Thursday, June 25, 2015

Deliverance

We were the only ones up and stirring at that hour of the morning.  Despite our proximity to the just-past Summer Solstice, the sun had not yet made its way to our view of the skyline this early in the day.  School had just let out for the summer, or was about to be let out.  Schedules were changing for the season.  It was a time of transition, it was a time for vacations, a time of graduations, a time for commencement. 

We let ourselves out of the house as quietly as possible.  The cats assumed it was time for breakfast, and they got fed the usual.  The cats always think it’s time for feeding.  Once in a while, they are right.  The livery car was early.  We were earlier.  As soon as the black town car pulled in front of our house, we were locking the door, down the steps to the driveway.  The driver made no effort to assist with the bags.  I was unimpressed.  A dozen or so times, a black car has pulled up in front of our house in the stealth of early morning.  We’d be eagerly waiting for the ride, to the airport, for vacation, or sometimes we’d greet the ride less eagerly, and only one of us would get in the car if it was travel for business.  This black car was not airport-bound.  There would be no departures.  There would be no landings.  Today, there would be an arrival.

The cushy, wide back seat left plenty of room for the two of us, plus the arm-rest was down in the center, with water bottles resting in its build-in cup holders.  No eating, I told myself.  We were on local roads, and yet I wasn’t driving, so I sat back and enjoyed the chance to be chauffeured.  We headed north on the Hutch, red and orange sunrise streaking the sky, though still dusk enough that opposing traffic twinkled their headlights.  It was set to be a nice day.  Maybe not a perfect, crystal-clear, low humidity June day, but a good one nonetheless.  The back seat was so ample and roomy, I stretched out my legs, crossed my ankles, and a melody filled my head:

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
Of gold and starlight in your eyes of blue
                                                     
                                                  -The Carpenters (lyrics: B. Bacharach, H. David)

Best birth-day lyric ever: ‘On the day that you were born, the angels got together, and decided to create a dream come true’.  Sums up how I feel about both of my kids, even the off-the-wall little boy and, of course my littlest one, about to be evicted in three hours, more or less. 

The black car got off the Hutch and switched to I-95, which was basically empty at this hour except for a few trucks.  But they were the big trucks, the semis and the freight haulers.  A few feet from our exit for the hospital, the driver realized he’d have to cut across three lanes of interstate and wove the car between two gasoline tankers.  I shut my eyes and gripped the door handle, and kept them that way until we were in the emergency bay of the hospital.  A few more feet of crazy driving like that and I’d be in that ER on a gurney and not walking myself through the door.  Crazy livery-car driver man had gotten us to the hospital quite early, mostly due to his general disregard for the speed limit and flammable tankers on the road.  An ER staff person wheeled me up to the third floor for Labor and Delivery.  The wheel chair ride was nice and slow and avoided colliding into anything or anyone, though at 5:30 in the morning, there was little hallway traffic as well.  Even the ER seemed to be having a slow night. 

I was deposited into a pre-op room, an internal room with no windows (I was hoping to catch more of the sunrise), but there was a monitor with all the Labor and Delivery patients’ doctors names, delivering some graphic data to the screen in medical shorthand, I killed time guessing the logic to the codes and hypothesizing which patients were faring better than others.  I saw my doctor’s name on the monitor, so he had another patient here already.  I sat on the bed in the pre-op room and looked at my phone a bunch of times but there just wasn’t much going on at 5:30 in the morning on a calm Thursday in June.  Rob sat in a nearby chair and did the same.

By now, the sugary-mellow Carpenter’s tune had left my head.  The near-death experience on I-95 and the beep-beep of medical telemetry were clearing my head and sobering my mood, just the way a nice, strong cup of coffee would have done (I’d prefer the coffee – but no pre-surgical eating!)  The baby is coming, it’s just a few hours now!  But I wasn’t excited.  I was excited.  But I wasn’t excited.  There was this one last, very big step, before the baby would arrive, so that I could be, well, close to her.  Though pretty much everything went fine during the last thirty-nine weeks of pregnancy, from taking my vitamins, to tests and blood pressure readings and sonograms, this was not a difficult pregnancy, it surely had its uncomfortable moments, but we weren’t in the high-risk group.  Yet it all came down to this.  The actual delivery of the baby, the final step.  There would be no labor.  Just delivery.  Just deliverance.  Repeat C-section.  Relax, you’ve done it before.  Lay down, have baby surgically removed, recover, easy-peasy!

Just before six A.M. I received a face-time call on my phone.  It was Nick.  “Mommy where are you?”  OMG, child, don’t guilt-trip me now, I’m really very new at this balancing act called ‘Mother of Two’.  I snuck away in the early darkness and left you sleeping soundly in your bed with your Grandma for a good reason.  It’s been a long day and it hasn’t even gotten started yet.  I told him “Sister is coming, I’ll see you soon”.  There was some other chitchat about eating breakfast and ‘go to school!’ (I later found out my mom let him stay home), but I wasn’t sure I convinced him to chill out because I couldn’t convince myself to chill out.  I had to get to deliverance.  Then I could chill out.  (Yeah, right!)

A nurse and a tech came in, and gave me the run down.  I changed into a gown, and got poked with an IV line for a few tries, then I got hooked up to a monitor and my metrics were now on the telemetry screen too.  I was on deck.  This was getting serious.  A nurse took my medical history, and I guess now was as good as time as any, even though this information must have been supplied somewhere prior, in my pre-certification or from my doctor’s office or from the first time I had a baby, somewhere, no?  (I have to interject – the pre-certification form asks if you are in the hospital due to an accident.  I assume they mean by cause of a workplace or motor vehicle accident, but I’m thinking pregnancies could go either way.  I checked the “no” box.)  We were approaching 7AM and the turmoil of shift change, so many different nurses and techs were in and out.  Many of them asked me if this was my first child, to which I replied “no”.  Once you identify yourself as a repeat delivery or experienced mom, I think the conversation takes a different turn.  When you have your first, you get responses like “Congratulations”, “Best Wishes”, “He/She’ll be lovely”.  When you have baby #2 or beyond, you get a look like “Welcome to Extreme Exhaustion Again”, “You Know You’re Crazy” and “How old is/are your other child(ren)”.  If the nurse/tech also has kids, and it seems like most do, it opens the door for them to tell you about their kids.  Whatever the combination or permutation of children, age ranges and genders, all responses are met with a few, pre-set answers; polite, superficial, small talk.  These conversations are all followed by the same, desperate, tired look, of nurse-moms ending their shifts, in need of a vacation and a martini.   Ladies, I hear you.

My obstetrician, Dr. Bob, came into the room.  He seemed worn down from his other patient.  I was concerned.  “Go get a coffee”, I said (and I need one too, OK?) I quickly glanced at the monitor to compare beeps and graphs with myself (doing nothing) and his other patient, doing, well, I don’t know what.  He seemed happy to see me, a scheduled, lower-risk, repeat C-section.  I think we all know why he wa$ happy to $ee me.  I wa$ a patient with a very predictable circum$tance.  Repeat C-$ection.  Fully in$ured.  We all knew the drill.  I wanted to say, let’s go grab a coffee and chit chat about some other light conversation we’ve had during this third trimester:  my new dishwasher, your trip to Myrtle Beach, the up-coming wedding of one of your nurses… anything.  He seemed to be looking forward to the predictability and precision of a surgical delivery.  And even though I felt he had done a very good job delivering Nick, I just wanted to get it all over with, the surgical part, the part where they put a needle in your spine, the extreme nakedness part, the part where you stop breathing until you hear baby's first cry, the part where everybody is in your business, and I mean IN YOUR business in the most literal sense.   I just wanted a coffee.  Does anyone want to let me have a coffee?

No.

Coffee addiction aside, I was nervous about this delivery.  You have your first child all starry-eyed and hopeful, but you have your second (and subsequent) child(ren) knowing full well what can go wrong, with either of you, because now you have experience, and you have more mommy-friends, and you have their experiences, and you have context.  And in the back of your logical, prepared mind, you know that the possibility of health issues that can arise is both broad and multi-variable.  When you deliver a second child, who is healthy and intact, you can’t help but think it was nothing short of miraculous.  Forget modern science and in$urance coverage.  Nothing short of miraculous.

Dr. Bob stepped out and the anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself as Dr. L.  He asked me if I was allergic to anything.  I thought to myself, well this would be a hell of a time to find out? “No.”  I’ve never had an allergic reaction to anything, even if I’ve lied in the past and told people I was allergic to hot dogs just so I wouldn’t have to eat them.  I doubt hot dogs would make their way into the spinal, but you never know. 

It was go time.  Game faces on.  The OR was ready.  Dr. L was ready.  Dr. Bob introduced the second surgeon, but he was a blur, so I’ll call him Dr. X.  I have a feeling he was a student.  I hope he had had enough coffee, and enough sleep.  Dr. Bob announced we were delivering a baby girl today, and everyone seemed on board.  A fourth doctor came into the room, Dr. T, a neonatologist.  He was tall and bearded and a bit Santa Claus-ish.  He would take care of the baby, once delivered, alongside two neonatal nurses, plus two other maternal/OR nurses.  4 (or 3.5) doctors, 4 nurses, one scrub-clad daddy and me in my breezy hospital gown and compression booties.  I’ve gone to cocktail parties with less people (though not lately). 

I sat on the edge of the bed, hunched over and waiting for the spinal.  There was an issue with my medical bracelet, well, basically, I didn’t have one, so they had to fix the bracelet printer thingy.  We waited for a new printer cartridge.  And we waited.  And we waited to print a bracelet thingy.  And we waited a little more.

A few weeks earlier, the Wall Street Journal ran articles about the horrid conditions of maternity hospitals in India, and the pressures on their health system given the growing population.  I also read a story about how the biggest challenge to labor and delivery in a southern African nation was how the hospital kept running out of electricity.  A non-profit group was distributing the equivalent of flood-light back packs to help assist with night time procedures.  And here we were, in Greenwich, Connecticut, unable to print an ID bracelet – something we could technically assemble by hand.  Four nurses, a hospital with plenty of electricity and air conditioning, not to mention computerized equipment, a Greek neonatologist, an anesthesiologist from the former Soviet Union, a Jewish obstetrician originally from Queens, a daddy from the Bronx, a mommy from Brooklyn, a fourth physician at our disposal, so insignificant I can’t even remember his name (sorry, Dr. X) in a hospital with a wing named after a client of the Private Bank for which I used to work.  They say it’s not about where you start in life, dear baby, it’s where you finish.  Thursday’s Child has far to go.

As the anesthesia took over, I just felt this overwhelming sense of dread, heaviness in my limbs, and nausea.  I did not want to have surgery.  I wanted to have my baby, but I didn’t want to have surgery.  Having never been through labor, I really didn’t want to have a labor either.  I didn’t want a labor.  I didn’t want a surgery.  I just wanted my baby delivered through, I don’t know, reverse osmosis or whatever.  Just come out, baby.  No fuss.  No booties.  No four doctors and as many nurses in my room.  No needles in the spine.  No recovery.  No trauma.  No drama.  No stitches.  Just my baby.  Just a healthy baby.  (And a coffee).

It would just be a few minutes now, I told myself, trying to self-soothe, as I lay back on the table, limbs splayed and being gutted like a fish.  One arm outstretched with a blood pressure cuff.  The other with the IV.  Dr. L at my head asking if I was alright.  I couldn’t even answer.  Drs. Bob and X were chit-chatting about a restaurant.  That was my signal that things seemed to be going OK if their banter was casual.  Just a few more minutes, I told myself, but I was mesmerized by the overhead lamp, a wide circle filled with several little light bulbs, their heat pored into my skin.  I was on fire.  I was cold.  I was really nauseous.  I felt drunk.  Dr. L was speaking in tongues.  Rob was missing. No he was there, but I couldn’t understand anyone, surgical masks muffling all dialogue.  I was on a trip, or maybe a hallucination.  Later I found out I was on morphine.  I thought they only used that stuff on terminal patients.  What was to be my fate?  Whoa.  There was pressure, and pulling, and more pulling, and a lamp searing into my soul.  I was ready for this to be over.

I felt a release of pressure and the baby had been delivered.  Though none of the doctors seemed worried, two seconds, perhaps even only one second passed before she cried.  But in that fraction of time and in my hallucinogenic state, I aged ten years. 

I had only been in this new, upside-down position for only a short while, and it wasn’t all that comfortable anymore.  I was relaxing, waiting for breakfast to head my way, but today things seemed out of routine.  Our usual night time rest seemed shorter than usual.  By now, Mom would have had some coffee, if not a full meal.  I’m not sure what was going on, so I went back to my usual games of staring at my hands and sucking on my fingers, these things taste good!  I was going to start stretching out my legs for the morning, as my little home was closing in on me and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could take such cramped confines.  Suddenly, and without warning, a light shone into my little space.  It was bright and blinding. And things were getting loud, lots of voices, but where was Mom?

I was pulled out of my little, warm, cozy and squishy nook and now found myself in a bright, cold, vast space surrounded by masked people in blue.  I was so disoriented, I paused for a moment, and as the cold, dry air was starting to chill me, I let out a wail. 

And then I heard it.  A nurse recorded it at 08:27 Eastern Standard Time.

Everybody was talking.  But I was listening.  Everybody was busy.  But I was trying to focus.  I needed to hear it.  I needed to hear the sound of baby’s first cry, of baby’s first breath.  That was my confirmation.  That was my deliverance.  There was my little love.  There was my miracle.  She was my blessing, and she was here, pink, gooey and breathing. 
  
Some gloved hands put me down to rest on papery, blue sheets.  I was cold and confused and blinded by this huge lamp with hundreds of eyes.  I shut my eyes and cried.  I didn’t like this set up.  I was not a fan.  I then felt some tugging on my food tube.  ‘Umbilical Cord’ was the phrase I heard them say and then, snap!  They cut it off!  Wait, what about breakfast!  What about the coffee?  I needed that!  That was my source of food for my entire life! 

This day was going from bad to worse.  One blue-masked man picked me up and handed me over to another blue-masked man, who walked me across the room and put me in a box with clear sides.  I was poked and prodded and measured and then they smeared some goo over my eyes.  I was basically being tortured, starved and frozen.  This was the worst day of my life.

This was one of the happiest days of my life, even though I felt like crap.  I could see Dr. Bob hand the baby over to Dr. T. and then the staff split themselves into two teams: baby care and mom recovery.  I caught a glimpse of her, and she was tiny and cute and splotchy and had the look of ‘WTF?’ on her small face.  I’ll see you on the flip side, little one.  Now I just had to keep it together, or rather Dr. Bob had to sew me back together and I had to get off this morphine-induced magic carpet ride.  I either had had a baby, or had a hallucination about having abdominal surgery.  I’m pretty sure it was the former.  My job was done.  (Ha! My job(s) were only beginning!)  My body returned to carrying only one heartbeat, instead of two.  A new soul had entered the universe.  The world gained another pair of feet, ready to explore, another set of hands, ready to grasp, another set of eyes, ready to observe, another heart, ready to love. 

I was pretty furious over my eviction, so I cried some more, and then I peed.  A lady put a diaper on my tush and a little cap on my head, but I was still pretty cold.  The blue-masked man kept booming out statistics with his big voice and gesturing with his arms like he was flying.  “Seven pounds, eleven ounces”, he seemed to be shouting.  “She’s twenty inches long”, “What will be her name?” His voice reverberated across the room.

“Kate.”

Wait a minute, I recognize that voice! It’s Mom!  Where is she?  I can’t see her.  I heard another blue-mask ask her if she was ready for a third child, and then I heard her again, laughing, almost wildly so.  I cried louder thinking, Mom, if you can hear me, I’m being held captive and I need your help!

Mid-surgery, Dr. Bob asked me when could he expect baby number three.  Despite my nausea, I laughed, if not partially choked.  Hold your horse$, sir.

Third child?  Who else are we talking about?  Then a bracelet was put on my wrist and another one looped around my ankle, they matched but one had a little box on the end of it.  Maybe that’s where they put the food.  I was getting kind of hungry.  I was scooped up and wrapped in two blankets, tightly tucked in and starting to warm up.  The prodding and measuring was over.  Maybe the worst of today was behind me.  Just as I was settling into my swaddle in a clear box, I was scooped up again and whisked across the room.  I was placed in the arms of another blue-clad man.  He brought me close to his face and I saw his big, green eyes taking stock of me.  “Hi, Kate”, he said, the voice was familiar.  It was Daddy!  Thank goodness, I thought.  Dad, you will not believe the day I’ve had!  I could use some cuddles.  Dad kissed my cheek and swiveled around on his stool, placing my cheek next to the face of a woman.  Her eyes looked tired but her smell was so recognizable!

“Hello, my sweet baby.”       

Mom!  My parents were here!  This day was getting better by the minute.  She kissed what little parts of my skin were exposed, and not wrapped in a blanket nor covered by my cap, and she whispered to me:

On the day that you were born the angels got together
hmmmm….mmmmm….mmmmm…
Just like me, they long to be
close to you…

And with that sweet tune, my snug-ness re-secured and my parents near, I drifted.
Off.
To sleep.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A River Runs Through It

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

                -Carly Simon

I left my house in darkness.  I boarded the train in darkness.  I emerged from the tunnels of Grand Central in darkness.  It was the end of December and everything was very dark, and cold, and dark all the time.  It was a Monday, or a Wednesday or a Friday, one of the days I go into work super early so I’d soon be at my desk before the sun rose.  December 31st is our fiscal year-end so I was going in super early to get things done.  I don’t work late any longer.  I have day care pickup.  So I work early.  But early or late, in December, everything is dark.  And cold.

But this day I was going to take a little detour before going to work.  I swung west towards Fifth Avenue and walked past Rockefeller Center, past the big, illuminated tree.  I didn’t stop, I didn’t cross over Fifth and actually go into the plaza, I just kept walking, looked at the tree and that was it, my big holiday season viewing of this giant, midtown arborous tourist trap, check that one off the list for 2014, move on.  Christmas was over and now it’s just dark December. 

I kept walking north, past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and as I got to the corner of 53rd street, pivoted right, while keeping the pace of my brisk walk, and turned east.  And there it was. 

The beauty and order of Manhattan’s grid system, lends the vantage point that some cross-town streets have the perfect setup for catching the sunset, or sunrise.   And in the early hours of this cold, dark, but clear and crisp winter morning, looking directly eastward I saw morning’s first light rising behind the tower of doom. 

And there it was:  the tower of doom.  Or specifically, our Long Island City office tower, a fifty-story greenish glass tower of urban zoning mismatch and corporate mayhem. 

With the sun beginning to rise behind the tower, it looked almost ablaze, and part of me wished that the building would just burn down.  I mean, let’s be clear, I wouldn’t want it to burn down with anyone inside.  I do not wish for anyone to be injured.  I’ve ‘evacuated’ that building when summertime brown-outs were putting high-rise elevators out of commission a few years ago, and nobody needs a panic.  But if that building, that stand-alone glass house in western Queens, could just disappear, just be swallowed up by the Earth, if it could just implode, or perhaps be engulfed in a Sharknado, that would be great.

I had worked in that building from 2005 through 2011, and in three weeks I would be moving back. 

As I walked through the hallways of our current office, still happily located in Midtown East, I zigzagged around moving dollies, dumpsters and pallets of flattened cardboard boxes yet to be assembled, labeled and filled with office treasures.  We were preparing for the move as a group, but some were more ready to pack up and go than others.  Everything would have to get packed, including the file room (which was a small library), personal effects, such as a favorite stapler, tchochkies celebrating system roll-outs (for example I have a ‘magic wand’ for the roll-out of Client Wizard, but it has no magical powers when it comes to getting discontent coworkers to co-operate.  Trust me, I’ve tried).  Some coworkers have the ‘Balance Sheet Pyramid’ knick-knack.  The pointed tip of this thing could easily be used as a weapon, and its base a true blunt object.  People should consider the impalement factor when designing these things, or else it’s death by accounting toys, that is a horrible way to go.  The crap that adorns everyone’s desks has no real monetary value, but we all love our stuff.  I had to pack up my recent purchase, a mint-green pencil holder I found in the dollar bin at Target, a little something to brighten up my lack of moving enthusiasm.  And I still had to pack my drawer of black dress shoes, because like many office workers, I commute in my sneakers every day. 

I’ve been through a company move before, and that one went quite well, and that whole office building had just undergone a fantastic, modern renovation.  But I’ve never moved with one team back to the floor and building I used to work on with another team, and this is what I was not looking forward to.  Not only was I aware that this floor had not been renovated in forever, our relegation out of Manhattan and into Queens was basically a reinforcement of where our group sits in the grand hierarchy of people who matter.  We weren’t worth our high-rent district any longer.  I had told one of our managers I felt like I was going backwards, as if place is an indicator of position and going back to the same floor I had been on was like my whole career was going backwards.  He reassured me that where you sit is not an indicator of what you do, and the whole company is being shuffled around as leases get renegotiated and contracts change, this was only temporary.   And I knew that was true for everyone, but we move to a fifty-story building and we have to go to the one exact same floor I had been on prior, what is the chance of that?  The one exact same floor that is home to the team I left three years ago on my own volition.  Nope.  We couldn’t pick another floor.  Out of fifty.   We.  Couldn’t.  Pick.  Another.  Floor.



That first Monday came around, our first day in the new building, or the old building or I guess 2015 is truly the year of Back to The Future.  Backwards.  Forwards.  Whatever.  I had my metrocard and it was back on the subway for me.  I hadn’t owned a metrocard (or one with actual money on it) for a while, I just had my commuter rail pass and my sneakered feet to get to and from work for 3 and one half years.  The timing of all this is funny because I spent both pregnancies commuting to work without having to take the subway, except for a one-off trip here or there.  I thank God every day for sparing me from having to be pregnant while having to take the subway.  I missed out on a whole smorgasbord of vile smells and odors, pushy people, extreme personal space invasions, probably not ever getting a seat, escalators that don’t work, elevators that are death traps, vermin, nutjobs, crowds and, did I mention, bad smells.  Now it’s as if post-partum life ended, and my freedom from the subway has also ended -- fateful timing. 

I bought a coffee in Grand Central (the biggest size they could legally sell me), as a little ‘umph’ for having to go further underground and get the seven train.  Little did I know Long Island City has zero (0) breakfast wagon carts.  Zero.  As I walked down the flight of stairs to the 4-5-6 trains, and then further down to the 7, I passed a woman with a shopping cart selling hats and scarves.  Apropos for January, but I had remembered a woman with a shopping cart in that exact same spot selling churros.   Granted it was over three years ago, but what happened to her?  Or was this woman one and the same with new merchandise?  Or did the rats get all the churros?  I’d have to get filled in on 7 train life after my hiatus.  What else did I miss?

As the seven train pulled into the station, I noticed it was more crowded at this time of day than it had been in the past.  More people are reverse-commuting into Queens than before, no joke.  One face on the train stood out and I quickly realized it was my former manager.  I knew I would be running into him on our (new/old) floor but on the seven train, already?  And why was he on the train before me?  He comes into Grand Central like I do, he should get on where I get on.  I was suspicious and I was not ready to deal with awkward circumstances, so I hopped into another train car and laid low. 

It would only take about two minutes for the train to slide under the East River and emerge into this once-upon-a-time dockland area of the western-most tip of the land mass that is Long Island.  But those two minutes represented a world of change.  And the East River, technically not a river, but rather a post-glacial salt water tidal strait, was my natural boundary between good and bad, between relevance and obsolescence, between opportunity and isolation, between energy and stagnation, between professionalism and crazy town.

Two stops into Queens, the train rises and traces an elevated track via a ‘S’ curve.  As the train emerged from the tunnel, I noticed much had changed to both the LIC and the Manhattan skylines.  Long Island City, which had been constructing high-rise apartment towers here and there, now had residential towers by the dozens, and a few old industrial brick shells re-fabricated into apartments and lofts just the same.  Some looked inhabited, others were still works in progress.  And as the seven snaked its ‘S’ curve left, then right, it was easy to spot the slim silhouette of Park Avenue’s new 89-story apartment tower on 56thstreet to the northwest, and the thick metal girth of the new World Trade Center to the southwest.

I exited the seven train and walked towards our office building.  When I got to the building, I hoped that my ID card would not let me through the turnstile.  But it did.  When I got to our floor’s lobby, I hoped that my ID card would not let me through the doors.  But it did.  I guess I was supposed to be here.  I guess I was really here.  This was really happening. 

A yellow and gray sign bearing my name hung from the ceiling above my cubicle in our somewhat open-plan workspace, but I already knew where my seat was, and I already knew who had sat here before me from my prior tour of duty on this floor.  My boxes full of desk treasures, dress shoes, files and a magic wand were waiting for me next to my new workspace.  I began to unpack and re-situate my stuff in a workspace layout in which I had already spent five years.  But this time I had a few new accessories to add to my desk.  My $1 Target find.  Knick-knacks from our corporate sponsorship of the last two Olympics.  Business cards stating a rise in corporate title.  A framed photo of a baby girl.  A mousepad chock full of photos of a little boy.  

A yellow and gray sign bearing my name hung from the ceiling above my new cubicle.  But my last name on that sign was not the last name I had when I moved out of this building a few years ago.  Landscapes were changing.  Cityscapes were doing what they do best: reinventing themselves.  Maybe I would do the same.  But first, I'd have to secure a new coffee dealer in my new (old) world.  And maybe a churro too!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The (Second Annual) State of the Borough


My Fellow Borough Dwellers, it’s been a long time. 

Seven months have passed since the last publication of the Seventh Borough News, which covered the fast approaching birth of my daughter, and said child has been keeping me busy.  It’s not so much that two children take up twice as much time as one child does, even if you had 19 children, you still only have 24 hours in your day.  But it’s the sheer exhaustion of managing a two-pronged front, the shifting between sweet, slow baby-speed, and the zip-zip-zip of a fully mobile, fully opinionated 2.5 year-old, each day that will wipe out even the smallest shred of creativity.  And then there is the other reason why people sometimes just drop off the face of the Earth, if you will: being in love.  I’ve been smitten with this little baby girl and all her baby-isms and tiny baby feet and sweet coos.  She’s easy to love, she’s an affectionate soul and I think she will grow up to be a warm-fuzzy sweetheart.  Or I’m totally wrong.  Not that I don’t love the rest of my family very much, but as I write this, my four-legged Rita is walking all over this keyboard and the now three-year-old is as demanding as a diva and is always willing to negotiate for one more TV show or one more bedtime story.   Nick’s negotiations are always one-sided so I’m not even sure that counts as a negotiation.   It’s a battle of dictators.  Mommy always wins in the end, but at what cost?

During these last seven months of exhaustion, I’ve written partially finished posts, jotted down notes, collected ‘souvenirs’ for blog input and done some research as needed, even though no entry has been published.  Though it may seem like radio silence on one end, I’ve really been trying to pull things together on my end.  A few weeks ago, a friend of mine quoted from one of my posts verbatim and I admit, I freaked out.  It made me nervous not because a friend read something I wrote, but as this stuff is basically non-fiction, it’s floating out there in the World Wide Web and I feel I end up with drafts that have been censoring everything out to the point where there is no story.  Like one big sheet of paper filled with redacted, blacked-out text, the more sanitized the blog, the more boring it is.  It’s a balance.  I’m working on it.  Also, that fact that my friend quoted my post made me think that people actually read this rag.  I mean read it and remember it months later.  I feel as though my approach to writing this blog is like that phrase on every piece of Home Goods wall d├ęcor “Dance like no one’s watching, Sing like no one’s listening, Love like you’ve never been hurt…” and then the lights came on and I realized people (or at least one person) was/were watching.  They were listening.  I was kind of shocked.  This is not a #humblebrag.  This is a momentous day for a shy girl. 

That being said, let’s aim high.  The Seventh Borough News welcomes you to join our Facebook site (group site).  Posts will still be originated on Blogspot, but also posted through Facebook, where we can post photos more easily.  The Facebook page will host three categories of blogging: The Seventh Borough News (it is non-fiction, even if it’s not cutting-edge journalism); Lakeview Gardens, will cover posts about gardening, beginning in the spring; and The Focus, for photos and photo editing.

That’s the Seventh Borough’s agenda for 2015, photos and social media, in other words, stuff ten year-olds can manage.  Two year-olds can handle Netflix; I’ve witnessed that first-hand.  It’s brand management, of sorts.  Something I’ve only studied and read about, and now we’ll try to put it into practice. 

Now that our agenda is set, let’s discuss the State of The Borough.  Last year I published our first State of The Borough, while actually watching the State of the Union on TV.  This year, as I was finally getting posts wrapped up, I thought I’d refresh the blog with the State of The Borough on the same day as the State of the Union, which of course, in my mind was to take place next Tuesday, so I’m late.  Getting messed with by the gub’ment.  What else is new?  This year I did watch the State of the Union, and by watch, I mean the TV was on for about 15 minutes and I was awake for about 6 of those minutes, but in that short amount of time, I noted two things: the Speaker of the House is seriously, seriously orange, either the camera adds a few shades of apricot to Mr. Boehner, or he needs to swap districts with the New Jersey representation if he is such a serious champion of fake tanning.  And secondly, the President chooses this year to highlight our collective lack of maternity leave.  Um, Barack, my 2014 State of the Borough was all over that topic when I was 16 weeks pregnant last January.   7th Boro: 1, POTUS: 0. 

But really, what’s the State of Borough number 7 in 2015?  Let me take you through a (sort of) typical outer-borough day:

Wake up at 4:30, go back to bed. Wake up at 5:15, Rob’s leaving at 6 for a week-long business trip.  Put on the news.  News says two planes were evacuated at JFK due to a bomb threat.  Rob’s flying out of JFK, fantastic!  Feed baby, say good bye to husband, get dressed, get Nick out of bed, ‘negotiate’ how much Scooby Doo he can watch before getting dressed.  ‘Negotiate’ with baby gate at top of stairs.  Leave kids alone in the house for 10 seconds to start the car and warm it up.  Freak out about leaving kids alone in the house for 10 seconds.  Understand an automatic car starter is not a bad idea if you park in a driveway.  Note to self: next car = automatic car starter.  Return to house, realized kids made it through ten seconds, Rita was ‘babysitting’.  Cat = babysitting = Cat snoozing in bouncy seat.  Make coffee, put coffee in thermos, put thermos in handbag.  Message contractor.  Contractor replies he will come and fix the hole in my kitchen ceiling due to bathroom leak last Wednesday.  Leave front door unlocked for contractor.  Leave house, ‘fake lock’ the door, yes, motion as if locking the door, just in case any neighbors would willingly come out of their house in 20 degree weather and spy on my front door.  That kind of paranoid.  Yes, I’m from Brooklyn.  Put two children in five-point harness car seats.  2 x 5 = 10 clicks.  Kids snug, back out of driveway, go to day care.  Small chitchat with daycare peeps.  Have a nice day, kiss, kiss, mommy loves.  Come back home, park car, eyeball my ‘fake locked’ door, decide everything looks ok, hustle to train station, get on 8:05, secure seat on train, take coffee thermos out of purse, use inside voice to tell coffee how much I love it.  Read Wall Street Journal, there’s Orange John on the cover of the State of the Union issue. 

Leave Grand Central, walk up Park Avenue, “take it all in”, I tell myself, next week we’ll be in Queens.  Feel depressed, play Bon Jovi on iPod, feel less depressed.  Find my breakfast wagon man, buy roll and second coffee, it’s already a long day and it’s not yet 9 AM.  Notice that my coffee wagon, once run entirely by Francisco and covered in Italian flags, has merged with Uncle Gussy’s Greek food truck and now sports the flags of both Greece and Italy and a “Je Suis Charlie” poster.  Who will be next?

Prepare for a day of meetings.  Step out of meeting for cell phone call. Contractor calls me that he set off house alarm and I had to give him the password.  Freak out that despite all my efforts in ‘fake locking’ the door, now the alarm will be disabled during the course of this repair work.  Note to self: change the password on the house alarm.  Wonder if the police will be dispatched to my house. Go back to meeting and watch phone like a hawk for a call from the cops and/or the alarm company.  Nothing.  Focus on meeting.   Leave meeting.  Co-worker approaches me on a question about a change in methodology, mid-sentence, co-worker hears there are cake pops in the pantry and runs out to get one.  Co-worker comes back about 10 minutes later to finish discussion.  I’m distracted by the crumbs on his face.  Get a cake pop later, it wasn’t that good.   Text message from husband:  Plane landed safely.  Excellent.

Break for lunch; make some chitchat with other ladies in the pantry, including the Bjork lady.  Yes, a woman who works on my floor (but not in my department) looks just like Bjork.  I don’t know her name, but she is notorious for leaving her food in the microwave long after its finished cooking.   Note to self: if you are going to be violating lunchroom etiquette on a regular basis, it’s best to not resemble a famous person, so people can’t identify you so easily.  Go back to desk, eat food, check out stuff on my phone, including but not limited to: photos of “OPB” (Other People’s Babies), adorable, fuzzy cats, seven hundred varieties of slow-cooker chili on Pinterest,   not totally sure what Zulilly sells, NKOTB at MSG, what!!!!

Answer some emails, watch the Euro tank, borrow $95,000,000, begin hoarding office supplies in anticipation of our move to Long Island City.  Surely there are no orange highlighters in Queens.  Wire $150,000,000 from a subsidiary to its parent, get a cup of tea, go to afternoon meetings, notice conference room table is covered in cake pop crumbs.  Assume the usual suspects.  Pay attention in meeting.  Stop paying attention and check phone that the cops haven’t arrested my contractor (I need him to fix the leak in the bathroom; I’ve been taking 90 second showers to avoid a re-leak and 90-second showers SUCK!). 

Done with meetings, check some emails, check phone, no emergencies from contractor, no emergencies from day care, no emergencies from traveling husband, no emergencies from my mom.   Work on PowerPoint presentation.  One cubicle mate is playing Z100.  One cubicle mate is playing ‘80s radio.  Love both, just not at the same time.   Leave work and walk to Grand Central.  Get to day care, pick kids up.  Get a talking to because Nick’s been calling everyone a poopie head at day care.  Totally take day care’s side that calling people a poopie head is wrong.  Meanwhile, think poopie head is not really that bad in the grand scheme of things, but maybe when you are 3, it’s pretty bad.  Say ‘hi’ to other girl at day care, little does she know she is my unofficial daughter-in-law because Nick has categorized her as one of his wives.  Do not ask 3 year-old why he has a ‘wife’ or how many ‘wives’ he has.  Little girl speaks with a British accent because she’s a marathon watcher of Peppa Pig.  Little girl tells me her daddy is on holiday.  Note to self: good he’s out of town lest he find out we’ve become in-laws somehow.  Reinforce that poopie head is not a nice word.  At home, Nick’s job is to get the mail out of the mail box; he says there was no mail the other day (Rev. Martin Luther King Day).  I say yes, that’s true, it was a holiday.  Nick asks if yesterday was Christmas.  I say no, it was Martin Luther King Day.  Realize I have no idea where to begin to explain to a three year-old the significance of Martin Luther King Day.  Note to self: figure that out before the next Martin Luther King Day.  Make baby a bottle, can’t wait for baby to talk as much as Nick does.  On second thought, maybe I can.  Position baby so that I can smell her head as I feed her.  Ask Nick what he would like for dinner, given that the kitchen is totally out of commission.  Nick:  Fruit Snacks.  Me: Umm, no, try again.

Get the shorties to bed.  2 kids x 2-legged fleece feety pajamas = 4 little legs bundled for bed.  Take 90-second shower, put on pj’s, open fridge, find glass of wine I poured over the weekend and never had time to drink.  Ice cupcakes for day-care birthday party, secure location to hide cupcakes from cat over night.  Where is cat?  Lapping up my wine.  Cheers!

 

Truth is, none of this is very exciting. We’re just a family of four trying to make it to the weekend, and I’m just a Borough dweller trying to report the humor in everyday life.  That is the state of our union, of our borough.  Just another buzz of the alarm clock, another train to catch, another (five hundred thousand) cups of coffee to drink, another conference call, another quarter end, another swipe on the metrocard, one more day care pickup, a few more baby cuddles, a few more bedtime stories, and one more kiss good night. 

We’re back in business in the Seventh Borough.