Thursday, April 28, 2005

Boss From Heck #2

I have already posted about one strange boss that I had. The one I am going to tell you about today is definitely the champion. I never had a worse boss than this guy, and I never will, because to be a worse boss than him is physically impossible, and also, in America, probably punishable by law. (Come to think of it, a few of my friends worked for a guy who was actually worse, but that isn’t my story to tell, so I’ll just share a link to the story of the guy’s company. Warning, coarse language is used, but, given what happened to the company, that’s to be expected.)

Back to my BFH. He hired me in the fall of 1994. Technically, I was still employed at my first job as a programmer, but they didn’t let me return from my (unpaid) maternity leave, so, in reality, I was unemployed. Luckily, one of my former coworkers now worked at a recruiting agency, and hooked me up with BFH. He ran (and owned) an experimental private school (partly subsidized by the town), and hired me as a secretary. My job was to man the office, water the flowers, and enter all kinds of information into the school’s only computer. (Later, I found out that I was also expected to do sysadmin work.)

The school had the highest turnover of both students and teachers that probably any of you have ever seen. A week after I started, BFH had to shut down the school in our town, because his last student had quit on him, and reopen it in another town 30 minutes away. Fortunately, the office (and I) still stayed in our town. I worked there for six months before I quit. I have several stories to tell of my BFH. I will start with the Keyboard story.

It all began when our only PC started acting funny. The keyboard no longer worked. BFH sent me to a computer repair company, located in our building, to have them fix the keyboard. He gave me directions.

“Try to get a good price from them. Negotiate. Knock it as far down as you can.”

“But, BFH, don’t you think they have a fixed rate for that kind of work?”

BFH gives me a dirty look and goes, “Well, you are a woman, right? You’ll come up with something!”

Um, okay. I picked up my jaw from the floor and went. Sure enough, the guys had a rate which was non-negotiable. They said that it was going to take them a day or two to fix the keyboard, and that I was to pay when I picked it up. For the time being, they gave me a replacement keyboard. I brought it back to the office, and relayed the conversation to BFH.

BFH was barely listening to me, pounding away on the new keyboard. Suddenly, he had an idea.

“Hey Goldie, tell you what. I like this keyboard better. It’s newer than ours. See? Listen, did you tell them where you came from? Which suite?”

“Nope, that never came up.”

“Good. Let’s keep the good keyboard. Don’t go back there.”

So I didn’t. What could I do? The guy was in charge, and paid my salary.

Fast forward two months, BFH decides to get an Internet provider and set up an email account. Again come the instructions.

“Goldie, you need to get us email. There are only two companies in this town that can do it. Don’t go to company #1, we have unpaid phone bills with them.” (For the school’s phone, which was conveniently located in BFH’s apartment.) “Go to company #2 and place an order.”

Of course, at that point, none of us remembered that Company #2 was the one we got the keyboard from. I went over to their office. Boy, were they glad to see me!

“Oh hi! You’ve come to bring our keyboard back and pay for the repairs, didn’t you?”

“Sure guys, let me just go get the keyboard real quick.”

I went back to the office and broke the sad news to BFH. It felt good! He didn’t look so happy. I mean, the man had to give up his favorite keyboard and pay a whopping ten dollars! Life just isn’t fair.

So ends the keyboard story.

To be continued, some day…

The Goldie has spoken at 5:32 PM

Well, I'm off!

Everybody have a good weekend!

(looking at the hit counter) not that anybody's gonna actually read this...

I'm putting up the last of my "prepackaged" posts, and I'm outta here. Will be back on Monday with a detailed account of the holiday!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:30 PM

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Career Choices

The small kids’ career choices always crack me up. Everyone wants to do something heroic. How come no kids want to be accountants or business analysts? Hey, I’ve never even met a kid that wanted to be a Wall Street broker, and that stuff pays.

I don’t even remember what I wanted to be. Not a programmer, that’s for sure. I think I wanted to be a vet, then a space explorer, then a journalist… then reality set in. It hasn’t set in for my kids yet.

The first thing I12 wanted to be was an inventor. I think he was five or six then. Then, sometime down the road, he decided that he wanted to own his software company. This still stands, at least as of last fall. I went to his school for the open house, and there they had all kids’ compositions on the subject of “My Dream”. 6-grade kids wrote about wanting to be doctors, musicians, pro sports players, business owners, and so on. Here is what my son wrote.

My Dream

My dream is to be a CEO of a computer game company. My company will be divided into 3 parts: Operating Systems Development, Computer Game Development, and Miscellaneous positions. These others will be divided into: Lawyers, Online Development/Advertising, and Planning. I’ll keep 40% of my profit and the rest will go to my company. OS Development will receive 20%, Computer Game Development will receive 60%, and the others will receive 20% of the company’s money. Lawyers will receive 40%, Online Development 40%, and Planning will receive 20% of the 20% of the company’s money.
My company will make a lot of money and have several towers across the country and have a lot of money.

Interested? If you want to apply, leave me a comment and I’ll put a word in for you.

On to K9. K9 is more of your regular kid. When he was in daycare, he decided he wanted to be a policeman, and stayed that way until a year or two ago. Everybody thought it was so cute, because I was the only one who knew the reason why K9 wanted to be in law enforcement – “so I can carry a gun and shoot people”.

After he stopped wanting to be a policeman, he decided to become a stand-up comedian. His plan was to be one of those ethnic comedians. You know the ones I’m talking about, forever ripping on their families’ foreign ways. I’ll give it to those guys, they are funny. For a year or so, K9 walked around the house practicing.

“So, I grew up in this Russian family. Man, they’re weird! You should see my Mom…”

Et cetera, et cetera.

Then last fall, a friend introduced K9 to rap, hip-hop and R&B. K9 got very excited, and decided to become a rapper. He wrote a few songs. One was about being a pimp. Sometimes his friend comes over, and they rap together. It is pretty cool. There are three of them in class that want to be a rap band.

I tried to discourage K9 from using swear words or rapping about things like organized crime, but, on the whole, I was pretty supportive, so I was surprised when, one day, K9 told me, “Mom, I’m going to run away from home.”

“Why what’d I do?!”

No, that’s what I thought. What I said out loud was, “And what, may I ask, do you not like in this house, young man, that you want to run away?”

“No, Mom, you don’t understand. We’re all running away. All three of us.

“We’re going to run away from home, then we’re going to go to Detroit, then once we get there, we’re going to go to Shady Studios, and get ourselves a record deal. Do you think it’s a good plan?”

Um. Wow. You know how hard it was for me not to laugh?

Somehow I was able to talk K9 out of this plan, and I assume the parents of the other two boys did the same, so there is no trip to Detroit in their nearest future.

So, if all goes well, my sons will be a CEO and a rapper, and I will be set for life. Somehow, I doubt that it will happen this way. But let me tell you this. No matter what these kids end up doing in life, they will always be celebrities to me!

The Goldie has spoken at 9:35 AM

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Very Busy Week

This week is Holy Week by the Orthodox calendar. It’s going to be a very busy week for our family. Don’t worry, I’ll still post – last Sunday, when we were snowed in, I wrote three posts, figuring that this should cover me for the week. One up, two to go.

In case you’re interested what we do for Holy Week, here goes. Normally, on Palm Sunday, they have a luncheon in church, so we stay for that. Then in the evening, we go back for confession. This year, we didn’t do any of that, due to tons of snow in the area, and humongous tree branches sitting in my driveway. (By the way, I drove through the area for the first time this morning and it looks like a hurricane just hit. Broken trees and chopped-off branches everywhere. School was out yesterday, not because of snow, but due to a major power outage. Wow.) Anyway, yesterday, the kids and I went for confession. Came back home at 10PM.

Wednesday morning, there is a service at 6:45 AM. The kids have already bailed, but I want to go, if I manage to get up that early. Friday, I take off work and K9 takes off school and I take him to church for an all-day Good Friday program for the kids. I will most likely be volunteering at the said program. Then there’ll be a service from 3 till 4 PM. Last year when we were there, K9 decided to follow the service by the book we had. It went very well and I was so proud of my highly spiritual son, until, during a reading from a book of Job, I turned the page and saw the next sentence that was about to come up: “And he had a thousand she-asses”. I tried to cover the words in the book and my son's mouth at the same time, but it was too late. K9 saw them, and let out a loud SNORT. Everyone in church turned around and looked at us, and we of course wanted to disappear. I’m not sure how we will get around the thousand she-asses this year.

I12 won’t be there, because, a)he’s too old to be in the kids program, and too young to volunteer, and b)his class is going on a field trip.

Friday at 7PM, I’m going back to church. This one Russian lady and I have been going to the evening service together since 1998. Cannot miss it. I’ll get back home at 10:30, tired to the bone.

Saturday, I’ll be getting ready for Sunday’s party.

Saturday night, K9 and I are going to church again. It starts at 11PM, and ends at 2 in the morning. We did it last year and K9 did great! He had to come outside for fresh air a couple times, but he did very well.

Sunday afternoon, our friends are coming over. It is a tradition that started a few years ago. I had this cousin-in-law (if that’s even a word – she was married to my cousin, but she isn’t anymore) that I don’t really like or get along with. She left a message on our phone saying that she was inviting us to the park for an Easter picnic. So next morning, I emailed all of my friends and told them we were having an emergency party and I really needed them to please please please show up. They said they’d be there. So I then called my cousin’s wife and told her that we were sorry, but we’d already invited people over and we couldn’t come. The party went well, so we’re doing it every year now. The beauty of our group is that we all have sons about the same age – a total of six boys age 7 to 14. They get along very well, and have a great time together, not to count that New Year’s eve at our friends’ when they wrecked the master bedroom and dropped a painting on the floor. Well, there was also that one time when they took a closet door off its hinges, but that one was purely accidental! Outside of that, they’re little angels! Of course, if you don’t count that one other time at our friends’ when they shot holes in the basement walls with a BB gun. I’m sure they were aiming for the target! They just missed a little! Guys sometimes miss, you know? Can you tell I’m already looking forward to the party?

So, bottom line, this is the busiest week of the year for us; I’ll try to visit everybody’s blogs, but I’m not sure; I’ll put up some “prepackaged” posts; and, Thursday night, I’m going to have Mr. Goldie hide my laptop where I cannot find it. He’ll give it back to me on Sunday evening… I hope! So, if I fall off the radar screen, you know where I am!

The Goldie has spoken at 10:05 AM

Monday, April 25, 2005

Spontaneous Consumption

When Reader’s Digest publishes an article about something, you can tell it has officially been an issue for a few years. (They published an article on offshoring a few months ago, two years after everyone else had… but I digress.) The article I am referring to is a reprint from Newsweek, called “Just Say No: Why parents must set limits for kids who want it all”, by Peg Tyre, Julie Scelfo and Barbara Kantrowitz. As I was reading it, I was going, “Aw! So I haven’t been imagining this! It’s really happening!” The article, as you probably guessed, is about our kids who want to have everything that’s being advertised, and about the marketing industry aimed directly at our kids.

The authors call our kids (born in the late 80s and 90s) “Generation Excess”, a product of the affluent 90s that are used to instant gratification and having it all. They list the dangers of such upbringing, correctly stating that it would cause problems later in life: “When given too much too soon, they grow up to be adults who have difficulty coping with life’s disappointments. They also have a distorted sense of entitlement that gets in the way of success in workplace and in relationships.”

I now consider ourselves lucky in that the “affluent nineties” have, for the most part, passed us by. In Russia, we had a decent income until the kids came and I lost my job. After K9 was born in 1995, we barely had enough to buy food and pay the bills. When we came here in 1997, for the first year, I was the only one with a job, making a whopping 20K a year. Things have gradually improved, but for several years, money was pretty tight. The kids played with hand-me-down toys and wore clothes bought at second-hand stores, pretty much until K9 started school. We’re just not used to excess. We have only jumped on the DVD bandwagon a year ago, and we don’t plan on having a big screen. Our best furniture comes from Value City, and our worst furniture, well you don’t want to know where it came from. Our clothes are decent, but by no means expensive. Same with the cars. We just have no use for “the finest things in life”.

I can understand how it is possible to see a commercial or an ad in the paper and suddenly want this thing really badly. Hey, these marketing guys didn’t go to college for nothing! They know how to do it! I’m telling you, every time I look through a clothing catalog, I end up wanting at least two or three items. This is why I always browse through my catalogs in the bathroom. There’s no way you can call and place your order while sitting on the toilet – for one thing, you don’t have your credit card number handy. (If you do, then please seek help.) And, by the time you’re done in the bathroom, the urge has passed. I mean the urge to buy, of course.

Being allergic to brainwashing helps greatly. I want to buy what I need, when I need it, not because Joe in marketing has told me to go and get this thing, or else I will be uncool forever. In fact, what Joe in marketing doesn’t know is that his attempts at marketing to me infuriate me to no end. I don’t appreciate it when people tell me what to do. I have had my share of that, thank you very much.

I hope our kids are learning from our example. At least, I12 seems to. He doesn’t watch TV, he’s deliberately not cool, and he doesn’t want to own what it takes to break into the “cool” camp. He does have a decent PC with an Internet connection. Sometimes he asks for software. His hobby is programming, so the software he needs is pretty pricey. But, he doesn’t feel that he has to have it, or else. If he gets something, that’s nice. If not, oh well. Last Christmas season, he couldn’t decide what he wanted to get. His own words: “Do I have to get gifts for Christmas?” (All parents out there, eat your heart out!) For his birthday, he asked if he could have $100 instead of a party. A couple summers ago, I sent him to a programming camp. Cost us an arm and a leg (even though he got a small scholarship), but I thought that’s what I had to do. Next year, he said he didn’t want to go anymore because it wasn’t worth it.

K9 is a very different story. He’s always begging for stuff. If he sees it in a commercial, he wants it. If all the cool kids have it, he wants it. I think it’s a combination of wanting to be popular and believing every word that he hears on TV. For his 8th birthday, he got a Gameboy. Pretty good huh? Not for K9! A year later, he was begging for a Nintendo DS. This just blows my mind. Isn’t it essentially the same sh.t? He ended up spending all of his birthday money on the DS (thank God for the old Russian tradition of giving kids cash for their birthday! We had twelve or fourteen guests, half of them gave cash, you do the math). He spent his whole month’s worth of allowance (three dollars a week) on a Tamagotchi, because everyone else at school had it. Fast forward a month, Tamagotchis are not cool anymore so he has no use for his. What a waste.

To sum it up, one of my kids is a marketer’s worst nightmare, while the other one, a marketer’s Heaven. We’re working on the second one. When he watches TV, I have to sit next to him and explain each and every commercial, telling him why the product that they advertise is useless, or overpriced, or exactly the same as the previous model – in other words, where the catch is. Things have gotten better when we switched to TBS and Comedy Central. They don’t advertise anything that a kid would be interested in. It would take a very strange child to be interested in weight-loss pills or “natural male enhancement” (“This is Bob…”). But channels like Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network are so full of children-oriented commercials, it scares me.

Sometimes, when it is especially hard to convince K9 that he doesn’t need the latest gadget, I bring in the heavy artillery. That is, his brother comes over and explains why this product is “stupid”. One year, they were in Target picking out their Christmas gifts. (Yes, I’m a horrible mom – I had them pick their own gifts for years. First there was a 25-dollar limit, then I upped it to 50). K9 decided that he wanted some “virtual machine”, which probably consisted of a pair of goggles and a headset, and cost to the tune of $30. He cried, he held on to the box, he refused to put it down. Finally, his brother stepped in.

“Take a look at this box ‘K’. Do you see that it has been opened and then taped back shut?”

“Yeah.” (K9, through tears)

“Do you know why?”

(sniffle) “No. Why?”

“Because somebody already bought it, opened it, saw that it was stupid, and brought it back!”

K9 puts the box back on the shelf. End of discussion.

It generally works, most of the time, anyway. Sometimes, though, the other side takes the war to a new level and starts dropping nukes. This happened last year with K9’s school fundraiser. Now, I need to tell you up front that I am in general very unhappy with K9’s school and try not to give them any of my money, purely out of principle. Last year, the school decided that they really needed a new playground, so they launched a candy fundraiser like they’d never launched before. The first flyer that came home with K9 went into the garbage as usual. Two weeks later, another flyer came. Then another, then another. K9 would get excited each time, all pumped up to sell candy. I’d talk him out of this idea, then, as soon as he forgot all about it, a new flyer would come out and everything would start all over again. I still have one of the flyers and it says: “We are asking every child to sell at least 1 box of candy.” (“See mom? Everybody’s selling it!”) They promised a limo ride to anyone who would sell five boxes (So? A ride in an oversized car with thirty other kids. Big friggin deal! But try explaining it to K9 – we all took turns.)

I finally caved in and bought a box of candy. It took me all I had to convince K9 not to buy all five boxes right away, but to buy one box first and see if it sells. The candy was actually not bad. I bought one candy bar for myself. My family bought a few, my coworkers bought about 60%. K9 bought the rest (with his allowance and his birthday money). Half he ate himself (not a good idea because he’s overweight), and the other half he gave away to his friends.

I talked to a few other parents and we all had the same question: “What the heck was wrong with the old playground that the school was in such a rush to get it replaced?” The old playground looked perfectly good to all of us! The school’s Don Corleone-like marketing ways, however, did not!

You know what K9 wants now? He wants a Sony PSP. Oh well, I like a challenge! Just watch me talk him out of it…

The Goldie has spoken at 9:49 AM

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Mother Nature Hates Us!

Four to six inches of snow and there's a huge tree branch in my driveway! Happy Palm Sunday to me!

Anybody else got snow this weekend?

The Goldie has spoken at 9:01 AM

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Benefits of Nursing in Public

Nursing in public is a highly controversial subject. Should you or shouldn’t you? I was conflicted on this issue for a while, then something happened that helped me make up my mind about it. It was when I12 was five months old.

Mr. Goldie and I are, of course, (being Orthodox) big believers in infant baptism, so we arranged to have ~I~ (I hesitate to call him I12, because he wasn’t twelve then) baptized on his nameday, which (by the Russian calendar) is August 2nd. (Now you can go ahead and figure out his name.) At that time, we were living in a small town in Moscow region, in a tiny apartment, and, back then, Mr. Goldie was leading a highly spiritual life. He attended church, he went to Bible studies, he went to home-based small groups, and who knows what else. I didn’t go to any of those gatherings, because of the baby. Anyway, when the time came to baptize ~I~, it was Mr. Goldie who made the arrangements. The ceremony was scheduled to take place in our apartment, at a certain time. After the ceremony, we planned a small tea party for everybody. We were really short on money back then, but we scraped something together and bought a few nice treats and a box of chocolates.

I need to tell you at this point that my husband is famous for his extreme hospitality. He loves having people over and he tries to make sure that his guests have a good time. You will see later where I am going with this.

So, the day came, and Mr. Goldie went to get the priest and the godparents. They were in some Bible study group across town somewhere. I dressed ~I~ in his best baby clothes, got everything ready, and waited. Pretty soon the door opened, and in came the priest, followed by Mr. Goldie, followed by the godparents, followed by twenty-five other people that I didn’t know from Adam! Turned out, Mr. Goldie’s heart was so softened by the sight of the Bible study group that he invited everybody over to our place!

We all crammed into our apartment, which was not an easy task, and proceeded with the baptism. ~I~ was baptized in his little baby bathtub. He loved it when the priest dunked him, because he thought he was about to get a bath. But, in the next moment, the priest pulled him back out, and poor ~I~ was severely disappointed. He cried miserably through the rest of the ceremony.

Finally, all was over, we put the dress-up clothes back on ~I~, the men carried the bathtub to our first-floor window and poured it out on the lawn beneath (you are not supposed to pour baptism water into the sink!), we set the table, and all thirty people somehow sat down. Or maybe they stood around the table, buffet-style, I don't remember. Right at that moment, ~I~ got very hungry. Not wanting to nurse him in front of total strangers, I took him to the kitchen and nursed him there.

Fifteen minutes later, I returned with ~I~ and saw that everyone except for the godparents was leaving. I looked at the table – it was empty of all food. No treats, no chocolates, everything gone. Those guys didn’t leave me anything to eat. I never saw any of those people again.

From that day on, I’ve been a big proponent of nursing in public. You never know what you can miss out on while you’re nursing in another room, you know!

The Goldie has spoken at 7:00 PM

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Untimely Death of the Blue Flowers

Catt has posted about her gardening troubles. She says she has a brown thumb. I would like to ask, has she ever been yelled at by a city building inspector for having a less-than-perfect front lawn? I’m asking because I have had that honor. Here’s how it happened.

We live on a street that is fairly diverse. On one hand, we have your average, middle-class families (six of them Russian) that live in semi-decent houses such as ours (shown above) and take decent care of them as much as their time and energy allows. And on the other hand, we have a sizable percentage of larger, newer houses, whose owners still remain a mystery to me, after I’ve lived here four years. If in Catt’s neighborhood, most front yards look like miniature botanical gardens, those guys’ front yards look like small golf courses – immaculate lawns surrounded by immaculate shrubbery. I haven’t met any of the owners, but I am on a greeting basis with their gardening crews (they come out every day). I even became friends with one of the gardening guys, but he has moved out of state. We talked a lot when he was still around. Apparently, it costs to the tune of ten thousand a year to keep your lawn in an immaculate condition. If I had this money, I’d put it into my kids’ college fund. This takes the concept of keeping up with the neighbors to a whole new level. Those guys water their lawns three times a day. We tried doing it daily. Then the water bill came and almost sent Mr. Goldie into cardiac arrest. He asked me not to do it again. So there you have it – the immaculate lawns, and, next to them, ours which is pretty pathetic. In a different neighborhood, it would have gone unnoticed. In ours, we received a letter from the city telling us to get our lawn and flowerbeds into shape. This was last spring.

We went outside and looked around. Everything seemed to be in shape. I had just spent two weeks pulling the dandelions out one by one. (This doesn’t stop them from growing, but it does kinda slow them down). Mr. Goldie had put Weed and Feed on our lawn. We had no idea what the problem was. The flowerbeds were also in good shape, except that our flowers had just finished blooming and looked pretty ugly.

Don’t know if you can see this in the picture, but our flowerbed was completely covered with these pretty blue flowers (notice that I say “was”). They bloom in April or May for about two weeks. Then the blooms fall off and the flowers start looking like a bunch of overgrown weeds. I used to wait until they dried up to pull them out. Some years, they would grow back and go into bloom again, in August or September of the same year. Pretty neat. The flowers are called Muscarii and are from the tulip family.

Back to our letter from the city. We were confused as to what they wanted from us, so I called the number on the letter. The building inspector answered the phone. She sounded very nice, and said she could come over and show me what was wrong. I took off work and drove twenty miles to talk to her. Five minutes after I got home, there was a knock on the door. I opened the door, an energetic woman was standing on my front porch.

“Are you Goldie?”


Right away, she started yelling. The woman worked me like a drill sergeant! She screamed at me for thirty minutes straight.

“Can’t you see your flowerbed is full of weeds?!”

Then it dawned on me.

“These are flowers, they were left over from the previous owners. They are blue and they just finished blooming.”

She looked at me like I was a village idiot. “How can these be flowers? They are weeds, I tell you, weeds!”

She definitely enjoyed saying the word weed.

“Can’t you hire a landscaper? Look at the houses around you! You live in a good neighborhood. Your neighbors spend a lot of money on making their properties look good. Because of you, their property values will go down.”

In a meek voice, I asked, “Why, is anybody selling?” Big mistake, that made her even more mad.

Long story short, I was given two weeks to clear the flowerbed of the stupid muscarii. I went to Target and bought some heavy-duty gardening tools. First thing Saturday morning, K9 and I set out to work.

We gave up after three hours and ten square inches. The dang stuff grows from bulbs. Apparently, it had been there for years and had been multiplying like rabbits on Viagra. The bulbs went up to ten inches deep and grew into our trees’ roots. It was clearly an impossible task.

I visited two of our Russian neighbors, begging them to give me phone numbers of landscaping services. One of the neighbors actually asked me if I could please leave the flowers alone. She liked them, and thought they were a pretty sight, and I agree with her, for about two weeks a year, they really were. But at that point, I had spent three hours of my life trying to get the flowers to go away, and they were fighting back. It was on. I came back home with two calling cards.

The first guy I called had worked on my next door neighbor’s flowerbeds the year before. According to my neighbor, the guy had come out for an estimate, and after some thorough analysis, told them that it would cost $500 to do the front, and $1000 to do all of the flowerbeds. I gave Jose a call, and he agreed to come over the next day.

Jose turned out to be a really good-looking, really short guy. He took a walk around the property and thoroughly analyzed the flowerbeds. Then after some deep thought, he gave an estimate - $500 for the front, $1000 for everything. Was that a going rate or something? I will never find out, because Mr. Goldie said that only over his dead body could I pay Jose that kind of money. I called guy number two.

Stan and I were actually friends. He had a successful landscaping business, and used to work for our other next-door neighbors. We had boys about the same age, and always talked when we ran into each other. I called Stan, he came over, and told me he would charge $250 for the front. Now that was a price even Mr. Goldie had nothing against. We shook on it, and set a date for Stan to start. His plan was to spray the flowers with Roundup, wait for a few days for it to settle in, then collect the dead flowers and do the matting and the mulching.

On the appointed date, Stan didn’t show. Nor did he come at all that week. My deadline was approaching. I kept calling Stan, and his kids kept telling me that he was out working. On one occasion, I got Stan himself, and he said he was having an extremely busy season, but that he would come over soon. In the meantime, someone else decided to step in.

As I already mentioned, my parents are perfectionists. We see each other a lot, because they watch the kids after school. They also have a tendency to clean up my house, put the things in their “right places” (wink), etc. We have been working on that, and there has been a definite progress. Anyway, one day I came home from work to find my both parents busy on the flowerbed. No, it wasn’t what you thought… they were digging out the bulbs!

There was a heated argument. I maintained that, if we were paying Stan to do this work, then Stan had to be the one to do it. My parents objected, saying that it was fun, and they would probably do a better job than Stan, anyway. I said that Stan was going to use Roundup, thus making it an ultimate perfect job.

When my parents heard the word Roundup, they got anxious. They were worried that Roundup would damage the tree roots and eventually kill the trees. After a second heated argument, they went home.

They called me three hours later, saying that they had gone to Home Depot and asked a salesperson whether Roundup killed trees, and she had said yes! I was curious so I asked for details. Turned out, they got the poor girl into a corner and asked her the question, in different variations, about three dozen times (“Are you sure it won’t kill a tree?”, “Is it possible it might kill a tree?”, “What if there is a whole lot of it, will it kill a tree then?”) Eventually, she said, “Well, if you try really hard…” Bless my parents’ hearts, they took it as a “yes”. Thus encouraged, they continued to work on our flowerbed. In the meantime, Stan kept procrastinating. Finally, he said that on a following Monday, he would stop by and apply the Roundup.

Sunday afternoon, we went out. When we came back, we had a nagging feeling that my parents have been over while we were gone. In the middle of our flowerbed, was a large sheet of transparent plastic, held down at the corners by four stones. Under the plastic, there was a piece of cardboard with a note: “DO NOT USE ROUNDUP ON THIS AREA!”

Mr. Goldie, muttering something about somebody embarrassing us in front of people, tossed the note in the garbage, and we waited for Stan. He never came. Apparently, his season just kept getting busier and busier, and he never made it. We eventually called and cancelled, but that was really a formality. He wasn’t going to come anyway.

So, my parents continued to work on the flowers. They dug and they dug and they actually managed to get most of the bulbs out. I was very impressed, and offered to pay them what we were going to pay Stan. One day as my Mom was working, the building inspector pulled up to the curb, took a long look at Mom, and drove off. We never heard from her again.

This spring, a few of the leftover muscarii have been popping out. Each time that happens, my parents assault the poor flowers with weedwhackers. You can tell that they don’t like muscarii a whole lot. As for me, I’ll take them over dandelions anytime.

By the way, this year, to my amazement, I’m seeing muscarii right on our lawn! I suspect that last year, my parents must have spent some time throwing the bulbs around in utter frustration. They categorically deny having done that.

The Goldie has spoken at 4:54 PM

Book Meme…

Mamacita has passed this on to me (thanks!) I’ve fallen behind on my reading since I started this blog (gee, I really wonder why…), but I’ll give it a try.

1. If you couldn't get out of "Fahrenheit 451," what book would you like to be?

Something by Dr. Seuss. My long-term memory just ain’t the same as it used to be!

2. Did you ever have a crush on a fictional character?

I clearly remember that I did, but don’t remember which ones (I think there were a few).

3. What was the last book you bought?

The Catcher in The Rye and Nine Stories, By J.D. Salinger.

4. What was the last book you read?

Up Country, by Nelson DeMille

5. What book are you reading now?

Conversations with Joseph Brodsky, by an author whose name I can’t remember.

6. Five books you would take with you to a deserted island?

Everything by C.S. Lewis
Everything by Dave Barry
“The Gold Coast”, by Nelson DeMille
An Orthodox Study Bible
“Kristin Lavransdatter”, by Sigrid Undset

The Goldie has spoken at 11:47 AM

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Quote of the Day: Spiritual Search

In a surprising plot twist, the discussion at SC&A has moved on to the subject of God, organized religion, and spiritual search. This reminded me of a quote I had meant to post. This past weekend, I was re-reading one of my favorite books, “The Last Battle” by C.S.Lewis (the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia). One of my favorite parts is in the end, where the characters are in Aslan’s country, and come across Emeth the Calormene. He tells them his own story – essentially a story of his own spiritual search, and how it ended.

“For always since I was a boy I have served Tash and my great desire was to know more of him, if it might be, to look upon his face. But the name of Aslan was hateful to me.”

Fast forward to the part where Emeth tells about meeting Aslan (all emphasis is mine):

“But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking for Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not seek so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

Don’t you just love C.S.Lewis? This whole paragraph is so wise. I wish everybody the best in their spiritual pursuits. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt. 7:7-8).

The Goldie has spoken at 9:36 PM

Boss From Heck Series Starts Here

We all had our share of Bosses From Heck. If it wasn’t for those outstanding individuals, think how many funny stories we wouldn’t be able to tell!

Here is my first Boss from Heck entry. I was cleaning my kitchen drawers recently and found this.

Building Care Duties

Please note that all the duties are performed at the end of the day. The majority of the tasks are 10 minute items.

Duration: Daily
Responsibility: Wiping down kitchen tables and counters at the end of the day.

Duration: Daily
Responsibility: Check the coffee pot. Turn off the machine and rinse the pot if there is little coffee in it.

Duration: Daily
Responsibility: Make sure the Microwave is clean.

Duration: Daily
Responsibility: Supplying the rest rooms with toilet paper and paper towels for the day and making sure there is soap in the pump containers.

Duration: Daily
Responsibility: Check the hallway if it needs to be vacuumed. If it does, then it must be done.

Duration: Daily
Responsibility: Check the Library & Conference rooms at the end of the day. If meetings or activities were held, be sure that the place is in order. (Chairs neatly, loose papers thrown out, etc)

Duration: Daily
Responsibility: Check the reception area. If the floor has mud or foot prints, take the mop from the Janitor’s room and give it a quick sweep.

Duration: Weekly
Responsibility: Clean out all leftover and unmarked items from the refrigerator.

This list is incomplete. There is one item missing. We were also supposed to collect garbage from the cubicles and the kitchen (aka lunchroom), bag it, and throw it into the container outside. (“Daily”.)

I was given this list in 1999. I worked at a small company. The company provided consulting and training services to car rental dealerships. We also had an IT department that developed car rental automation software. When I started in 1998, the company was renting an office in a commercial area, but it was growing fast and needed to expand. Our owner had a new office built, and we moved there in 1999. It was a nice place, with brand-new furniture and carpeting and our own separate cubicles (before, we were all kind of squashed in the office together).

On the first day after we moved, a group of us were called into a meeting. Present at the meeting were: the IT department in its entirety, the training staff, marketing, HR, accounting, and a couple of middle managers.

It turned out that the owner had decided to save on the cleaning services, so he arranged it for the cleaning crew to only come out once a week to clean the building. For the rest of the week, we were on our own.

We were divided into teams and handed the above-quoted lists. A few of us had the dubious honor of being named Cleaning Crew Managers. Their job was to make sure the cleaning work got done.

We were very likely the highest-paid cleaning crew in the country’s history. This lasted for six months. The person that put a stop to this was actually Mr. Crush. Apparently the upper management asked him what would make him happy with his job, so he wouldn’t up and quit on them. (I told you he was very good at what he did.) He asked for dental insurance and elimination of the cleaning crews. Both requests were granted, for everyone in the company. It sure felt good to have dental insurance again, not to mention not having to take out the smelly lunchroom garbage.

Here is the company’s website. The About page lists a couple of projects I worked on, and describes the company as “an award winning company with over 40 employees”. This puzzles me, because I am sure we had more than "over 40" in my day. I wonder where the rest went. Probably moved on to pursue careers in cleaning.

I will continue later with a story of a man I worked for in 1994.

The Goldie has spoken at 8:58 AM

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Emily to The Rescue!

Michael and Debi Pearl can sleep well at night, for there is a courageous woman named Emily who will come to their defense, whether they are being attacked or not. About a months ago, in this post, I linked to Jay at ZeroBoss. Here’s a direct quote:

Speaking of overreacting. What triggered this post was a comment left on The Zero Boss, by someone named Emily who is a great supporter of the Pearls parenting methods (I should be easy on poor Emily, seeing as Jay has already given her a hard time):

Spanking was "out." "Gentle parenting" was in. The result? Just look
at thegrocery stores, the schools, the newspapers (i.e. Columbine)...

Yep. The grocery stores and Columbine. Can you find ten differences between the two? Good for you, because Emily can’t. Apparently, if a small kid misbehaves at a grocery store, then, in all likelihood, he’ll grow up and shoot up his school. Yeah right!

Here’s the comment Emily left on this post yesterday:

Can I opine that you and Jay are bullies, threatening to call the CPS on me? I should add that most of the children I see in the grocery store are very well-behaved; I have yet to come across a serious tantrum. And I'm not peeved by a crying baby (that's their only way to communicate, after all) or an occasional fit or act of misbehaviour. For all I know, the child in question might be autistic. I was bothered rather by Jay's attack on the Pearls. Now if you'd bothered to read my whole post, I said that I didn't agree with 100% of what the Pearls said. However, it's sometimes gratifying to look at Pearl forums because the people on them, unlike much of the gentle discipline crowd, actually value good behaviour in children. They don't have a cow, to paraphrase Bart Simpson, at a single tantrum in the grocery store, but one woman, for example, admitted that some of her friends who refuse to spank have kids who are unbearable. Then again, what can I expect from someone who frequents the Gentle Christian Mothers website?

And another one, again, from Emily:

I'll end my exchange (for now) with a funny anecdote about the Pearls. A woman posted to a "Gentle Discipline" website saying that reading the Pearls had helped her become a "gentle parent." By having her children obey her, she didn't spend so much time yelling at them and could actually enjoy them. Kids are worth it? she asked. No, spankings are worth it. She was, naturally, lambasted by the website's other posters.

This is so sweet. For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to do one of those “comeback” posts, and my commenters never gave me an opportunity to do that (cuz they are very nice people). Finally, a comeback-worthy comment! Here goes.

Dear Emily,

First of all, thank you for referring to me and Jay in the same sentence. I may be a bully, but I am in good company.

Secondly, I didn’t threaten to call the CPS on you. Feel free to prove me wrong. Then again, you can certainly opine that I did. It’s a free country.

I happen to agree with most of what you're saying, but one thing bothers me. In two short comments, you have managed to personally attack Jay, myself, the Gentle Christian Mothers website (for whatever reason), and (in a back-handed way) slam the book “Kids Are Worth It!”

Let me tell you a bit about GCM. First of all, I do not, by any stretch of imagination, “frequent” it. I haven’t gone over there since New Year. I haven’t posted there in months. This has been for reasons I won’t go into in this post. But, it’s a good forum. You can get helpful information there, and good advice. The owner is a very intelligent, well-educated woman with five children of her own. She is a pastor in a messianic church, and she writes. I have one of her books on grace-based discipline and it helps greatly. For the benefit of all my readers, here is her site. Tell her Emily sent you. Here’s a link to GCM. Tell them Emily referred you.

Now, on to the book “Kids Are Worth It!” I own it as well and it is awesome. It deals mostly with parenting teens and preteens. The premise of the book is, that all families can be roughly divided into three categories: the brickwall families (over-strict), the jellyfish (over-permissive), and the backbone (golden medium). I strongly recommend this book. Thanks for the plug-ins Emily, keep ‘em coming!

On to the Pearls and “spanking is worth it”. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been known to smack my kids’ butts quite a few times when they were young. It seemed to work with the younger one, as he was a hyperactive kid that couldn’t be redirected. It didn’t work so well with the older one. After he told me, following one spanking administered by Mr. Goldie, that he hated life and wanted to kill himself, I stopped and told my husband to stop. But bottom line, in general, I don’t see spanking as absolute evil (although I do not see it as an absolute necessity, either!) What I do see as evil, though, is when spanking is elevated to the level of a fine science, with God’s name thrown into the mix. You know the routine – “here’s a list of what you should spank your kids for, here’s how you ought to spank them. Here, buy our plastic rod, they are on sale this week. Oh, and if you don’t do it right, God will smite you for being a bad parent, and your children will grow up to be monsters and serial killers. Jesus loves you, here are our books to help you along, we take all major credit cards!” Now that bothers the heck out of me. Granted, I haven’t read the Pearls. After reading four books by Gary Ezzo, I sort of didn’t feel like reading any more of that kind, ever.

And this brings me to the last part of Emily’s post. The “for now” part. Being a bully that I am, Emily, I’d like to let you know that, if you continue commenting on my posts in this manner, I will actually read “To Train Up a Child” and write a series of posts outlining what I think of it and why. Judging from the few excerpts I’ve seen online, it is going to be a fun read!


The Goldie has spoken at 3:24 PM

Monday, April 18, 2005

My Guest Post Is Up

I was up the whole night last night working on a call from work, so I decided to sleep in. Just woke up, went online, went over to SC&A, and what do I see? My guest post! I like it when my week starts like that! Feel free to walk over to SC&A and read all about the dysfunctional childhood of Soviet kids and teenagers *snicker* I tried to put as much information as I could into the post, so it came out kind of long. It was written a couple weeks ago. Many thanks for SC&A for putting it up! I'm looking forward to a discussion that will (I hope) come out of it.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:50 AM

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Being an Immigrant Kid Is a Tough Job... Or Is It?

Yesterday, I finally watched The Joy Luck Club. I say “finally”, because my Mom gave it to me about a month ago, and I kept procrastinating. Turned out to be a very good movie, very touching. I’m not telling this to my family for fear of being ridiculed and severely humiliated, but I went through a whole box of Kleenex while watching it!

The film is essentially about four families of Chinese immigrants, and their first-generation-American daughters. While I don’t have a daughter, one of the issues raised by the film applied to me and my children – the part when the parents try to push their children too hard. I think most immigrant families (at least the ones from the former Soviet Union, China, India, Japan, probably a few other countries) are guilty of it to some degree. I recall Kim having a post about the kids testing for a gifted program and a Japanese mom (if I remember it correctly) giving her son a motivational speech in the bathroom – something along the lines of, “if you fail this test, you’ll fail your family”. In the movie, one mother had her daughter playing chess on the competitive level, and the other one, not to be outdone, sent hers to a piano class. Both girls, in the movie, felt used by their parents.

While not all of us go that far, I have to confess that we all want our kids to have good grades, to be in honor/advanced classes, to get a good college education and to have a high-paying job and a good career. Actually, “want” is an understatement –most immigrant families feel that for their children, it is a matter of life and death. The barrier is raised high! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard other parents tell me, while simultaneously dying of embarrassment: “One time last year, he got all B’s on his report! Can you imagine? Of course, we grounded him, what else could we do?” (As for me, I have already seen the C’s and D’s on my son’s reports, so all B’s probably wouldn’t faze me).

I guess I never saw it from our kids’ standpoint until I watched the movie yesterday. The poor kids must be really confused. They must think we treat them as extensions of us, telling them how to live their lives. What if they really want to flip burgers all their lives? What if they want a degree in Liberal Arts? What if they really do not care for the money? Aren’t they allowed to make their own choices and live with the consequences of their own mistakes?

This is where I get conflicted. The way I see it, the reason why we push our kids so hard towards the “money-intense” professions is that we want the best for them. And, we’re not sure if we’ll be able to support them if something doesn’t work out in their lives. Heck, take my family. My parents were highly-skilled professionals all their lives, but they were already retired and in their sixties when they came here. They are on welfare now, and live in a government-subsidized apartment. We are doing well, but we’re busting our butts to save something. We have a house in a good school district (as you know, those ain’t cheap) and two kids to put through college. I’ll be surprised if we ever have enough to retire on. In other words, should my kids screw up their lives, they won’t have much of a support system to fall back on. That is why we are trying to teach them skills that could help them to be financially independent later in life. That is why we keep telling them that they will definitely need a scholarship to go to college. That is why we try to make sure they get into the gifted programs and advanced classes. Their children will probably have more choices. They don’t. I feel sorry for them, but such is life.

The problem I have is, right now, I12 started saying that he doesn’t care for his grades. Well, even if he doesn’t care for his grades, I do, because, as I said, he doesn’t have any room for error. How can I drill it into his stubborn teenage head, I have no idea. It makes me so mad! Then I see it with I12’s eyes and think to myself, “Wait, this isn’t fair. Why is it that born-American kids are allowed to get low grades, drop out, not go to college, or, on the other hand, pursue any major they want, and my son isn’t? Who am I to tell him how to live? This is his life, isn’t it?” I’m telling you, it’s so hard to be a wussy mother. Why cannot I just rule with the iron hand and not care what my kids think?

It must feel very odd being a first-generation-American kid. My children have my sympathy. As you can see from this post, they also have a misguided and confused parent who doesn’t know what to do next. Isn’t that just great?

The Goldie has spoken at 8:43 PM

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Amazing Soviet Schooling

At this point, the discussion on SC&A is around cheating in schools. I thought about participating; but then I remembered this story and realized that I am not qualified to speak on the subject. Here goes.

It was 1984 and I was graduating from school. The way it worked there in my day was, classes ended on May 25th, and then in June, we had six exams. I was a good student, and actually managed to get all A’s on the exams. Therefore, it was expected of me to help others. Here’s how.

A day before our math exam, which was a written test, the math teacher gathered us all in her classroom to give us the last directions.

“Goldie,” she said, “tomorrow at the test, you will sit at this desk in front. Tanya,” (Tanya was another girl that was good at math), “you will sit next to Goldie.

“Goldie, you are responsible for everybody sitting on the left. Tanya, you take everybody on the right. You two make sure that everyone does well on this test”.

Need I explain to you what it meant? Next day, I came to the test, took my seat in front, did my own test in about ten minutes, and the hard work began – passing notes, sneaking into the bathroom, leaving notes there… The teacher told us later that Tanya and I had done a good job.

So what happened (my born-American readers will ask). Did anyone complain? Did Tanya or I get in trouble? Did the teacher lose her job? No, no, and no. It was considered perfectly normal. Now if Tanya or I would have refused to “help” (which never occurred to us), that would have caused an outrage. The teacher continued to work in our school for many years later. Did I mention that she was the secretary of the Communist Party committee in that school?

So basically, not only did everybody cheat, it was endorsed by the teachers. Later on in college, we had 10-12 oral tests every year, and each test, technically, required memorizing a thick book in advanced math, calculus, differential equations, etc. Except of course, nobody memorized anything. We would have landed in mental institutions if we even tried. We just snuck our notes with us into the tests. Everybody knew, and everybody pretended not to notice. That was the way things were when I was growing up. I cannot even say that our schools turned out badly educated students – on the contrary. The brain drain of the 90’s and 00’s, when thousands of Russian professionals were hired to work in the West on H1 visas, happened for a reason. We were good.

Why the widespread cheating? I don’t know. In school, maybe because the teachers were penalized if their students got bad grades, so that was maybe why they encouraged cheating. And in college, maybe because the test requirements were grossly unrealistic and everybody, including the professors, knew it. By the way, by my fourth year in college, we were finally allowed to officially use our notes during tests. Yay for common sense!

Now that we’re here, the rules of course are different, and I am certainly teaching my children to play by these rules. From what I see, the American schools set very realistic (sometimes, even, a tad low IMO) expectations for the students, and it is possible to succeed without copying somebody else’s work..

I will leave you here, my reader, to ponder on this post and scratch your head thinking bad thoughts about the Soviet mentality.

The Goldie has spoken at 8:46 AM

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I'm Slacking Off

Work has been very hectic lately, and there is a lot going on besides work, so I haven't had the time to post anything lately. Whatever little time I have I spend at SC&A trying to follow the discussion.

I12 brought his report card home yesterday, and I'm still trying to recover from this traumatic experience (think D- in language arts). I have many ideas for posts, but no time or energy to put them together at this point. Hopefully, sometime soon! Coming up: kinky roommates; boss from heck stories; my children's career aspirations; and our feeble atempts at landscaping after I got personally yelled at by our city's building inspector, for having a horrible front yard. Stay tuned!

The Goldie has spoken at 10:09 AM

Monday, April 11, 2005

My Son, The Ladies’ Man

A guest post on SC&A about kids and dating (yes, the discussion continues… stay tuned) has brought back some memories.

My younger son is in many ways very lucky. He’s cute (was very cute as a small kid, has a few extra pounds now – I’m hoping they will go away when the growth spurt hits), has a lot of friends, and is pretty popular with his peers. Out of the three generations of our family, he’s the one with the most popularity in school. We are a family of nerds and geeks, and live vicariously through him.

He started daycare at 18 months. For the first few months, he was miserable there, then suddenly adjusted and started enjoying the daycare immensely. We had just come into the country, I was the only one working, so it was the cheapest daycare center we could find, and the only one in our area that accepted daycare vouchers from Welfare. You get the picture. The place was run by a very odd young man, who had inherited the family business from his father.

So, one day, I come to pick K9 up and his teacher starts a conversation. Turned out, her own daughter was in the same class and she had taken a liking to K9. The Mom was amused. She was telling me, “they hold hands! And at naptime, she pushes her cot next to his!” I was nodding and smiling. The principal was walking by, and decided to cut into the conversation.

He said to both of us, “You better watch it! You know how high the teen pregnancy rate is these days?”

Remember, both our kids are two years old, and that man is running a daycare. Or, was. Last I heard, they made him resign, due to multiple sexual harassments lawsuits filed against him.

The breakup came soon and was completely unexpected. One day, all potty-trained kids were transferred to a different class. K9’s girlfriend was potty-trained; he was not. So ended a beautiful friendship. K9 stayed single until his last year in preschool. This time, it was the prettiest girl in his class. Very good-looking. When I saw her Dad, I nearly fainted. He looked like a movie star.

We didn’t know there was anything going on, until one day, K9 came home from preschool and told my Mom:

“You know Grandma, I showed my wiener to a girl today”.

Grandma, shocked:
“’K’, that was very bad of you! You know you’re not supposed to do that!”

K9, almost in tears:
“But, Grandma! She made me do it!

Naturally, Grandma was curious. Who wouldn’t be? So she sat down and had K9 tell her the whole story.

It happened at naptime. K9’s cot was next to the girl’s (see the pattern?) First, the girl showed K9 her privates and made him show his. Then, she touched K9, and told him to touch her. K9 flat out refused, but the girl insisted. K9 then made her promise that she wouldn’t pee in his hand. Then he touched her.

Grandma almost died laughing. Then I got home from work, and she told the story to me. Sure enough, I almost died laughing, too.

By the time K9’s brother came into the room, K9 felt a lot better about what had happened.

“’I’, I saw a girl’s wiener today! Guess what! She has a splitted wiener!”

Two weeks later, the girl broke up with K9, because he refused to give her a back rub during naptime. He said that they would both get in trouble if the teachers saw them. So she dumped him and started going out with his best friend. Imagine that!

In school, things have been relatively uneventful for K9. Every year, he developed a crush on someone, but nothing ever came out of it. In kindergarten, it was a girl who had one steady boyfriend and then a floating second one, meaning that she had a new second boyfriend every week. For one week, it was my son. He was in heaven. She actually asked him to marry her. Then next week, she acted like nothing had ever happened.

By second grade, some of K9’s classmates had girlfriends, and told him how they’d kissed and made out. K9 couldn’t get a girlfriend to save his life. He was devastated. He really wanted to be cool and popular, and, to be cool and popular, you had to have a girlfriend. Once on an outing, he met a 15-year-old boy. That guy was really popular in his school, and, how should I say that, not bad-looking at all. It was a case of instant hero-worship. K9 followed him like a puppy for the entire weekend, asking his advice about popularity and girlfriends. The guy told K9 that “you don’t really have to have a girlfriend in third grade”. That made K9 breathe easier for about three days, and then it was back to: “everybody has a girlfriend, and I don’t, what should I do, somebody help me”.

A few weeks ago, K9 found out that a girl in his class likes him. Two other girls told him about it. He came home so happy – “Finally! A chick likes me!” I asked him what he wanted to do about it. He had no idea. I suggested giving her a small gift, buying her a treat, or, just talking to her and being friends. I don’t think he’s done any of those yet. He’s afraid to death of talking to that girl. In truth, I am kind of happy about it. I’m in no rush to have him kissing and making out, you know!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:25 PM

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bowling for WHAT?

Update: We won the second half (had to win four games in a row for that). Won the first game of the finals (that's five in a row), lost the second one, lost the third one by four pins. IOW we lost the season, but we came pretty darn close! Our opponents in the finals had been hoping for an easy win, but we made them work hard for their title! As for us, better luck next year! Thanks to everyone who thought of us!

I have a hobby. I bowl in a league.

Somehow, I can never get a good reaction to this statement. I tell people I’m a league bowler, and they look at me as if they expect a mullet to sprout from my head any minute. It’s like the epitome of redneckhood. I feel the need to justify myself – “it’s a fun sport”, “you know, it’s a mental game”. Or, as Mr. Crush once put it, “I’ve bowled with doctors and lawyers” (personally, I haven’t, but I’ve bowled with a heckuva lot of programmers!)

I tried bowling in ’99 and got instantly hooked. My first game, I bowled a 16. That’s right, sixteen pins. I have improved since then. For the first year, I practiced at least twice a week. Then, my friend and I joined a mixed couples league.

I remember sitting with a group of people, including my friend and Mr. Crush, and my friend going on and on about how he was teaching me to bowl, and we would join the league soon, and we’d beat everybody because of my low average. My friend then proceeded to say to Mr. Crush, “and then, she’ll beat you”. I thought it was a bit over the top, seeing as Mr. Crush bowled seven times a week and carried a 220+ average.

Mr. Crush said to me, “Some people, you can never win”.

I remember getting this feeling from the tone of his voice that he didn’t exactly mean bowling. I reacted accordingly, by looking pissed and saying something vague. But the real meaning of what he’d said didn’t hit me until I got home that night. And when that happened, I was livid!

Fast forward a few months, we join a mixed couples league and Mr. Crush is there too. I hadn’t counted on that, and didn’t want to be on the same league with Mr. Crush. I was deadly afraid that he would make fun of me.

So, I kept practicing. I read books on bowling and worked on my technique. I spent tons of time and money on improving my game. My average shot up. And, finally, the day came when our team bowled against Mr. Crush’s and killed them. Not only did we take all seven points, I actually beat the guy. He bowled a 180; I had a 184. Poor Mr. Crush looked terrible. He hated losing. He had this Eric Cartman attitude when it came to winning and losing in sports. Very strange. I said something nice to make him feel better. In response, he said something about shoving a ball up my ass.

I swear. He really did.

It felt good. Revenge is sweet. Mr. Crush hadn’t been so nice to me during my unfortunate crush. That night, I got back at him. Four months later, when our team won the season, I got back at him again.

I stayed on that league for four years and made a few good friends. I showed Mr. Goldie how to bowl, and he picked it up right away. With a couple of friends, we joined another league. In my first league, my friend quit and Mr. Goldie took his place. His average is now in the 160s, mine is in the 140s. I think mine could be higher, but a strange thing happened. Somewhere along the line, bowling has lost its charm for me. I don’t want to practice anymore; I’d rather have my teeth pulled than read a book on bowling; I even quit one of my leagues, because I couldn’t stand being away from my kids two nights a week.

So we only bowl on Mondays now, with this other couple. It works great for our marriage. We talk about bowling. A lot. Last Christmas, Mr. Goldie gave me a brand new ball with a hook quotient of 140 (that means the ball can really hook) and a bag on wheels to hold two balls. We have a good relationship with the other couple. I like the way this has been working out.

Tonight, Mr. Goldie and the other couple are going practicing. See, next Monday is position week, and we're in second place. If we take all seven, we win the second half. If that happens, then we stay after everyone else has left, and bowl in the finals. The guys are all pumped up to win. They say it’s not fair that I have a trophy and they don’t. I try to tell them that trophies are overrated, and a trophy will make you feel great for exactly five and a half seconds, but they don’t want to listen. They want to win. So, come Monday, I better bowl good. And I cannot even go practice, because it will be late at night, and the kids and I have to get up early tomorrow.

Please cross your fingers for me next Monday night. I don’t want to let my team down, and neither would you if you were married to one of your teammates.

I just know that, with the blogosphere’s support, I can do it.

The Goldie has spoken at 7:39 PM

Friday, April 08, 2005

Times Have Changed, Our Kids Are Getting Worse...

... they don't obey their parents, they just want to fart and curse (c) Thanks to SC&A, this song has been running in my head since yesterday!

Seriously, there is a very interesting discussion on parenting and the morals of our next generation going on over at Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. It started here and here, and will continue as a series of guest posts (two posted so far, more to appear soon). You don't want to miss this! Make sure you read all the comments, too! Stay tuned, as the discussion will continue during next week.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:10 AM

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Jumping On The Bandwagon – My Bad Dates

The good doctors are asking everybody to post about their bad dates. Sorry it took me a while – I was sick and that affected my long-term memory. Besides, I only dated for a couple years, and it was a while ago, so it wasn’t easy to remember the actual dates and determine which of them were bad.

Eventually, I have come up with, not just one, but three! Here are my top three winners:

Second runner-up – a drop-dead gorgeous, bohemian, popular guy I met on campus. On our second meeting, he took me to a locker room, where we both quickly undressed and were about to do the deed (I was young… it was the 80’s… long story). Anyway, in the last minute, for no good reason at all, I freaked out and told him that I was sorry, but I couldn’t go through with it. He got dressed and left in a huff. A few days later I found out that not only was the guy married, he also had an STD and was getting treatment for it.

First runner-up – not technically a date, because by then I was: a) engaged to Mr. Goldie, and b) a newly converted, born-again Christian. I met this guy (again, drop-dead gorgeous) on a bus on my way to church. We clicked instantly and talked for an hour. I told him I was getting married, and about the church I was going to (he said that was cool, he was a believer himself). There wasn’t anywhere to go in our small town, so, when people wanted to hang out, they visited each other. He visited me first, met my roommate, the three of us had a nice conversation together. Then I came over with a return visit. There were icons and crucifixes all over this guy’s room, hanging in every corner. We snacked on some grapes and wine, talked a bit, then the guy started coming on to me. Turned out, he had expected us to have sex that evening. When he realized it wasn’t going to happen, he got mad. The man actually told me, “You just came here to eat my food!” – yeah, I’m such a golddigger, aren’t I? Then he asked me, “If I put a loaded gun to your head, would you have sex with me or not?” I said, “Sure would – I want to live, you know!” Then he let me go – walked me home, actually. That was the end of our date.

And finally, drum roll, please… the winner!

Again, a drop-dead gorgeous guy (gee, is there a connection?) He looked something like Eminem, to tell you the truth. Way cool. I was 20, he was 18, we met in St-Petersburg, on the subway, and went out every day for about a week. For our last date, he took me to a movie theater close to where he lived (which was all the way across town from my place). By the time the movie was about to end, I realized that it was two in the morning; no public transportation was working anymore; none of us, of course, had cars; so, basically, I had no way of getting back home. I wanted to get a cab, but my guy said it wasn’t safe. Instead, he suggested that I spend the night at his apartment. I was, “no way”, but the guy said, “Relax, I live with my Mom, we only have one room, so nothing’s gonna happen”.

So, the movie ends. We walk over to his apartment. On the way, he tells me that his Mom is a single mother and he’s the only child. We ring the doorbell and Mom lets us in. We’re in the foyer and I notice that the wallpaper looks funny. But wait, this isn’t wallpaper. The wall is covered from the floor to the ceiling with black and white pictures of my guy at all ages of his life. I never saw anything like that before.

The three of us proceed to have tea and discuss the sleeping arrangements. Problem is, there are only two beds in the room. Mom wants my guy to sleep on the floor and me to take his bed. Guy goes all sensitive on his Mom and has a tantrum and refuses to sleep on the floor. I end up sharing a bed with the Mom. Yes, that’s right. I slept in the same bed with a woman, old enough to be my mother, that I never saw before in my life!

I had a horrible night’s sleep. All night, I had nightmares about rolling over The Mom and kicking her out of her own bed in my sleep. Next morning, The Mom kept on gushing about what a quiet sleeper I was, and how I had hardly moved all night. I couldn’t get out of that apartment fast enough. And that was the end of our relationship, although, I must say, The Mom approved of me and wanted me to keep seeing her son. Sorry, it was just too kinky for me!

So, here are my three horrible dates. Not bad, considering I only was on the market for a few years!

The Goldie has spoken at 10:41 AM

Monday, April 04, 2005

An Unconventional Approach to Sibling Rivalry

I am going to submit this post to the Blogging For Books contest. This month's theme is Cruelty.

For this Blogging for Books, write about the cruelest thing you have ever done - either to another person or to yourself.

I am an only child. Growing up, I hated it. Everyone else had a brother or a sister; all I had was two perfectionist parents. When I was little, I promised myself that I would never, ever, stop at just one kid. I’d have two or more.

A couple years after I got married, we had our first son. I knew nothing about raising babies, and my parents were 500 miles away. It was pretty much a trial and error process. I’ll readily admit that I made a lot of mistakes during the first few years, but I learned from them.

In addition to that, our baby “I” spent the first two weeks of his life in the hospital. For the first week, I wasn’t even allowed to see him; then they let me come see him for 30 minutes a day.

Long story short, I do not know if it was nurture or nature, but “I” grew up to be a very unusual toddler. He was pretty smart for his age, very inquisitive, but he didn’t care a whole lot about other kids. In fact, he rarely acknowledged their existence. He was very independent, and started playing on his own fairly early. His favorite pastime was taking apart old electronics using screwdrivers, pliers and other tools. He very obviously did not need any other children in his life.

Not that I let it stop me. I was dead set on having another baby before “I” turned three. So, at 28 months, he got a gift from his parents – a little, adorable baby brother.

Did I mention we lived in Russia in a one-room apartment? (No, not one-bedroom… there was one room, period).

“I” disliked the baby pretty much at first sight. “K” was very cute and cuddly. He also was the most colicky baby that ever existed. He caught his first cold when he was two weeks old, and proceeded to get sick about once a month. He cried all night, and had to be held all day. He was born on Friday the 13th, poor guy.

Needless to say, “I” did not appreciate being kept awake at night, or the fact that Mom couldn’t pick him up and hold him anymore. He didn’t understand what was going on. He was miserable. He cried a lot. Once he tried to stab me with a screwdriver while I was nursing his baby brother. My heart was breaking for “I”, but there wasn’t much I could do for him. I was in over my head with a baby, a toddler, a household to run, and no money to run it on.

When “K” was six months old, and at his most adorable, “I” started telling everybody that he wanted the baby dead. That didn’t faze “K”, who worshiped his big brother. But you should have seen my in-laws when the three-year-old “I” told them, during our visit, “Why don’t we put “K”’s stroller on the rails, maybe a train will come and run him over”.

When the boys were 4 years and 15 months old, we came to America. By then, it was a given that “I” didn’t like “K”. We all got used to it. We just tried to keep them apart. "K" finally figured out that his brother didn't like him, and started to fight back. I never knew a one-year-old could pack such a mean punch.

Things came to a head around Christmas of that year. “K” was two years old, and getting cuter every day. Everyone in our apartment building liked him. He even had a girlfriend at his daycare center. “I” was almost five, very serious for his age. I used to go on long walks with him, and we had the most interesting conversations during our walks. Or, I read to him and he listened and asked questions. One Saturday morning, I left Mr. Goldie to watch the kids and went into the laundry room to put in a new load. When I came back, Mr. Goldie was happily playing on the computer, and the kids were nowhere to be found.

“Where are the kids,” I asked.
“You mean they’re not here?” replied the surprised Mr. Goldie, and went back to his game.

I went around the building searching for the kids. No luck. I walked downstairs and ran into our apartment manager, who was holding both kids by their hands. She looked shocked.

What happened was, “I” took “K” outside and they went into the parking lot. (Keep in mind, it was December, snow everywhere, and “K” was in his pajamas). They stood in front of the parking garage. A car came out, “I” ran away, and “K” remained standing in front of the car. That’s when the apartment manager saw them both out of her window, and came to the rescue.

I couldn’t sleep that night. “I” had always wanted the baby dead. What if he had done it on purpose? What if he would do it again? Next morning on my way to work, I hatched a horrible plan.

When I came home from work that day, the kids greeted me, but I was on my mission. “’K’, go play with your toys. 'I', come with me. We need to talk”. I walked him into the closest bedroom and locked the door. “I” was staring at me, not sure what to expect.

I began like this: “’I’, you know that, as your mother, it is my job to make sure that you’re alive and healthy”. He was with me so far, so I went on, “Likewise, it is my job to make sure that “K” is alive and healthy, too. And if anybody threatens his life or health, I will have to fight that person. I know about the car, and I want to tell you this – if anything ever happens to “K” because of you, you won’t be living with us anymore. We’ll send you to a foster home”.

“I” was speechless! His eyes were round and his ears seemed to wave from fear! I loved him to death and I would’ve never had it in me to send him to a foster home. I guess that means I was bluffing. But I really, really didn’t want my two kids killing each other. That just had to stop!

A few uneventful months went by. All of a sudden, “I” started playing with “K”. One day “K” didn’t want to take a bath, and I forced him, and “I” started crying because he felt sorry for his brother. I never felt more relieved in my whole life, even though “I” called me a bad Mom and told me he wasn’t my friend anymore. Things got a lot easier for us from there. The boys are 9 and 12 now. I cannot say they are best friends, because they are very different people. “I” is still the loner; “K” is still the social guy. They tease each other and call each other “fatass” and “nerd”. But somehow I have a feeling that they’ll turn out okay, and that they will stand up for each other if need be.

One evening, when “I” was seven or eight, the two of us were talking, when suddenly he said, in a very serious voice:

“Don’t have anymore babies, Mom. If you have another baby, I will defend myself from him, and I will also protect “K” from that baby!”

“You know, ‘I’”, I replied, after some thought, “Do you remember when I said I was going to send you to a foster home? I didn’t really mean it”.

“Aw, I know,” said “I”, “not a problem”.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:45 PM

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Revenge Of The Great Outdoors

We got three inches of snow this weekend. Go figure. It was sunny and 70 five days ago.

On top of it, I'm down with the flu... again! Got it in the office... again! I'm starting to think that the open office environment is overrated. They have remodeled our office three years ago, putting in large cubes with four people in each. It was supposed to promote the free exchange of ideas. Well, I don't know about the ideas, but it sure does promote the free exchange of viruses! It's the third time this season that my coworkers have given me this gift! Arg, arg, arg!

The Goldie has spoken at 11:30 AM

Friday, April 01, 2005

Casting Out Your TV

Every once in a while on the Internet, you run into “TV-free families”. These people actually get rid of their TVs – disconnect the cable, take the TV to the curb, the works. The TV is being perceived as the ultimate evil.

Of course, the fact that they then post about it on their blogs or Internet forums, raises a lot of questions such as “if TV is evil, then why isn’t the Internet?”, but I digress.

I’m guessing too much of anything can be an evil. If you eat too much, you’ll gain weight. If you eat way too much, you’ll ruin your health and possibly die. Doesn’t mean you should stop eating.

My understanding is, there is such thing as TV addiction. If you or someone on your family are indeed addicted, then of course I would encourage taking the TV to the curb. I’ve never been affected myself, though. My parents enjoyed reading, outdoor activities, and a few hours of TV per week. They used to go through the schedule, check off one or two movies that they wanted to see, and we’d then watch those movies as a family. We were not a TV-watching family by any means, even compared to my classmates. I remember feeling constantly embarrassed when I came to school, and everybody was discussing yesterday’s movie, and I used to be the only kid in class with no clue what they were talking about.

My third year in college, my roommates and I rented a TV. Actually, the three of us and three girls from another room all chipped in, and our two rooms took turns keeping the TV. That was when I found out, for the first time in my life, that there are people who turn the TV on first thing in the morning, let it run in the background all day, and turn it off right before going to bed. That struck me as a very strange way to kill your time. Apparently, that’s what a lot of my classmates did and that’s how they got to see all those latest movies.

I guess, if you grow up with the TV constantly on, you really can grow up to be an addict. As for me, I’m more of the opposite. I can go on for days without ever feeling like turning the TV on. Most of the time, I don’t remember it’s there. My husband, on the other hand, is an avid TV viewer, and watches it all evenings and weekends.

As for the kids, I have a confession to make. When they were little, we used the TV as a babysitter. They watched a lot of cartoons. My excuse is, we were new to the country, we thought those cartoons were good, and we wanted the kids to learn the language. This lasted for several years, during which I developed a burning hatred for Cartoon Network. Eventually, we banned the channel (except for Adult Swim) on account of it being stupid and not funny (except for Adult Swim). We switched to Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. A year later, we dumped Nickelodeon. Last year, we got DVR and life has never been the same. Now, we only watch what we want to see – some Comedy Central, some Sci-Fi Channel, a few other shows here and there.

It was about that time that I12 bailed. Just like that, he stopped watching TV. Now, he hardly watches at all (please don’t ask me how much time he spends on the Internet – that’s irrelevant, right? right??) Get this… he can walk right past the TV with the new South Park on, and go straight to his room! How weird is that? I guess I shouldn’t worry about that kid becoming a TV addict!

K9 puts in quite a few hours of TV every week, coming in a close second after my husband. He is actually an interesting case, in that he will watch anything. He will watch junk and enjoy it. He will watch commercials and want to buy whatever is being advertised. He will watch “whatever is on” – a foreign concept for me and I12. On top of it, watching TV makes him hungry. I see this situation as a challenge.

If he watches junk, I tell him, “K9, stop, it’s giving me a headache!” or, “K9, I think this cartoon is not funny, and it is kinda dumb too”. When he wants something that he just saw in a commercial, all three of us explain to him the details about the product being advertised, what the catch is, and how it is practically the same as the old brand. When he really wants something, he can buy it… with his own money, and he has to convince us first. He used all of his birthday money to buy a Nintendo DS. He already had a Gameboy, but hey, on TV they said that touching is good. We gave him four months to think it through, but after the four months, he still wanted it. Now he has a DS and an empty wallet. Oh well. Not my problem.

I’m hoping to raise two informed, reasonable TV viewers. I don’t see TV as an evil in itself. It is a source of valuable information (if you know how to process it critically). It is a source of knowledge (Animal Planet, Discover Channel). And, when you’re tired, you can all sit together in front of your TV and unwind... I see nothing wrong with that! All the TV-bashing talk reminds me of my childhood years, when too much reading was considered bad for children’s health. These days, when you hear a mother say, “My son reads all the time”, it is said with pride. In my day, it was often followed by, “What should I do, doctor?”

One other thing that gets me, I’ve heard from several people that they banned certain channels and shows for their children (and I am talking kids' cartoons such as Spongebob), because these channels or shows use bad words, such as… yeah, you wish... no, the real bad words they use are “stupid”, and, on a few serious occasions, “dork”. I’d like to ask these parents what it feels like to be living in a plastic bubble. Because in my part of the planet, kids actually meet and talk to each other, and go places where they meet other kids, and learn all kinds of words, and “stupid” is not the worst of them. The bad words are rumored to emanate from public schools. Not so. My kids learned all swear words in the course of two weeks, when we lived in an apartment complex. I12 had a friend there who taught them all the stuff. I wasn’t very thrilled about it, but it wasn’t too big of a deal to me, either.

Bottom line is, do not take your TV to the curb! You can ship it to me instead. Especially if it’s a big screen.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:40 AM

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