Another Bullshit Day in Suck City

Cape_DisappointmentWell, I finally received some job news last night and it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. The head of video production at the company I interviewed with emailed me last night and said that they can’t offer me a permanent position right now, but they frequently use freelance producers and, if I’m interested, they’d like to add me to their freelance pool. Needless to say, finding out that they didn’t have a permanent position to offer after one phone interview and two in-person interviews was more than a little disappointing.

There is a glimmer of hope, though. This morning, the person I interviewed with in the events department emailed to ask if I could meet with her next week. She initially told me she’d love to have me work with her, but was afraid that video would steal me away. That’s why she arranged for me to meet with them first. So, that’s somewhat promising. I also have a potential freelance gig for a friend who owns an ad agency in Minneapolis. He’s just trying to figure out if I could manage the project from here in Atlanta.

I know this is all very boring, but thought I owed you an update after subjecting you to my bad haiku. I’m just going to keep plugging away and taking freelance jobs until something permanent comes along. Freelance isn’t exactly the best situation when you’ve got two children and a husband who travels, but I guess we’ll just have to be flexible.

So kids, the moral of the story is that you should never stop working completely when you decide to procreate. Keep your foot in the door, even if it’s just for occasional work. Having to completely start over and knock down the door is a bitch and I don’t recommend it.

*The above title was blatantly stolen from ‘Another Bullshit Night in Suck City’ by Nick Flynn. It is quite possibly the best title for a memoir ever.

Waiting for Job News, Writing Bad Haiku(s)

Lichtenstein_blonde_waiting

© Roy Lichtenstein, Blonde Waiting, 1964

You said you liked me
an impressive resumé
we’ll be in touch soon

Cell phone at my side
jumpy as a flea on meth
caffeine can’t be blamed

Visions of paychecks
dancing in my anxious head
and yet still I wait

I cannot decide
should I shop for work clothes or
drink bourbon and cry

I Would Do Anything for Work (But I Won’t Do That)

pancake_machineWhen I decided to take time off from work to raise the demon spawn, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy climb back to career success and this was when I thought the whole stay-at-home-mom thing was going to be a just short hiatus for me. Indeed, my triumphant return to the job market has been elusive, thus far. I recently ran across a revised copy of my resume dated 2010. That’s right, it’s been five years since I said, “That’s it! I’m going back to work.” Shortly after that, I got an interview for a producer position at Turner Networks. That was the first time I was told, “We think you’re great, but we’ve decided to go with an internal candidate.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last.

So, over the past few months, I’ve been using a new tactic for my job hunt. Shoot low and do the dirty work. I’ve learned to check my vanity at the door and be willing to do just about any job even remotely related to my field in an attempt to get the old career back on track. I’ve volunteered, I’ve taken on assignments for free, I’ve worked as a production assistant (a glorified runner) on a television show, despite having worked for years as a producer, and now I can proudly say I’ve slung pancakes to make a buck!

My friend M. has been working for a couple event planning and marketing companies over the past year in an effort to move her career in a different direction. She keeps saying I should join her, so I wasn’t entirely surprised when she contacted me a few weeks ago to ask if I could work an event with her the following day. The job paid fairly well, but the call time for the event was to be 6 am in Alpharetta, which is about 30 minutes from my home. My first reaction was, “Aw, hell no!” but quickly reminded myself I was in no position to turn down a job at which I might make good contacts (Network, network, network!). So, I checked to see if Ad Man could work from home and supervise kids the next day. He said yes and so did I.

I was told that we’d be working a corporate event for one of the country’s largest hotel groups which just happens to also be one of the production company’s biggest clients. However, I was still in the dark as to exactly what I’d be doing. It was only when I arrived before sunrise the following morning that I found out we’d be making pancakes for approximately 100 people. I wondered why we were told to wear head-to-toe black if we’d be handling pancake batter, but asked no questions and got to work unloading equipment and setting up tables.

Things became clearer though, when the most magnificent piece of machinery was unloaded and brought into the now transformed conference room. I knew what the mysterious contraption was only because of my recent road trip with my friend A and our girls. On the trip, we stayed at only the finest accommodations, one of which was the Holiday Inn Express in Sanford, North Carolina. It truly was a lovely hotel…brand new with friendly-modern interior design and nice indoor pool (very important when one is traveling with a band of restless children). But, the very best part of the Holiday Inn Express was the newly debuted automatic pancake maker!

I will admit that the pancake maker isn’t much to look at, but its design and performance make it a thing of beauty. I won’t be at all surprised when MOMA adds the Holiday Inn pancake maker to its permanent design collection. That’s how amazing it is. Biggie, Smalls and their friend AJ had their young minds blown when they pushed a button on the pancake maker and two, perfectly cooked, uniformly sized and sweet smelling pancakes emerged from the other end of the machine in less than a minute! Needless to say, Holiday Inn Express has suddenly become our first choice for lodgings while on the road.

Anyway, back at the event, three gleaming pancake makers now stood in a place of honor at one end of the room. To my delight, the event producer assigned the crucial responsibility of pancake making to M and me. That meant we were privy to the inner workings of the pancake maker (we received training directly from the automatic pancake maker expert who was on site the entire time) and could crank out pancakes to our hearts’ content. The details are top secret, but I can tell you that, to my relief, our exposure to pancake batter was minimal.

It turned out, the purpose of the event was to demonstrate the new pancake maker for the company’s employees and to launch a television marketing partnership. There was a video, signage, stand ups, even a speaker, but all eyes were on the pancake maker. The employees were as giddy as Biggie and Smalls were upon their first encounter with the magical machine. It was fun as hell. Don’t get me wrong, there was lots of hard work, but it was totally worth the smiles on the attendees faces and delicious pancakes heaped with blueberries and whipped cream we scarfed behind closed doors after the festivities.

In exchange for carrying heavy things and slinging pancakes, I met a great group of people who worked together like a well-oiled machine, got paid actual money, and made some valuable contacts at a very busy and successful marketing company. In fact, they just happen to be hiring producers. Without jinxing anything (because that’s a totally legitimate concern for a well-educated, grown woman), I’m hoping to have some exciting job news for you soon. Fingers crossed!

25 Reasons I Abandoned You This Summer

back-to-schoolMy beloved, dedicated readers (all five of you), as I gleefully watched Biggie and Smalls drive away on the bus this morning, I thought of you. I must apologize from the bottom of my heart for the weeks-long silence this summer. I know I’ve hurt you before and made promises to change, but this time I really mean it.

I, MommyEnnui, do solemnly swear that I will post more often going forth, beginning today. I’ve decided that I will keep you updated with bite-sized tidbits of my life, rather than allowing myself to be paralyzed trying to express Big Thoughts. Big Thoughts hurt my brain anyway. I do, however, have some good (and some really pathetic) reasons I abandoned you this summer. Here are a few of them:

1. I’m still upset about Ben and Jen’s breakup.
2. My laptop kept overheating and turning itself off at the pool.
3. I’ve been traveling the world. And by “world,” I mean North Carolina, Washington D.C., and Mexico.
4. The “easy kid” has become the “whiny kid.”
5. The “challenging child” is still a pain in the ass.
6. I’ve been trying to decide what to wear to all my gay friends’ weddings.
7. Entertaining a puppy when it’s 95 degrees out is no picnic.
8. I was busy not cooking nutritious meals for my family.
9. Choosing paint colors for the exterior of the house isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.
10. I went on a road trip with three girls, ages 10 and under, and I’m still recovering.
11. I was working on (feeding) my bikini body.
12. The basil plant wasn’t going to water itself.
13. Facebook.
14. Pinterest.
15. I was Swiffering the floors.
16. Sleeping late felt SO good!
17. I was working the kinks out of a new summer screen-time policy.
18. I organized the house a little.
19. I expended all my energy being outraged by mass shootings and racism.
20. You try to get two girls to decide on new backpacks!
21. I’m newly upset about Gwen and Gavin.
22. Birdie is going through a clingy phase.
23. I had anticipatory stress caused by the mere thought of impending homework.
24. I dreamed I was pregnant and it took weeks to get over the terror.
25. I blinked and summer was over!

I hope you can find it in your heart to trust me again. I’m willing to work on it if you are.

Love,
MommyEnnui

Two Kids and a Dog Up My Butt

Prologue

Please forgive me if this post feels stale. I’ve been attempting to finish it for the last two weeks, but I can’t f’ing write with two children and a dog up my butt 24/7! I’ve tried writing while the girls are huddled in front of some glowing screen or running unsupervised around the neighborhood, but it’s rare that even five minutes go by without someone whining (Birdie and Smalls), tattling on her sister (Smalls), protesting some perceived injustice (Biggie) or asking for a snack (Biggie, Smalls, Birdie, me). Aaaaarrrgghhhh!!! OK, I feel a little better. Please read on.

***

end_school_zoneIt’s the last week of school (you already know how I feel about this time of year), Ad Man is out of town all week, and I am barely holding onto my sanity (well, my definition of sanity which allows for a lot of wiggle room). Biggie and Smalls have been at each others’ throats pretty much every waking hour of the last few days. This doesn’t bode well for the next two and a half months. I’m starting to keep a list of some of the stupid shit those two find to fight about. My favorite so far is when they argue about whether or not they’re arguing.

Ad Man has been pretty much MIA other than a daily morning text to make sure we’re all out of bed. There are business trips during which he will call home and Facetime with the girls so he can quiz them on spelling words or they can read books to him. This hasn’t been one of those trips. Either his schedule is back-to-back meetings followed by expense account dinners followed by expense account bar hopping or he’s (wisely) avoiding me.

One rare time he promptly responded to a text from me this week, was when I informed him that I’d received a call about the mysterious bug I recently found downstairs on some laundry. I’m completely paranoid of Lyme Disease and haven’t ever seen a tick other than in photos, so I saved the bug in a zip-lock bag and gave it to our Orkin guy William. He couldn’t positively identify the body, so he brought it back to the office to observe it under a microscope. As he was walking out the door, he said casually, “I hope it’s not a bed bug.” Cue the panic! Find the Xanax!

Because Ad Man travels so much, bed bugs have been a recurring nightmare of mine for quite some time. Seriously, I’d rather both girls come home from school with lice than have the house infested with bed bugs. According to my internet research, which we all know is 100% accurate, bed bugs are very expensive, and damn near impossible, to get rid of. Moreover, bed bug bites are apparently horribly itchy. We had fleas in our apartment in Los Angeles once and I was ready to amputate my own legs in order to stop the itching. Ad Man, of course, is impervious to all insect bites.

Bed_bugThat was last week and, since I hadn’t yet heard back from Orkin and none of us had any bug bites, I thankfully assumed it wasn’t a tick or a bed bug and that all was well. That was until Monday, the day Ad Man hightailed it out of town. When I picked up the phone, William’s first words to me were, “You’re not going to like this…” Now, I adore William. He keeps my house mostly free of giant, flying cockroaches and never comments on my mounds of unfolded laundry. However, I think Orkin should start giving their technicians lessons on gently delivering disturbing news.

Indeed, the bug I was so worried was a tick turned out to be far, far worse. Ad Man got my text and responded surprisingly quickly. He attempted to calm me as I became more unhinged and my voice got higher with every passing minute. He tried to convince me that maybe just that one bed bug stowed away from New York in his luggage. I said, “Do you really think I just happened to find the one lonely bed bug wandering around our house?!” Feeling not the slightest bit optimistic, I made an appointment for a bed bug inspection for later in the week.

Meanwhile, I had a deluge of end-of-school-year and beginning-of-summer activities to wade through, so completely losing my shit was not an option. Biggie and Smalls have decided to join swim team after years of turning up their noses at the idea. I’d been told by numerous friends how lucky I was that the girls weren’t interested and that the schedule of practices and meets was overwhelming, especially while the kids were still in school. Did I heed their warnings though? I did not. I stupidly asked the girls just one more time if they wanted to join the team knowing how much they love to swim and wanting them to have an athletic activity to drag them away from the television this summer.

So, the day of the girls’ first swim practice arrived and I’d spent all day trying to work, stocking the fridge with ingredients for easy meals to which I would later say, “Screw it!” and order pizza instead, and tracking down luau-themed plates and napkins for Smalls’s year-end party. (I refused to drive across town to the party store for “luau” and went with “generically festive” from Target. I’m sure that put me on an inadequate-PTA-parent list somewhere.)

The girls’ bus got home late, as usual, so I had approximately nine minutes to get them changed and out the door. Naturally, I couldn’t find the beach bag containing all the swimming accoutrements, i.e., goggles, swimsuits that actually fit the girls, spray sunscreen, etc. I texted Ad Man, “do u know where swim bag is?” As expected, he was not helpful. I tried again, “i can’t find goggles 4 the girls!” to which he responded, “check the swim bag.” I considered filing for divorce, but decided that I should stick it out for the humorous blog content alone.

rainy_chastain_poolDespite the fact that we live, literally, five minutes from the pool, it took us twelve minutes to get there through school, baseball, and swim team traffic and another ten minutes to find a freaking parking spot. I dragged the girls to the pool, signed them in for practice, tracked down their respective coaches and grabbed a far-off lounge chair where I could sweat in private when the first clap of thunder sounded.

The lifeguards whistled righteously and herded everyone out of the pool. The coaches declared practice cancelled. The mother of Biggie and Smalls gathered up her wet children and all of their wet belongings and returned home to drink alone. That’s pretty much how the rest of the week went as well.

***

Epilogue

I’m relieved to say the bed bug inspection turned up exactly nothing. I did, in fact, find the one and only bed bug wandering around our house in search of a friend. Ad Man was right. I hate when that happens.

Dragon Teats and Mushroom Drippings

Ad Man and I went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday a few weekends ago. We met up with the birthday girl and her husband plus three other couples who are also friends of ours. All four of the couples with children were able to dig up babysitters for the evening on short notice. I can’t remember another time we were all in the same place at once, sans kids. You know how there are always those people who are like, “OMG…it’s the image of the Virgin Mary in my cappuccino! It’s a miracle!” Give me a break. This was a fucking miracle!

As is typical with our friends, plans for the birthday celebration began less than two weeks before the event. The birthday girl’s husband went through a few different options for locales, ultimately deciding on a hip, new restaurant in a gentrifying neighborhood in Atlanta called Inman Park. Sounded perfect to me. Hey, we’re hip! We like good food and drinking indie beers on patios!

sonic_youth_gooThe youngest of us is pushing 40 and the oldest is staring down the barrel of 50. We moan about how old we’re getting, yet still have this notion of ourselves as modern, urban, bohemians. When reminded that this year marks the 25th anniversary of Sonic Youth’s Goo, Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy and Doolittle by the Pixies, we die a thousand deaths inside. I mean seriously…that’s the equivalent of an album that came out in 1950 to us as kids. It’s mind-blowing.

So, despite the punk rock credibility we cling to like barnacles on a boat dock, it was hard not to feel a little long-in-the-tooth among the children gathered at the restaurant bar. And that was before a couple former sorority presidents–or so we assumed–began bedazzling an area in the back section of the bar for the Westminster School Class of 2005’s tenth reunion. (Note: Westminster is a very old, very affluent, private school in Atlanta.)

Ladybird Atlanta BeltlineAt that point, the population of the restaurant was approximately 49% young lawyers and art gallery interns with trust funds, and 49% young, tattooed hipsters with fixie bikes chained to the rack outside. Our table of graying, tattooed (former) hipsters bitching about the lack of good public middle schools made up the last 2%.

We sat down at a table among the pierced-and-perky hordes, and those of us who weren’t already wearing “progressive lenses,” pulled out reading glasses to see our menus. Reading and understanding are two very different things, however. The menu before me contained some of the most indecipherable, adjective-laden food descriptions I’ve ever seen. The Grassfed Beef Carpaccio was described as “dragon tears, smoked evoo, cauliflower & peanut puree, grana, little chips.” I misread dragon tears as dragon teats and we all agreed that was actually no more outrageous than the original wordage. There was the Hot Mushroom Skillet with “mushroom drippings, egg, toast.” You also couldn’t go wrong with the “Silver Turtle” Roasted Cauliflower & Sunchoke with “apricot, alliums, naan bread, smorgasbord.” I began to get a sneaking suspicion that these weren’t actually food descriptions at all, but rather, randomly generated haikus.

ladybird_menuIn contrast to the pretentiousness of the menu, our waiter was quite down to earth and friendly. Thankfully, he was fluent in restaurant-speak, and able to answer all of our many questions, including…How does one milk a mushroom? Are there any actual mushrooms in the dish or are they tossed away like yesterday’s trash after being robbed of their precious drippings? Where do you source your dragon tears and do you know if they were free-range dragons? Are you at liberty to divulge the contents of “smorgasbord?”

After we ordered, the chef walked into the dining area and my friend M, the birthday girl, realized they had a mutual friend. So, M dragged the chef back to our table. We all hit it off immediately and, thus, gave her no end of shit about the flowery menu. She claimed no involvement in its drafting, so we let her stay. The chef asked us who our server was and, when we told her, she said, “Aaaahh…you must be the table of ‘normal people’ he was telling me about.” I considered that a compliment given the obnoxious diners flanking our table, but M spent the rest of the night nursing a deep, psychic wound caused by being referred to by the N-word.

We were, however, pleasantly surprised when our meals arrived. The food was delicious and didn’t at all require bolstering by descriptions rivaling those of Keats’s Grecian urn. Sitting here writing this, I was just thinking I should reveal the name of the restaurant since I’m saying positive things about the food, if not the menu or the clientele. However, when I looked up its website, I discovered yet another reason to hate the damn place. I knew it was called Ladybird, a perfectly lovely name, but what I didn’t know is that the full name of the place is actually “Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall.” Whyyyyyy?! Why not “Canteen and Watering Hole?” Or, “Puddle and Pile of Kibble?” There are times (many, many times) when marketing people make me want to scream…and I’m not just talking about Ad Man.

This thing could comfortably accommodate a 2 year old.

The Louis Vuitton Neverfull can comfortably accommodate a 2 year old child.

As the Westminster Class of 2005 began filling up the back of the bar area, the restrooms became more and more inaccessible. This, unfortunately, coincided with the timing of the beer hitting my bladder. So, twice I had to steel myself and head out to yonder ladies’ room, slithering between Blaine and Grayson who were trying to hook up with Sloane and MacKenzie (or whatever their names were). Approximately every fourth woman at the reunion was carrying an enormous Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag, increasing the difficulty of the obstacle course exponentially. During my first trek through the forest of 20-somethings, all I could think was, “Wow…that is a crapload of expensive dental work.”

Following dinner, a few of us headed to a bar in Decatur where we chatted over Jack Daniels slushies and curry-spiced popcorn. When the server asked if we wanted another round of drinks, the birthday girl said, “You guys should stay and hang out, but I’m going home and getting in bed.” (We don’t call her “half-pint” for nothing!) I tried to rally the others, but the lure of pajamas and a warm bed won out over my sad cheerleading. So, we all headed our separate ways, exhausted from a long, raucous night of partying. It was 11 pm. Because, that’s how we roll.

The World’s Oldest Production Assistant, Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of The Worlds’ Oldest PA. If you’ll recall, in Part 1, I’d gotten through the first day of shooting for a show on the Discovery Channel, about which I knew absolutely nothing, without any embarrassing incidents. The only time I was really stumped was when the Director of Photography held out a camera cable and asked me if I knew how to do “over-under.” I paused briefly, giggling to myself and thinking it sounded like something sexual (I have the sense of humor of a 13 year-old boy), but it more likely had something to do with the cord he was holding.

I kept cool and said, “No, but I’m sure I could learn if you’d show me.” He didn’t have time right then, but didn’t seem annoyed, so I assumed over-under wasn’t critical PA knowledge. I did, however, vow to myself that, before the end of the job, I’d figure out what the hell over-under was and how to do it.

After returning to the hotel after our first day of shooting, the crew all headed to our separate rooms. A couple people went to work out. I hadn’t even packed workout clothes and after a day of heavy lifting and errand running, was even more convinced that was the right decision. I chatted with the Associate Producer (AP) who said she’d likely head to the bar in a bit if I wanted to join her. Feeling socially weird (nothing new there) and yearning to remove my damn bra asap, I told her I was pretty fried, but to please text me when she headed downstairs. In the hotel room, I did my best to rally knowing that I shouldn’t skip out on meeting up with the others no matter how tired I was. Instead, I gave myself a mental bitchslap and when the AP texted, I said I’d be down in a few minutes. See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?

I got down to the bar and found the AP sitting there with her computer and a cocktail. I ordered a beer and, when she finished up with some work, asked her about the show and specifically, the episode we were working on. I’ll tell you, I was not prepared for the horrifying story she told. I can discuss it here because it’s a matter of public record and, in fact, got tons of publicity when it happened.

NND_logoIt turns out, the show we were working on is called Nightmare Next Door and you’ll quickly understand why this was an appropriate title. In 2011, a law student at Mercer University in Macon was murdered by another law student who lived in her apartment building. They’d both just graduated and were hunkering down to study for the bar. Friends and family of the victim, Lauren Giddings, began to worry after they hadn’t heard from her in a few days, initially thinking she was just busy studying. A search party scoured Macon looking for any sign of the missing woman. One person who was active in the search for Lauren was her neighbor Steven McDaniel. Steven was quite odd and a social misfit, but Lauren was friendly with him when their paths crossed.

When the search party was unable to find any trace of Lauren, friends and family members were distraught. A local reporter interviewed a number of people, including Steven. He told the reporter he had no idea where she could be or what could have happened to her. He said Lauren was outgoing and nice to everyone and he couldn’t imagine how anyone could do harm to her. In the midst of the interview, the reporter received some news and said to Steven, “Do you have a reaction to the fact that the police just found a body nearby?” Steven was visibly shocked by the news, needing to sit down and calm his breathing for a few minutes before he returned to continue on with the interview.

Shortly before this, the Macon police had found the torso of a woman’s body in a trashcan outside Lauren’s apartment building. The body had been decapitated and the arms and legs severed. The head and extremities were nowhere to be found. DNA tests on the torso turned out to be a match for Lauren.

The police investigated Lauren’s current and former boyfriends and interviewed family and friends, but quickly turned their focus to Steven. According to the police, it was the law students’ intense and strange reaction to the news of the discovery of the body that pointed them in his direction. The police questioned Steven extensively and arrested him for burglary after he admitted to have stolen items from neighbors’ apartments. A search of his apartment turned up videotapes taken through Lauren’s window, photos of Lauren, a master key to the apartment building, child pornography, and packaging for a recently purchased hacksaw. (I’m assuming Steven didn’t get the best grade in criminal law.)

I’m sure you won’t be shocked to hear that the killer was Steven McDaniel. He eventually confessed to the crime, describing how he’d strangled Lauren and dismembered her body with a hacksaw in her shower. He was (obviously!) obsessed with Lauren and upset that she would soon be taking the bar exam and moving away from Macon, and him, forever. Steven explained that he’d disposed of Lauren’s head and limbs separately from the torso, but police never found them despite extensive searching.

The story struck me hard. I couldn’t stop thinking about Lauren’s family. I was also astounded that Steven could be together enough to graduate from law school and not set off alarms with classmates and teachers as to his mental state, when in fact, he was a psychopath capable of planning and carrying out a gruesome murder. I was even more freaked out when the field producer pulled up the video of Steven’s interview on YouTube. To watch this guy who had murdered and dismembered someone just days before calmly express concern, on camera, about her whereabouts was chilling. I, couldn’t help but think about my own law school classmates and wonder which person in the group was the homicidal psychopath!

Lauren Giddings

Lauren Giddings

It was crazy working on this story in a small town like Macon, because literally everyone we talked to knew about the murder. Many personally knew someone involved in the case.There was one day when I took a large box of police records to be copied and sent to the production company for fact checking. I was flipping through the binders, showing the young woman helping me at FedEx how they were laid out, when she glanced at a photo of Lauren on the opening page and said, “I knew her.” My stomach dropped knowing there were gruesome photos in the records. I was relieved when we decided to just pack up the entire box of documents and send it to the production company rather than making copies.

So anyway, back to the hotel bar. Controlling my neuroses and meeting the crew for dinner and drinks was absolutely the right thing to do. We chatted and I got to know them better, which was great since they already knew each other having worked together on previous projects. The DP told me about his daughter who’s between Biggie’s and Smalls’s ages, and we discussed the difficulty of juggling career and parenthood, especially in a field like production where you can be away from family for weeks, if not months, at a time. The crew also asked about my background suspecting that I wasn’t a career production assistant. They were all awesome, and said they’d tell the production company to add me to their list of field producers. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! Obviously, I couldn’t be away from home for weeks at a time, but a few weeklong jobs every now and then would be great.

The next day, we were scheduled to interview the police officer who discovered Lauren’s body and the Police Chief in charge at that time. We shot at a small, neighborhood police station that looked to me like a run-down, old Baptist church. When we walked into the building, the producers,’ DP’s and sound guy’s faces fell. It was quite possibly the worst place possible to film. The whole office had been painted white decades before and bore the grunge and scars of the intervening years. The ceilings were high with buzzing fluorescent lights, and the sound of the air conditioner seemed to be competing with them for attention. The DP looked at me and said, “Watch…the producers are going to start freaking out. I just stand back and wait for them to get through it.” And, indeed, there were a lot of concerned looks, muttered discussions and frantic phone calls made. However, they did get through it and a plan was hatched to shoot in one of the cramped offices, with the overhead lights and AC turned off. Never have I been so happy to not be in the interview room.

Before the interview, though, we set up outside for the “hero shot” (which is exactly what it sounds like) of our main good guy, the police officer who found the body. The sky was looking ominous but we kept checking the weather which indicated that there’d be no rain until the afternoon. Once the equipment was in place, I asked the AP if she wanted me to go find a Starbucks. She said yes and that I should ask the officers for their coffee orders as well. She told me to pick up some doughnuts while I was out as well. When I protested, insisting that it was simply too cliché, she laughed and told me to shut up and go get the damn doughnuts! I told you this was a glamorous job.

storm_clouds_maconMacon isn’t exactly a town with a Starbucks on every street corner, but I was able to track one down and ordered some very complicated coffee and tea orders for the crew and a couple plain, black coffees for the cops. I watched out the window, waiting for the order to be ready as creepy, dark clouds rolled toward me. Luckily, I got all the drinks safely into the car before big, fat raindrops started plopping on the blacktop. By the time I got to Dunkin’ Donuts, it was a full-on torrent. I returned to the police station dripping wet.

My hair doesn’t like humidity, let alone driving rain, so I spent the rest of the day with random waves and wings sticking out everywhere. I briefly considered grabbing a baseball cap from the car, but remembered that the only one I could find to pack was my “Ready for Hillary” hat. I wisely decided that might not go over well at the Macon, Georgia police station.

I thought I’d have an in with the police officers since my dad was a cop for 25 years, but I wouldn’t say they were the warmest guys in the world. Later, as I was getting the Chief’s lunch order, I mentioned to him that I’d practically grown up in a police station. He indulged me with a little grunt of acknowledgement, then continued trying to figure out how to maneuver through the lunch menu on my iPhone. We interviewed another retired police officer back at our hotel two days later. The AP sent me out to make small talk with him while the crew tweaked camera and sound. I, again, tried playing the cop’s-kid card telling him that my father was also a retired police officer. He replied, “Hm…good for him.” Apparently, cops in the south aren’t known for being sparkling conversationalists.

My traveling companions, sent by the girls so I wouldn't get lonely

My traveling companions, sent by the girls so I wouldn’t get lonely

There was one classic working-mom-moment on the afternoon of the police station shoot. I was out picking up lunch when Ad Man left me a message sounding stressed and saying that the babysitter (an employee of his, actually) had bailed at the last minute and we had no one to replace her. This wasn’t good news to receive in the middle of the work day an hour and a half drive away from home. I dropped the lunch bags on the table and started madly making phone calls while trying not to hyperventilate. When the AP and the rest of the crew found out what was going on, they immediately told me that I should head home and they’d just cover for me for the rest of the day. I seriously almost started crying, told them I loved them all, grabbed my lunch to-go and hit the road! I’m ridiculously lucky to have worked with such a great bunch of people.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind of interviews with journalists, prosecutors and the District Attorney. We shot b’roll (generally, scenic filler) of Macon’s famous cherry blossoms, the courthouse, the crime scene, the landfill where police searched in vain for Lauren’s missing body parts and the exterior of the FBI crime lab. You didn’t think they had one of those in rural Georgia, did you? Yeah, me either.

By the time I headed home on Friday afternoon, I was utterly exhausted. Most of my body was sore, including the butt cramp that only got worse as I added more and more hours in the car. But, regardless, I was happy and felt more confident than I had in years. Nine years to be exact. I also finished this job with the absolute conviction that going back to work is the right thing for me. While wasn’t easy, Ad Man survived, the kids survived and I thrived.

I learned two other important things by the end of the week: how to set the goddamn cruise control on my car and how to do the “over-under” method of wrapping cables! Turns out, you can figure out how to do just about anything if you’re humble, willing to work your ass off, and have unlimited access to YouTube tutorials.

The World’s Oldest Production Assistant, Part 1

PA_and_Brad_Pitt

See the woman in red? She’s a production assistant. My job was in no way like this.

Guess who just got back from a business trip. Me! Can you imagine? I’ve been casting a wide net, telling anyone and everyone who will listen that I’m looking for work. Because people are awesome, a few friends have actually contacted me with potential opportunities. As I mentioned in my last post (which I’ve actually deleted because there was just TMI for potential employers who might stumble upon my blog) I’ve been working very part-time on a writing and social media project for some friends. I’ve also signed on with a contract attorney/legal temp agency which is hard at work looking for legal gigs for me.

But, anyway, about that business trip…a couple weeks ago, a friend in the entertainment industry sent me a job listing seeking a production assistant on a shoot in Atlanta for the Discovery Channel. She actually wrote, “This may be below your pay grade, but…” which made me fall on the floor laughing. I composed myself and responded that my current pay grade is zero dollars, so unless I had to pay them to work on the show, I was in.

So she passed along my contact info and I received a call from a producer the next day. It turned out that the shoot was in Macon, which is about an hour and a half from Atlanta, but they’d put me up in a hotel there so I wouldn’t have to drive back and forth. I immediately called Ad Man to see if we could work out the dates and he reminded me he was scheduled to go to Dallas or Houston or somewhere that week. As you can imagine, I was extremely disappointed and convinced I’d never work again if I had to maneuver around his ridiculous schedule.

After a mini-breakdown, we figured out a way for me to work the whole shoot. It merely took changing Ad Man’s flight to Texas, having me drive home one night so I could get Biggie and Smalls on the bus the next morning, finding a neighbor who could get the girls off the bus that day and hiring a babysitter who would take them until Ad Man got home from the airport that night. Easy, right?

Amazingly, I found a helpful neighbor, scheduled a babysitter, and the call times for the shoot worked out perfectly. Apparently, the production schedule gods were looking out for me. So, at this point, I was all ready to go, but nervous as hell. It had been a while since I was on a set and there were absolutely no guarantees I’d have any idea what I was doing! Plus, I was convinced that I’d arrive to find that the entire crew was a bunch of tight-skinned, 20-somethings horrified to see that they had The World’s Oldest PA working on their shoot.

Ad Man and I talked to the girls over dinner. We told them about my “great opportunity” and walked them through the schedule. With the exception of his one day out of town, Ad Man would greet them when they got off the bus and work from home for the afternoon. The girls were not at all happy. I generally leave home without them maybe twice a year for a weekend and this job just happened to fall a week after I’d spent a few days in Ft. Lauderdale with my best law school friends.

“Mommy, do you have to go? Did you sign up for this job or did someone just call you?” Clearly, they were trying to figure out who to blame for this untenable situation. The discussion continued, culminating at bedtime when Smalls had a complete nervous breakdown, sobbing, clinging to me and whining, “Mommy, I don’t want you to goooooooo!” Meanwhile, I was going over my packing list in my head because I had to be up at the crack of dawn to make it to Macon for an 8 am call time and was not in the slightest bit prepared.

Rural Georgia is an interesting place.

Rural Georgia is an interesting place.

Cut to the following morning (See how I did that? So Hollywood). It was pitch black out and I was so tired, I really should have been kept away from heavy equipment. I rolled into the closest coffee shop drive-thru and pulled out my phone while I waited. I was searching for directions to the hotel in Macon when I realized I already had a text from the Associate Producer. Change of plans! We were actually going to shoot in Augusta that day, 120 miles away from Macon. Unless I was already close to the hotel (ha!), I should head to Augusta instead. The rest of the crew would meet me there in 2 ½ hours. If I got there before they did, I was to grab some menus from restaurants in the area for lunch…in particular, barbecue joints. Excellent. Put the vegetarian in charge of finding the best BBQ in town.

Despite the last minute craziness, I kept calm and managed to arrive in Augusta unscathed. It was shortly after 9 am, so of course, there were no restaurants open from which to gather menus. Instead, I drove to the location and sat in my car madly texting about barbecue with friends who grew up in the area. I didn’t take this task lightly. I was well aware, from being a producer on shoots, that the PA’s most important job is to not fuck up lunch. A PA lives and dies depending on whether or not there are grilled onions on the director’s burger. This is not an exaggeration.

When a black van pulled up to the location, and people and equipment started spilling out, I was relieved to see that everyone in the crew (a small one, admittedly) was at least in their early 30s. No one there was young enough to be my child. One big hurdle cleared. Now, I just had to hope they wouldn’t ask me to do something about which I had absolutely no knowledge. I met the crew and everyone was very friendly. It turned out, we were from all over the country…a couple people from Boston, one from D.C., someone from San Francisco, and me, currently residing in Atlanta. I still can’t get myself to say that I’m “from Georgia.”

We were shooting in a beautiful, lightly renovated Victorian house in a gentrifying neighborhood in Augusta. A flag for the Master’s golf tournament was proudly waving on the porch. Augusta is famous for being the host of the Master’s, which was only weeks away at this point. The azaleas were in bloom and there was a distinct buzz about town.

I should say, at this point, I had absolutely no clue what kind of project we’d be working on. All I knew was that we were shooting for a show that was part of Discovery Channel’s “Investigation Discovery” lineup. So, I just jumped into unloading equipment, laying out cables and hanging blackout plastic on windows while dangling precariously from a wobbly ladder. It occurred to me that Ad Man and I haven’t taken out life insurance on me.

There was a small crisis when the Director of Photography realized that they’d forgotten to buy sand for the sandbags used to steady camera and lighting equipment. Where the hell does one buy sand at 10 am on a Sunday in the Bible Belt? Never fear though…my mom-skills kicked in and I had a plan! With one quick search on my phone, I determined that there was a Toys R Us in the area which did, in fact, carry play sand. I was off in a flash to pick up 100 lbs. of sand and save the day. See? I’m a problem-solver. Stay-at-home parenting hasn’t left me void of any skills after all. Need sand? I’m your gal! Need to rearrange the schedules of three interviewees in two different states? No problem! Someone accidentally got Sharpie on a set piece? Before you can blink, that stain will be my bitch!

An excerpt from my mileage notes.

Just an excerpt from my mileage notes.

I’ll spare you all the details, but I essentially spent the day moving heavy things around and then guarding very expensive things outside the house while the rest of the crew was inside interviewing the lovely young lawyer and owner of the home about I knew not what. Luckily, I remembered to pack sunscreen. I also bought new insoles for my Vans slipons and stocked up on Icy Hot for the screaming backache I was sure I’d develop before the end of the shoot. One must prep for all potential calamities when one is The World’s Oldest PA.

After the interview, the whole crew and the interviewee and her husband (also a young lawyer and also lovely) went out for lunch together. I kept my curiosity in check and managed not to ask any dumb questions about the topic of the episode. It’s a damn good thing, too because the woman we interviewed turned out to be a close friend of the victim. Hmm…victim. That meant we we’re dealing with a murder. Good to know.

Following lunch, we hit the road for a 2 ½ hour drive back to the crew hotel. For those of you keeping count at home, that was a total of 4 hours on the road for me that day. I spent the whole drive from Augusta to Macon trying to figure out how to set the cruise control on the car we’ve had for nine years because I had a butt cramp from driving. I am, indeed, the picture of fitness and vitality.

Stay tuned for The World’s Oldest Production Assistant, Part 2, in which you’ll learn what the hell we were filming, the identity of the victim, whodunnit, and whether or not I got through the shoot without making an ass of myself.

30 Reasons Being a Stay-at-Home Mom is a Sucky Job

stay_at_home_mom_kid_chaosEvery stay-at-home parent is well aware of the benefits of the job: the ability to be home with your children during their formative years, no scrambling for child care, and pajamas are perfectly acceptable “work clothes,” just to name a few. Unfortunately, few moms or dads have a realistic view of the pitfalls of the job when they decide to become a stay-at-home parent. That’s why you have me, dear readers. I’m willing to tell it like it is even if that means risking the ire of the happy, happy, stay-at-home mommy mafia.

I will admit that I drafted this list after a particularly trying week. Ad Man has informed me that he will be out of town for much of the next month…a month that will feature Small’s 7th birthday party and family visiting from out of town. Did I mention that he’ll be in Austin at South By Southwest for “business?” Yep, it’s that time of year again.

Anyway, please feel free to pass this along to anyone who may be considering dedicating his or her life to this challenging job. Friends don’t let friends become stay-at-home moms without full disclosure of the risks. Knowledge is power.

30 Reasons being a stay-at-home mom is a sucky job:

  1. Pay is far, far below minimum wage
  2. Kiss adult conversations goodbye
  3. Zero growth potential
  4. Physically demanding
  5. Tiny “employers” are often vocally critical of your work
  6. Most accomplishments go unnoticed
  7. No days off, no vacation time, no sick leave
  8. No combat pay for physically or emotionally dangerous work
  9. Feedback from superiors generally limited to silent reproach and judging from afar
  10. Requires an impossibly wide breadth of knowledge including, but not limited to: identity and recommended treatment for various rashes, latest research on the effect of BPAs on growing brains, rules of obscure playground games, names of all characters from every Star Wars episode (even the one with JarJar Binks), removal techniques for a wide range of stains, trigonometry, etc, etc…
  11. Despite #10, you’re left with absolutely nothing to add to your resume
  12. At least one person is actively working to thwart your progress at all times
  13. Stating dissatisfaction with, or openly criticizing, the job is strongly frowned upon (Oops!)
  14. Rules of the game are always changing
  15. Increased risk of substance abuse
  16. Limits social opportunities
  17. No training program
  18. Wardrobe options are limited
  19. Workplace is always messy and often sticky
  20. Drinking on the job is frowned upon
  21. Requires contact with bodily fluids that are not your own
  22. Must be available to work early mornings and late nights
  23. No awards, promotions or perks
  24. Very little opportunity for travel
  25. Excessive contact with brain numbing children’s entertainment
  26. Company car is crusted with food and perpetually smells of spoiled milk and old vomit
  27. Job causes irreparable brain damage
  28. Your boss is unpredictable, irrational and prone to emotional outbursts
  29. Schedule may change at any time with no warning
  30. Much of the day is spent trying to keep employers from killing themselves

Do you have anything to add to my list? What about you moms who work full-time outside the home? Would you describe your jobs as sucky for any of the reasons above? Surely at least one of you has a boss who’s unpredictable, irrational and prone to emotional outbursts, right?

Getting Nerdy with Frog Guts

getting nerdy lab with frameMy friends Melissa and Gretchen (“Mel and Gerdy”) are middle-school life science teachers who resigned from their teaching positions last year to focus on their awesome blog and company Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy. During their years in the classroom, Mel and Gerdy struggled to find the time to create science lesson plans that today’s students would find engaging and entertaining. Much like when I was in school (back in the olden days, as my kids would say), Mel and Gerdy found that available resources for life science lessons were often dry and lack luster.

So these two dedicated teachers set out to develop their own creative and informative lesson plans and, as you’ll see, they have an amazing talent for it. Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy is targeted toward life science teachers, but is an equally great resource for parents, especially those who homeschool. Biggie and Smalls, who are little science geeks, love to try out experiments Mel and Gerdy post on their blog and Pinterest page.

Right now, Getting Nerdy is holding a giveaway for a 3-D frog dissection model and lesson plan and providing their tips for managing the dissection classroom mayhem. Looking back, I have clear memories of chaos and flying frog guts on the day we did dissection in science class. My teacher could have definitely used a little help from Mel and Gerdy!

Click here to go directly to their store. Use this link to enter the giveaway and, while you’re there, sign up for Getting Nerdy’s newsletter and “like” their Facebook page. Maybe you’ll find out whether frog eyeballs actually do bounce before your students or kids try a live demonstration.