Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Am I underreacting?

I got a call from Zeke's school today.

"Wendy, this is Miss ______ from The Cole Academy. Zeke was playing by the toy shelf and he fell and cut his head."

"Poor monkey. How bad is the cut?"

"He hit his head hear his eyebrow. It was bleeding alot, as head-wounds tend to. He seems to be OK, but you might want to take him to the doctor."

"Do you think it needs stitches?"

"No, I don't think so. We put pressure on the cut and it seems to be OK, but we wanted to let you know in case you want to take him to the doctor to get it checked out."

"How is he doing?"

"He's doing fine, actually. He's not crying or anything anymore."

"Well, keep an eye on him. If his behavior changes or he seems unusually drowsy, or if you can't get the bleeding to stop, let me know, but it sounds like he's going to be all right."

Was this the right reaction? I don't tend to question my decisions as a parent, but I also know I tend to be more laid back than most moms, particularly new moms. Sometimes I wonder if I don't freak out enough.

Zeke is a typical boy, with very little regard for his own safety. He thinks nothing of hurtling himself head-first off the couch (he'll catch himself with his hands and then swing his feet around to bring them to the ground) and generally races around like a little perpetual motion machine. Sometimes he falls, sometimes he bumps himself, but unless there is blood or a hard whack to the head (and there hasn't been so far), I give him a kiss, tell him, "you're going to be OK, just pick yourself up and keep going," and give him a pat on the butt to send him on his way.

If the cut doesn't require stitches, the bleeding is under control, and he seems to be going about his day without problem, my feeling is, he's going to get some nicks and scrapes, and most of them aren't going to require a trip to the doctor's office.

Am I wrong?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sometimes a bad day in the surf is just a bad day in the surf.

Jason and I went for a surf this morning after dropping Zeke off at school. J got another one of those temporary layoffs he got a few months ago, so he's home for a couple of weeks. While normally the prospect of having my husband laid off would make me want to vomit, I'm actually kind of psyched about it. A) he'll continue to get unemployment benefits from either the union or the state, and B) the house is in complete shambles and I don't have the time to deal with it or the money to hire a maid, so he's got his work cut out for him.

Anyway, back to the surfing.

A surf session can go one of two ways for me. I either feel great, paddling into everything, or I get really frustrated and just want to take my ball and go home. And while I love surfing with Jason, he's so fucking good at it -- he's been doing it for almost 30 years, after all -- that sometimes I look at him on a wave and think, "Jesus, what's the point? Why do I bother??"

There's a common saying among surfers, that there's nothing so crappy in life that a bad day of surfing can't cure, i.e, even a shitty day in the surf is great.

I wish I could embrace that sentiment more. Because today I had a decent surf, and still felt frustrated and grumpy afterwards.

We started paddling out just as a set was rolling in, so I felt like I was paddling forever, getting pounded by wave after wave, and just getting nowhere. Meanwhile, Jason is skimming through the waves like a waterbug on a still pond. And I caught a bunch of waves, but couldn't quite get turned on the waves fast enough, so my rides were kind of sloppy. And meanwhile, Jason is riding these perfect tubes all calmly and easily, practically getting barreled with no effort whatsoever.

And he's trying to help me out, but I'm so irritated that I just snap at him to leave me alone. Of course, I realize that I'm being an unreasonable asshole, so then I'm irritated with myself in addition to being irritated generally.

By the time we got home, I had burst into tears.

"I feel stupid and incompetent!" I wailed.

And my poor husband is trying to comfort me, but at the same time wondering where the emergency number for the local psychiatric hospital is.

I think I just need to get more sleep.

Friday, September 26, 2008

This is why I love the internets

My friend Lisa is getting married tomorrow. I haven't seen Lisa for almost 20 years, but we reconnected last year via Facebook. We linked to each others' blogs and we leave comments when it's something we can say publicly but email when the conversation needs to be a little more private. Even though it's been ages since we've seen each other, I feel like she is a good friend and am all excited and thinking about her. Lisa, if you're reading this, have an outstanding day. Big hugs.

Facebook has also put me in touch with a huge number of people from both high school and college, including mutual friends that I share with Lisa. In fact, Nick, Lisa's fiance, is law partners with a guy who I was good friends with at UVa., and who is married to one of my sorority sisters with whom I am still in close contact. I discovered this connection when I was online researching DC law firms, came across Scott's law firm's website, and realized that Nick, one of the partners, was the same guy pictured on Lisa's blog in their "save the date" pictures.

Crazy small world. We are all getting together in DC in a couple of months, when Jason and Zeke and I go to DC to visit my family for Thanksgiving.

Susan, the sorority sister who is married to the guy who is law partners with Lisa's soon-to-be-husband, is part of a group of college friends that I continue to maintain contact with, largely via email (and also Christmas cards). A group of us is planning to go on a cruise next year. All of the planning has been done via email, and the reservations will be made and paid for online.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kathleen needed some help writing a brief that needed to be filed ASAP. We commenced finishing the brief together by emailing drafts back and forth. The legal research that I needed to do to finish certain sections was all done online.

My friend Elizabeth is currently living in Norway. We play Scrabble online via Facebook, communicate via email or Facebook message, and have video conferences via Skype.

My friend Kristin, who is also an old friend from school in India, is also good friends with Lisa, and is also on Facebook. We recently reconnected on Facebook, but now correspond regularly via email. She is writing a book, and emailed me a draft to read.

I have become cyber-friends, via this blog, with a number of wonderful people. Suz, HKW, moosie, Anne, Dawn and DCup are all people I have never met, but I nonetheless feel a connection with them. They have supported me from afar via their comments and emails, and when I could, I tried to do the same for them.


I don't shop anywhere but online. I read my news online. I watch television shows online. I keep in touch with my family and friends online, through correspondence, exchanging photos, video conferencing, social networking sites, you name it. I run my businesses largely online or through email.

What blows my mind is that I've only been online for about the past 11 years or so, but now I can't even imagine how I ever lived without it.

Technology is amazing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If you hear me start to sing "I'm every woman," you'll know I've gone completely off the deep end.

Yesterday I went to the International Women's Leadership Conference, hosted by Linda Lingle, the Governor of Hawaii. I didn't even know about it until a friend clued me in, but it's actually a really big deal. Amazing accomplished women from all over the world come and talk about their lives and their successes and how they overcame unbelievable odds to achieve those successes.

Like the woman who became the first woman to be appointed chief of the Washington, D.C., police force. She dropped out of 9th grade and had a baby at 14, but went on to get her GED, graduate from college, and get two master's degrees from Johns Hopkins, all while working her way up the D.C. police promotional ladder.

Or the woman from Sudan who lived in an Ethiopian refugee camp for 10 years and hasn't seen her parents since she was 6, but who came to the United States, graduated from Brandeis, is going to law school, founded an organization to help bring education to young Sudanese girls, and refers to her life as a blessing.

Or the woman who is currently an inmate at a local women's correctional facility, who attended the conference because the Governor and her warden allowed her and a group of her fellow inmates to do so. She was all scrubbed up and inspired and nervous, asking questions about how to keep her focus, correct her mistakes, and make something of her life.

Now, I'm not a kumbaya, touchy-feely, Tony Robbins kind of chick. Stuff like that tends to leave me a little cold. But I'd be lying if I said that hearing the stories of these women succeeding against overwhelming odds didn't move me and inspire me.

I still don't have any new billable work beyond what I'm finishing up for BossMan. I'm still terrified about being able to make everything work. But I'm feeling on top of the world today, nonetheless.

Monday, September 22, 2008


It's been a roller-coaster-y couple of days. One minute I'm crying and feeling despondent, the next I'm cheerier and looking at the bright side. Some of it is the situation itself, some is depression fucking with my head a little bit, making the bad stuff seem worse.

But we're doing OK. We've resigned ourself to the fact that the Big Hawaii Experiment is looking to be a failure, and that unless I can get a big fat lawyer job here -- which don't appear to exist, as far as I can tell -- we're going to have to leave. So when we can, we're going to Denver.

Hawaii Cost of Living, 1: Armstrongs, 0.

We need to stick around through May, at least. May is when Jason finishes the stupid training course that the union made him do, even though he's 457 times smarter than anyone else on the jobs he works on and he's been working as a master electrician for, like, 12 years or something. Plus if he gets a Hawaii license, it makes it easier for him to go to a new jurisdiction with some credibility, rather than having to explain, again, "I'm licensed in Australia and I've been working as a journeyman/master for over a decade, but I don't have a U.S. license." And I don't want to dick over the law school, so we'll stay through the spring semester so I can teach my course.

In the meantime, we're going to try to enjoy the benefits of being here. The truth is, I haven't loved it here, but there are things about it I will miss. Beautiful hikes, surfing, great weather.

We started this weekend.

(Zeke in his Cadillac of a hiking pack, getting ready to ride Daddy's back up the Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail, in Hawaii Kai)

(Ever the Aussie, Jason hikes barefoot. Crazy mofo.)

(The view of Hawaii Kai from partway up the mountain)

(Zeke enjoys playing with his toys at the beach.)

(I manage to catch a wave in the teeny tiny surf)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The real me

One of my most pronounced personality traits or characteristics or whatever is my ability to project supreme confidence in myself and competence in what I'm doing. In fact, to characterize it as an "ability" is misleading because it suggests that it's something that I can turn off and on. In reality, it's just how I apparently present to the outside world.

And it's something of a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, if I'm in some kind of confrontation with someone, it tends to give me the upper hand because I always sound like I know what I'm talking about and people get intimidated. That obviously benefits me as a lawyer, too.

But on the other hand, people tend to assume that I actually feel as competent and confident as I seem.

And the truth is, I rarely, if ever, do. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Which is why, in the face of so many well-wishes and expressions of "atta girl! you're gonna kill it!" from my family and friends -- and I so appreciate it, I really do -- I spent last night unable to sleep and sobbing on the phone with my mother at 1:30 in the morning. In fact, just typing those words makes me choke up all over again.

Because for the first time in my life, I'm really and truly terrified about my ability to succeed.

And I feel like the choices I've made in the past couple of years have been colossal mistakes, because I went from having a good job and no debt and living in a house with incredibly reasonable mortgage payments to being out in the middle of the fucking Pacific Ocean with my family and friends a million miles away, with a mortgage payment that I'm choking on and daycare expenses that I'm choking on and a $500 monthly electric bill, a mountain of debt, and no steady income. I want to have another baby, but don't feel like I can afford it. I've got two businesses, one of which (Baby Boot Camp) I know I can make successful, but which won't cover all of my expenses, and a solo law practice that, if I could get a steady client base, I could be fine, but I'm kind of flummoxed as to how I'm going to actually get that steady client base that will provide a consistent stream of billable work.

I'm trying to take lots of deep breaths and make lots of "to do" lists and stay positive. I talked to a guy from an online law portal (www.Findlaw.com) to see about getting my name in a directory so that if people are doing an online search for a lawyer, my name will come up. And there's an opening for administrative law judges at one of the state agencies, so I'll submit an application. And I'm trying to let everyone I know that I'm here and available to work.

But my stomach is killing me and I can't sleep and I feel anxious all the time.

The one positive point is that when I'm really nervous, I totally lose my appetite, so this could be an opportunity to get really skinny.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Warfare involving construction paper and glue sticks

Last night Jason and I sat at the kitchen table and worked. Zeke had gone to bed, and it was getting late, and we were tired and cranky. But we had work to do. What if our work product didn't live up? What if we were ridiculed?

What were we doing, you ask?

Making posters for Zeke's school. Specifically, a family tree and an "all about me" poster (the "me" being Zeke, natch).

For the family tree, I cut out a piece of green construction paper to look like the leafy part of the tree, and cut out a piece of brown construction paper to make the trunk. Then I printed out pictures of Zeke, me, Jason, our brothers and sisters, our parents, and our grandparents, and arranged them so that branches connected the various parts of the family. I labeled all the pictures, then cut small leaves out of the construction paper and we glued them over the parts of the tree that didn't have photos or labels. Then we glued the tree onto a bigger piece of poster board, and Jason did nice lettering for that.

(click on the picture for a full-size view. I only included people whose pictures I had, so we've left some people off, like my paternal grandparents. I also didn't do any of the cousins, because that would have taken far more time and effort than I was willing to devote to this.)

So that I could work on the "all about Zeke" poster.

What the fuck has a 10 month old done that warrants a memoir-type poster? Seriously.

I went back to the computer and printed out more pictures, of Zeke as a newborn, of me reading to him, of him swimming with Jason, of the dog, of pears ("Pears are my favorite food. Yum!!"), of Australian and American flags, and of his red car. I glued the pictures on another huge piece of poster board and then wrote little captions.

"This red car is my favorite toy. Mommy and Daddy let me ride down hills in it. I go fast!"

"This is my dog, Max. He sleeps alot. I like it when he gives me kisses."

"I like it when Mommy reads to me."

"I like it when Daddy takes me swimming in the ocean."

Blah blah.(I think the pears picture is my favorite part. So dorky.)

It ended up looking kind of cute, though I wasn't happy with it. Too slapped together, not enough symmetry, sloppy looking borders.

This morning I was telling my mom about it, and how I had been all nervous and obsessive, worrying that our posters wouldn't live up to the rigorous nursery school standards of The Cole Academy.

"Yeah, that sound like you," she remarked. "Poor Jason, getting dragged into your craziness."

Turns out, our posters were about 3 times bigger than any of the others.

When I told Jason, he growled, "fuuck yeeeaahhh! Suck it, other parents!!"

Maybe he and I are more alike than I realized.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How I learned to sack up and get my kid to sleep through the night

How many posts have I written about my efforts to sleep train Zeke? Enough that I'm embarrassed that I'm posting another one. I think it started when he was 3 months old, and then I got all emotional and bagged it because I missed rocking him at night. And then we would try it but I'd be all, "oh, I don't want him to cry if he's sick or not feeling well," so I continued to get up with him if he had a cold or was teething or had a stray booger in his nose.

I guess what I'm saying is that I was a total pussy about it.

And this continued until about 3 weeks ago, when I finally realized, both intellectually and emotionally, that my 10 month old child was perfectly capable of surviving the night without me, and that if it took him a couple of nights of crying to get there, I could live with it.

But I needed the proper tools.

So I went to my friendly neighborhood drug store and bought a box of sleeping pills and a box of ear plugs.

The first night I put him to bed, he cried for 10 minutes, and then went to sleep. Not bad. We went to bed a few hours later. I took a pill and put in my ear plugs.

I woke up at about 5:45 in the morning. I took out the plugs. Silence. I went downstairs and made Zeke a bottle, anticipating he would be really hungry.

About a half an hour later, Zeke woke up. He was crying, but settled down as soon as he had a bottle, and then was smiley and happy. Nice.

I talked to Jason later that morning, and it turns out Zeke cried from about 3 to 4 in the morning, but then put himself back to sleep.

The next night, he woke up crying again at about 3, cried for about 20 minutes, and then went back to sleep. I had taken my ear plugs out at some point during the night, but put them back in when he started to cry.

And the next night he didn't cry at all.

That was three weeks ago. I don't use ear plugs anymore. I haven't been up during the night once. Zeke is still a happy, active, sweet kid, and as far as I know he isn't pissed off at me. He's napping better during the day and eating like a champ. All is well.

All I can think is, why did it take me so long? Why was I such a wuss? I read all the sleeping books -- why didn't I heed their advice?? I guess they should sell those books with ear plugs and Sominex, or maybe some booze.

And Jesus, poor Baby #2. Life's going to be much tougher for him/her, because Zeke has worked the wuss right out of me.*

*And no, Mom, I'm not pregnant. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apparently, I'm unfamiliar with the concept of people drooling in their sleep

Jason calls me at least 3 times a day, but often more. I'm not a big phone talker, but I don't want to hurt his feelings, so I indulge him and have stupid conversations about nothing when he feels the need.

Today we were talking about sleeping. Neither of us has been sleeping well lately. This is no big surprise for me, but most nights, Jason sleeps like a dead person.

"How are you doing today? Did you sleep?" I asked.

"Eh, about the same. I had really weird dreams."

"I actually slept really well. Of course, I took a Sominex, but still."

"I know. You slept hard."

"How do you know? Did I snore?"

"A little bit. I was just really happy for you that you got some sleep."

"Me too."

"So was your pillow all wet when you woke up this morning?"

"Why? Did I pee?"

Monday, September 08, 2008

Brain un-freeze

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, after receiving the news that I had two weeks to set up my own shop, I was completely flailing. My brain was in overdrive as I tried to come up with a list of what I needed to do, and more importantly, how I was going to do it. The result was a state of semi-paralysis. As soon as I started researching this billing software or that small business accounting program, I would think of something else, like how I was going to save for retirement or what kind of website I needed to set up or how to get my own online research account or, most fundamentally, how I would get clients and be able to continue paying my mortgage. I was in a near-constant state of anxiety, I didn't sleep, and I accomplished very little.

But slowly but surely, I figured out what needed to be done now (finding a 401K I can participate in, setting up billing and accounting systems, and getting a small business loan) and what could wait (the website, signing up for short terms disability insurance, designing stationary). And slowly but surely, I started checking things off the list.

I figured out that as a member of the Hawaii bar, I'm eligible to participate in a 401K plan run by the American Bar Association. So I called and the guy was super-nice and he's sending me all the paperwork and that's done.

Then I remembered that I'm a still a member of the credit union for State Department employees (my mom helped me open an account there when I was in my teens). Credit unions tend to offer really competitive loan rates, so I dug through my old files and found my account number and called them and got a line of credit set up to help cover cash flow while the business gets up and running. I also got approved by a different bank for a personal loan, just in case.

I found an inexpensive time and billing software program that has all the features I would require, so I downloaded it and set up a rate table and client lists and all of that.

It turns out that Quicken's most basic small business accounting software is a free download from their website, so I'm already keeping track of expenses and taxes and invoices.

And most of that was in the last four hours.

And best of all, I got work. This past Friday, Kathleen, who works for an organization that represents school boards, was working on a brief that was due at midnight, and she was panicking because she didn't feel like she'd be able to finish it in time. So she called me, and she and I spend the rest of the day finishing the brief together. It was wonderful to work with Kathleen again -- we kept sending each other luurve notes about how much fun we were having -- and it was wonderful that, a week after finding out that I was going to be on my own, I had a paying gig.

I'm feeling empowered and capable. Still terrified, but empowered and capable nonetheless.

The case for moderation in all things

You know that rule in skiing that you should always take your last run of the day before you get tired? Because it's always that last run, when your legs are like jelly and the light is getting flat, when you get hurt.

The same principle should apply to drinking beer when you're at the home of friends who are in the military and own clippers. The ones who are leaving to go do Army training in the desert for a month, so they ask you over for dinner to get rid of the food in their fridge. Oh, and they also have a "kegerator," i.e., a fridge rigged up to hold a keg of beer inside, with a tap on the outside. So they need to kill the keg before they leave, and they want you to help.

And you just happen to be a happy-go-lucky Aussie with an insanely thick head of hair and a "what the fuck" attitude. So when someone says, "hey, the keg's almost dead, how about one more?" you say, "sure!"

And then, somehow, the subject turns to haircuts. And you mention that you're in need for a trim, and "hey! we've got clippers! let's try a buzz cut! whee!"

And then this happens:

(The Cheese-and-Kisses isn't quite sure about your new 'do)

The good thing is, hair grows. And it doesn't look totally awful.

But still, you've learned your lesson.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Nerves nerves nerves stomach ache

The big news around Excellent Adventure HQ is that as of September 15, I am hanging out my own shingle (well, not literally -- it violates our condo rules) and going into business for myself. I'll be doing pretty much the same thing -- special education law and consulting -- but instead of working for The Man I'll be working for The Woman. I.e., me.

On the one hand, I'm very excited. It presents lots of opportunities, not the least of which is the opportunity to make more money. I can work when I want, where I want, which I could sort of do before, but now I am truly beholden to no one but myself. I don't have to feel bad if the Boss Man calls and I'm not here to answer the phone because I was walking the dog or picking up Zeke from school. I can pursue other clients or even other areas of law, if the opportunity presents itself.

On the other hand, I'm fucking terrified. I already have one steady client and two potential clients, and I haven't even started marketing, but I still am having nightmares about the work drying up and not being able to pay my mortgage and being out on the street.

Realistically, I know this won't happen. I've got a husband who has a job and who has vowed that if need be, he can pick up extra work no trouble. Jason's been awesome, actually. He's been so supportive and encouraging and has been just wonderful. I also have parents who are fortunate enough to be able to help me out if I need it.

And I've got lots of contacts and ideas and marketable skills. So I should be fine.

But all I can think about is accounting software and how to set up my taxes and what am I going to do about a 401K and getting a Hawaii business license and blah blah blah. I know I can handle it, but I'm a nervous wreck.