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Due to some recent instability at work (insecurity as well) I’m in the process of “putting out feelers” in my field, seeing what’s open, who’s hiring, just in case I need to know. 

Mr. Apron found a terrific-sounding job.  It would be working in a classroom with a team of teachers to support kindergarteners who are at risk of learning disabilities.  Language enrichment all day long, not just during your 30 minute speech therapy session.  Sounds, great, doesn’t it?  So I applied.  And they asked to have a phone interview today!  Turns out it’s only a part-time job — 28 hours a week, and no health insurance.  I needn’t say that amounts to a pretty substantial pay cut, enough so that I can’t begin to entertain the idea of pursuing this any further. 

Then I went into the office after a morning of seeing kids who have June fever — they’re just about bursting to get out the doors and are making their teachers/therapists nuts.  I have scarcely enough time to do my regular paperwork, let alone the extra paperwork I’m doing for a colleague who’s out on sick leave, and we have a staff meeting, where we found out we’re doing our paperwork all wrong. 

And I longed for the other job.  This just about set me into a fit of depression already, but the meeting had started late.  We never finish on time anyway, so I dashed out the door already a half-hour late. 

Traffic, for those who don’t Commute, is determined by exponential factors.  Leave the office at 3:30pm precisely, the trip may take 42 minutes.  Leave at 3:45, it’s creeping up to 48 minutes.  Leave closer to 4:00, it’ll be an hour.  I resigned myself to my fate, and promptly sat on my ass for an hour, trying to decide not to kill the four youths who decided to thin the gene pool by crossing a highway at a leisurely pace nowhere near a light or a crosswalk. 

No one I wanted to complain to was able to talk on the phone.  My sister, a social worker, had to take someone grocery shopping.  My mom was in the basement of a fabric store.  My husband had an appointment.  Eventually, I reached Mom, whose solution was that Mr. Apron should go to bartending school.  As a teetotaler, and the wife of a teetotaler who has never anything beyond Manischewitz brush his lips, I could not begin to fathom where she had conceived such a ridiculous idea.  And told her so.  That always goes well.  As usual, she changed the subject, trying to distract me by telling me about some 3.5 year old client she has who gets speech therapy. 

I reached Mr. Apron, but there was nothing more to be said.  I’m sad about not being able to entertain the idea of the job.  They hurt my feelings at work by asking too much of me and not respecting my time.  And I was stuck in traffic, with two dogs at home fairly pissing themselves.

Finally walked the dogs, one at a time, for ease of perambulation.  The puppy seems to have forgotten how to sit on command, even with a treat dangled in front of her nose and few birds, squirrels, dogs, humans, and cats to distract her. 

Oh, and my wrist hurts — my tendonitis is acting up again.  Because that’s awesome when I’m trying to walk two dogs. 

So I sit down to be productive, to have a little success.  I pull out my brand-new box of invitation-sized envelopes so I can bundle up notecards Mr. Apron and I made for my upcoming craft fair, and start to stack 5 envelopes with 5 notecards.  Lo and behold — Staples’ definition of “invitation size” is different from Wal-Mart’s definition of “invitation size”.  Staples knows you want to chop up a piece of cardstock and slide it in the envelope; Wal-Mart assumes you want to mail 4″x6″ photos.  Since I had already started before I ran out of envelopes, I’m now faced with a dilemma: do I use all the Wal-Mart ones, which are absurdly oversized, but would all be uniform?  or do I dissolve, sobbing, in the dining room table, over the matter of a quarter inch of envelope?

I just ran over a dog.  A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  She darted out into the road as I was completing the final leg of my drive home from work.   A 12 mile trip which today took me over an hour and a half. 

Take one winter snowstorm, dumping 8 inches of snow, ice, and crud in a major urban area, add sunglare so severe I couldn’t read street signs as I weaved and darted my way home, throw in an accident during rush hour on the major artery that takes me from work to home, and let’s not forget it’s December 23rd, so we also have last-minute shoppers, kids getting out of school early, and the official beginning of that break from work for a holiday I don’t celebrate (but am grateful for the time off nonetheless).

Finally, after detours through frightening neighborhoods, in an effort to avoid the major road which was backed up, I got back on the congested boulevard, and creeped and crawled my way back to my own safe neighborhood.  As I was heading down the final stretch, at last able to open up my sporty little car towards the optimistic 35 mph speed limit, a little dog darted out from the iron gates of one of the villa-esque mansions and hopped across the road.  I slammed on my brakes, grateful it was 33 degrees today, or else the road would have been one giant skating rink, and I heard the grinding of anti-lock brakes.

I didn’t stop in time, or, at all.  I kept driving, lest I be hit by the car behind me, on this road that doesn’t have shoulders.  But as I glanced in my rear-view mirror, I expecting to see what I dreaded, I saw instead a happy little puppy bounding back across the road in front of the next car, which had managed to stop.  Somehow she either flew between my tires, or I was able to slow enough for her to make it across the road. 

When I was a little girl, I saw our dog, Amy, a fox terrier-whippet mix, get run over in a similar fashion.  She timed her crossing to coincide with the undercarriage of the car precisely, and she narrowly missed all four wheels. 

I wanted nothing more than to escape work a little early and run home so we could get back on the road and go visit my parents for the next few days.  Instead, I was treated to a trial of patience, determination, fear, and relief.  The last thing I want right now is to get back in that car and face the still bunged-up roadways with the persistent sunglare and asshole motorists.  Yet that’s precisely where I’m going.  As long as Mr. Apron is doing the driving, as long as that little dog is okay, I think I can bear it.  But a Xanax would help, too.

My transfer finally came through, as you’ve been hearing, and my last day of work at the old center was Monday.  I started working at the new center on Tuesday.  I must admit it was overwhelming.  Everything everyone had been telling me about it being “different” was true.  Of course, they were so vague about the “differences”, it could have had a different force of gravity for all I knew. 

Neighborhoods in Philly are very different indeed.  We are still serving needy children, the majority of whom come from low-income families, no matter which center you go to.  The populations are different, however.  My old building had an amazing amount of racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity.  Many of the families were non-English speaking, and their home languages ranged from Spanish, Portguese, and Creole to Khmer, Armenian, Urdu, and Pashdo.  The children represented a veritable cornucopia of skin colors and religions.  It was very interesting, and presented its own challenges.  The staff were represented in a variety of backgrounds, too. 

At my new center, the children are almost exclusively African American.  Some are from African immigrant families.  The staff is similarly largely Black.  To say I felt out of place on my first day was an understatement.  I’d heard there were black-white tensions between teaching staff and therapy staff, or between lead teachers and aides.  I’d felt the education divide before.  It can be uncomfortable to have too many letters after one’s name.  I left Tuesday resolved not to judge the people or the work environment until I’d truly settled in.  It was far too early.  I still hadn’t even met half the teachers, and I”d barely spent any time in a classroom because of an administrative SNAFU which was forcing us to run around crazy trying to prepare for an evaluation for a child whom we knew didn’t need speech-language services.  But that’s a story for another day…

Today, we did that evaluation, and over the 2 hours we held the poor child captive, I got to know her very well.  After the kids left, we all had a going-away party for the lady I’m replacing, whose last day was today.  I baked a cherry torte, which is my current bring-along, throw-together, pretty-presentation dessert.  The way into people’s hearts is through food.  It’s just like when I was away at camp, buying friends with my stash of food my mother had sent along, sharing homemade chocolate chip cookies.  By the end of the party the torte was gone, and people were asking questions about the dessert and looking at me in a new way.  Now that they’ve learned I like to bake, I could see them scheming all sorts of occasions (pot-lucks on staff development days, birthday celebrations, holiday parties) to extract home-baked goodies out of me.  I could just tell.  I could also feel my initial apprehension melting away with the quarter-pound of butter I incorporated into the torte.  It’ll be just fine.  I just need to give myself time to get to know the staff, just as I’m allowing the children time to build a rapport with me. 

With kids, though, I can’t use food.  I’ll have to make the best of my charming personality.

The good news came in an e-mail from my clinical supervisor on Tuesday afternoon.  The transfer I requested back in, oh, March, is coming to fruition.  And sooner than I’d expected!  Everything depended on something else.  I couldn’t leave my current post till a full-time replacement had been found, and I couldn’t go to the new location till they’d done a Tetris with how many days/week of speech therapists they needed.  All the interviewees seemed to either disappear to go work elsewhere, or else request to work in the other part of the city. 

The reason I’ve been so anxious to transfer is that I moved.  We bought a house in February, and moving to a nicer neighborhood has doubled my commuting time and distance.  I’ve been tweaking my route countless times, and traffic has eased some since school let out for the summer (those 10 month teachers sure clog up the highways September through June), but it’ll only get worse again in September.  And there’s construction.  And I can’t avoid a major dangerous, poorly designed road which is the bane of my existence.  If there’s  an accident — forget it.  Some people can tolerate a commute and enjoy driving.  Mr. Apron is one of them.  My father is another.  He’s had an hour-long commute for most of my life, with the exception of 4 years we lived in Rochester, Minnesota, which presented its own challenges.  Ask me about lutefisk.  I, however, am not one of those people.  Especially given all my gripes about driving positions and seatbelts ratcheting my internal organs.  So, back to that transfer…

I was told that, if it happened, the changing of the guard would happen between spring and summer “semesters”, during the 2 weeks when children have a break (which ended July 5th), or between the summer and fall “semesters”, in late August, when kids get another respite from staff, and staff from students likewise.  So I certainly wasn’t expecting to see my last day emblazoned on the calendar as July 28th when I arrived at work on Wednesday.  Yet there it was.

Finally.  Unexpected in schedule and logistics, but welcomed nonetheless.  This way actually works out well.  The new SLP replacing me will start this coming Monday, so I’ll have two weeks to orient her to my caseload and help her out with all the “wish someone had told me this”  info.  And, when I disappear to my new location July 28th, I’ll be overlapping that week with the woman I’m to replace.  I’m sad she’s leaving.  I shadowed her back in May when I went to visit that center and wanted to check out the “feel” of the classrooms, and I know I would have much to learn from her were we to work together.  As it is, the other SLP who just started there is a clinical fellow (recall I just finished my clinical fellowship on June 8th), so I’ll be a barely broken-in SLP working with a newbie. 

But she comes highly praised by a woman I work with who knows her through her daughter, so that’s promising.  Basically, I can’t wait to have another SLP to work with.  I’ve been the lone SLP at my current center since November, and I’m very much looking forward to another speechie professional to discuss therapy and treatment ideas with.  It’s a new adventure, and it starts July 28th.  Wish me luck!

I met with my speech therapist supervisor today to talk about me (yay!), and go over all the necessary paperwork for the end of my CFY.   June 2nd will mark the unofficial end of my Clinical Fellowship “Year” (well, 9 months really), the end of 36 hours of observation, the end of many meetings that stretched beyond working hours, the end of having to have my billing paperwork co-signed, and the end of a lesser salary (so I’ve been told, and I choose to believe it).  Thankfully my supervisor is so awesome, I know it won’t be the end of mentorship.  I know I can always come to her with an issue with a coworker, or a clinical question, or to bounce ideas off of her.  But still, it’s a good feeling to be nearing the end.  I’ll get my state license in the coming months, and I’ll be a real, grown-up SLP. 

Recall how I bitched about my commute in previous posts?  About how the driving and the construction and the car’s seatbelt make commuting a quality of life issue for me?  Ah, yes.  Well, I put in for my transfer to the other center (the one half as far away as I travel now), and while my company is stalling, beating around the bush, and tiptoeing through the tulips to avoid telling me yay or nay, I did hear today during our meeting that I have an 82% chance of being transferred.  Not 85%, I was told, but 82%.  Which I’ll take for now.  If I’ve got that light at the end of the interminable traffic jam, then just maybe I can tough it out till June.  Or August.  Whenever they get all the new hires slotted into vacancies and the budget figured out and their horoscopes reworked (HR is a special place).  Then I’ll find out. 

Put in a good word for me with my hopes and dreams, please.  It would make a nice present to celebrate the end of my clinical fellowship year.  And we all like presents, don’t we?

As Mr. Apron just astutely observed, while checking his blog statistics, “People are not at home reading blogs today.”

No, siree, they are not.  In addition to shopping for huge amounts of meat and baby clothing at the outlet stores, they’re also out shopping for cars.  We went car-driving today, too.  I have been lusting after a Honda Fit (for non-US readers, Jazz) since they arrived on these shores in late 2006 (2007 model year).  Mr. Apron even went so far as to buy me a promise ring. The summer before we were engaged, he bought me a claddaugh ring with a tiny emerald in it — a promise ring.  This time, he bought me a different sort of ring — a keyring with the Fit logo emblazoned on it.  And so it went, throughout grad school.  I kept myself motivated, fooling myself into thinking that upon graduation, I’d land a job immediately, and go buy a Fit.  Wrong.  I got the job, but we bought a house instead.  So the car plans went on the back burner.  That, and I have an allergy to both large furniture (entertainment centers and wardrobes, chiefly) and having 2 car payments at the same time.  As my current 2001 P.T. Loser is paid off and runs great, and we’re still paying Mr. Apron’s Ford Focus, we sit for a while and wait for 1) his car to be paid off (April 2011!), or 2) my car to die.  While I’d rather the former, the latter would certainly give us a sense of necessity, as we agree it’s just not a priority right now.

But Mr. Apron gets bugs up his butt, spends hours on ebay motors, and becomes obsessed with a car or an idea (usually about selling, trading in, or unloading one of our cars).  This week it’s been the Fit.  Actually it’s pretty selfless of him.  He could instead have focused on his “next car” or some far off insane dream — the recurring one is a vintage 1967 VW Beetle — but this weekend it was my turn. 

I have an issue with car dealers.  I have never been present at the purchase of a car.  We usually only prowl the lots to drool on new cars after hours so the sleazy sweaty men can’t hassle us.  The last time we ventured on a lot during business hours was when we were looking for a Civic Si (back when they were cute performance hatchbacks).  Of course, they stopped making them, shoved us in a regular Civic to test-drive, and then proceeded to send me weekly nagging letters in the mail for the next two months.  We weren’t in the market to buy; I just wanted to look and to test-drive it. 

See, I have specific needs, as outlined in the P.T. Loser post.  I needed to know if this Fit would fit, or if it would have the same issues with ratcheting seatbelts and pedals I can’t reach.  So I need to more than looking at it, more than sitting in it on the lot; I needed to drive it, or just let the dream go here and now.  So Mr. Apron began his campaign to get me into a Fit. 

1)  First we thought about the neighbor down the block who drives a red Fit, but it’s a stick.  I can technically drive a stick, but it’s a highly unenjoyable experience for me and my passengers, and you just can’t ask new neighbors to let you drive their car with the preface, “Yeah I can drive a stick, but I haven’t in 5 years because I really suck at it.  Can I drive your car now?”  So that didn’t work. 

2) Mr. Apron’s voicemail one day was infused with brilliance.  He’d thought of the perfect way to let me drive a Fit.  We’d join Philly Car Share, which has a fleet of Priuses (Prii?) and, among other cars, Fits.  I immediately set to work researching.  There’s a monthly or yearly fee, plus you have to go to an orientation.  Then you have to reserve it and pay the daily or hourly fee.  And the nearest Fit is parked back near our old neighborhood.  See, ‘cuz it’s Philly  Car Share, not Suburban Main Line We All Have Cars Anyway Share.  So that went to the chopping block.

3) Finally, we resigned ourselves to going to a dealer.  I tried to subdue my inherent defensiveness I feel whenever approached by a slimey salesman, we parked far away so they coudn’t judge us by our “trade-in” and Mr. Apron told me he’d take care of the talking lying. 

As it turned out, we were on the lot for a record amount of time before being approached.  The salesmen were so busy no one bothered us at all.  On an ordinary day of just drooling, that would have been fine, but we needed to drive today, and the sleaze-Os hold the keys.  We ventured inside, looked at all the brochurage, judged all the other customers, and lazily looked at the new Civics and Accords.  Finally.   “Are you being helped?”  No, not yet. 

John tried only once to upsell us, to distract us from our mission.  When I asked if the new Fits had a height-adjustable seat (knowing the old ones did not), he said the ’09s did not, but that the Civics did, would we like to see one?  Ah, no.  Nice try. When we turned down that easy segue, I think he got the picture.  We had a goal.  He showed us the pretty blue Fit flecked with May’s productive pollen.  This was a barebones model.  No armrest, no navigation system, no bun warmers.  But it had a CD player, ABS, and 6 + airbags.  Good enough.  The seating is not ideal.  If I’m close enough to reach the pedals, I either get wedged in the seat by the steering wheel, or I bang my knee on the overhanging accessory buttons on the left side of the dashboard.  (done, and done)  Still, the seat ranked high on the comfort level,  low-end acceleration was great, the aerodynamics meant the open windows delivered plenty of fresh air, and there was even a distracting digital graphic reflecting fuel economy, just like my 1987 Cadillac had!  How far we have come. 

No, I didn’t come home with one today, but it was still a success of sorts.  No one pressured us.  No one has us on a mailing list (my license that he photocoped still has out old address on it, so even if they harrass us the way the other dealership did, it’ll go to our old apartment!).  No one tried to low-ball our trade-in or calculate monthly payments.  They just let us drive the car.  John didn’t even come with us!  He let us go by ourselves.  Maybe this is because the backseat was covered in plastic.  Maybe he’s hiding the fact that it doesn’t humanely seat a full-sized adult male.  But maybe he just realized we were no fools.  We weren’t the types he could get into a Pilot or even make a sale on a Fit today.  And besides.  If we’d made off with their little car, the cops would have been all over our asses.  And then you’d see a different picture below — my booking mug:

Test-driving the 2009 Honda Fit

Test-driving the 2009 Honda Fit

My car is an Inferno Red ™ PT Cruiser Limited, one of the first off the lot in 2001.  I’ve had it since it was almost new (my mother having driven it before me), and I’ve driven most of the 73,000 miles on the odometer.  So why, after 8 years of ownership, 7 years of steady driving, has it suddenly become so very uncomfortable to drive?  It’s gotten to the point that Mr. Apron and I switched cars back in the fall, and I haven’t looked back.  Until today.  He had the other car (a sedate, boring, black Ford Focus) to check my paranoia about the brakes, and I took Clementine back for the day.  We’re a lucky two-car family in that way.  Mr. Apron takes whatever car in for an oil change and walks to work, while I take the other car.  Clementine and I did not have  pleasant reunion. 

The driving position is very upright, a fact Mr. Apron enjoys, but which creates problems for me.  I prefer a more slung-back racing position, not so low as the gangstas giving themselves chronic neck issues, but low enough that I can actually touch my heel to the floor of the car.  I can technically do this in the cruiser, but with the pedals dangling in mid-air, I cannot simultaneously keep the heel of my size 7’s on the floormat and my toe on the pedal to operate either the brake or the gas, unless I’m wearing 3 inch platforms.  Thank goodness there’s not a clutch to add to this equation.  All of which leads to discomfort.  In my hamstring.  It’s similar to that feeling skiiers get when they’re on a super long hi-speed chair lift which suddenly stops in mid air.  Those dangling legs, weighted down with 170 cms (well, 150cm in my case) of fiberglass, chunky boots, and everyone knows those footrests are just for show, especially when you’re sharing a lift with weird foreigners who monopolize the rests or don’t know about American safety conventions like lowering the dear-God-keep-me-in-this-lift bar.  In my case, only the weight of my leg is dangling, but I’m using force to stop my car when the whack-job in the “oy  ta” has no brake lights and I have to stop short, or when I’m gunning poor, underpowered Clementine to please, please accelerate so I don’t get squished by the tractor-trailer.  It has the same effect.  So, what?  Now I have to do stretches to prepare my hamstrings for driving?

Compound the throbbing leg muscles with the seatbelt issues and my ever-lengthening commute, and you’ve got a recipe for a roadside show, if you’re lucky enough to pass me on the road.  Here’s what you’ll see: constant pulling, tugging, adjusting of the seatbelt.  The ratcheting effect (self-tightening, whatever you call it) might be useful for stopping my body from flying out of the car in an accident, but in normal driving, its constant tightening pushes, squishes, constricts around my belly to no end.  I keep thinking of the airline safety announcement that your seatbelt is supposed to lie “flat across your hips and lap”.  Well, airline belts don’t ratchet.  Car seatbelts do, and they end up around my belly every single time, no matter how much I shove them down.  It’s no wonder my poor sister ended up with a seatbelt injury to her small intestine when she was in a car accident last summer; they just don’t stay where they’re supposed to.  So I do something bad.  Not so bad as not wearing the belt, or shoving the shoulderbelt behind my seat, like I did as a child, but still bad.  I take out enough slack on the seatbelt to restrain the average American, and wrap the extra around the armrest, thus abating the racheting somewhat.  But then, of course, with the belt hitting a different and higher vertex (it’s the right word; leave me alone), the hypotenuse of the shoulder belt (I tutor geometry; get used to it) has a higher slope, and, instead of gliding over my shoulder, as it should, is now slicing into my neck.  Even with the adjustable belt thingy on the B-pillar (DH is car nerd).  This thing that is supposed to keep me safe is going to a) decapitate me and/or b) slice up my belly in case of accident, God forbid. 

And the commute.  New traffic “patterens”, the signs warn, as they close down 1/3 lanes on a major artery around here.  My superiors, whom I am nudging for a transfer to a closer center, keep insisting I travel “against traffic flow”, since I head out of the city in the morning, and towards the city in the afternoon.  Let me tell you, fighting my way up or down that stupid road with construction with no end in sight in any time of day, is never against traffic.  Mornings are about 45 minutes; afternoons can be an hour or more, depending on weather, stupid pedestrians who try to cross an expressway against the light, broken-down cars, firefighters/Penn State co-eds collecting money/offering car washes at red lights, or sun glare delays.  My estimated commute to the other center: 25 minutes, morning or afternoon.  That drive, which, ironically, is into the city in the morning, and back to the suburbs in the afternoon, has no traffic because I can use back roads.  My current drive, spanning several neighborhoods, an interstate, and a river, cannot be done with backroads unless I want to double my commute.  Again. 

And all of this in a car which has somehow turned on me.  Poor, poor Clementine.  I cheat on you.  I drive a boring car so I don’t have to feel pain when we’re together.  I lust after a Honda Fit, which must be more comfortable to drive.  What have you ever done to deserve this, except for the month where you got 3 flat tires?  I’m sorry.  We need to be apart again for a time.  I’m not in a good place for a relationship right now.  It’s not you; it’s me.  I’m just not that into you.