Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My New Temp Job

I started working this week for the University's telephone fund drive. The job is three-and-a-half weeks long, pays $8.15 an hour, and hints at the possibility of occasional free pizza and other "prizes" for employees who meet their pledge goals. Besides trading my time and my shame for $8.15 an hour, the job isn't too bad, and has not, to this point, meant making pushy phone calls to irate alumni (This is not, after all, telemarketing—a fact reiterated several times during the four-hour-long orientation). It does mean that I was encouraged to write my own script so I would sound more genuine (a move I appreciated because "cheesy" would be a nice way to describe the sugar-coated blah that "Corporate" had prepared for us), and it does mean that because I'm new, and my skills are unproven, I spend six hours on the phone four days a week calling "non-donors"—a spirited group which includes the very oldest of alumni who've never given (I called a woman yesterday who graduated in 1922), and the most recent of graduates (most of my calls last night were to alumni from this decade, the vast majority of whom are still paying off student loans, or are barely making enough to get by and who would love to pledge but probably can't until next year).

One call last night brought the whole call center (about 12 people) into silence. I hung up the phone and said, "The person I just called was murdered three weeks ago." The person I talked to, who I can only guess was the widow, told me in a broken voice that the man I was calling for was not there because he was dead, and he had been murdered at the beginning of the month. I didn't know what to say except to apologize, assure her that we would make note of it in our records, and hang up after whispering "God bless you." I couldn't believe it, and wouldn't have believed it if she hadn't sounded so convincing, and if we hadn't all looked up the murder on the internet.

The alumnus in question was 25, married with a small child, and was shot and killed more than three weeks ago, we found out from a newspaper website. He was coming out of a store he managed late, and was accosted in the parking lot. The criminal is still at large and the case appears to be a mystery. What isn't a mystery is how devastated the widow must be. I spoke with her for less than a minute, and she only said, "he's dead, He was murdered," but her voice said everything: that for three soul-scouring weeks her bed has been half-empty at night, her kitchen table 2/3 full in the morning, the phone not ringing midday on his break at work, her daughter perpetually waiting for Dadda to come home, the Christmas tree out in the back never trimmed and brought in to be decorated, the ignorant telemarketers calling for him, asking when they should call back, and all she wants to do is scream "NEVER!" "NEVER CALL BACK!" And all anyone can do is apologize and feel awful in the distant way that bystanders always feel when they know that now is not the time for laughing, or frowning, or even crying because it is impossible to even begin to have empathy for a mother and wife who has just lost half of herself to a reckless criminal too short-sided to think what he might actually be doing, impossible even to find a good way to end this blog entry without sounding negative, or sentimental or irritatingly optimistic, or at worst, moralizing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's the worst thing about giving plasma?

I started donating plasma last week, and today I went for my third "donation" (we're technically donating the plasma, and the money we receive,--$60 a week--is compensation for our time, but I still feel like I'm selling my body, even if only 880 ml of it). The entire process is rather uncomfortable, but I can’t decide which part of the procedure is the most offensive:

maybe the dozen or so questions about my sexual history that I have to answer every time I donate, even though the answers will never change.

or maybe the finger-prick during the pre-screening used to collect blood to check my iron and protein levels, which has created a small puncture wound on the end of three different fingers now (one finger for each visit--I'm rotating to spread the joy around a little bit, that way I'll only have to have the same finger pricked every month or so)

or the thirty-second iodine swab that isn’t supposed to hurt at all but drives me to distraction with the cold, relentless, circular pressure on my veins,

or the actual needle poke at the beginning of the extraction process, which takes place after the iodine swab, but before the iodine has dried, allowing only the slightest bit of iodine to come in contact with the broken skin, which adds an acrid sting to the already painful violation of the needle poke, which I can’t bring myself to watch because the whole process reminds me way too much of the Tropicana orange juice commercial where a hand model inserts a large candy-cane-striped straw into the side of an orange,

or the metallic film that seems to cover my mouth during the procedure, like I’ve been sucking on ball-bearings, or swallowing blood from a bleeding gum-line,

or perhaps at the end of the procedure when the phlebotomist removes the two or three strands of tape from my arm that have been holding the rubber tube in place--an unceremonious process that pulls at, but never quite removes several dozen arm-hairs,

or the icy tingle that washes over me at the very end of the procedure when 500 ml of room-temperature saline solution (approximately 72 degrees) are being pumped into my 98.6 degree body to help jump start the plasma regeneration process. The 26 degree difference eerily mimicks the sensation of jumping into a swimming pool after being in the Jacuzzi, the relative cold of the saline causing first my arm to chill, and then, during the drive home, if I forgot my coat, my whole body to shudder, my arm remaining strangely cold hours after donating

or the maybe at the end of the night, peeling and peeling and peeling off the neon green stretch tape that the phlebotomist wrapped around my arm earlier that day just above the elbow in order to sustain the necessary pressure to stop any bleeding.

As uncomfortable as the process is, a certain satisfaction rings through me when I scan my finger at the end of the procedure and the small screen tells me money has been added to my account. Easy money. Money I got for sitting an reading a book for an hour, for putting up with a few pokes and a few scabs, money that this December will mean a cozy (if frugal) Christmas with a few well planned gifts, money that means my wife and I can breathe a little, feel comfortable at least nodding to the cultural expectations of the holiday, enjoy a few sips of warm tea on Christmas Eve without worrying about our credit card balance or our student loan ledger. 'Tis the season for giving anyway, right!

Nolan's many new talents

Friday, November 16, 2007

On Birthdays

At twenty-seven I am beginning to feel old. I know how silly that must sound, how everyone older than me, particularly those who are several years older, perhaps twice or three times my age, must consider a statement like that rather foolish. Nonetheless, that is how I feel. For the first time in my life I have gained a little weight (about 8 pounds, in case you were wondering) and though it doesn't show, it certainly feels. It feels right now in my waist, around the skin on my stomach, in my sides when I lean over, in my chest when I climb stairs, in my slacks as I type these words at my computer. Until recently I had never noticed the waist line of my slacks, except perhaps at Thanksgiving, but now I notice it every morning when I button the pants that once hung loosely on my hips and now fit "just so." In fact, I notice my slacks quite a bit more than I ever have and they have become quite a troublesome reminder of what it means to be getting "older."

I can remember thinking as an eighteen-year-old that I had until at least 26 to worry about what I ate. I gave myself almost a decade before exercise and diet would have any noticeable effect on me and my prediction turned out almost exactly right. A year ago, at 26 I began to notice for the first time that the jeans I had been wearing were a little tight, and by last summer, I had completely given up on three pairs of pants, purchasing new slacks, and new pair of jeans, all a size larger than I normally wear--the size I've worn since i was fourteen-years-old. Fourteen! For 13 years I've been metabolizing everything like an incinerator--candy, chips, chocolate, doughnuts, cake, chocolate, ice cream, cookies, chocolate, waffles, crepes, chocolate--and now, at 27, my body has finally decided to turn down the heat. I have a pair of basketball shorts in my drawer right now that I purchased during my eighth grade year and though I can still wear them, this year--for the first time--they are beginning to fit a little funny.

And its not just the nagging way that once perfectly fitting clothing has begun to tug, cinch, press, and twist around my body that is making me feel old, there is something particular about the number twenty-seven. When I was twenty-one, going back three years put me at eighteen, which felt and sounded young. Same with going back three years form twenty-four--21 just sounds young. But at 27 going back three years puts me at 24, which, while not old, certainly doesn't sound young anymore, at least to me.

I have seven brothers and sisters, and all but two of us are officially out of our twenties, a fact that causes awful fits of "old" if I think about it too long. I have a sister just a few years from fifty, and I'm more than half way there myself. But don't get me wrong, getting older certainly doesn't mean I feel bad about it. Because, well, the fact is I'm not "OLD," I'm just "older" than I used to be, which is still quite young. And I feel like this whole trauma about my "waste" line is more than neurotic paranoia, less than some existential crisis. To say "I'm beginning to feel mortal" would imply that up until now I had felt more than mortal, which is not true. Rather, I've felt "present-tense," with everything before me, the future creating itself in every verb, and lately, for the first time, I've begun to see, be it ever so blurry, the "past-tense" I have created, and I feel a little tarnished, a little used, a little, okay, mortal. No, this is no existential crisis, more like an existential sigh.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Belated Birthday Message

"There's nothing better than a good [husband], except a good [husband] with chocolate!"
Linda Grayson, "The Pickwick Papers"

Dear Joey-

Happy 27th Birthday! I meant to post this on your actual birthday, but life got in the way the last few days. As it often does, but I won't let it stop me from thanking you for being everything to me: my husband, partner-in-parenting, counselor, shoulder to cry on, comic relief, organizer, planner, cheerleader confidant, co-chef, dance partner and absolute best friend.

Thanks for being my chocolate,
you make my life sweeter!

Your Lucky Wife

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blogger Guilt

I signed in to Grover's blog today, and was irked to see that he just posted yesterday, but was somewhat consoled by the fact that, prior to today, he hadn't posted since the 8th, which was Thursday, which means he isn't posting every day, which means he isn't entirely wiping the floor with me in terms of the "attention-paid-to-one's-blog" measurement of success, which is almost as important a measure of one's writerly success as, for instance, the "length-of-run-on-sentences-used-in-ones-blog" measurement, which I also like to pay attention to. But still it definitely gets me that the November 8th post on his blog was made with pictures from my own camera and somehow, I sent them to him without posting them on here.

But this blog, as much fun as it is to keep the pictures updated and occasionally sit down as I am doing right now to consider my life as it flops about in front of me like a hooked fish on the dock (Thin "lots going on, but not much control"), is actually just another item on the long list of to dos that I find myself feeling guilty about. Like exercising or saying morning prayers or saving money or reading more, blogging tends to maintain a high enough position on my list for me to notice, but rarely high enough for me to do anything about it. And its not that I don't feel like I've got things to write, because I do. Every day I notice little things of interest that I think ought to end up here--overheard conversations, fleeting thoughts, observations on parenting, and at the very least, the events of the day--but taking the time to actually do it is often the real problem.

For instance, yesterday was my birthday. It was an absolutely wonderful day ( and not just because of all the chocolate I got to eat, though that always helps). We had chocolate waffles for breakfast and then Melissa went to an activity at the church while the boys and I spent the morning together. We wrestled, colored, made paper airplanes, played at the baker center, ate lunch, read stories, and made Nolan's birthday cake. In the evening we had Dave, John, and Poulani (sp.?) over for the best Okonomiyaki we've ever made, and then had ice cream sandwiches. Callan climbed all over everyone, and Nolan made a terrific mess with his birthday cake, and it was by all measures, a good evening.

And as for Friday night, I ought to mention that after putting Callan to bed I sat down to the computer to look at, the online accommodation/networking site we've used three times now to find free places to stay, and I was looking at places in NYC when Melissa came in and asked what I was doing. I told her I was looking for potential places to stay if we ever made it the AWP conference in January. She smiled at me and said, "I was going to wait until tomorrow, but I think I'll give you your birthday present now," and she pulled a gift bag from the closet and handed it to me. Inside was a map of NYC, a guide book, and a print out of a flight confirmation for all of us to go to New York for the AWP conference. A week ago she'd found 20$ round-trip tickets to New York on Skybus, so we're going. It was, as things usually are with Melissa, pleasant, and surprising.

In October, we posted a whopping seven posts, most of which were pictures, and some of them were catch up posts that should have been posted in September. Is it fair to use the busy parent excuse? No, not really. Blogging is at best another way to keep up with family, at worst a neurotic diversion, and maybe I should feel better about the amount of time it isn't consuming. In fact, I think I'll take advantage of the fact that everyone else is sleeping right now, and do the same.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Birthday Boy!

Happy Birthday Nolan!

On the box

What was in the box!

Nolan- We're so glad you're part of our family, you make us laugh so often, especially when you climb inside the computer cabinet, or into the drawer under the stove. It's so fun to watch grow and learn. We love you!
Mamma, Dad and Big Brother Callan

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Halloween in Athens happens between 5:30pm and 6:30pm and everyone gets involved. Callan was a firefighter (thanks Nana and Papa), and I was the fire. The bugs in Melissa's hair were SO gross, and Nolan spent most of his time looking grumpy in his duck costume.

Callan and Nolan tried out their glowsticks in the car on the way home from trick-or-treating.

A few weeks ago we attended the OU Homecoming parade. Firetrucks, bands, floats! It was great. Notice the cool brick sidewalks that are all over campus.

The band really puts on a show, dancing almost as much as they play.

It was the first really cold morning, and once again, Nolan is scowling. We promise he smiles quite a bit more than it appears here.

Callan, Melissa, and Nolan went with several friends from church to a pumpkin patch. Callan, we've decided has corn husk hair.

Nolan and the pumpkins. Both got dirty, both rolled around a lot, and in the end, both were picked up off the ground and put in the car.

Nolan can "officially" walk, as long as someone is dangling a wallet, camera, or other interesting object in front of him, but mostly he cruises, one hand on a chair, or couch, or, in this case, a half buried rubber tire, and then he falls on his diaper cushioned bum.

The Baker Student Center at OU has six pool tables, a ping pong table, and a foosball table that anybody can use. About once a week Callan and I take the 5 minute walk to the Center to play. Callan's enthusiasm more than makes up for any deficit in skill.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

So much to say...

Pumpkin patches, parades, Halloween Parties, road trips, sick kids. That is what we've been up to for the past few weeks and tonight, with the house clean, the kids asleep, and school at bay, Melissa and I are finally sitting down to post a few pictures, watch a little television, and enjoy the absence of something to do, somewhere to be.

few weeks back we hiked a short trail in Strouds Run State Park. Nolan liked it more than he's letting on here, but he did manage to fall asleep in the backpack. He's just beginning to take a few steps now, and it won't be long before he's hiking up the trail, chasing after Callan.

The Ohio wilderness dripped, dangled, and draped all around this leafy trail in a manner that would have made Robert Frost proud. Spider webs hung at eye level, squirrels watched us from low branches, and deep in the brush, just beyond our focus, we could make out the footprint of several derelict homesteads, including a brick building that made our apartment look huge by comparison. The trail we hiked lead to a small pioneer cemetery, home to perhaps a eight grave plots.

Callan would have kept hiking all day if we hadn't forced him to turn around and head for the car. His biggest problem, deciding which stick to carry with him. He finally chose a fairly good sized walking stick that I convinced him to leave behind, leaning against a tree for the next hiker to use, rather than bring it home to our apartment complex.