Friday, January 30, 2009

Something Completely Different

Dear Microsoft:

When a google search on "customize the ribbon" returns 15,200 hits and they preponderantly refer to your Office 2007 ribbon and the solution you offer for how to meet this demand is that the user can always just alter the MyRibbon.vb and MyRibbon.xml files it makes people GRUMPY!!! It is time to publish a patch.

I want my *^$(@*# merge across button in Excel back.

Thanking you for your prompt attention to this matter,


Monday, January 19, 2009

Crisis of Confidence

OMG can we do this? Are we letting ourselves in for years of hell and the destruction of my career for the sake of a relationship that is never going to actually bloom into anything? Am I inviting an abusive person into my life? Why would I do such a thing?

When we talked to the agent and we were discussing some of the things on the questionnaire, we had to explain ourselves a little. The questionnaire just said "Preferred/Acceptable/Would Consider/Unacceptable," even on questions like "child has learning disabilities." Well there are learning disabilities and learning disabilities, now aren't there? We weren't enthusiastic about that question. Can we deal with a kid who is behind in school because they've been dealing with life shitting all over them? Hell, yes. Mild emotional damage? We're pretty much expecting it. Can we handle a first kid with Down Syndrome or severe autism or a wild case of FASD brain damage? Maybe we just don't know our own strengths and we could, but the fact is that we don't want to, not on the first kid. We don't want to stop at one, and if we have to look forty-five years into the future and figure out who's going to take care of kid #1 when we're ready to check ourselves into a home, we're not ever going to get to kid #2, and we want to get to kid #2. There wasn't any place on the form to explain that we're more interested in IQ than in grades, and there wasn't any place to explain that we assume that these kids are probably going to need a parental safety net into their thirties, but we would like it if the kid we're looking for has a decent chance of becoming more or less self-sufficient by then.

Is that unrealistic? We want to take in one or two at a time and do some serious neosporin parenting and give them the space and support they need to figure things out and to stop surviving and start living. We don't think that our love will make things all better, but we think that enough time in a safe space makes anybody breathe a little more free.

In the end, all we could tell the agent was "it's our first time, be gentle with us."

Omigawd, what am I getting myself into?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back from the Agency

Saw the agent today, and we're signed up for classes, all of which will be done by the end of March. That's a month ahead of our target (end of April), so we'll have a big incentive to close on a house in May instead of dawdling and waiting until June or July, because the purchase is going to be the only thing holding us up.

The agent asked about the apartment, basically wondering if we could speed things up by getting approved here. We had to explain that, yes, we have two bedrooms, but one of them is packed full of things you would normally find in a garage - things like table saws and drill presses. It's just not an option. And even if the bedroom wasn't full of industrial shelving and an air compressor, there simply isn't enough private space here to add another person. B is a man who cannot live without a lot of "alone time" and I'd say the same about myself if I didn't have B around to teach me how needing alone time is done. So enough space that we're not in each other's way all the time is a must.

We got a glance at a one-page mini-file on Annie. There's a history of schizophrenia in her family, and she suffers from seizures and is taking a psychiatric medication, although we don't know what med that is. Oliver has a history of abuse or neglect, which we had expected, but that wasn't mentioned on Annie's sheet.

Oliver is "on hold" already - somebody's begun the process of adopting him already. What was that thing about these kids being hard to place again?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Post-vacation Review

Colorado was what Colorado always is. The first three or four days, the thin air is a severely limiting factor; then I get one day when I can keep up on a minor hike or a day of walking around a scenic/resort/downtown area; then we fly home. In the interval, there's lots of nice time with the fam and much sleep deprivation due to allergies and a smaller-than-we-love-it bed (B and I got a king size bed last year because the dog takes up so much space, the queen wasn't big enough for the three of us (me and B and Her Holly-ness the Pup) anymore. Dad & Kris put us in a guest room with a full size bed, which felt like that scene in Barefoot in the Park where Robert Redford announces that "we will be sleeping from left to right tonight." Plus, I missed Holly. I repeatedly woke B by scratching his belly in my sleep, and on at least one occasion, I woke up enough to exclaim "Oh, you're not Holly, you're B!"

So there's some sleep deprivation going on, but that's not what you all both came here to find out about today. You came here to find out how the adoption announcement went. And the answer is that it went really well. They're happy, the first thing my dad said was "I'm gonna be a grandpa!" which was pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear, and they want to know all the details of everything that happens every step of the way. So, very supportive, very happy, and that's about all there is to it.

I spent a lot of time fantasizing about how cool it's going to be, probably in January 2011, to bring Annie/Oliver up to CO. Dad and Joe got out their guitars and played a bunch of songs, Amy and I sang along (both altos) and I kept on thinking about next year, maybe we can get Dad and Kris out to the east coast and then Danny (youngest brother) would be there too and then there would be three guitars going and I kept thinking that Annie strikes me as somebody who might like to play guitar with her uncles and maybe she'd like a guitar for Christmas next year, and maybe Oliver would like a really tricked out toolkit and toolbox all his own (his profile says that he likes to take things apart, which is totally a bonding point for B). And we went up to Breckenridge for a day and I thought about maybe in 2011 we could bring Annie/Oliver (or maybe even Annie & Oliver!) out to Colorado and how much fun it would be to learn to ski together and wondering if maybe it would be their first airplane ride, or first cross-country road trip... the kiddos were always on my mind.

Back to work, get through day, then hit the sack and try to catch up on sleep.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

pre-vacation summing up

Leaving tonight for Raleigh, to stay the night with brother Joe and future-sister-in-law Amy, flying out in the morning to Colorado Springs for post-Christmas with the parents.

We will be telling them about our adoption plans while we're out there. Joe and Amy already know, but I wanted to tell Dad & Mommy-Kris face to face, so we'll be doing it on this trip. And for some reason, I'm really nervous about it. Which is weird, because these days I can't stop thinking about fost/adopt and I'll talk anybody's ear off who lets me. Should be an interesting trip.

I finished the needlepoint on Amy's Christmas stocking earlier this week - just in time. I started the kit on Thanksgiving, and it's a rather involved pattern. I still have to take a picture of the one I actually did, but just so you can see what a heroic effort it was (with 24 different colors of yarn, some of which become indistinguishable in the light of our compact florescent bulbs, and with so few big solid areas and so many spots where you bring the yarn in for just three stitches) here is a picture of the sample stocking from the website where I bought the kit:

Other than that, things are going pretty well. On the job front, I'm loving my job (yay!) Bit of a story, a year and a half ago, I'd worked out a programming technique for a pretty sticky coding problem that I was pretty proud of. Right after I'd finished shaking all the bugs out of it, an article on the subject was published on a professional journal site I read. I posted my technique in the comments (scroll down) and was asked to write an article about it based on that comment. In a peer-reviewed journal, no less, and they were offering to pay me for it! The bad news was that, of course, I had to check with my job to make sure it wouldn't violate any company policies if I did write this article (if they hadn't offered me money I wouldn't have had to worry about that so much). My boss at the time made a bit of a stink about it and eventually came up with conditions that were so ridiculous that the first time I stumbled on the article, I decided that the whole thing wasn't worth the bother and gave it up. The really ironic thing is that the company I was working for then had a improving their google ranking as a high-priority goal, but my boss - the IT manager - knew so little about how google works that he didn't realize that a couple of articles by me with a link to the company in the bio would have shot the google rank through the roof.

But, I have held on to that link and offered it to various prospective employers and new bosses since then as a sample of my work (it's pretty common to be asked for a coding sample as part of the interview process). I just got a new boss here at Unisys (marvelous company to work for, by the way - great adoption benefits!) and he looked at it and without knowing the history said "you should write this up in an article - this could really help a lot of people, and it would be a big help to you in your career." So no obstacles, no conditions and no more excuses - I have a technical article to write!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Everything you always wanted to know about wanting to know

When her son and his wife were expecting their first child, my aunt used to like to say "no children, twenty theories; two children, no theories." Marc, you see, had many Ideas about how things were going to be Different with his kids because he and Julie had a Plan.

I have no children, twenty theories, and a blog, which is another way of saying that I'm about ten different kinds of a damn fool. I know this, and knowing it doesn't stop me, which means that this one (me) goes to eleven.

Anyway, Yondalla has a post up about teens and sex that is thought provoking, and being provoked, and seeing as how these thoughts are going to be very important to me in, very hopefully, the near future, I thought I'd talk a little about them here.

I should start, I guess, by explaining my own experiences with learning about It. I knew all about reproduction by the age of 5, thanks to my OB-GYN nurse mother. It always made me giggle - same with seeing people kiss on TV. Very embarrassing stuff, and I remember really wishing that she'd just shut up about it (it really felt sometimes like somebody had taken a completely de-kinkified Dr. Ruth broadcast and played it on an endless loop). We had one sex-ed class in fifth and sixth grade after school and my mother taught the girls' group for that, too. I remember at least one of my classmates approaching me after that class was over, and the awestruck way she told me that I was so lucky to have a mom who is willing to talk about sex. Which I guess just goes to show that there's a flip side to everything.

That was one side of my sex education. The other part happened when I was seventeen years old and was talking to my friend, Liz. It was after our first semester in college, I remember, and she told me that her high school boyfriend had come to visit, and they'd decided that the long-distance thing wasn't going to work out, and that they'd broken up. And then, after they broke up, they'd had sex one more time, for old time's sake.

And I was no end of shocked, I gotta tell you. I mean, pick my jaw up off the floor flabbergasted, and I asked her why? and she looked at me kind of blankly and said "for fun." And those two words blew open a lot of doors and windows for me. I could not remember a time when I didn't know the hows and the whys and the why nots about sex, but it had never occurred to me that it was either permissable or possible to have a good time doing it, or to do it just for the good time. And that was true even when I thought about sex within a relationship; I would have found the idea of married people engaging in gleeful quickies absolutely incomprehensible.

It seems to me that we make a lot of shocked, shocked! noise about how sexified our culture is and how much we should push back when kids are growing up, but we're a little deaf to the background noise that exists that pushes a lot of screwed up notions about sex on to kids. Dennis Prager's marital rape how-to guide is reprehensible, but it's not exactly an outlier. The idea that sex is a subject that can be approached on its own terms - and not as something that is inextricably entertwined with a committed relationship - is still treated as radical, even in the same breath as the pervasiveness of that idea is decried. And that is unfortunate, not only because it seeks to deny us some zesty fun, it also detracts from the value we place on non-sexual relationships (and opens the door to Prager's deplorable "logic") which is another lesson in the whole "flip side of everything" concept.

So here's the twenty-theories and a blog deal: telling kids about how babies are made and how married people have a "special kind of hug" and about how great sex can be when it isn't just sex, but part of a close, committed relationship, is maybe a quarter of a sex education. Telling them about staying safe - and not just about using protection, but also about things like, if you're at a party and you're feeling drunk and you want to go home, scope around for a girl who looks sober and whether you know her or not, ask her to get you home. If she won't do it, look for another sober girl and repeat until you find one who will get you home safe*, are another quarter. Telling them about rape and not-rape is another solid quarter. Telling them that sex is a lot of fun, and reminding yourself that the years between sexual development and about thirty are when people are at their most energetic and most wildly hormonal and most daring and that those don't necessarily add up to bad things (actually, they can add up to a lot of fun) is the last part.

We tend to focus on the idea that minors having sex is bad. I don't think that's necessarily true. I tend to think that sexually mature people having sex is natural, even if the person in question isn't mature in other ways (this is very important to people like my husband, who would be a 40-year old virgin if he had to wait until he's grown up... just kidding, B is only 38.)

So here's where I'd want my kid to be as they approach adulthood, as pertains to sex:
  1. I'd want them to understand that it's something that they should only do when and if they want to do it
  2. I'd want them to understand what herpes is. Graphically.
  3. I'd want them to understand that sex can bring unintended obligation, and that even protected sex does contain a particle of risk of incurring that obligation. This applies to partners who might get emotionally vulnerable as a result as well as to surprise offspring.
  4. I'd want them to understand that sex can be fun and tender and intimate, but it can also be used to hurt and humiliate, and that hurting and humiliating another person is a terrible and awful thing to do for anything less than $500 an hour, adjusted for inflation.
Yondalla has a number of scenarios up, and I'd have to say that the answer doesn't lie in the circumstances, the circumstances are merely learning experiences on the way to living the principles I've outlined here. Scenario 1, with a thirteen year old kid performing oral sex as a party game freaks me out a little, I'll admit. But I have to say, the first thing I'd ask was "so how do you feel about it?" Because there are two possibilities here: we could have a case of not-rape and a kid who needs help to avoid being not-raped again; or, we could have a budding exhibitionist who is eagerly anticipating the next party. The odds lean heavily towards the former here, which sounds to me like the kids need an adult to blame for why they can't go to the cool-but-extremely-scary parties anymore.

Scenario 2 sounds to me either like somebody whose ideas about love=sex are prompting him/her to attempt to substitute the latter for the former, or somebody whose interest in sex far outpaces his/her interest in a relationship, but who is attempting to offer a relationship in exchange for sex. Either way, it's time to work on decoupling.

Scenario 3 sounds pretty healthy and normal to me. Same for scenario 4, although I would be inclined to ask if he and the boyfriend couldn't think of someplace to go where they'd be a lot less at risk of being arrested and/or banned from the gym.

*This is actually one of the most valuable things I learned in college. And for the record, I was the sober one.