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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Friday, August 29, 2003

Today was the day I realized I can only be a SAH mom for 10 days or less. By day 11, I'm ready to tear my hair out. Girl drives me insane, and the more time I spend with her, the dumber she gets. She's not dumb, she's just a complete and utter space cadet. She doesn't THINK before she talks, especially if she has a question. She just blurts out question after question, and some of them are so inane I want to explode. After a while I start yelling "THINK before you talk." but it doesn't work. She gets off on the whole negativity thing. It just drives me nuts. Here are some examples from this afternoon:

We're driving behind a big truck spewing black stinky smoke out of it's smokestack. I mutter, "Guess this guy isn't worried about the pollution problem, huh?" and she says "Why? How do you know?" Gee, I wonder!

We park next to a huge grinding stone outside our pediatrician's office. She asks why they have a stone donut. I tell her that it's a grindstone, and it was used in a mill to grind wheat or corn. She asks why. I tell her that ground corn and wheat are what one uses to bake. She asks how they grind up the corn cobs.

I'm making dinner and ask her to shuck the corn. She takes the ears out onto the back porch and I hear a huge yelp. "What's the problem?", I ask. She says that there was a worm in a corn stalk. I tell her that we'll just wash it out, no big deal. She asks if we can eat worms.

It goes on and on and on. By 10 pm I'm ready to send her to foster care. This is just too tiring.

The Job Hunt

I had an interview yesterday. It went OK, I liked them and they appeared to like me. It pays nothing. I'll end up not getting it and being depressed. I don't know how to make this better. I'm so tired of putting on makeup and wearing cute little outfits and getting rejected over and over again.

A guy emailed me on Monday about some work for him. I wrote back, and didn't hear from him. I mean, he contacted me, I didn't initiate this exchange. After 24 hours of not hearing from him, I emailed him again and asked if he were still interested. He wanted to know my rates. I have him a large range from a fairly lowball to a decent highball range. Never heard from him again, which means, of course, that he wanted to pay $10/hour to do what was until recently a $100/hour job. It's driving me nuts.

What's for Dinner?

Tonight I made Kosher Empire Fried Chicken (pop it from the box to the oven and then voila, lousy fried chicken in 30 minutes), corn, and an amazing salad of heirloom tomatoes, basil and cucumbers from an organic farm stand. The tomato was outstanding, the basil so perfect that it made me want to sing with joy.

But, while we were at the farm stand they had the most amazing gourd. I'm not sure I can do it justice, and the woman didn't know the name of the gourd, but it was just astonishing. It was a dark green, like a zucchini in color, but shiny like a yellow squash. It was about 15 inches high, the top 8 inches were a perfect phallus. The bottom was an irregular bulb like shape, which looked remarkably like a huge testicle. This was something out of star trek. I couldn't take my eyes off i!

We also picked flowers at the farm stand. I got a big bunch of dahlias, sunflowers, margarites, cosmos, and some other things I wasn't sure of. It made a beautiful bouquet on the coffee table, and I feel like Martha Stewart after some strenous flower arranging.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Here is is, the day I've been dreading. The day "The Two Towers" is released on DVD. Boy has been talking about it non-stop for weeks. He's ready to hit blockbuster right this second. Me, I'm not a big fan of the fantasy genre. I hated the books. I read them because, well, everyone read them in high school, right? But I thought they were boring. Maybe my imagination is lacking or something, but I could never visualize the story, never mind find it interesting.

I did love Pirates of the Caribbean though, and that was a fantasy adventure. Of course, it had Johnny Depp in it, and next to Nomar Graciaparra, is the best looking man on earth. Boy thinks I'm pathetic. Ha, he should only know the pain of unrequited love.

Can't wait for the next Johnny Depp movie. That guy has me cold. Mmmmmmmm.

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Yum, it's DINNER TIME!

I made stir fry beef for dinner tonight. This is a favorite in our family, but it tends to come out totally differently every time I make it and I can't figure out why. This is what I did tonight:

Marinated the sirloin tips in soy sauce, black bean sauce, fresh minced ginger and chopped garlic for about an hour.

Julienned orange and yellow peppers.
Sliced baby bella mushrooms
Tipped green beans
Cut up one large chinese cabbage
Opened can of water chestnuts

Stir fried marinated beef until browned through in HOT sesame oil. Removed from wok and set aside.

Stir fried the veggies until cooked through.

Added meat back to the wok and moved everything around till evenly distributed.

Served over hot white rice.

What I did differently

This time I didn't have corn starch so the sauce was too thin. I like it slightly thickened.

Didn't add asparagus, which I love with black bean sauce.

Forgot to add the crunchy noodles the kids like.

Didn't add baby bok choy, which I love but have to go to chinese store to get.

Occasionally I'll add the juice of an orange, but I didn' t have an orange handy.

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So the big birthday came and went and now I've got 11 year old twins with big egos and bigger mouths. Yahoo!

I'm still trying to decide how to break it to the landlord that we're not moving out just because he asked us too. What a dweeb to think it's OK to ask a family on welfare to pony up $9K twice in 8 months for moving costs. You gotta wonder at the audacity of a person who sits on his ass and does absolutely no upkeep on his rental units, but expects top rents and a tenant that will not ask for anything. The jackass took 4 months to replace my broken stove. And he got the new one from Home Depot, which offers next day delivery, for heavens sake. Four months. He could have welded a new stove out of copper in that time. Then he dumps off the stove and high tails it out so I have to unpack it, deal with the plumber, clean over 40 years of grime and gunk from the walls surrounding the old stove (it was the most disgusting mess I've ever seen) and he's nowhere to be seen. I hate the guy.

But this is what we have to do in order to be evicted. I've heard that it will take till next spring to get us out, and hopefully that's true. I'd rather stay till the end of the school year, so the kids have continuity for 2 full years in the same school district with the same friends. Is this too much to ask?

What it means to be over 50

In the past couple of years, most of my friends have wavered right around 50 and I've watched them all get sick. Pretty much every woman I know has had a breast biopsy this past year. I've got 3 friends with cancer. We all complain constantly about this ache and that pain. My women friends dwell on peri-menopause like we're all the first women to ever experience this. And we might just be, because we don't know anyone in our parents generation who ever spoke of going through 'the change. So many women of that generation had unneeded hysterectomies and never went through the 10 years of hell called Peri. My mother was intact, but she never discussed what she was going through, and by the time I was cognizant that this was something in my future, my contacts with her were severed forever. So what do I know about this? Pretty much what I've learned on the 'net and from books. I've been to 3 different internists during this period of my life, and not one of them is really willing to talk about it. I mention hair loss, they ignore me. I mention skin changes, they ignore me. I mention my insane moments, they suggest Prozac or Paxil.

For the first time since college I want to get together with a group of my women friends and just talk about this until we all know more than when we came into the discussion. But I don't think anyone else is that interested in talking about it.

Shopping with Gift Certificates

Today I took the kids to spend their birthday gift certificates. Girl got a cert to Old Navy, so we had to do some serious trying on, and she ended up making good choices.

Boy got a cert to our local fabulous INDEPENDANT book seller. The place is acres huge, with pretty much every book in current publication. Boy found what he was looking for, and then he picked out a bar mitzvah present for his friend. The weird thing is, we got the present book home and I opened it up, and on the second flyleaf there was an inscription. "To Mike from Uncle Harry". Mike returned the book even though it was addressed to him. Since this inscription is here, we have to go return the book.

But it makes me wonder what kind of moron would return a book inscribed to him? Ok, you don't like the gift, hold onto it and donate it to the library or give it to a friend who might like it. But don't return it! That's like returning a dress after you wore it to the prom.

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Friday, August 22, 2003

Another topic.

I read a book the other day that got me to wondering about polygamy. The book, Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk: Growing Up in Polygamy by Dorothy Allred Solomon is a true account of a woman who grew up in a polygamous family as the 28th of 48 children with one father and 7 wives.

I know this is a religious thing, but why would anyone want to live this kind of life? Is it that the men think of themselves as so super important that they need to have many subservient women serve him? And what is with the women who would willingly share a husband and all of those children?

I apparently don't "get it". But the book was really interesting.

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Crap. That's how I feel. Total crap. Woke up at 5 am with horrible abdominal cramping, and the rest is history. I'm guessing food poisoning from the olives I got at a local supermarket olive bar. Can't even think about food today. Quite the unusual occurrance, that!

What is the whole Homeless in Massachusetts story?

In this state, you can't just be homeless. Nope, in order to qualify as homeless you have to have been evicted by a landlord and can prove it. Or you have to be living in a building so dangerous the health department shuts it down. Or you have to live in such a dangerous circumstance like abuse or other violence that your life is at risk. You can't just be poor. That doesn't count.

Once you're considered eligible for subsidized housing by any of the above criteria, you have to apply separately to every single town's housing authority for entrance to their waiting list. Nope, not housing, they don't have housing! You get to be homeless and on a list. The average wait for a rise to the top of the list is from 5-20 years. YEARS.

How it works is, you fill out all these inane forms that could easily be standardized but are not, so you have to do each one individually. Then you pay for stamps and send them into their respective housing authorities, where they are supposed to read them, and then tell you where you are on the list.

However, most of the lists are 'closed', meaning they aren't even taking names. So you go into the void, just like when you send your resume to some shmuck on monster.com. You spend your time filling out huge forms, xeroxing relevant support documents, and it's all for nothing. But you have to do it or you can't 'get on the list'.

In the meantime, because you're now considered homeless, you get to live in a shelter. Oh, not a shelter anywhere near where your kids go to school. Nope, they place you at the other end of the state because they can. Yes, there is a law on the books that says that if your child is enrolled in a public school, the state must allow your child to continue in that school AND provide transportation to that school for your child. But, in actuality that law is not enforced. See, in MA it's OK for the state to ignore it's own laws, but woe to the citizen that tries to ignore a law here.

Since there are not enough shelter spaces, and since the state is in such a difficult financial situation, instead of opening new shelters for the burgeoning homeless population, they instead place homeless families in hotels/motels/bed and breakfasts. That's economizing, Massachusetts style. A family can expect to spend 3-6 months in a hotel paid for by the state before there is room in a shelter. But the problem is, there are no cooking facilities in hotels, so families can't use their food stamps to buy food they can prepare themselves. Another cost savings from the state... fast food, which causes obesity in children, which causes long term health risks, which are paid for by the state's medicaid program. Make sense yet?

Another classic rule from the demons on Beacon Hill is that every shelter placement has to be accepted, regardless of location. So children who are enrolled in a school in say, Medford, might have to move to Williamstown for a few months for a shelter placement, then move again for a section 8. Continuity of education? Oh, that doesn't matter either. These kids are poor, so they have no chance of being anything in life. Just look at some of Boston's poor. Tip O'Neal, Ben Afflick, Matt Damon, Mike Eruzione. All a bunch of worthless do-nothin's.

Have a social worker? Don't count on her helping you navigate the insanity that is the Department of Transitional Assistance. They've all called it quits because the DTA lies to them, screams at them, and then refuses to return phone calls. And thats nice compared to how they treat the actual clients.

Being poor in this state is an embarassment. Your social contacts wither as people find out that your lack of employment actually means you're POOR. For so many, who had so much for so long, being out of work long term doesn't really affect their lives. But for those of us living paycheck to paycheck for so many years, depleting our savings and then losing Unemployment Insurance means a kind of deathknell for us.

In our case, our religious leader was judgemental and harsh and didn't provide much help at all. Plus, our family was treated differently than other families because of our financial situation. We stopped attending services for the first time in our lives.

Schools don't make it easy, either. They have nothing but requests for money, money and more money. This year we have to pay $180 per child to take the bus to school even though there is a state law that says they have to provide free transportation for anyone who lives over 2 miles from school. Yup, another state law they get to disregard. Think I ought to disregard that rule not to rob banks? When the edict on bus fees passes, there is an opt out for the poor. I send in my paperwork, but they need more verification. Why? They have all the information right in their damn office. All they have to do is look at who is on the free and reduced lunch programs. But no.... I have to make more copies and send more mail to support the claim that we're poor. I love having to do this over and over again for everything we do. And guess what? We get to do it again for after school activities and sports. They can't just use the same information they already have twice, they need it again. Aaarrrggghhhh! Is it just me, or is this insanity?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I had an appointment for a phone interview today. The guy called 10 minutes late and proceeded to tell me that he wanted a systems architect who also wrote documentation. Good luck finding THAT! I've given up....there are no jobs for normal everyday technical writers anymore.

Anyhow.... back to the introduction.

I've got these twins, a boy and a girl. As Patty Duke used to say, different as night and day. Boy is profoundly gifted, ADHD and a royal pain in the butt, but is actually a very sweet kid with a lot of angst. He's also so pretty. Big blue eyes, sandy blond hair that lightens to a halo affect around his face in summer.

Girl is suffering from permanent PMS. She's had it since birth, but it's a lot more severe now that puberty is upon us. She's got learning differences and can drive a normal person to drink because so much of what goes in her ears comes out skewed beyond comprehension unless you know her.

Both are in middle school, but in different grades. They've been in a variety of school settings, most of them so horrible that it's comic to look back and remember why I paid all that money for such bad education.

The school saga

First they went to a Jewish day care centre run by a woman who couldn't keep books and made vast mistakes on people's bills. One of their classmates was the daughter of David Mamet and Rebecca Pidgeon. Nice folks, pretty down to earth. MUCH younger than I had thought possible.

Next was a year stint in kindergarten at our local Solomon Schecter Day School. Very successful for girl, sucked for boy. The letter of the week was what finally twisted the knife in his back.

In kindergarten it is customary to have a 'letter of the week' to teach the alphabet. My son had been reading for 1.5 years when he started kindergarten, but that didn't dissuade his teacher from insisting he learn the alphabet. All went according to plan until they got to the letter K. Boy, knowing that this would make a comic impact, came up with all the silent K words he could think of. Knife, knee, knight....you think of it, he suggested it to the class. The teacher was not amused. But I was, starting a lifelong policy of mom thinking kid is hilarious whilst teacher wants to strangle both kid and mom. Oh well... never been much of a conformist.

At the end of kindergarten we went west to Silicon Valley, where I enrolled the kids in a community Jewish day school. School head told us a pack of lies about the school including that the kids swam daily (never went once!), there were special math classes for gifted kids (not!), etc. etc. Nothing he told us was true and the school, well suffice it to say that they didn't hire gifted teachers. Boy's teacher was a stanford lawyer who decided she liked teaching better. This was her first year and she ran the classroom like a law office. We were already looking at other schools by November.

Next we moved to the Solomon Schecter Day School. Another total bill of goods. They didn't stick to the Schecter regs at all, the head (known as the goose for her huge ass by all the kids) was a complete head case who blamed all problems on bad parenting, and again...teachers that shouldn't have taught. Pulled boy out in Nov of 3rd grade and homeschooled him. Pulled girl out in March and homeschooled her. Life was interesting in our house, as I was looking for work, working short contracts, and teaching my kids all at the same time.

Next year we went to the local public school which was WONDERFUL. And free, too! Boy had a terrible teacher but complaints got him moved out of that class. Girl had nice teachers that saw she had LDs, something the Jewish schools denied although she was barely reading in 3rd grade.

However, the job situation was dire and we had to leave in mid April, moving back to the east coast.

So what does a sane mom do?

She decides to pack up everything and send it into storage 300 miles away and drive her twins across the country in a 1993 Caravan with 100,000 miles on it. Wouldn't you?

The trip was the highlight of my parenting life. I said it! Yup, it was a blast. I don't think any of us will ever forget it.

From CA we went to Reno where we stayed one night in Circus Circus. I now refer it to it as chokeus chokeus because the cigarette smoke was so thick. Kids loved the arcades and the show, and Boy especially loved the all you can eat desserts. Nothing like an all you can eat meal to keep the boy happy.

Day 2 took us to Salt Lake City, but not without some very funny mishaps. We almost ran out of gas, not because of bad planning, but because they had a bad storm and the electricity went out and none of the gas pumps worked! We had to go way way out of the way to get gas in a tiny town where everyone had farm animals in their front yard. Different than what we're used to! We went to bed and awoke in the middle of a raging blizzard. My only though was, we need to get over the pass before they start requiring chains. We made it through to Wyoming, which was not charming.

I wanted to drive an hour south and go to Boulder but boy was adament. No way did he want to see the Rockies or my alma mater, even though I hadn't been to Boulder in over 20 years. So we missed Colorado and barely saw the rockies in the distance.

The drive across the prarie to Lincoln Nebraska was eventful only because there were tornado warnings the entire ride. One kid looked to the right, one to the left, I covered front and back. Didn't see a twister but it was exciting listening to the radio and hearing about them crashing through towns we never heard of. Lincoln was the place where the back of the van got smashed in a hotel parking lot. Only damage the whole trip.

From Lincoln we headed to DesMoines, where we called and found the Kosher butcher (Chabad) and he kept the store open for us so we could make shabbas at a friend's house in between Ottumwa and Oskaloosa Iowa. They had never had Kosher chicken before and pronounced it delicious. Stayed with our Iowa friends for 3 nights where their kids and our kids intermingled and my kids both got riding lessons from their dad, a professional cowboy. Tons of fun, then a departure to Chicago.

We stayed with a friend's cousin for 2 nighrts in Chicago, which I just loved. What a great city. After so long in Silicon Valley and then driving across white western America, it was quite a jolt to see so many african american faces. Yes, no longer in the land of the pale! Our housing was in an Orthodox neighborhood where we could eat in real restaurants. Very very nice. We went to the art museum where the kids got to see paintings they knew about from books and we saw a game at Wrigley Field, a livelong dream of mine. It was so cold, but what a great ballpark.

Next we moved on to Cleveland, where we saw a game at Jacobs Field. I hated that stadium although the Kosher hot dog stand was right behind us (serendipitous!). It was absolutely huge and impersonal and the people in front of us were teens more impressed with their boyfriends than the game. All we saw was hair flipping, all we heard was giggling.

We also went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was a blast. I completely embarassed my children by singing out load to all the music we heard. I didn't care, that museum is made for people exactly my age. I wish we could have stayed longer, but we had another destination in mind.

That night we arrived in Cooperstown NY, where we had an appointment the next morning with the brother-in-law of a friend to show us around the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was so tired and feeling sick that I fell asleep IN the museum. Oh well... I saw everything I wanted to see.

The last night we drove to my brother's house in western MA, and then we were almost home again.

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It's four more days till my twins 11th birthday and I've planned absolutely nothing. My daughter wants a canopy to put over her bed, which would be a great present if we knew where we were going to live, or even if she was going to have a bed, but we don't.

How did this all happen? In Feb of 2001 I was working as an engineering director in a software company in Silicon Valley. Life was sweet, we had a nice home, I was raking in well over 6 figures in income, kids were in a decent school setting, and everything just hummed along. Not that there weren't some issues, there were. I had worked in 3 small startups, all of which folded in one manner or another. Two were run by complete mornons. The first startup was right after I left Netscape, and went to a company run by an Indian guy with a fake name, who wouldn't eat anything without an official taster, and came into the office around 2 pm because he didn't want to actually talk to the people who worked for him. I should have known....

The next company was run by 3 Israelis, none of whom knew anything about software development, but that didn't stop them. This CEO actually rode around in the halls on an electric scooter. They constantly spoke in Hebrew to exclude people, but forgot that I speak Hebrew. Let's just say honesty was NOT their policy.

And then I found the job I loved, and was good at, and the damn company folded. I had built up a great group with people I had worked with previously, and we were humming as a team. We developed a decent product that we were all proud of, and then the company folded one morning, giving us an hour to pack and get out.

I had one job after that, with a 5 month wait for the new company to buy the former company's software. They had no idea of what to do with it, other than destroy it, and of course, that's exactly what they did. This company was run by a guy who fancied himself so important that he demanded you be available for meetings and then didn't show up himself. Hated him.

So, I started my downhill stretch with a bunch of failed jobs behind me, and absolutely no possibility of employment anytime in the future. Here it is 2.5 years later and I've kept 'busy' building web sites, fielding content, teaching gifted kids web site creation, and watching Dr Phil on tv.

Next, I'll talk about school, kids, and the insanity of moving across the country with no prospect of a job on either coast.

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