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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Failure to Communicate

Emma and I were eating our breakfast yesterday and I told her I was thinking about "firing" my tattoo artist.

"Why?"

"Because he keeps missing his deadlines and I always have to contact him after the fact to find out.  I want him to contact me!"  And that reminded me.  "Now that I think about it, I'm bummed that the lady hasn't responded to my email to set up a time to hear you sing."

I started looking into private voice lessons for Emma.  Leslie and I had inquired a couple years ago and gotten a few names, and had been told that really 12 is a good starting point for that sort of thing.  So we started looking...and then all hell broke loose and we stopped.  But I was talking to a guy at work about his daughter (heavily involved in musical theater) and it reminded me. 

So I contacted this woman about having Emma, now 13, sing for her and then seeing if we could set something up in the Summer when Emma's schedule clears out a bit. 

"Why don't people want to talk to you," she asked?

"I don't know!  I mean...I'm super charming over the phone."

"Maybe...maybe you're not as charming as you think you are."

"H-how DARE you!"

"Dad, maybe you have communication issues."

Maybe I do.  My tattoo guy reached out to me after the second slipped deadline in response to my "concerned" email.  Apologetic.  I fired him.  His response to my concern was three options.  1)  keep the schedule as is...he would work tirelessly to complete the design by the date (next week), 2)  move the date out to the SECOND date we set up (about four weeks from now) and start the process, or 3) refund the deposit and tell the shop he couldn't hit my deadline. 

And I opted for "3)".  And told him to let me know the best way to collect the deposit.  He said he'd contact the shop and let me know.  But instead he wrote a butthurt email about my decision making process and how health matters were out of his control, and, though I sympathized, I agreed and told him that I'm not penalizing him for his health, I'm penalizing him for his communication.  I laid it all out in 4 items.  It was a long response.  It's just business.  I was starting to get cold feet with him.  Starting to get nervous.  I really want this to be a good experience.  Also...lotsa money.  Anyway...I haven't yet heard back about how I'm to retrieve my deposit, but I'm thinking at this point, and after my last response (despite indicating I have no ill will toward him or the shop) he's probably just going to blow me off and I'll have wasted $100.

Meh. 

I don't want to let this project die.  I have decided that I will write up a "scope of work" complete with pictures, and send it to a few artists around the city and see what they say.  I have maybe a dozen or so names.  This starting over from scratch thing is a real pain in the ass.  I had a really good feel for my vision of how this was going to look, and I thought it had been communicated to the artist as well.  And I guess it had.  He just didn't start work on it until a week before the appointment.

Anyway...no tattoo next week, but I'm still doing it.

Now...to send a followup email to the voice instructor...


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Weekend Update

The tattoo guy hadn't contacted me by Thursday of this past week, so I figured I'd email him.  It's been a little over two weeks since we met and sat down to go over all the ideas...themes...features...look...of what I want him to do for me.  He said he's been having migraines.  I told him to give me the doctor's fucking note.

I didn't.  I believe him.  Anyway, he promised to have something to me by Sunday/Monday, so I'm assuming Monday and I'll update when/if he hits that date.

One of the reasons I pushed the actual first sitting out to February 26th was so that the design wasn't rushed.  So that I could make sure that I was getting his best, most well thought out, carefulestest design.  But maybe migraines interfered with that master plan.  We shall see.  If I'm not happy with it, I'll just push back the date.  It's too much money to go into with any trepidation apart from..."will I pass out when he starts jabbing me" sort of trepidation.

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Lily, after maybe three or four weeks of multiple accidents per day at school has strung two accident free days in a row together.  Potty training has always been a huge stresser for me.  For us.  So it's been sort of a trial, and my patience really needs to be spot on because I recognize how upset it makes me when she struggles with that.

Anyway, call it regression, maybe she was sick?  But...puberty is coming for her.  And probably her body is feeling really different and weird, and she really doesn't have the sorts of tools in her tool box to handle those feelings.  She's been lashing out a bit more over the past few weeks, and that too seems to be settling down.  I think...I think my little girl is growing up.

And it's very scary to face that without Leslie.

And it's not that people aren't willing to face it with me.  It's a comfort level thing.  I was able to talk to Les about just about anything.  I was comfortable.  I don't really have that same comfort with anyone else.

I'll be fine.  Lily will be fine.  The family will be fine.  But it's out there, and it's scary, and it's something I have to face and address.

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I have to do my taxes.  This year is the first in a long time that I've considered having an accountant do them.  Turbo Tax seems like it would struggle picking up the pieces of all the moves I've made since Leslie died.  Insurance payouts.  Rollovers.  Social Security benefits.  I'm going to still try it, I just need about six hours on a given day of time to focus on it and hammer out the details.  If I fail...I'll box it all up and take it to an accountant.

I'm scared of what the "return" will look like.  Maybe there won't even BE a return.  I just don't even know what to expect.

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Trunk Club starts up again this week.  Did I write about Trunk Club?  Hmm.  *searches blog*  Okay, yeah, I did.  But mostly just in passing.  Trunk Club is this "free service" app where they send you a trunk full of clothes to try on based on your size, life style, and tastes.  A stylist works with you to determine what you want, then fills a box full of stuff that they send to you free of shipping.

You open the box, try on the clothes, and keep what you like (and pay for it).  And you send back the rest free of charge.  So the big downer of Trunk Club is that the branding is expensive as fuck.  Way more than I would typically spend on clothes.  I talked to the stylist about the price point of the stuff they were sending and her response was...the price point is the only reason the shipping and stylist advice is "free".  Which is fine.  If I have a huge problem with it, I can just quit.

On the plus side, her argument that If I wanted to update my wardrobe then getting a few well-made high-quality "essentials" and then supplementing that from the mall, was probably a good plan.  Also on the plus side, it's given me ideas about less expensive clothes to buy based on some of the outfits she's put together for me.

For example...She sent this really nice pair of shoes and belt that she had paired with three or four outfits in the trunk.  I really liked the look, but cringed at the price tag on the shoes.  I think they were $300.  Not sure.  I bought a sweater and a pair of jeans and maybe a shirt and sent everything back.  The shoes were actually too big because my foot is so narrow, but it was a really nice look.  The next day I went to DSW and found a pair of shoes that looked enough like them that they passed my cursory inspection, and paid a quarter of the price.

So I am starting that up again this week.  I told her I'd hit my limit last year and she said she'd contact me in January about starting up again.  Anyway, if you see facebook selfies of me it's probably because I just got a new "outfit" and I like it.

Oh...I forgot to mention.  They send you a sticker for UPS, but if you don't want to take it back to UPS and ship it...they'll send out a request to pick it up.  From your house.  It's suuuuuuper convenient.  But the clothes are spendy, at least by Pittsburgh middle class standards.  Anyway.

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Speaking of new looks, I'm going back to my barber tomorrow.  I like the haircut she's been giving me despite the fact that I still do not look like David Beckham.  I mean, that's the one thing I really ever tell her when I sit in the chair..."Make me look like David Beckham."  And she's more or less failed every single time.  I still look like me.

Not me.

Mister Goods and Grooming is in Lawrenceville.  I like the concept.  It's like the typical salon experience...but mannified.  I know when Les used to get her hair done they'd give her a glass of wine and shoot the shit, and she loved that atmosphere, and at Mister, they offer you a beer or coffee...it's fun.  Lawrenceville in general is fun.
http://mistergroomingandgoods.com/

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Speaking of tomorrow...it's Valentine's Day.  And maybe some of you are wondering whether this is a hard time of the year for me.  It's really not.  Leslie and I went to dinner on Valentine's Day, but that was really it.  The "holiday" was sort of forced upon us.  She was never a huge Valentine's kind of girl, but we usually would buy a couple little things for the girls, and a card for each other, and maybe have a nice dinner out.  Anyway, I'm just saying, it's not a painful day for me.   Besides, I have a valentine's day meeting with my barber.  So romantic!


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Parent/Teacher Conference

Another one of those strangely emotional nights for me.  Last quarter Emma had her worst quarter ever scholastically  Basically cratered.  I had decided at the beginning of this school year to approach this year with a "Your grade, your responsibility" philosophy with her.  Basically pulling back from helicoptering about and emailing teachers for missed assignments or requests for makeup work or retests or whatever in efforts to get Emma back to the grades that I...that WE (because Leslie and I both worked with her in the past) knew she could get.

Well...the fruits of that philosophy were...worst quarter ever.  EVER.  So of course I felt like a bit of a failure as a dad because this great experiment...this...take charge of your own work thing...which I really believe is ultimately the lesson she needs to learn...failed.  And it left Emma upset about her grades, and me pissed and frustrated about them too.

And the school called to arrange a conference...and I was like...well, fuck.  And I talked to Emma about it.  And as I talked, my voice did that thing that it sometimes does when I'm really angry or frustrated, and I heard my volume rising, and then Emma was crying and I was not letting my foot off the gas and...promises were made and hugs were given and...well...it ultimately ended on a bit of a good note despite my lack of self control.

And I watched as the first two weeks of this quarter went by and her grades came in.  Up.  Across the board.  And I felt like she was trying.  And I felt like...shit...maybe this come to Jesus is something that should have been done months ago.

I didn't know what the conference's tone would be like.  It was scheduled a week after her grades for the second quarter were turned in.  The worst grades any of those teachers have ever seen Emma get.  So I was nervous about it.  I imagined the worst.  New friends.  Lower grades.  Have you considered that these might be signs of something else?  Mr. Walter, have you talked to your daughter about drugs?  Really...no idea what I was walking into.

I had a prepared message.  Watch her.  She's already showing an upturn.  She wants this now.  It matters to her...now.

Instead I sat in a roomful of her teachers as they took turns telling me things about my daughter...

"She is lit from within"
"She gives so much to everyone"
"She advocates for herself"
"She understands how to talk to adults and explain when something is wrong"
"She is naturally talented"
"People are drawn to her and want to be with her."
"We can tell she's making a real effort"
"She's a hard worker"
"She's great.  We love Emma."

Those are things they said.  And more.  All the worries about whether she was taking her grades seriously...

"She asked to be moved to the front of the class so she could focus more."
"She emailed me an apology for not doing her best last nine weeks."
"When she falls she gets right back up"
"She's full speed ahead"

I always tell the people who care about me enough to listen that my worries about Emma are no less than my worries for Lily.  Just different.  And it is SUCH an irony to have to tell something like that to autism parents who adopt "different not less" as a battle cry.  Because many autism parents get...offended by neurotypical kids' parent's concerns about their kids.  "Oh wah...your daughter didn't get head cheerleader...MY kid can't eat without help!" As if having a special needs child means that our stress silences anyone else's stress or worry.  It's so stupid.  And I do get it at times...but man.  I've been worried about my little Emma.  And I get a free pass because I'm "in the club" but when I read the sentiment expressed...I cringe.  I can't relate.

And the teachers had concerns.  Of course they had concerns.  "When Emma turns in her homework, she shows that she understands the material.  But sometimes...she doesn't turn it in." And they shared that "almost there" frustration that I've been feeling.  That knowledge that she's got it.  She's smart.  She owns the material...but we can't grade her on it if she doesn't turn it in.

But I left feeling so...blessed.  So proud of her.  I make sure I tell her that especially after I've gotten done reaming her about something...that I'm proud of her.  That she makes me proud every day.  Certainly today was a noteworthy example of that.

I almost cried a dozen times during that half hour conference.  Tears of relief.  It's been so bottled up.  And when I walked out of the school into the parking lot to my car...I did cry a little.  Bittersweet tears.  Proud of Emma.  "You've done a great job with her," they said.  Leslie should have been here to take her bows too.  And that was the sad part.  The triumphs seem to cause me more grief than the stress does.  You did good, mommy.  She's going to be okay.

I told Emma when I got home.  She was relieved too.  I told her not to relax now that she knows the news is good.  She said she wouldn't.  I'm more engaged.  Still her grade her responsibility.  But I'm making myself more available for her.  Less treadmill...more study help.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Inevitability

I'm antsy.  Matrix is on in the background.  Lily is asleep.  Emma is showering.  I'm on the treadmill wondering what I should write about.  If anything.  This.  This is what I came up with.

My car sucks in the snow.  I slid around a little bit in it last week.  Every time that happens I think, "my car sucks in the snow.  I really need something better."  I have the minivan, but never drive it.  I don't want two cars.  I just want one.  But it needs room so that I can take kids to the beach or camping or whatever.  It needs AWD or 4WD or something...but I somehow also need it to be a commuter.  What's out there?

I thought maybe a smaller SUV/Crossover.  Maybe a Subaru or something, and i could always just add a Big Mac or whatever to the roof.  Still thinking about it though.  Not sure.

Tank is loading the training for the B212 helicopter into Trinity, and it occurs to me that the flimsy little keyboard shelves he's using for his multiple keyboards is probably akin to the technology I'm using to support my laptop on this treadmill.

That probably sounds like I mean to make my treadmill matrix-like, but mostly it's just a realization that the Matrix operators had shitty keyboard support.

As previously stated, writing more means that sometimes I'll write about ...less.  Just getting back in the habit.

Oh...here's something.  I find myself putting off autism-friendly things.  They seem overwhelming to me.  Sensory friendly Peter Pan is coming soon.  And I keep looking at the flyer and then putting it in the stack with the other "to be addressed later" stuff.  And I know that part of it is because this was Leslie's strength...pushing me past the inconvenience of staying at home and comfortable.  Pushing Lily's experiences.  I know that I have to pick up that flyer.

"Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson?  That is the sound of inevitability."

Tomorrow?

"My name is Neo."

Tonight I think.