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Adventures in Babysitting, Part I

I was due with my first baby in mid-June, just about the time I graduated from MBA school and about 10 weeks before I started my PhD program, a time frame which turned out to be perfectly suited for maternity leave.  I planned to find childcare during that time and I figured it would be like finding a doctor – you go on a website somewhere that lists all the doctors within a certain radius, you check their qualifications and then you pick one based on who has the best decorated waiting room and hope like hell they are in-network.

We lived just a mile outside of downtown Chicago, just down the street from Oprah, and I was pretty sure there had to be like 66 million daycares and each of them were pining for the chance to take care of my infant.  So then one day when I’m about 7 months along, I was in a deli minding my own business, eating my farm raised, low mercury salmon and asparagus sandwich and reading a Harvard Business Review case for class and two ladies on their lunch break sat down next to me.  They were talking about office gossip, which was way more interesting than my reading, so I was listening in. And they probably noticed I was pregnant and listening to them so suddenly they began talking about how annoying another woman was at work because all she did was freak out everyday about how there were no slots for infants in any daycare centers anywhere in Chicago and she was only 3 months pregnant and what a dumb ass for not realizing this before she got preggers. Hmmm.  I looked down at my belly and winced as two things happened concurrently: my fetus/son gave me a swift kick to my kidney, and I had an epiphany. I’m fucked.

The search for a daycare commenced immediately.  I went to Google to find the website that listed all of the daycare centers/ family daycares / nannys / nanny-shares within a 1 mile radius of my house.  We only had one car and I would have it most of the time at school.  BD would have to be able to walk from work, to daycare, to home with the baby.  I thought maybe 1 mile might be too large a radius, but we could start there and then figure out how to narrow down our choices.

I opened up Google. Now to find the website…..this nice, informational website….I’m sure it’s here somewhere….Hmm…wait, where is the website?….Nope, not it….Not this…..(My kid kicks my bladder at the same moment as if to say “you’re doing a helluva job so far, Mom) um, no. nonononononononono. NO…..

There. is. no. magical-daycare-finding website.

I am alone in the vast urban and Internet wilderness. Google has forsaken me. I had to sift through a tangle of daycare websites and dead ends and phone numbers. The whole finding-childcare-for-your-perfect-beautiful-newborn-that-you-can-afford-without-selling-your-kidney-and-is-located-somewhere-in-the-state-of-Illinois journey was kind of like the Trail of Tears for new parents.  At least finding the big daycare center chains was easy. They were nowhere near my condo, but I called anyway.  They had nine month waiting lists for infants.  Okay…I’m not great at math, but I think that means that on the day of conception you sure as hell better reserve your spot at Kindercare. Now I finally realized why God sent an angel to tell me of my children’s conceptions – so they could get a spot in daycare on time.  It would have been nice if he had mentioned that as well.

Well, this is bad news. I need infant care starting five and half months from now, and apparently this is really late notice for the whole childcare world.  I mean, I haven’t even met this kid I’m going to have. I know nothing about being a parent or about babies or about my specific baby or what I’m going to feel like in five months and I have to find a perfect childcare situation now, or I can’t go back to school. I’m not going to get my PhD. I’ll have to be a stay at home mother. One thing I knew for sure was that being at stay at home mother was out of the question, because I already loved my unborn child. I would not subject him to the psycho mother he would come to know if he were in my care 24-7.  So I re-doubled my efforts and kept coming up short.

I grew up in a home daycare. And I loved it. It was like having a second family, and we didn’t have any family nearby, so it was awesome. I guess I wanted something similar for my son, so I was partial to the idea of having my baby go to a home daycare nearby. But searching for home daycares on Google is futile and I was really starting to lose hope that the baby I was about to have wouldn’t be some kind of juvenile delinquent due to my poor parenting (non)decisions made while he was still in the womb.  So I went to the Starbucks in the building next door. It was an odd choice because I don’t drink coffee, but I felt like I needed something warm in my belly for the next few hours I planned to spend curled up in bed crying and worrying about what a bad mother I already was. And Starbucks kind of seemed like a church to so many yuppies, I thought maybe they sprinkled you with calming fairy dust when you went in and I might find some peace there.

No visible fairy dust, but as I waited patiently for my Caramel Apple Cider, I wandered over to the little bulletin board they have by where you pick up your drinks.  There was a lime green flyer right in the middle of it. My stomach did a flip and my knees kind of buckled and my brain said, “You are fucking kidding me, GOD!” (Yes, I have ongoing conversations with God in my head like “Oh God! You’re so unpredictable sometimes!”  or “God, why did encourage me to have the third glass of wine? I feel like ass this morning. You should have stopped me!”).

There on the board was a flyer for a new home daycare starting up in the condo building next to mine. I know, right?  Seriously.  I grabbed the flyer and ran home. I forgot my Caramel Apple Cider.  I was panting when I called BD.

Love: “I found a daycare for our baby!”

BD: “Cool.”

Love: “It’s in the building next door! And they do yoga! And its all organic food! Oh my GOD!”

BD: “You don’t even do yoga or know anything about organic food.”

Love: “What? Um. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that my prayers have been answered. I must call her immediately. She is The One.”

BD: “Go for it.”

I got off the phone with my heart beating fast and I immediately dialed Miss Amalia’s Place.  No answer, but the long-winded, rambling, breathless message I left went a little like this:

Hello! My name is Love and I have a baby. No, I mean I’m pregnant with a baby that I will have in a few months and I need a daycare in August and I just love home daycares and I saw your flyer at Starbucks and I took it but I will definitely bring it back but I was wondering whether you had a spot for a newborn and I’m sure he is going to be a really good kid because I didn’t cry a lot when I was a kid, but I guess we won’t know till he gets here  — heh, heh — but anyway I really think we should talk and I just love that I’m in the building next door so we’re neighbors and what great timing that I found your flyer and I will bring it back because I forgot to pick up my caramel apple cider anyway, so I’ll put it back but I really think we should talk and my baby should go to your daycare and please call me back.

I hung up and thought, “Seriously? What was that? You idiot. You sound crazy. Maybe you should call back again and explain that you aren’t crazy. Or would that be crazier? ” I hung my head.  But then I brightened knowing that stalking people who need to be in my life is one of my most valuable talents and Miss Amalia’s Place just moved up to the top spot on that list.

I waited five minutes with my hand clutching the phone receiver. No call back. Ten minutes. No call. Maybe I should call again? Just to say I’m not crazy? Fifteen minutes — the phone rings. It’s her!! The woman sent by God to take care of my unborn child, as soon as he gets born.

Love: “Hello?!”

M.A.: “Hi. This is Miss Amalia. You called about needing daycare in August for an infant?” (slight Korean accent)

Love: “Yes! Yes! Where do I sign up?”

M.A: “Ha ha. You are funny. It’s not that easy.  I will  interview you to see whether you’re the family I want to take.”

Love: “You’re going to interview us?”

M.A: “Yes. There is no other way. Can you and your husband come interview with me in a couple of days at 6pm @ Starbucks? You’ll both need to be present.  I have a long waiting list, but I will choose who gets the spot based on my interviews.”

Love: “Oh. I didn’t know this is how it worked. Here I thought I should interview you.”

M.A: “You should. Part of my decision will be based on the questions you ask me.”

Love: “Um. My son isn’t even born yet, and we’re new parents, so I’m not really sure what we’ll have to say.”

M.A: “I find my relationship with the parents is as important as with the child. This is the way I do things. If you’re uncomfortable with the process —”

Love: “No! No! Heh, heh. No! We’ll definitely be there. With good questions.”

M.A: “Great. Don’t be late.”

Love: “Right.”

Okay, so the world had changed from the time I went to daycare. Up to that point, I had spent my whole life competing to get in the best schools, in the best programs, hired by the best companies for the most exclusive jobs and I always won the things I set out to get. Because I loved those games and I was really good at them. No matter that I usually ended up not really wanting all the things I’d won, but who doesn’t like winning games? I wasn’t going to let a home daycare lady be the first to reject me or my unborn child. I wasn’t losing this game. She was our only hope and clearly God led me to Starbucks and this whole thing was meant to be.

We were going to be the family she chose. Period. Now I just had to figure out how to morph us into the “right” family for our interview.  I quickly opened my browser and searched for “yoga” and “organic food”.

Part II

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The search for my tribe

This January I found myself back in the place I have perpetually been throughout my life, which is wandering around aimlessly, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life and how I got to the place where I am and how that place where I am always feels like a place I’d like to leave – immediately.

You know why I love Oprah? Its not because of her fabulous hair or because everybody is afraid of her or because she gets to hang out with Obama all the time.  It’s because she doesn’t go two weeks on her show without doing a story about somebody who was nobody until they got inspired one day and then changed the world.  I live for those stories. Without believing in those stories I would have no hope that one day my life will abruptly and powerfully change and my angel will come to me and say “Love, lets do this.  3-6-34-51-52 and the Powerball is 22. I’ll let you know what God wants you to do with it, but in the meantime, why don’t you just go ahead and buy a beach house in Zihuatanejo, kay? You can run your new philanthropic foundation from there”. I mean, Oprah has me convinced that one day I’ll be minding my own business and ordering my Value Meal #2 at McDonalds and suddenly the heavens will open up and I’ll just “know” that the cook in the back is a genius orphan who is homeless and just needs a chance and I’ll adopt her and she’ll grow up to be the President and I’ll get to live in the White House and she’ll make me ambassador to Tahiti and life will be totally sweet because of my awesome inspiration to take her home with me on that fateful day I was quenching my insatiable hunger for a Quarter Pounder with cheese.  I could tell you about a million other scenarios I’ve feasted my mind on, but you get the point.  Nobody loves stories more than I do about ordinary people doing extraordinary things that make this world a cooler place to be because if I’m being honest, I really believe that one day I’ll get to be one of them.  When I hear those stories I don’t think, “Oh, thats really neat.” I think, “When is it going to be my turn?”

Which makes me really a different sort of person than the people I find myself surrounded by most of the time. I know this because I’ve taken every damn personality and motivation and self-discovery test this world has to offer in an attempt to find out why it seems like I can’t find anybody like me out there in the world.  And usually my results break the computer or they come back but it says something like, “ERROR- value unknown” or “Only 1% of the population is this type…” and when you read the description of a person that would get this score, it is usually brief because it commands a total loss for words to describe. I think the issue is two-fold: only three people have ever scored this combination and those three people are too strange to really describe. When you look at professions that are good for my personality type, you wind up with stuff like unicycle rider, psychic, manic-depressive and homeless.  What you don’t get is ‘efficient little cog in big corporate machine’, which is what I am, except for the efficient part.

On the other hand, the fact that there are a few people out there – that it is humanly possible to meet someone like me – gives me a lot of comfort.  There are so many days when I look around at the people I work with, or the parents at my kids’ school, or my neighbors, or whatever group and just think, “am I the only one thinking…(x,y,z)?” and I’m pretty sure I am.  And after awhile you start to feel weird and lonely because people look at you really funny when you tell them what you’re thinking. So I’ve learned to self-edit, especially when at work.  It is very unbecoming for a professional salesperson to say she could care less about the money and sometimes she tells her clients not to buy stuff from her, because she knows her competitor has a better widget.  These things are completely foreign concepts in the circles I travel in and they would likely get me fired or at least demoted. Some days I fantasize about getting fired. But then I cry inside knowing that if that happened, the bond between me and my favorite fabulous gay salesman Leonardo at Banana Republic might be broken forever.

So back in January I decided that I either had to go into therapy or get a life coach or I might go insane because I was born to change the world and so far all I’ve done is changed careers four times. And a lot of dirty diapers.

I thought if I went into therapy there was a good chance I might never get out, so I thought it was safest to try a life coach first. So I began the search for a life coach to tell me what I am supposed to do with my life and why I always feel like a fish out of water wherever I go.  You want to have a fun couple of weeks? Interview some life coaches.  Ones you find on the Internet and not through a referral because of course, you don’t associate with anybody who doesn’t double over laughing in amusement by the whole concept.

But it was awesome. Wow. Some life coaches have PhDs, or some sort of relevant training and some life coaches have an extra phone line and illusions of grandeur.  And honestly, a lot of the times you can’t tell which is which by talking to them.  Some are really great and some are train wrecks. But, to their credit, they are amusing train wrecks. Like the guy who I was interviewing that talked to me for a half hour about why he thinks his second wife left him. I had to interrupt him, “Hey, could I offer you some coaching? She just not that into you.”  After that moment of genius, it got me thinking that maybe I should be a life coach. I mean, if all you have to do to be a life coach is give people advice and help them solve their problems, then sign me up.  I clearly don’t have a great grasp of the world, but I know about people. I can read people. And like I said, my personality books tell me I’m well-suited to be a psychic as well. So who wouldn’t want a psychic life coach?  But, I’m an intellectual snob and as such, I can’t get behind waking up one day and calling myself a life coach.   So that is a whole other fun story, but the point is, I actually found a coaching situation in February and signed up for a year and it has, much to my delight and surprise, actually changed my life.

That said, the meaning of life hasn’t presented itself. And I’m still working for The Man. And a few months into it I was still feeling pretty alientated from the world.  My coach recommended that I do stuff that comes naturally to me, take inspired actions and go find my tribe.  She suggested that perhaps people in my tribe don’t hang out at my corporate entity.  Perhaps if I were really living the life I was born to live, it wouldn’t be as a corporate drone at a Fortune 100 company. It would be me, doing something else, surrounded by other people that teach and inspire and make me laugh everyday.

A concept I hadn’t thought of. One I wasn’t sure existed.

So what did I do after my third glass of wine one night? I started this blog.  People in real life laugh at my stories. And it turns out that when I’m at my best, I’m entertaining people with my stories, but they aren’t always of the ilk that are appreciated around the water cooler at work, or at dinner parties with parents from my kid’s school. So I decided to hell with it – what if I just wrote all my stories down and didn’t worry about what my coworkers or family or the world in general thought about it, and then maybe my tribe would find me. Maybe people who “get” me will enjoy what I write, and start reading it and I will have a community of people who I can entertain and who I “get” and who will teach and inspire and motivate me to be great.

And here you are.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for commenting on it. Thank you for following me. Thank you for writing your own blogs that are real. That teach and inspire and make me snort Diet Coke out my nose laughing and unable to read the screen through eyes full of tears. I think the vast majority of you know exactly what it’s like to need to blog as an outlet and tell your stories and write down your thoughts and be validated by other people. So we’ve found one another. Our tribe.  Lets keep blogging, keep reading about each other, keep commenting and validating one another and maybe we can keep each other from going postal or owning too many cats. Maybe we can be great together.

Love’s Law #1 – Men with mustaches in 2009 are either cops or sex offenders, hopefully not both

Indeed, the best way to know whether or not you are in the presence of a sex offender (before he sexually offends you) in 2009 is if you are in the presence of a man sporting a mustache. I’m not talking about beards or goatees or all the other stuff. I’m talking about a mustache only. Its the universal sex offender secret code that says, “See, I have a mustache and I will do very bad things to you if I get the chance. If I’m not currently sexually assaulting you, you can bet I’m thinking about it.” Don’t believe me? Go check out the sex offenders in your area and 90% will have mustaches. The other 10% had to shave them off in prison.

Although that might be a bad example because Love’s Law applies only to men with mustaches.  So the mathematical proof is something like:  If mustache, then sex offender. Not If sex offender, then mustache.  I’m making this clear because I don’t want my readers to be pissed when they find themselves in the clutches of someone sexually assaulting them and he doesn’t have a mustache and now you’re blaming me. Some of them know the universal sign and choose to ignore it just to be tricky, thinking you’ll get Love’s Law all backward and agree to help them get something out of their big, scary van with no windows at night because they don’t have a ‘stache.

Now, there is one caveat to Love’s Law #1 and that is, for whatever very disturbing reason I don’t want to delve into, sometimes cops like to have mustaches too. I don’t know whether they think the mustache looks good on all the sex offenders they pick up or what. But sometimes cops have them too, and hopefully they aren’t sexual predators on the side. So I will give a pass to the cops with mustaches – they may not be sex offenders, but they clearly have no taste, so I would advise them to get rid of it as soon as possible. Its creepy, it does not help them get laid and its a threat to public safety.

Now, this is a pretty universal law, and just prove the point I have added a poll here so that others can vote on the validity of this observation.  If it comes out as I suspect it will, then perhaps I can update Wikipedia and reference this poll. Also, next time Oprah does a show on catching wanted sex offenders, this could serve as a good rule of thumb to catch those bastards.  So please take the poll and let me know….

Some more proof of Love’s Law #1 sent in by a savvy reader.