Saturday, March 28, 2009


(This Post Created for Dear Kid Saturday, a lovely idea.)

Dear Bethy,

You are my sunshine.

When you were born, daddy handed a slippery you to me and said "you got your girl!"  I had always imagined a house of boys - and I felt like I had won something miraculous.

As a smaller child than now, you were all sunshine and gentle happiness.  You would toddle through my adult at home day, shadowing me, asking questions.  Speaking in outrageously articulate sentences at a very early age.

We would walk to the coffee shop, where we would visit, and drink coffee, you and I.  Yours a drop of coffee in a tiny espresso cup filled to the brim with milk and sugar.

At two, at three, both of your brothers had tempers in need of taming.  The older with a frigtening intensity, an instinct to talk back seemingly from birth (no, really, he talked back preverbally - crawling away when told "no," and looking back over his shoulder to say "uunh!" - a baby obscenity if ever there was one.)  Your younger brother's temper flashes quick and loud, sometimes leaving things broken in its wake.

But you?  You would put yourself in time out if you thought you might be out of line. And, as crazy as it sounds... you almost never were.  You always seemed to be measuring, weighing, doing what you thought I needed you to do.  Being who I needed you to be at the time.

This year, though, your moods are out front.  You get angry, you pout, you've even had some temper tantrums.  You're sometimes even difficult - which means, really, that you are fine and finding your way.

The school you go to, Daddy's school, is a little intense. Your brother thrives in that environment, he needs the challenges and high expectations (otherwise, I fear he would embrace the lowest common denominator) but for you - it seemed too much.  

You are bright, you were always precocious and socially advanced.  But reading was SO frustrating for you, initially, in "pre-first" (a moniker so precious it makes me uncomfortable.) So you repeated the grade.  I questioned everything last year when that came up.

One thing they do there  "Love your body week" - seemed especially forced to me.  Something else a little too... precious.  Mirrors are covered with craft paper, speakers address different topics by age level, a yoga instructor visited, you hear about food choices and exercise choices. I wondered if it was too contrived to work.

You never let me say the slightest bad thing about myself.  You tell me, every day, that I am beautiful.  On the rare occasions I wear makeup, you chide me a little.  Apparently, my beauty is masked by all those paints and powders...

Then, last week?  When I heard you describing "Hairspray" to your brother?  And you talked through the whole plot without mentioning race or weight??  I was blown away.  Absolutely blown away.

At six (almost 7!), you are full of wisdom and emotion.  You are sensitive to those around you - the first to comfort pPod when he is in trouble (even if its for attacks on you...not uncommon.)

You are artistic and deliberate and aware. You are curious.  You are often more controlled than me, taking over as grown up when I need to be brought back to reality.  You balance the house, and with you in it, I still feel like I am getting away with something.

I thank God every day for you - but you are bigger now.  You have a hand in this, too - so thank YOU for you.  



Thursday, March 26, 2009


This is a fledgling blog, and I don't quite know it's tone yet - except that it will be the things that matter to me.  And sometimes that will be my sick kids (two home now) - and when I am feeling less lazy, I may just venture out of my house and into the world at large.

That's what's happening this time.  

Yesterday, I read the letter from former AIG executive Jake DeSantis.  I scanned it, really, and then walked away.  It woke me up in the night, and it gnawed at me on the way to the pediatrician this morning.  

The impression that plagued me, that I kept coming back to, was that somehow Mr.DeSantis was boiling this down to an essence that he somehow defined as fairness.  He makes the case that he personally had nothing to do with credit default swaps (I confess here that I have no real idea what these are, or what they look like.)  And, therefore, it was not his fault that the company failed abysmally and required massive government propping up.

Since it isn't his fault, and since he stayed on to face accusations and a poisonous work and media environment, he was unequivocally entitled to the retention thank you that came in the form of a big bonus - which as part of the larger AIG exec pool, he is now being encouraged to return.

According to Mr.DeSantis?  That's not fair.

DeSantis argues, almost convincingly, that he works real hard, he misses his family.  He has been dedicated, honorable.  And working hard?  Missing your family?  Being honorable in the face of inarguably trying times?  That is worth every penny of the $742, 006.40.  If taxed at 90%, as has been suggested, (and my less-educated math is correct) that would leave $74,006. 

(Although, wait, if I am reading it right - that 742K was already after taxes... so if the tax is increased to 90% from the current 40-50% bonus tax... then the starting point is something close to twice that 742K....and he will actually have considerably more than that to play with. I could be wrong about that.  And, I digress.)

A tidy sum, in any case.  

My own limited experience with bonuses in the banking world (my foray there was short-lived and not at all glamorous) was that our bonuses were always dependent upon performance.  And that "performance" had three tiers:  corporate, group, and personal.  Sometimes, one could all-but-cancel-out another.

Put another way, as an executive, you may be kick ass, but if your company fails to earn a profit- or, unimaginable 8 years ago- fails in a giant, public, horrific way that leaves taxpayers (who include teachers, the oft-celebrated plumber, writers, steel workers and newly fired line workers, middle managers, and corporate execs from other corporations alike) footing the multi-billion dollar bill... you may no longer be eligible for your 'deserved' and hard won high-six-figure bonus.  Even if it is retention.  Even if you did nothing wrong personally. 

But, here's the thing:  when you are paid especially well for a job well done, and you work in an industry that sits in a culture that maintains that as an "executive" you now possess magic powers and can expect high six and seven-figure salaries, bonuses, shares, and feels SO much like you Earned It.  Every single penny.

But I argue, Mr. DeSantis, that the schoolteachers that raised you?  Working "multiple jobs?" And the steelworkers in the "world of closing steel mills" from your youth?  I'm betting that they all worked real hard.  And I further bet that they never dreamed of making in one year the sum of the remaining scraps of your bonus, that you will have the honor of donating to the charity of your choice.  

Something I say to my children ( who are arguably far too young to understand) when they yell "that's not fair," is that inevitably, "not fair" looks a whole lot like "fair" when it is in your favor - and pay attention, because next time, it MAY be in your favor.

Mr.DeSantis spent years in an industry where 'not fair' salaries played out in his favor.  And now?  Whether the bonus discussions are absolutely fair or de facto justifiable is not mine to say.  But it may be time to level things a bit.  It may just be Mr.DeSantis' turn.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Liz Lemon did it again.  

The first time was earlier this season.

With the reunion?  When she finds out she was mean in high school?  Snubbing-less-she-be-snubbed? Ha-ha.  Funny premise.

Weeks later...on Facebook and idly wondering what makes people friend some and not hit me.  

Maybe, in high school, I was some version of that Liz Lemon?!

I had thought, back in the foggy mid-eighties, that those prettier, more together, working harder, honor role kids just didn't *get* me.  Because I just didn't want to play,  I thought, conveniently, that I should get by on my (under-appreciated) looks and (underexercised) raw intelligence.

Now.  Those same kids - the ones who tried? Who made it all so important when I, in my infinite wisdom (and 2.75 GPA) suspected it wasn't?  In a different city, in a different time - those kids have kids.  And their kids?  Are in private school.  With mine.  Who are woefully unprepared.

They are unprepared because Mom still doesn't want to play.

On last night's 30 Rock, we saw the return of Dr.Drew Baird. (mmm..Jon Hamm...) The premise was that he is so good-looking, so graced, that people expect little of him and fill him with lies.  

Jack Donaghy explains the Bubble, and the loss of the Bubble.  I laughed 'cuz it was funny.  A ridiculous premise?

I was driving home from my son's third grade play the next day, almost in tears.

Chief trigger was the set of Charlotte's Web. I had derided the moms that made a big deal of the stage, the props -( this is third grade, the play isn't blocked, each character is shared by six kids) But it looked great.  

Two of my props were rejected as inadequate (and I fancy myself crafty...), and my son's Zuckerman costume was Not Quite Right.  Even though we got the same Farmer Costume Memo as every other Zuckerman mom (and there were five of them!)

After my son performed the walk-up-to-the-mike rendition of a play, written for about 8 kids, along with 59 of his closest friends, perfect moms told me he was great - and I had no idea who they were.  I should know, but I could not access their names from my back brain.

In this dull, inglorious moment in the car feeling sorry for myself, it hit me.  I know the Bubble.

 Because while high school may not be kind to the I -think-I-might-be-prettier-and-smarter-than-you-so-I-flirt-too-much-and-laugh-too-hard-when-I-get-the-grown-up-jokes-of-the-AP-English-teacher-and-treat-everything-with-a-note-of-disdain-and-irony... your twenties?  Especially if you got to live them in the irony-loving nineties?  In your twenties, folks eat that shit up.

All of the sudden - for a minute, maybe, or for something like six or seven years - I lived like I was It.

Cool job, witty, accomplished friends, free German cars.  Professionally, personally - I felt untouchable.  I flirted as I breathed.  I got promoted. I worked way over my head and I gathered in large, chummy packs at the neighborhood bar in the tony neighborhood...that I walked to.

Because no one ever accused me of making things look easy, I assumed my aggressive wheel-spinning and frenetic pace meant I was working hard.

My eventual husband believed it, too. He would say later that his initial impression was that I was "out of his league."  He imagined that I had it together - because there was so much of it, and it looked confusing to the outsider.

I was in the Bubble.  

And inside, it actually WAS confusing. But it was contained, somewhat.

All that happened, besides growing up, and getting married, and having kids, and folding into private schools (quite by accident, but I digress) is that I outgrew the bubble.  And now, 40, with those intrepid kids in tow ... the bubble is gone.

The mess is no longer contained by the walls of the bubble, and I am exposed to the (god love him, still-with-me) husband.  I am invisible to those working harder, with better qualifications and a  more complete rule set.  My confusion confuses them.  They expect more of themselves... shouldn't I?

Inside the bubble...even if I invented it... was better.

So somehow?  Now, I guess?  It's time to grow up.  Or at least fake it a lot more convincingly.