Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mad Men Recap S5:E1 & E2

I'm thinking there were far too many uncomfortable moments in the premiere. Roger, please don't drop ashes on your secret lovechild.

I seriously had that Not So Fresh Feeling more times than I could count. So many scenes made me feel terribly anxious - and so, of course, I'm going to keep coming back for more.


Race Issues and The Civil Rights Movement are going to be front and center this season. I had a bad feeling during the opening protest and awful water dropping scene. I was sure someone was going to be killed when something heavy was about to be dropped - but thankfully that never came to pass. Those jerks never got their comeuppance - they should have been arrested, IMHO. The cruel "get a job" signs in Y&L's windows called to mind the current anti-Occupy rhetoric, no?

The Joan storyline was the one I had been dying to see. The opening shot: a baby's butt being smeared with diaper cream. Hello, Baby Kevin. Joan's mom is a real hater - their dynamic struck me as very true to life, even today. Neither woman appears to have made healthy marital choices, although Joan's mom bizarrely still thinks Dr. Greg is a good guy. When are they going to kill him off already? I was bothered by Joan's mom's insistence that "Megan Draper is manipulative." And her quoting of scripture to convince Joan to stay home. No bueno.

This ep was full of women hating on other women. Joan's Mom vs. Joan. Peggy vs. Megan. Peggy vs. Joan. Joan vs. Megan. Uncomfortable...

My award for most uncomfortable scene in the premiere was originally going to go to The newlywed Drapers for the sexy song and dance number en francais in front of everybody and their mom at Don's unwanted surprise un-birthday party. (BTW, I loved Roger and Jane in that scene. "Why can't you look like him?" Touche, Jane.) Then I swear I thought Megan was going to jump from her balcony after Don rejected her and compared her, unfavorably, to Betty who would never, ever plan a surprise party for Don, duh. But then we came to the surprise, lingerie-clad living room clean-up scene, and we had our winner. Clearly, they've played this game before. Ugh. I actually like Megan, and it would be cool with me if she dumps Don this season. I have this odd feeling he's going to get it on with Betty, that is, if he can manage to get her out of Chez Addams.

Lane also made me so uncomfortable in so many ways. Attempting phone sex with total stranger Dolores. (WTF?!) Looking like he was going to steal the lost wallet man's money, because we're also hearing from his wife he really needs the money. For some reason I thought he was going to be inappropriate with Joan when she came to visit the office, but thankfully, no. He likes her, he needs her skills, he can't possibly replace her. It was actually a sweet scene when all was said and done. But still.

The power struggles between Pete and Roger are a nice subplot. I'm fascinated by the lengths Roger will go to in an attempt to still seem relevant. Paying off Harry to get him to trade offices with Pete. Seriously? The Campbells are rocking the suburbs with Baby Tammy (I totally have that Debbie Reynolds song in my head now), and have moved into an eerily former Draper-esque abode. That kitchen gave me some major deja vu. Sounds like Trudy might have a touch of PPD, and probably Joan, too. A 3-week maternity leave? How barbaric. Many American mothers now get at least 6 weeks - yeah, we've come soooo far haven't we?

I started to tear up when all of the African-American job applicants showed up at the end of the ep. Sometimes the depictions of cold, hard racism are too hard to watch. And that fucking offensive statue and fake resume being delivered! Where is the dignity? And Lane's uncomfortable speech to the applicants? Holy jeezus that was hard. Gah, and when they do hire an African-American secretary I'm totally going to worry about Lane sexually harassing her.

What say you, Mad Men watchers?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mad Men, oh how I've missed you

Mad Men is almost baaaack! Season 5 premieres Sunday, March 25th. And I'm on cloud nine.

From Entertainment Magazine:
"The two-hour premiere will resume the story after a healthy time jump, and you may need a few minutes to get your bearings. I want people to feel like they're going to visit their best friend, and they open the door and everything's been going on without them," hints [the heart, soul and superbrain of the show, Matthew] Weiner. "The story is on page 30 when they open the door, so they'll have to catch up."
I'm just relieved the show is officially back on. I know there was some major studio honcho douchiness, and that AMC now admits it released an "inelegant" statement about the protracted negotiations in an effort to make Matthew Weiner look like the asshole holdout. Weiner says he's planning to do 7 seasons. Jon Hamm says he'd play Don Draper until he's 100 if he could. Let's hope so.


The resumption of the Joan Holloway (never Harris) storyline is the one I'm most anticipating. Mostly I want Dr. Greg to die a quick death in Vietnam so Joan can be free of him. Shitty rapist loser. I love how Joan is so together and kickass at work, but is the opposite with her personal life. Of course everyone wants to know if Joan's going to raise her baby. (Am I the only one still eye rolling over the odd pro-life message sent last season?) If so, she'll do it with style and aplomb, as always. But will Roger ever know the truth? Way to surreptitiously stick it to Roger's trophy wife, Jane, and to shitty Dr. Greg, too. Well played, Joan Holloway. Well played.

Of course everyone will want to know if Don and Megan have actually tied the knot. I predict they will have, and naturally, Don will have already started cheating before the ink on the thank you notes is even dry. Will Megan continue to work at SCDP in the higher-profile role she had wished for (in the footsteps of Peggy), or will she stay home? Probably she'll stay home, because I don't think Don would have it any other way. How else is he supposed to chase women if his wife's at work with him?

Then again, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Don's already dumped Megan. As Faye so aptly put it, Don only likes the beginnings. Hmm...

I hear Betty Draper Francis will have a substantial role this season. Should be neat to see how January Jones' pregnancy is cleverly hidden in the shots. Or perhaps they'll just make it so Betty is pregnant with her 4th child (oh joy). I know she's not exactly a fan favorite, but I really do enjoy the raw honesty of her character, and if I'm honest I see a little of my own darkest motherhood moments in her.

Looking forward to the late-60's era social conflicts working their way into the show, and for the youth generation to start moving on up.

I'll be re-capping each episode here. Who'll be watching with me?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

BLOG CARNIVAL - How I Get It All Done (and Am Fabulous)

Happy International Women's Day! This post answers the call of the wonderful Blog Carnival Hostess With the Mostess - @feMOMhist.

Listen up youngish (or oldish) women, here's where I inspire you to decide for yourselves what you want out of life and encourage you to believe you can have it.

Here's my recipe for work/marriage/parenting/living life fabulously. I've got 6 touchstones about that, then I'll share my day to day logistics (I think ours are probably pretty rare for Americans today).

Who Am I? Four years ago, I was a former academic turned VP at a BigName company making bank. Then I got pregnant, and had a nice long mat leave, came back, and was at the lowest point of my life ever, my marriage sucked, I had no social life, I was out of shape, and I had an epiphany. When my first child was 8 months old, one day I just knew I had to leave BigName because I had to travel all the time and I never saw my baby or my husband. (No really, I never saw my baby or my husband.) And though it paid quite well, I didn't love the work and how it drained all my time and energy. I felt trapped by the hours the job required.

We solved the problem in an odd way - by moving far away to a much smaller town where we could pursue our passion for skiing, spend more time as a family, and get the hell out of the stressful BigCity corporate rat race. It was the right decision. People thought we were nuts for leaving. There were haters, but the haters were wrong. (In fact, one hater still living our old life came to visit us recently and confessed that he envies our current life.) Best decision ever, second only to marrying DH.

Now I'm the owner of 2 profitable businesses (providing almost as much income as I made at BigName - quel surprise), the mother of two kids, ages 4 and 2, and the wife to Mr. Perfect who works one 9-5ish M-F job where he's the owner and the boss, but unlike most Americans he has 12 weeks of vacation. We ski a lot because now the mountain is only 30 minutes from our door. We are happy.

My Six Touchstones for how I manage to get it all done:

1. Marry Well or Not At All - Doubt means don't. I've seen too many careers derailed because someone married an asshole, and then had to deal with more weird passive aggressive shizz than could fill an entire episode of shitty Dr. Phil. My husband rocks, and does more around the house than I do. We have had rough patches in our marriage due to kid stress, but we've worked though them. (Thank you Harville Hendrix and John Gottman, et. al.) We schedule the time for dates and having fun and sex together - I guess that's our secret. My old male mentor once advised me, "If you and your equally ambitious spouse want to run with the big dogs, carry the leash in your mouth, and have children - live near the office, get the help you need on childcare, and you will have more flexible time and more total time to spend with your children." Amen!

2. Be Ferociously Organized - this is a personality thing, I think. I came out of my mama's womb knowing how to organize, write everything down, and remember the details. I'm a planner by nature, and I'm excellent at time management. If you're not, may I suggest "Getting Things Done" is a cult book for a reason.

3. Know When To Let Shit Go - Our home life is at times a controlled chaos. It will never be camera-ready 100% of the time when our kids are little. There is often a dog turd lurking somewhere. We just roll with it. We still have people over once a week. This provides the incentive we need to tidy up. I let go of the need to have a perfectly manicured home. It is at a Good Enough level of clean most days.

4. Show Them The A.F.C. = Actual Fucking Cash. That's how you get promoted in a company or survive as a business owner. You have to produce revenue. You have to convince the people with P&L responsibility that you're the reason for all of the A.F.C. coming in to your area, so therefore you're valuable and deserve more. People seem to forget that. As Tina Fey said "Everyone is your competition." Learn how to compete. Once you consistently show them the A.F.C. then you'll free to do more of what you want to do, such as showing up to work at 10am, or being a royal beeyatch when the mood strikes. Read "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" if you want a shitty-titled but accurate how-to.

5. Pay A Professional - Delegate. Outsource. We have a gardener. We have a handy person who comes quarterly to tackle our running list of things I can't fix in 5 minutes time. We would have a housekeeper if we could find one locally who could actually complete the job right. (Still searching). We have 2 regular babysitters. We would use daycare, which is more reliable, but there are no good daycares where we live. It saves us time to have the sitters come to our home and let themselves in. Our regular daytime sitter also does light housework. We pay her well and worship the ground she walks on.

6. You Make Time For Things That Are Important to You - I need me time. I need to ski a lot. I need time to go see a movie in the middle of the day if I feel like it. I need local friends. I need our dinner group, our wine group, and my two book clubs. Even though they're often not perfect, they're working for me now. Life is too short to let your time get away from you. So I re-arranged my life so that we have the kind of time for these pursuits. I don't have to go to an office everyday. We have no real commute. We have plenty of vacation time. In a few years we'll take the kids out of school for weeks on end and go on a big international trip. These tradeoffs make living in Podunkville worth it.

Now, our day to day logistics.

Most Weekdays:
I wake up at 5am, work out, and shower. Start working at my computer at 6am.
Kids wake up at 7:15am or later. I eat breakfast with the kids. Spanish-speaking Babysitter arrives at 7:30am. DH takes DS to Bilingual Montessori.

I work at home from 8am-3:30pm. I can come and go as I please, and run errands or have me time if it's a slow work day. Either DH or I will pick DS up from Montessori and noon and meet up for lunch. Babysitter leaves at 3:30pm.

I play with my kids from 3:30-6pm. But if I didn't finish my work (happens very rarely), and it's winter, I'll take them to the local McDonald's with a play area and I'll work on my laptop. If the weather is good though, I'll send them out in the backyard to play. Or put on a movie for the kids if that fails.

One day a week DS has karate from 4-4:45pm - DH often takes him. DH comes home anywhere from 4-6. DH cooks dinner every night. We sit down together as a family and have a routine of each taking a turn talking about our day. Even the 2-year-old, which is hilarious. I do the dishes while he plays with kids.

At 7:30ish we start the bedtime story routine. If DD has not napped at all, they'll both be asleep by 8:30pm. DH and I have sex and/or read and watch TV in bed. I do one last work email check to make sure I have no fires to put out. We're all asleep by 9:30-10pm.

Weekday Exceptions:
I'm home all day with the kids one day a week (DS is at half day Montessori, and I attend morning co-op preschool with DD).

If it is Thanksgiving-Easter I'm skiing one day a week with DH, while our sitter cares for our kids at home.

We have Date Night one weeknight a week, and we have a regular sitter come from 5-9:30pm.

DH and I are also in book clubs and on local boards that might meet the occasional M, T, or Th night every 6 weeks, so we roll with that.

Most Weekends:
We have Date Night every Saturday from 5-10pm, when we sometimes meet with our Dinner Group of 3 other couples, or our Wine Group of 4 other couples. Regular sitter watches the kids.

Sunday am is ski school for DS, so DH and I get a half day of skiing in, while a sitter watches DD. We could take her skiing with us if the sitter calls in sick, but it is a lot more fun to ski sans kids. She'll start ski school when she's 4. Eventually we'll all have blissful, full days of skiing.

Other than that, we don't have much scheduled on the weekends. And we like it that way!

What works well about our daily logistics:
We don't have our kids in activities that take up much time. There's skiing (which we also get to do while DS is doing it), spanish (in our home), karate. They don't have a choice at this age. Swimming happens during the summer when karate is over. Very rarely we'll do a one-off soccer or art camp that is short and ends soon. Our daytime babysitter teaches them Spanish, and she tidies up the house - lots of drive time saved there. It might start to suck when they're older and ask to do more activities. To which we'll start off saying no...

We are not bound to an office schedule. I work from home. DH works out of an office but is an owner and sets his own hours. We can take vacation pretty much whenever, but we will lose some income. Living in a small town, there's no traffic, and no commute stress. Win-win-win-lose as to the lack of ethnic food.

There you have it. Thanks for reading! Feel free to share yours.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Reporting" not "Tattling"

Our 4-year-old's teacher "reported" to us today that all of a sudden this week our son has started talking a lot more at Montessori. (He had been relatively quiet since starting there in September. Guess he's finally comfortable enough now to finally be his true, vocal self!). He's suddenly asking lots of questions at school and is very curious. Which is wonderful, according to the teacher, who labeled him a "rule-follower" in a good way, but...

Teacher has a problem now that DS has started "tattling" on other students whenever they break the rules. As in "So-and-so is out in the hallway and she's not supposed to be!" etc etc. The teacher has asked DH and me to talk with DS about "tattling" and to coach him on how to problem solve independently. Very important life skill, that.

Whenever I'm faced with a parenting issue I can't immediately sort though, one of the first things I do is to check out the archives at Ask Moxie.

Naturally, that's where I found the perfect resource for tackling our problem - a brilliant post on tattling !!

From which I gleaned these gems -

From @Julie:

"tattling": What you do when you want to get someone else in trouble.
"reporting": What you do to keep someone you care about (or yourself) safe.
Kids absolutely know the difference, from a very early age (I'm talking 3-4 years old)

Tattling is exhausting. My usual response to that is, "What could you have done/said to help xyz make a better choice?" which frustrates the tattler because their goal of getting xyz in trouble has been thwarted and they must think about how they could have helped instead - SO LAME!


In my observations of the students I have worked with for over 15 years, the students who tattle do so for a very specific reason - the most common ones are:
-to seize some power over someone they feel has power over them
-to retaliate against a perceived injustice
-to gain some favor with an adult, usually to compensate for emotional needs they themselves might be harboring.

For example, if Jenny tattles on Gloria about talking on the rug, Jenny is most likely feeling that Gloria has been mean to her in the past and wishes to "get back at" her (power), or that Gloria ALWAYS seems to get away with stuff, while Jenny NEVER seems to get away with anything and always gets caught (injustice), or that Jenny wants to gain favor with the teacher, to feel *she* is the teacher's helper/friend/confidante etc. (compensation in relationships)

It's usually never *just* about getting someone in trouble, though there is a very powerful rush that some kids get in doing so if they meet the above criteria. Children are inherently kind, and only through continuous bullying, perceived injustices caused by other kids or adults, or emotional voids in their own life, do they feel the need to get another child into trouble... Tattling *just* for the sake of getting someone into trouble is a pretty shallow definition, and I think the people who struggle with the no tattling rule understand that the purpose for tattling can be much deeper and should be addressed rather than just saying "don't tattle, that's our rule."

And another pithy gem from @Sharon Silver:

Sometimes, especially at age 3 or 3.5 children "tattle" because they want you to know that they know the rules. They come to you and tattle as if to say, "See I've been listening. I saw it done wrong, and I'm coming to tattle so you know that I understand the right way." Asking a child if that's what they're doing, announcing the right way, by calling attention to the wrong way, is a good way to begin the conversation. You can even compliment them on knowing the rules.
Yep. I think we now have the basic framework for working with DS on this issue. Anyone been there, done that and got anything else to add here? ("Tattling" - grrr I hate that word. "Reporting" is probably a better word, but then it might take a minute for the listener to connect "reporting" in this sense with "oh, they mean kids tattling.")

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Firing the Client

I never blog about work. Sure, I'll blog about what's ailing my vagina, my marital problems and solutions, all manner of inane things, but never my work. I guess I'm just not that into talking about it. This may also stem from the fact that, in general, I don't like to spend more emotional/mental time on work than is ever absolutely necessary. My blog is my fun, personal time - separate from work. That's how I like it. I also value my privacy and don't wish to ever be outed IRL (not that that would ever happen), hence few specifics about my jobbity job jobs.

But I will say this about my work. The good (and sometimes really bad) news is I'm my own boss. I have the luxury of picking and choosing the people with whom I do business. Today I fired a client who has been a pain in my ass for the last 6 months.

It felt goooooood.

Firing a client is not something I've ever done before. I had this epiphany at 3am this morning: I honestly never want to see or hear from this client again. There is no amount of money this person could pay me that would make me want to interact with them ever. I know that saying, "everyone has a price." Not in this case. Not for me. Honestly. No. Fucking. Way.

What did this client do to piss me off and make me realize I'm done with them, you ask?

Long story short: after a shitstorm, the client told me I was supposed to have known they wanted me to tell them A Certain Thing orally as opposed to me telling them A Certain Thing via letter and email. Therefore my failure to tell them orally is their reason (excuse) they failed to complete Big Task they had committed to completing.

Or in other words, the client would like to blame me for their own failure to complete Big Task.

Um, no client, I deal in the written word. It's called CYA.

So I told them orally, and by letter, and by email that I'm letting them go. I feel better already.

Ever break up with a client? How did it go down?