Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

Five years ago, I announced to everyone within earshot that I was suffering severe career burnout. The path I had chosen after earning my master's degree had lost its luster and, while it proved to be an excellent source of income for my family, it had nearly drained my reserves of humor and wit. 

My mother, always a source of inspiration and commiseration, reminded me that God was not through with me yet and to not give up hope. With that in mind, at the urging of my sister (who I'll blame since she's not here), I started writing a book. 

Wait, let me back up a bit. 

Shortly after announcing my career angst, I penned three 500 word essays, just off the top of my head. They were witty little numbers about being a crazed working parent. After reading those, my dear sis dangled the idea of cranking out a manuscript. 

Meanwhile, my husband (also not here at the moment), prodded me to submit them to the Chicago Tribune's TribLocal section and with that, my literary career was on its way. Or so I thought.

For the next four years, while I continued to work full-time, my columns appeared regularly in both the print and online versions of the paper. All the while, I connected with editors and other writers, picking up several lucrative freelance assignments while continuing to work on my manuscript. 

Ironically, I was so busy stocking my credibility cache to flaunt in front of potential literary agents and publishers, that my manuscript fell to the wayside. Sure, I'd occasionally dust it off for a writing contest or peer critique, and every time it got rejected, I'd revise it. 

In the end, it got to the point where I no longer recognized it - until last month when, after a week long break from my day job, I opened the original version of my beloved manuscript and decided on the spot to pitch it to an agent. In person.

At the time, this bold gesture seemed like the right thing to do. Enough pussy-footing around. Publish the thing! If this agent rejected it (as agents often do), then I'd go the self-publishing route just to get it off of my plate. 

Well, dear readers, my pitch appointment is exactly 48 hours from now. I was a tad anxious about it until I read an interview the agent had given on the art of pitching. His advice? Treat it like a job interview. At that, I relaxed. Having interviewed about a gazillion times over the course of my ill-chosen career, I know exactly what to do, how to dress and what to say. 

It think it's in the bag...

While he may not leap out of his chair with excitement over my story, I'm confident that I will do my best showcase my clever tale of a wayward plate spinner and leave the rest to God (who I'd blame, but he's always here). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tax Season Detox

My tax preparer husband is starting his annual tax season detoxification. And it's not pretty.

After spending the last few months working 60+ hour weeks, completely immersed in all things income tax related, his body is used to late nights, his eyes are glazed over by tax codes printed in 2pt. font and all he can talk about is filing returns.

Transforming back into his usual stay-at-home dad/cabana boy persona is going to require some drastic measures.

I know what works. We go through this every year and I can tell you, it's not for the faint of heart.

For instance, the faster we can get him back on the family's early-to-bed-early-to-rise schedule, the better (much like recovering from jet lag, or what I like to call "tax lag").

Experience has taught me that for the first few days, he'll act like a bear that's been rushed out of hibernation. With the promise of an afternoon nap and some salmon for dinner, though, his mood will gradually improve.

Next, any mention of taxes and anything having to do with them - returns, the IRS, deductions, dividends, W2s, 1099s, extensions, audits, interest statements and payment plans is hereby banned until next January 1st.

Sure, he may stumble through conversations about the kids, world affairs and the latest sports scores, but I know it's just temporary.

And, I have to say with Day 1 almost behind us, he's doing fairly well.

He didn't even flinch when I informed him that his youngest volunteered him to help with roller skating during his gym class tomorrow.

I half-expected that the thought of standing in the midst of 60 short people on wheels, some screaming, most with arms flailing, might just be enough to send him back into the office to file a stack of extensions

Come to think of it, maybe I should have the PE teacher do a calculator pat down before he enters the gym...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Last Day to File Taxes - Finally!

April 18th. A most dreaded deadline that marks the day by which all 2011 income taxes must be submitted, paid or otherwise accounted for, like it or not.

For me, though, this day doesn't mark a deadline at all. It's more of a finish line, designating the end of my  "single-parent-of-five-boys-with-a-full-time-desk-job" status.

At the stroke of midnight tonight, I get my husband back.

Tomorrow, he'll morph from a harried tax guy to a stay-at-home Dad.

Theoretically, this means that I shouldn't have to get up before the sun to rouse my boys and get them to school so said husband, who had worked late the night before, can sleep in.

And I won't be the only one loading and unloading the dishwasher three times a day (compared to my usual one load, two tops).

No more being the primary negotiator, peace-keeper, grocery shopper, laundry processor and limo driver.

But then again...

No more alone time savored after all of the boys are in bed. No more playing the music I like as loud as I like it while working from home.

No more sole ownership of the remote control.


I wonder if I can get him to file an extension, theoretically speaking.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

If You Give a Working Mother a Cookie...

If you give a working mother a cookie, she'll probably have it for breakfast on her way into the office. When she gets to the office, she'll probably have a cup of coffee.

When she's finished, she may pop a breath mint before heading into the conference room. When she's in her meeting, she'll probably want to assign action items to everybody.

So, they should probably avoid making eye contact with her.

When she's done, she'll probably go back to her desk to check her email. She'll start working. She might get carried away and draft her goals for the entire year. She may even write them for her entire staff!

When she's done, she'll probably want to go home and eat. You'll have to fix dinner with a salad and dessert. She'll dive in, eat until she's full and complement the chef.

She'll probably ask you to do your homework. So, you'll hit the books and she'll check your work.

When she sees the time, she'll pretend to be sleepy, she'll tell you it's time for bed, she'll point to your PJs. She'll tell you to brush your teeth. She'll say good night

When you're tucked in bed, she'll still have to do the laundry. Then she'll clean the kitchen and make lunches for the next day.

Which means she'll need snacks.

She'll pull the ingredients out of the pantry and start to bake. Looking at the clock will remind her that she's tired. So...she'll brew some coffee.

And, chances are, if she drinks some coffee, she's going to want a cookie to go with it.