Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On This Date in 1998

This has been a long and busy week for me, a comparatively slow one for JoAnna, and a regular five-days-at-school week for the boys. Monday was the only day I spent at the library from start to finish. I did have one unexpected interruption, though. Right around noon, I received a phone call from the school nurse at Elm Lawn. Andy had left his classroom a couple times during the morning to lie down on the cot in the nurse’s office, complaining of a headache and stomach ache. He said the noise in the gym during his lunch period was too much to handle. He didn’t feel like eating either. I took an earlier than usual lunch hour and brought him home. When I picked him up, he didn’t look that sick. He didn’t act sick. In fact, he was unusually talkative, very animated, actually, which aroused my suspicions. I warmed him up a bowl of chicken noodle soup and gave him a couple aspirin before returning to the library, leaving him stretched out on the couch in the family room. I told him to keep the TV off, but I’m sure that directive was immediately ignored as soon as I backed the car out of the driveway. That evening he showed no sign of illness. In fact, he acted just like his favorite Atlanta Brave: chipper. I started to wonder if maybe his alleged sickness was a scheme to avoid some school activity. I shared these thoughts with JoAnna while we were sitting at the kitchen table and the boys were in the family room.

“I’m not faking,” Andy bellowed.

Mom and Dad found it interesting that son #1 felt he had to eavesdrop on our conversation.

I was bothered by the fact that he missed a basketball practice, which I don’t think was part of his plan. I wondered if I should contact his teacher to get her perspective on the day. Was there some special afternoon activity that Andy missed? I decided against this investigation since I don’t want to have his teacher think that his mom and dad don’t trust him. For JoAnna and me, though, Andy’s behavior was very puzzling. This is just a preview of his teenage years, I’m sure.

I worked a long day on Tuesday, having morning and afternoon meetings, plus early evening time at the library to catch up on some office work: email, email, organize papers on my desk for the rest of the week. JoAnna had a 9 p.m. interview with Tammy Baldwin’s campaign staff. She’s in the running for the home district coordinator position. Tammy is our newly elected Congressional representative. JoAnna feels that she’s ready for a job change. If she isn’t offered this job, she’ll continue to look for other opportunities. I think she tired of butting heads with her current boss. We’ve always got along well socially with him, but he has a reputation as a very difficult person to work for. Very demanding, which is not a problem for JoAnna. Very hands-on, unwilling to delegate responsibility, which irritates JoAnna to no end. And I don’t blame her. I’d feel the same way if the Middleton Public Library Board was always looking over my shoulder, questioning my every move.

I presented a workshop Wednesday morning at a Waukesha County library, about a 90 minute drive from Middleton. It went extremely well. In fact, it produced a big spike in my confidence in the possibility of freelance continuing education as a fulltime career option. I knew my presentation was well-received when four women from the Brookfield Public Library tried to convince me to apply for the director's job. Their library board has had no luck over the past seven month trying to fill this position. Brookfield, an upscale community of 35,000 that borders Milwaukee County, is a larger library as far as staff, square footage, and collection size is concerned, but its level of use is comparable to Middleton's. Naturally, I was very flattered by their overtures, but I have no interest in changing jobs right now. Moving to Waukesha County, Wisconsin's Republican paradise, would certainly not be a good career move for JoAnna.

If I was smart, I'd take advantage of my renewed confidence and develop a plan to get into the workshop business fulltime as a consultant. For Wednesday's three hours of work, I received $300 plus mileage. Of course, that doesn't include preparation time, which, when factored into my honorarium, would bring my hourly rate much closer to what I earn at Middleton. But even $50/hr. is twice what I make now.

On the drive to and from the workshop, I listened to the book on tape version of Helen Keller's The Story of My Life. Considering what an historical icon she is, I was surprised, and a little bit humbled, at how little I knew about her and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Her life is certainly an inspiration to everyone, not just those with disabilities. I reserved a copy of the video The Miracle Worker, a visual account of the early relationship between Keller and Sullivan, as played by Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, respectively, who both won Oscars in 1962 for their performances. Surprisingly, it's a movie I've never seen.

My Tuesday and Wednesday schedule required that I leave the house at 6:30. Before my Tuesday meeting, I had scheduled a 7 a.m. tune-up for the Saturn (30,000 miles after 2 1/2 years, the 1.000 miles per month average boosted by the three or four trips to Pennsylvania). Wednesday, of course, I had to get an early start so I'd be at my workshop venue in time to set up. (Organize my notes on the lectern, position the overhead projector so that the image is clearly visible from every chair, mingle with the group to help create an informal atmosphere. ) Usually, I'm the one who gets the boys off to school, JoAnna oftentimes on her way to work before th3e boys are out of bed. I almost felt guilty transferring this morning responsibility to her, making her leave for work later than usual. I kept telling myself, though, this is an unnecessary reaction. The election was two weeks ago. (Sometimes I think I'm too considerate a husband.)

Thursday was taken up with a staff meeting and a city department head meeting, the latter now a welcome and regular part of my work schedule. Middleton's new city administrator has really stirred things up in a positive way. His enthusiasm and vision have given me another reason to stay put. Thursday was JoAnna's busiest day of the week, her schedule extending into the late evening. She took Eddie to his Cub Scout meeting and then attended a play with some of her caucus staff. I tried to stay up until she returned home, simultaneously reading a book and watching movie on TV (the second half of Magnum Force, Clint Eastwood's second appearance as Dirty Harry; the first hour of Kiss of Death, a 1948 crime melodrama starring Victor Mature and introducing Richard Widmark in a wickedly evil Academy Award nominated performance. I was asleep when JoAnna returned home at quarter to 12. I attempted a conversation but I'm not sure how coherent I was.

I spent most of Friday at the WLA office, attending meetings of the finance and personnel committees. I walked into the house at 3:30, minutes after Andy returned home from school, feeling that I deserved an early conclusion to the work week. Andy had basketball practice from 6:00 to 7:30. JoAnna went out after work to celebrate Ron's new job as a lobbyist. (Ron is Julie's husband. Julie works for JoAnna. Ron and Julie are part of our sheepshead group.) We could smell JoAnna as she walked into the house. Her clothes and hair reeked of cigarette smoke. Eddie demanded that she change her clothes, so she got into her pajamas. I picked up McDonald's for Eddie after dropping off Andy and Riley at basketball practice. Although JoAnna would probably object, I don't have a problem leaving Eddie home along for less than an hour. He knows that he's not supposed to pick up the phone, answer the door, or use any of the appliances. I find it interesting that, when everyone is in the family room, for example, and it's dark outside, he's reluctant to walk to the other side of the house by himself. But he always insists that he's OK being home alone.

On the way home from practice, Andy and I stopped at two places to fill our dinner orders. Mom wanted Chinese. The guys wanted Mexican. JoAnna felt chilled and went to bed early. I decided to write this letter and let the boys watch TV until 11.

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