29 September 2008

Why Mommy Drinks

Location: The kitchen in the castle

Hour: Too damn early

Scene: Servant cooking breakfast, Big A on throne

Servant hands Big A platter, continues cooking reserve food for squirrels living in walls (another post) to gnaw on, gagging on smoke from sausage permeating the air

Big A: Actually, do you have some peppermint?

Servant: Peppermint? Like candy peppermint?

Big A (eyebrows arched, puzzled look on face): You know, pep-per-mint? Like peppermint oil?

Servant: No, fresh out of that.

Big A: Oh, because Mr. N told us that peppermint stimulates the brain.

Servant: Huh.

Big A: Is this soy milk?

Servant: Nope, that is milk straight from a poor, tortured cow on a dairy farm.

Big A: OK. This is good. (Takes another bite of waffle with whipped cream and
syrup on top)

Big A: Wait. Does this have sugar in it?

Servant (already missing the warmth from basking in Big A's compliment, warily):

Big A: Because Mr. N said that sugar actually de-stimulates the brain.

Servant: So does death.

Big A (nods head, unamused at witty, non-peppermint stimulated comment from servant): So there is sugar in it?

Scene closes, Servant noting to self that she must find subtle way to suggest less emphasis on nutrition, more emphasis on "Algebra for Idiot Servants" cheat-sheets to teacher, Mr. N., at parent-teacher conference. Oh, and buy more beer.

17 September 2008

He Wore A Suit

Last week, a counselor asked me if I had time to meet with someone and create a resume and cover letter for him; he had a deadline that needed to be met rather quickly and was without either of those items. I scheduled to meet him the next day.

When I walked into the office that day, I was dressed down. I wasn't wearing heels, but ballerina flats, with cords--not my typical attire, but he was my only client meeting that day, the rest of the day I had been planning to spend doing follow-up and applications. I glanced around the waiting area as the security guard buzzed me through and I saw a man, dressed in a full suit and tie, a battered briefcase on his lap.

"Please, don't let that be him", I thought, cursing myself for my casual approach to the day.

I settled in and went to the lobby, "Mr. X", I called, and the man in the suit arose. I was grateful for the long hall that we had to walk down--shame was burning my cheeks--all over my appearance.

I'd asked the counselor to authorize me three hours, thinking that would be plenty of time to meet with him, get his employment history, review the job description and draft the items that he needed. Of course, it wasn't that simple.

"So we're creating a resume today", I asked him. "Do you have the job description"?

He didn't. He began to tell me what was happening in regards to the job, and I could feel my blood pressure rising. The counselor and other staff members had also tried to get the job description, but still didn't have it either.

Turns out Mr. X was a state employee in the Department of Corrections for twelve years. He had been injured on the job, and was placed on long-term disability, and had been recently notified that he was no longer eligible for it. The state wouldn't give him his old job back, because he was apparently disabled enough not to be qualified to work in that capacity any longer. He'd spent his life and career working in a field where he hadn't gained much additional professional knowledge and was supposed to be applying for a job in the corrections department that was in an office setting.

Since he was trying to change career paths, he qualified for the Department of Corrections re-entry program, a program, which at face value, is excellent. It gives dedicated employees such as him accessibility and preference to openings as they try to re-establish themselves. He was given a "ticket to work" and assigned a case worker.

A case worker who, instead of sending a link to job postings sent him random e-mails with vague descriptions of jobs--no companies listed, no submission deadlines, no qualifications needed. A case worker who didn't return the numerous phone calls from his counselor and re-hab staff to get a copy of the job description. A case worker who left her voice mail box full so that you couldn't even leave a message. A case worker who finally returned my call when I got in touch with the receptionist and asked her to relay that if the case worker was too busy to return my call, I'd be happy to speak with her supervisor.

He gave me a copy of his resume that he'd tried to draft. "I guess this is what they are using now-a-day's," he said. He handed me a piece of paper with an art clip of a computer mouse at the top of it, and it got worse after that. And it was genuinely his best effort--he had no idea how to navigate the sea he'd been tossed in, but he was trying to desperately.

I smiled and took it from him, got as much information as I could and told him I'd be in touch with him that day.

When his case worker finally returned my call, I asked for the job description. She couldn't find it. I asked for the deadline. She thought it was Monday. I asked her to email me the link, she took my email, but refused to give me hers.

"So if you'll just submit his resume and cover letter, that would be great," she said.

I lost it, in a professional manner, but lost it just the same.

"Excuse me? Submit it to whom? You haven't given me any information".

"Right. Just get it to me and I'll submit it for him".

"I'll need your email."

"Just send it to him and then he can get it to me."

"I'm confused," I stammered, "I thought that you were supposed to be submitting his resume to appropriate openings for him, as his case worker, and making sure that the recipient knew that he was involved in this program and should be given greater preference".

"I do." She was short. "Just get him the resume and I'll email you the link". She hung up.

Of course, I never got the information, but drafted the best documents that I could.

Monday, his counselor asked me if I had a few minutes. Seems his case worker said that all of his employment history needed to be on there, including three month stints from when he was in college.

I shut her office door and threw the bullshit flag. Tears burned my eyes when I asked exactly who was going to help him, because we both knew it wasn't his case worker. I also reminded her that if I'd had the fucking job description, it would have helped.

"I share your outrage," she said, and I know that she did. Except that she's also mired in the state system of hierarchy and bureaucracy and sometimes, you just cannot risk pissing off the wrong people.

That's the beauty of my job. I'm not a state employee, and so I don't have to worry about the politics of the system for the most part--as long as I'm doing what the counselors pay me to do, I'm secure. Most of my clients have been on their knees so long, I don't think that they can remember how to stand, let alone stand and fight.

The new state budget starts October first.

"He was one of the people I was telling you about," his counselor told me. "When October hits, he's your client".

"Good," I said, still shaking. I apologized for the tears and vehement reaction.

She touched my shoulder, "Don't ever lose that, Jenn. Don't ever lose that."

I smiled and walked out of her office, looking desperately forward to October first. I'll be kicking ass and taking names. And I'll be doing it in a dress suit and heels.

16 September 2008

Pay Some FARK'in Attention, Please

(Huffington Post) Sad "In arguably his toughest interview yet, View co-host Joy Behar asked McCain..." You read that right. Toughest interview yet, on The View. Our news media is doomed


(CNN) Fail GOP: "Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience, after all she went to Iraq." Media: "ORLY? When?" GOP: "And by 'went to Iraq' we meant, 'could have gone if she wanted to.'"


(Huffington Post) Scary Greenspan says this is the worst economy he's seen, which is scary considering he's 400 years old


(AFP) Unlikely Bush says he is working on a way to minimize the impact of his disastrous economic policies


(Blue Ridge Now) Scary Gov. Sarah Palin once appointed a high school friend to head up the state's agricultural division. The friend's qualifications? A childhood love of cows


(Politico) Asinine McCain asserts that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Today. The day that two of the biggest banks on Wall Street have failed


(Washington Post) Scary So it begins: D.C. election officials blamed a defective computer memory cartridge yesterday for producing what appeared to be thousands of write-in votes that officials say did not exist


(Talking Points Memo) Fail Gibson: "VP nominee Palin, what are your thoughts on the Bush Doctrine?" Palin: "The what now?" Gibson: "The Bush Doctrine." Palin: "Ummm... Could you dumb it down a shade?"


(Salon) Scary Guess who picketed legal abortion clinics in Alaska?


(Daily Kos) Interesting Not only does Sarah Palin oppose abortion, she is also willing to block access to clinics that practice it


(Some Guy) Florida Ballots mistaken for trash and thrown out. Because it's in FL, consider this "foreshadowing"


(Yahoo) Dumbass McCain touts Palin on foreign affairs: commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard, because some of them have died in Iraq

(CNBC) Scary "The end result of the global economic slowdown may be the U.S. announcing national bankruptcy as the government cannot afford the bailouts that it promised and the market will not bail out the government"



(Are you registered to vote? Are twenty people that you know registered?)

14 September 2008

Ann Arbor, Revisited

Today I was back in the town that I called home during college. Fall is nostalgia for me, what can I say? I think it's something in the leaves, the way the air feels when it's at the perfect temperature for jeans and a sweatshirt, the remembrance of new lunch boxes and squeaky shoes that came with September.

I reminisced about the differences of what Ann Arbor meant to me today, versus what it meant to me a million years ago. Instead of a backpack slung over one shoulder, it was a diaper bag. Instead of the butterflies in my belly coming from cute football players with great eyes, or professors that had a sixth sense of who did and didn't read the assigned 70 chapters and proceeded to call on those that didn't, the butterflies today were swirling about, nervous over what one more physician was going to say about Little A.

I wasn't looking for a spot to tie up my bike, but rather a spot to park my car in the giganto-plex parking structure, I wasn't fishing for the notes that I took the last time I was in class, but rather the medical reports and insurance information and copies of this and that and things I found on the internet. (Damn you, internets).

We found our way, Little A and I. We even got there on time, no grace period needed. We sat through the endless medical history questions from the nurse, knowing I'd get to repeat them all to the doctor again in twenty minutes. "Did you not get the records that were sent"? I always ask this question, just for fun. FYI: typically, the response is a blank stare, an occasional fumble of a chart. No, they've never reviewed jack prior to walking into the room, similar to my test-taking techniques of yesteryear.

Today our physician presented a choice to me: Little A could have surgery soon, or we could wait one more year. There is a 65% chance that she could grow correctly and that in that time, with her medication, heal herself, to speak. Or I could opt to heal her medically, sooner rather than later.

After her exam, during which she screamed bloody murder and "No" while they were prodding her, I asked about ten questions, and ran my fingers through my hair, tapped my feet, and rubbed my hands along my neck. "What would you do"?, I asked. Of course, I knew he would tell me that he couldn't offer that type of advice.

"Maybe this is something to talk over with her Da-" He stopped, mid-word, glancing at the empty ring finger, his eyes then noticing the very blank portions of her records. "It's just us. This is the decision-making team. Scary, huh"? I laughed. "It's OK, we're fine". And for the very first time, I meant those words.

"What do you think, Little A?" I tilted my head to hers. "Ummmm, no." I looked at him and smiled.

"I'm going to wait. I am. I think I'm going to wait and see what happens". I said it more as a question, looking for his affirmation.

"Great, I'll write you a prescription for the next year and you can call if she regresses". He smiled warmly as he shut her folder and asked the nurse to go and get the prescription form.

"You're doing fine, you know", he said as he squeezed my hand before walking out.

And suddenly, one day in Ann Arbor, I learned more about myself than in the culmination of so many others.

And out we walked, bag banging against my shoulder, air smelling like football season, sun feeling like school bus rides, life feeling, once again, like a beginning with endless possibilities.