Friday, April 25, 2014


I'm sick.  Like, glands the size of Polaris missles, fever of 102°, oh-my-crap-please-kill-me sick.  For the last four days I have been on my couch popping prescription meds like they're Tic-Tacs and praying gor Dr. House to show up an miraculously cure me.*

*Although, if the show is to be believed, he'd just show up, tell me I probably have sarcoidosis, and OD on Vicodan.

My incoherent point being: I'll be out of commission for a few days until the 'funny' returns.  Stay well, party people.  Much love.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Seventh Circle of Hell

It is rare that I am absent from the blog-o-sphere for extended periods of time, but that has been the case as of late.  I'd like to say it's because my life has been so jam-packed with fun-filled activities and ventures that I simply haven't had time to open my laptop but in truth it's because two weeks of being funemployed has turned my home into a den of slack.  Call it apathy, call it lack of direction, call it what you will, no work and all play makes Jen a dull girl. Without my daily interactions with humanity, my potential for shenanigans is greatly reduced and I start getting twitchier than Jerry Sandusky at a Cub Scout Jamboree.  I did, however, have a life-altering experience last week. . .the unemployment office.

First of all, let me just say "Wow".  What a giant ball of suck.  No, seriously.  It did not even live up to my lowest expectations.  This place makes the DMV look like Club Med, and every employee had this stricken look on their faces like their name had just been drawn for the Quarter Quell and they had no fucking clue how they wound up in the arena.  Looking around at the people both working at and filing into the unemployment office I got that tight pinchy feeling low in my stomach and I knew that at any minute, things could get weird on an astronomical level.

I sat by the door, waiting for my name to be called and almost immediately a young woman in a Freddy Kruger T-shirt and enough facial piercings to set off a metal detector plopped into the seat next to me with a sigh.  I smiled at her passively.

"Nightmare on Elm Street?"  I asked, gesturing toward her shirt.

She nodded gravely.  "Horror is, like, the only REAL genre, you know?  It's, like, really PURE."

I bobbed my head in agreement but really? I don't get the whole horror movie thing.  In fact, most people my age don't; it's pretty much just the 20-somethings who don't realize yet that there's no need to pay someone to scare you because real life will scare the ever-loving crap out of you.  Zombies don't faze me, and vampires?  Bitch, please.  But if you want to see scary then open that letter from your mortgage company or listen to your doctor say your last mammogram showed "abnormalities".  Yeah. . .that's when shit gets REAL.

After listening to 30 minutes of Zippy the Pinhead blather on about all things Wes Craven, my name was finally called and I was escorted to a computer by a woman with an unintelligible Eastern European accent and a pair of ((shudder)) bedazzled Crocs, named Svetlana.*

*I loathe Crocs with the burning fire of a thousand white-hot suns.  Unless you are a toddler or an Asian gardener, Crocs are never a choice.  Never.  And if you are brazen enough to bedazzle these abominations?  I.  Will.  Cut.  You.

"Sbrhj skbf hdjf bnuwpog." she said, gesturing to the computer terminal.  I stared blankly.  She sighed deeply and repeated, "Sbrhj skbf hdjf bnuwpog."

"I. . .I'm sorry."  I stammered.  "I just. . .I don't understand."

Rolling her eyes and sucking her teeth, Svetlana took a deep breath and enunciated slowly through her heavy accent, "Enter.  Your.  Work.  History."

Muttering in obeisance, I huddled over my terminal of shame and began entering my information on the WorkSource Oregon site.  Before long, Pinhead took up residence to my left and a gentleman in his 40's sat down at my right.  Shielding my eyes from the glare of the horror fan's multiple piercings, I turned slightly toward the man on my right and -- sweet 6 pound 8 ounce Baby Jeebus -- was smacked in the face by the stench of enough alcohol to anesthetize a wildebeest.

Peering cautiously at the man's bloodshot eyes and flushed cheeks I felt an initial sense of sorrow.  But then I thought, you know what?  Why not.  You're unemployed.  You probably got shit-canned out of the blue and your wife is pissed and the only time you're leaving the house today is to come to this crappy place so why not show up half in the bag at 10am? Good for you, Sir.  I'm a fan.  And don't try to tell me that alcoholics aren't productive, because glancing at this man's work history, he was on FIRE.

"This is so fucking stupid."  grumbled the girl on my left, twisting a strand of her rainbow-glittered hair around her finger.  "I've been, like, doing this for a year and, like, STILL can't find a job."

OK, tough love time, Rainbow Brite.  I know it's nice to think that appearances don't matter but when you show up looking like you fell face first into a tackle box after Ke$ha threw up in your hair then you are seriously limiting your vocational options. Lose the slasher tees, stop painting your nails with a Sharpie, and maybe, just MAYBE that "dare to be great" opportunity will open up at Hot Dog On a Stick.*

*I hate to be judgmental, but I'm just so damned good at it.

As much as I was disturbed by my fellow funemployed companions, I have to say that it was better than a Saturday trip to WalMart in terms of making me feel good about my life choices.  As I sat there feeling all of the awesome blowing off of me, Svetlana appeared over my left shoulder.

"Rnfskuk djb s kihh hvu?" she asked.

"I'm so sorry,"  I cried. "I just really have no idea what you're. . ."

"You!  No!  Have!  G.E.D.!?!?"  she shrieked, spittle flying from her frosted pink lips.

"I. . .no.  I mean. . . yes."  I babbled inanely.  "I mean, I. . .I have a Master's degree."

Svetlana scowled and tapped at my computer screen.  "You.  No.  Put.  High. School."

I stared at her incredulously.  "I have a Master's degree.  I think the logical progression of thought is that I had to graduate high school at some given point in time to achieve said status."

She shook her head in frustration.  "You.  No.  Said.  Status.  You.   Put.  In.  High.  School. Bbdjgfgdk akkhf tmj ahdbbegw!"*

*I'm sorry.  Is there someone with a functional grasp of the English language and non-synthetic footwear who can explain this shit to me?

Murmuring a ham-handed apology, I finished the computer portion of the day's festivities and wandered over to the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the lobby, awaiting my one-on-one with a counselor.  After an indeterminate amount of time, a tired-looking man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Wilford Brimley wandered out with a paper in hand.

"Brandon?"  he called out.  We all stared at him silently.  "Brandon?"  he asked again.

"Umm, do you mean Brandi?"  the glitter-haired, pierced girl queried with a raise of her hand.  "Cuz, umm. . .my name's Brandi."*

*Of course it is, Sweetie.  Of.  Course.  It.  Is.

Wilford stared at the paper in his hand again.  "It says Brandon Schaeffer."

"Umm, well.  I'm BRANDI Schaeffer."  she girl explained.

Wilford shook his head.  "No, that's wrong.  This says BRANDON Schaeffer."

Brandi rolled her eyes.  "Well, I'm Brandi."  Then she gasped and threw her head back. "Ohmigod, you know what?  I totally bet you got my brother's paperwork instead.  Cuz he was here yesterday and HIS name is Brandon Schaeffer."

Wait. . .what?  Back.  The hell.  Up.  Your parents named you and your brother Brandon and Brandi?  Color me reactionary, but isn't that the SAME NAME!?!?  Who's your father, George Foreman?  As I was pondering the sheer douchebaggery of this, a diminutive woman walked toward me with a smile.  "Jennifer?"

Reeling with the overwhelming joy of finally meeting with someone I could freaking understand, I followed the woman, who introduced herself as Mona, back to her cubicle.

"So."  she said with a smile.  "A little confusing, isn't it?"

"Not at all what I expected."  I agreed, nodding like a bobble-head doll.

She laughed warmly.  "What DID you expect?"

"Honestly?"  I answered.  "I thought I'd come in, you'd tappity-tap on your computer, we'd share a few laughs, and I get my check.  Didn't think it would involve me tracing my work history back to the time I sold candy bars for cheer camp when I was fifteen."

"It's a pain in the ass," Mona confirmed. "But it's all part of the process.  Now, let's talk about how to get you working again."

And talk we did.  For the better part of an hour.  We talked about work, we talked about our kids, and we talked about our lives.  And at the end of it all, I felt a little better about things. Because now I had hope that there WAS something for me on the horizon.  I had hope that for every Svetlana there was someone like Mona out there who had my back.  And most of all I had hope that I after I left that place and gave myself a thorough Silkwood shower, I would never, EVER have to return.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Conversations With Jess: Funemployed and Fabuluxe!

JESS:  So, Loser, what's it like being a burden on society?

ME:  So far, not entirely unpleasant.  Really downsizing my life has made me so much happier.  Sold some stuff on craigslist and cleaned out the boys' closets so deep I found Narnia.

JESS:  Damn!  Look at you putting a positive spin on this whole unemployment thing!

ME:  Pfft!  I don't look at it as being unemployed.  I like to consider myself "funemployed and fabuluxe".

JESS:  There is no way you came up with that on your own.

ME:  Nope.  I got it from "Rich Kids of Beverly Hills".

JESS:  Tell me you don't seriously watch that?

ME:  Umm, HELLO!  Have we met?  It's a show about vapid, soulless people who contribute nothing to society as a whole.  And it's on the "E!" network. . . of COURSE I watch it!  Hell, I TiVo that shit.

JESS:  You are the most troubling and enigmatic dichotomy of a woman.  You can wax eloquent about Eastern theology and the works of Franz Kafka and at the same time know EXACTLY who Khloe Kardashian is dating at any specific time.

ME:  French Montana.

JESS:  Huh?

ME: French Montana; he's the rapper Khloe started dating when she split up with Lamar.

JESS:  What's the chemical formula for sugar?

ME:  CnH2nOn 

JESS:  Who were the other two members of Destiny's Child?

ME:  Kelly Rowlands and Michelle Williams...but not the one from "Dawson's Creek".

JESS:  What was the name of Sartre's seminal work on existentialism?

ME:  "Of Being and Nothingness".

JESS:  Name every one of "The Bachelor"s, in order.

ME:  Alex, Aaron, Andrew the first, Bob, Jesse, Byron, Charlie, Travis -- you know, the dude on 'The Doctors' -- Lorenzo, Andrew the second, Brad, Matt -- who was a total closet case by the way -- Jason, Jake, Brad, Ben, Sean, and that douchecanoe, Juan Pablo.

JESS: . . .

ME:  What?

JESS:  How is someone with your breadth of knowledge unemployed?

ME:  My mad skillz are greatly unappreciated.

JESS:  Evidently.  So, if you had the choice to do anything -- any job in the world, what would it be?

ME:  Writer.  But, sadly, no one appears to be pounding on my door to pay me major ducats for my musings on reality TV and all things Nathan Fillion.

JESS:  Well, what's the best job you've ever had?

ME:  Honestly?  Being a stay-at-home mom.  And despite what that tanorexic cuntmuppet Gwyneth Paltrow said on E! News, being a mom actually IS harder than guest starring on "Glee" and being married to a man with the most annoying voice since Gilbert Gottfried.

JESS:  Daaaaaamn.  I knew how you felt about Coldplay, but Gwynnie too?

ME:  My hatred for Gwyneth Paltrow and Anne Hathaway is the stuff of legend.  Besides, Gwyneth is technically Coldplay by association, so. . .

JESS: You know they broke up, right?

ME:  Who?

JESS:  Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.

ME:  Shit!  That blows!

JESS:  Huh.  Hardly the reaction I expected.

ME:  But don't you get it?  If they're together they keep all of the annoying in one place.  But if they split up they'll be spreading the 'suck' to two continents.

JESS:  That actually makes sense. . .in a non-sensical way.  So, back to the job thing: what are you doing to keep busy these days?

ME:  Surprisingly enough, I've been busier than when I was employed.  Finally caught up on all of my home projects, pounding the pavement for work, spending kick-ass time with the short people, and finally have an active social life again.  And, of course, I've gone running almost every morning.

JESS:  I've gotta start running again.  I gained so much weight this winter my ass has its own web domain.

ME:  Uh oh.  L.A. face with an Oakland bootie?

JESS:  It's pretty bad.  Sean says he doesn't mind; that he likes me with a little "junk in the trunk", but I think he's just saying that so I don't feel bad.

ME:  No, you can believe him.  In the immortal words of the great philosopher Sir Mix-a-lot, people who like big butts cannot lie.

JESS:  Yes, but in the immortal words of Bel Biv Devoe, you never trust a big butt and a smile.

ME:  Yes, but then that puts the onus on you. . .or the anus as the case may be.

JESS:  I know, I'm being bitchy.  I've just been really moody lately.  I love Sean.  I love the kids.  But sometimes I have fantasies about getting in the car and living alone under a new identity.  Does that make me sound like an asshole?

ME:  You are an asshole.

JESS:  Seriously, Jen.  I haven't been single for 15 years.  Sometimes I really miss it.  Be honest, is being single as great as I'm idealizing it to be?

ME:  Not gonna lie, it's pretty nice to know that I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one.

JESS:  ((sigh)) 

ME:  But at the end of the day, it's pretty awesome to know you're going to see the same face on the pillow next to you every night.  I miss that.

JESS:  It is pretty awesome. . .you're right.  Thanks for reminding me.

ME:  I'll always keep it real, yo.

JESS:  I love your face.

ME:  Right back atcha, Freakshow.  Right back atcha.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Saying "Yes"

These last few weeks have been difficult for me.  I knew that my contract at the university was about to expire, but even so, I held out hope that a last minute grant or donation would keep us afloat and that I would continue the job that I loved so dearly.  Sadly, that hope was in vain and I am now funemployed and fabuluxe.

My job was not so much what I did, but who I was.  I had the joy of knowing that my career made a significant difference in the lives of children with autism and I was honored to hear daily from parents and educators "Jason can read now!"  and "Mara said 'Mommy'!"  The thought that I'll no longer see these children or work with their parents makes me feel like I've been kicked in the chest and the idea that I will wake up tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that with nowhere to go and nothing to do weighs heavily on my heart and mind.  I've always taken care of people.  It's what I do.  I am the caregiver in my family, the one my friends turn to in  times of need, and my chosen career  has been that of caregiver and "fixer".  But now I have to reassess.  Now I have to start thinking about myself and where I go from here.  Now I have to stop seeking gratification and self-determination through the eyes of others and seek it within myself.  Now I have to say "yes" to me.

I am (of course) actively seeking employment in my field. . .*

*The short people have grown oddly attached to food and shelter and I'd hate to cut them off at this point.

. . .but I am keeping my options open as well.  I have started looking at the job postings online and asking myself, "Could I do this?. . .would it be fun to try that?"  and the answer is "yes".  I am more than a researcher.  I am a singer, a dancer, a writer, an actress, a mother, a friend, an artist, an organizer, creator, a be-er, and a do-er.  I am all things and could take any job out there and do it.  Like.  A.  Boss.*

*That being said, writer would be my first choice.  Did you hear that, Ladies Home Journal?  I'm not working now!  Plenty of time to write a few more articles for, y'all!  (("hint, hint, nudge, nudge, say no more..."))

I know I'll find a job soon, but in the interim that means no more daily trips to Starbucks ((sob!)) and my weekly shopping has gone from New Seasons and Zupan's to the Grocery Outlet.  But scaling back gives you a lot of perspective.  I hadn't realized how I'd become such a Smuggy McSmugerson; always believing that I would swipe my debit card and the ducats would just magically appear.  Now I'm forced to evaluate what is a necessity and what is a luxury.  Now I'm forced to stop spending money on distractions and really deal with my shit.  Now I'm forced to say "no" to material things and start saying "yes" to what matters.

Yesterday I picked my boys up after school; a rarity as they are generally in Extended Care until 5:30.  J. ran up to me, bubbling excitedly about a slumber party he'd been invited to, and M. tugged on my sleeve begging for help with his math.  

"Can we do something FUN today?"  M. implored.

I instantly thought of all of their favorite activities: the family fun center, the trampoline gym, the children's museum, and I saw dollar signs stacking up before my eyes..  I felt that anxious twist of dread in my stomach and asked him with a shaky smile, "What do you think would be fun?"

M. crinkled his brow.  "We don't have a lot of money right now, do we?"

I ruffled his hair and smiled.  "We have to be careful right now, Sweetie.  That's all."

"Are we going to have to move out of our house?"  he whispered fearfully.

"No!"  I cried, leaning down and hugging him tightly.  "You have nothing to worry about!  We are NOT losing the house.  We are going to be just fine.  We just can't spend a lot of money right now."

M. straightened up and mused quietly in his odd way.  Then a broad grin spread over his face.  "I know!  Let's go to the library and then go feed the ducks! We can do that for free!"

Now that is something I can absolutely say "yes" to.