Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fill in the Blank

It's been a rough week.

Despite the high of graduating last week, I think the low of not getting the fellowship has followed me into this week. Couple that with slow days at work and too much time to think and it makes for some not-so-good headspace. I have been left feeling like I no longer know which way is up. The trajectory I thought my life was taking is no longer an option, and I am overwhelmed at the infinite choices that are before me.

I was at a friend's house the other night and when I went into the bathroom, I saw words written on the bathroom mirror. At the top was the phrase "_______ is my antidepressant" and below was a list of items and activities. Each day, my friend would write something new, and focus on that, plus the items on the rest of the list, to keep from sliding into a funk. I liked the idea, but hadn't made time to put it into action for myself.

Today, in an effort to keep my life in perspective, I began my own list. Coming up with something today was admittedly tough - a long day of work followed by a night of babysitting that may or may not be a positive experience, depending on the older child and whether or not he's willing to refrain from wrestling with his baby brother (who is not even one and most definitely cannot fight back). But I did finally come up with something, and today, "walking to work" is my antidepressant.

I've already got tomorrow's picked out: on Thursday, "G" is my antidepressant (because "N's beer" probably shouldn't be featured on this kind of list).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Big Dig

As promised, this is the post where I share a truly embarrassing bit about myself and trust that those of who who are my friends out there will love me despite the horrors to which I am about to expose you.

I have a very small bedroom. My bedroom is where I sleep, eat breakfast, surf the internet, and do homework, so it requires that I have the tools/space with which to do those things (bed, computer, text books, etc.). Because there is such limited space, I am usually good at putting things away in a timely manner so that my room doesn't get too cluttered. However, when I get stressed everything gets thrown on my bed, and when I'm really stressed, I eventually can't find my bed through it all. Lucky for me, I sleep on one side of the bed and don't move around much, so it doesn't much impact my sleep, however it does make me dread walking into my room.

Today, I reclaimed my bed. But before I show you the end result, let's play a few rounds of "find the hidden objects":

Can you find...?
- 2 purses
- 1 new shirt
- 2 jackets
- 1 recently finished box of Trader Joe's candy cane Joe-Joe's
- 1 book
- 1 Jumbo Super Lint-Buster
- 1 wedding invitation
- 1 sewing kit
- 1 photo of my dad, circa 19__
- 1 Christmas "Ho Ho Ho" wall hanging that was only just removed from my door two weeks ago

That was taken a week ago. As my week got crazier and crazier, with graduation approaching, the pile grew...

Can you find...
- 4 purses
- 2 Red Sox t-shirts (1 red, 1 gray)
- 1 letter from the Direct Loan company telling me I need to start repaying my undergrad loans next month
- 2 final papers
- 1 shoebox
- 2 jackets
- 5 plastic bags
- 1 Elvis mug

Today I am proud to say that I have reclaimed my bedroom. I went through all of my school stuff and filled an entire paper shopping bag with papers to recycle. I collected no less than 13 recyclable bottles and cans from near and far corners of my room. I vaccuumed. I dusted. I did laundry (including my sheets).

Slowly, but surely, I think I'm returning to normal after the past few weeks of intense grad school finals/graduation chaos. And it starts here:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not My Bus

(There's a tiny bit of my brain that thinks I may have told this story previously on this blog, but I don't have the energy to find it, so if I have, I'm telling it again.)

A few years ago, a friend was visiting me in San Francisco. We were headed downtown and needed to catch the bus. I lived half a block from the bus stop, and as we stepped outside, we saw the bus barrel past. I groaned, as I still had to lock my door and I knew there was no way we'd make it. I said with despair, "That was our bus!" and as we watched it continue down the street, my friend replied simply, "No, it wasn't."

Perhaps it was meant as a joke, but those words resonated with me. How many times in our lives do we lament a missed opportunity, rather than see the positives that might come from it? And so "not my bus" has become my motto whenever things don't turn out as I had hoped or planned. Because if I don't end up catching the bus I had hoped to catch, then it must mean it wasn't my bus to catch in the first place.

Many of you know that I applied for a very competitive fellowship earlier this spring. It is in a field about which I am extremely passionate, and would keep me at this hospital which I love working in so very much. The team of people I would work with would be incredible - leaders in the field - and the work would be more rewarding than anything I have done before.

Today I received notice that I did not get this fellowship.

And as sick and as sad as I feel right now, I have to believe that this fellowship was not my bus... that there is something else out there I am supposed to be doing... that there is some bigger reason for this not working out as I had planned or hoped.

And so I trust in that. Despite my disappointment, I trust in that. And I look forward to discovering the bus out there that is mine, and seeing where it will take me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Alaska: The State I Love to Eat

So my friend Kate received a gift certificate at Christmas from the family she babysits for and we decided we should have a date night. That was nearly 6 months ago, and last night we finally made use of it.

We hadn't made reservations and the restaurant was surprisingly crowded for a Tuesday night, so we sat at the bar. The bartender Walter was quite nice and gladly poured our celebratory flutes of Prosecco. We toasted to finishing the year, ordered dinner, and caught up on each other's lives.

It's hard to do justice to the experience we had with the man sitting next to us and his daughter, but I'll try:

Man: What is your name?
Me: Phoebe
Man: That is a beautiful name! What a beautiful name! Beautiful.
Me: Thank you
Man (to Kate): And what is your name?
Kate: Kate
Man: Kate!? Don't you feel simple next to Phoebe?

(I can only assume he meant doesn't the name Kate feel simple next to the name Phoebe, but we'll never know.)

He asked if we were celebrating something, and we shared that we had just finished grad school. When he found out we were social workers, he spent the next 10 minutes telling us why social work was such a great field and why the work we do is so important even if we don't get paid much.

Later, after the man had shared part of their second bottle of wine with us, and after repeatedly calling Kate "Nancy" throughout the night, he and his daughter left. The daughter came back because they had forgotten something and as she left said, "Just think - he's increasing your number of future clients every day!"

Our evening ended with Baked Alaska. Neither Kate nor I had experienced this dessert before, and all we could say was WOW. Coconut ice cream and passion fruit caramel. We rolled ourselves out of there full, happy, and feeling like we had properly celebrated the culmination of the past two years of our lives.

Food for Thought

A friend of mine just wrote this article and now I share it with you.

Stay tuned for The Big Dig post - in which I dig my bed out from the piles of clothes, books, and other debris left over from finals.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Show Me the Way to Go Home...

I'm tired and I wanna go to bed.
I had a drink about an hour ago,
And it went straight to my head...

Somehow I got that old camp song in my head while I was walking from the bar where I was having my one celebratory drink (and potstickers! oh, how I love thee, potstickers!) to my car, and it stuck.

Tonight, dear friends, I handed in my last grad school paper EVER. I can't say I'm officially done, because I still have one class to attend tomorrow night at 5, but I can say that I do not have anything left hanging over my head, and that is not a feeling I have had in a very very very long time.

More later. Sleep now.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

By the Numbers: an update

2 - papers written today
1 - hour of babysitting a screaming 5-month-old with his 2.5-year-old sister saying, "Call Mommy and have her get him."
1 - powerpoint presentation created for tomorrow's adventure
5 - enjoyable hours spent on Friday night not thinking at all about school

3 - classes left
1 - presentation to do
1 - policy paper to be written
1 - group project paper to be edited
1 - take-home test about death and dying to be finished

1 - week until I (hopefully) hear about the much-desired fellowship
2 - sleep-deprived nights left before the end of my grad school career
12 - days until graduation

Wake Up!

So apparently I have never set my alarm clock for the 8 o'clock hour on a Sunday morning before, because I'm certain I would have remembered a previous experience of being blasted awake by klezmer music. It's not the kind of thing one is likely to forget.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I am Woman - Hear Me... Get Paid 79 Cents to Every Male-Earned Dollar

The backward plight of the working woman
Ellen Goodman
The Boston Globe
May 2, 2008

BY NOW the Tale of Lilly Ledbetter is starting to sound like the Perils of Pauline or the Pre-Feminist Follies. At 70, she's the star of a long-running drama about how hard we have to run to keep from slipping backward.

The Alabama woman was just 26 when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to enforce equality in the workplace. The old stalwart - equal pay for equal work - is so universally accepted that we choose to believe it's not just a law but a fact of life.

Our gal Ledbetter, however, worked for two decades in the not-so-female-friendly ranks of Goodyear. Only when she neared retirement did an anonymous tipster slip her a reality check about her paycheck. It turned out that as a female supervisor, she was earning less than her male counterparts. She was paid on average 79 cents for every male dollar, a figure suspiciously close to the national wage gap.

Ledbetter sued and won her case. But Goodyear appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, where Samuel Alito had just replaced Sandra Day O'Connor. Last year, in one of the backward flips that characterize the court, a 5-to-4 majority went against Ledbetter on the grounds that she hadn't sued in time. The justices read the law through their retro lens and decided a worker has to sue within six months after her first unequal pay. It doesn't matter whether she knows she's being treated unfairly and it doesn't matter if she keeps getting underpaid.

In essence, as Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center said, if a company could pull the wool over an employee's eyes for the first six months, it's free.

An outraged Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision "totally at odds with the robust protection against workplace discrimination." She concluded her ringing dissent with an appeal to Congress to "correct this court's parsimonious reading of Title VII."

Well, the House of Representatives did just that, and pretty promptly. It passed a bill to restore the rules to allow an employee to sue up to 180 days after the latest unequal paycheck. But when the bill bearing Lilly Ledbetter's name got to the Senate, the Republicans balked. There weren't enough Republican defectors to overcome a filibuster and get the bill on the Senate floor.

Not only did Bush threaten to veto the restoration act, his would-be successor didn't even take time off the campaign trail to vote. John McCain let it be known that he opposed the Ledbetter legislation because it "opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems." This is a little like saying we shouldn't have any laws because they only clog up the courts.

So Lilly lost again. Welcome to 2008. Or is it 1964?

If you've been listening lately, the reasons for the tenacious wage gap between men and women in the 21st century have been dropped on the lap of working women. Women aren't paid equally because they have this nasty habit of giving birth. Or they "opt out." Or they choose jobs that let them get home before the kids' bedtimes. Or they don't know how to negotiate. The fault is not in our workplaces but in ourselves.

The idea that the wage gap might be because of, um, sex discrimination seems soooo 20th century. In fact, the Supreme Court implied that Lilly Ledbetter's lower paycheck was her own fault because she didn't start investigating her employer for sex discrimination as soon as she started her job.

As for the conductor of the Straight Talk Express? McCain said he was all in favor of equal pay for equal work, but that women don't need lawsuits, they need "education and training." So let's begin with a couple of basics.

Lesson One: An unequal paycheck is a thief that keeps on taking. Even in retirement, Ledbetter is still, in her own words, "a second-class worker" with a pension and Social Security check that carry Goodyear's bite marks.

Lesson Two: In 2008, the Republicans are partying - "political partying" - like it's 1964.