

And, oh yeah, that novel-writing experiment? So over. I'm a sprinter sort of gal, not a marathoner; I'll never be a novelist. I'll never be like Dan Brown, whose The Da Vinci Code I devoured over the past three days, barely stopping to eat or blog, in case you didn't notice. Wow, I loved every minute of it. Pure heaven getting fascinating history with heart-pumping entertainment. Nothing I like better than doing two things at once!

Wednesday, November 3

shock, devastation, disbelief

There are a lot of people wondering how this could have happened. How could Bush have garnered more votes than any President in history? (Don't know if this is accurate, but heard it from White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on CNN.) I bet W is saying, "In your face, Michael Moore," right about now. I'd like to hear what Michael Moore is saying.

Democracy is messy. And very demoralizing right now. But I concede it's better than the alternative(s).

Tuesday, November 2

super wednesday

Big day tomorrow, must get to bed early so I can get up super early and [please god!!] hear Kerry has won DECISIVELY, then get ready for a job interview. Loved reading that Jimmy Breslin of Newsday has no doubts. These things help when you're under stress.

Things are percolating on the job front; I can feel something coming very soon. In fact, today I was all but offered an interesting sort of job with a very dynamic woman who is building her own business with an alternative health product. I'm not sure if I'll end up taking that, as there would be different advantages to having the more corporate type of position, but it's out there. The last interview I went to is still open, with the HR person on holiday. And today I also got a call from that HORRIBLE company that treated me like garbage when I went for a 3-hr test. This was from the HR woman I never met, but she sounded as indifferent on the phone as the others I spoke to there. She wanted to inform me that the job I'd applied for was filled, but that it might re-open, and that they were keeping my test on file. (Buncha flip-floppers.) I asked her how I did on the test, and she said, "Just fine." So then I told her about my experience with her company that day (and when I phoned about two weeks later to be told by the gum-chewing receptionist that HR woman was on holiday but "apparently you didn't get the job" ['c'nireh sheh'lo hitkabalt']), and she sounded pretty shocked at the treatment, though she laughed when I told her about fart-guy. It was nice to get that off my chest, and I really don't know if I'd accept a job at that company if it was offered; I'd check it out, I guess, but I get the distinct feeling I'd have very little chance of being happy there.

I'm on nurse duty now, so I hope I can get some sleep: Mr. S came home at noon and crawled into bed with a fever and the whines; has consumed lots of herb tea, hastily cooked chicken soup (nice that I had a package of chicken legs in the freezer), and of course Echinacea/Goldenseal drops. I'm taking them too as I was feeling borderline weird today as well. Was it the strange hot dry howling wind? Was it the phantom of the missing chair? Pre-election jitters? I don't know, but I opened a bottle of Merlot and made it worse.

the case of the missing chair

The cleaning lady finally showed up yesterday, after I spent two hours the previous day vacuuming the whole apt and cleaning mirrors and toilets. But I hadn't dusted or washed any floors, or properly cleaned the bathrooms or the kitchen, so I was happy to see her for a shortened shift.

However, the shift was mysteriously cut even shorter while we weren't home. I was out killing a couple of hours since I don't like to be underfoot, and intended to return in time to drive her back to the center of town. Mr. S phoned me about half an hour before the cleaner was supposed to finish and told me her daughter had come to help her and that they were now already gone. In fact, she had taken the spare key from our apt door, locked it, thrown it in our mail box at the entrance, and was only phoning him when already on the street. Highly unusual, since she always gets a ride from us, and I was also annoyed to hear that there was another stranger (for me) in the apt while I was away. However, no harm no foul, I figured.

Until this morning. I opened the door to our small balcony and immediately saw there were only three chairs around the table, where there had always been four. These are rather large, heavy metal-framed chairs with sturdy wicker seats, a set which matches the round, glass-topped table. From upscale furnishings store Beitili, they weren't cheap, and I probably won't be able to match it again either. Where was the fourth chair? Very used to searching for random items after the cleaning lady has gone, I walked around the apt doubtfully. It's a small apt, and there's nowhere for a chair that big too hide. No chair.

With a howling wind blowing this morning so strongly that I had to close all the windows, I even wondered if the chair had been blown off the balcony, hurricane-style, but the other three chairs were sitting around the table in an orderly, equidistant fashion, so it didn't seem likely that the wind had been strong enough to disturb them. I got Mr. S to phone the cleaning lady and she insisted that there were only three chairs. But none of those 4 chairs has ever moved anywhere from the balcony in all the time we've owned them (maybe 3 years). It wasn't possible.

Here's our theory, though awfully hard to swallow: She (or her daughter) decided to clean the awning over the balcony and used a chair to get up higher. The previously mentioned wicker seat, while quite sturdy enough for sitting, is probably not strong enough to hold a person standing and pushing with feet in concentrated spots. We think she broke the seat and took it away to hide the evidence. Is this bizarre behavior for a cleaning lady? I've had them break things before, and one just has to get over it; it happens. But stealing the chair to cover herself? What other explanation is there for the disappearance, and for her hasty, unusual leave-taking?

Well, we haven't paid her yet for yesterday, and I don't intend to either. My guess is that she won't even have the nerve to call and ask to be paid -- what we owe her for yesterday is less than what the chair cost us. But damn, it's irritating, especially when we can't be sure, and now there's no way I'll be able to have her back again, and the creeping insidious grunge will take over again while waiting for me to deal with it. BAH!

Monday, November 1

relive elementary school, anyone?

aaarrrrgh! I'm doing grade 7 math for the second time, but this time from the mom point of view. It was so frustrating going through all that, each hard-won concept accompanied by screaming and tears, and here it is deja view all over again. My daughter may actually have a math learning disability, but she does eventually get it in the end. Until she gets it though -- my god, I need drugs to handle this cause the meditation just aint cuttin' it! Interesting how much better I am at all this than I was then, though, since I do remember it being every bit as hard for me when I was her age, and now I appear to be a genius????? In any case, there is one thing I was definitely right about: This stuff is absolutely no use in [my] real life: I was sure then that I'd never use the information learned, and I never did. On the other hand, no question that math is good for exercising the brain muscles and from that point of view, doing homework with the kid is [grudging admission] kind of fun.

I will be posting less this month as I'm trying the NaNoWriMo challenge, and my writing energies need to go there, but this is double birthday month. Mr. S is finally turning the corner to the big F-O -- I mean 4-0 -- and as for moi, well, I'll be coy ... but I've already passed that particular milestone.

Happy November!