Jack and Jill

I recently had an unexpected, but totally awesome, flashback to the 70s of my childhood. As most parents today know, unscheduled play time is mostly a thing of the past—our children go from supervised before and/or after school care, to team practices, to play dates vetted by both sets of parents based on a rigorous code of traits and belief systems more thorough than an eHarmony application. Gone are the days when you were simply turned out into the neighborhood to make your own fun once the bus dropped you off and you had changed into play clothes. You’d play with your neighborhood friends in a pack until, as dusk neared, various moms and dads would begin calling from front porches for the return of their offspring for dinner.

The other day, we pulled up to our house and saw a young girl standing next to her pretty pink bike, staring at us expectantly. Living where we do on Tybee, we don’t have a neighborhood per se, so we only see Jack’s friends on specific, pre-arranged occasions, and I knew we had nothing scheduled until karate practice in an hour and a half. As we exited the car with my usual reminders to Jack to take his book bag and the plethora of other items in his gravitational pull (snack wrappers, bottled water, books, legos, etc.) and going over the schedule of “free” time until karate, the heretofore unrecognized little girl called Jack’s name.

I have recently made peace with the fact that Jack has a whole school life outside of our home and knows many kids regardless of their grade, so I figured this was just another instance of excitement at seeing one’s school peer in their natural habitat, so to speak. Then the girl removed her helmet and walked towards us, saying, “Jack, it’s me, Jillian! From the lemonade stand? How are you?” Once a year, Jack sets up a lemonade stand as part of an area fundraiser for Mom’s Lemonade Fund, which benefits local women battling ovarian cancers. We know the families that founded the charity in their mothers’ honor, who just happen to have a passel of kids and cousins that descend on their various neighboring beach houses throughout the summer. Last May, the precocious Jillian proclaimed that instead of Jack and Jill’s lemonade stand, it would be Jill and Jack’s lemonade stand because 1) ladies first, and 2) she was cuter. They really do look like they could be brother and sister, not that I would torture my kids with match-y, cute-y names like Jack and Jill.

jack and jill lemonade stand

Jill said she was on Tybee for spring break and had been riding by when she saw our dog in the yard, a new addition to the family since the lemonade stand. “Would you like to meet him?” asked Jack gallantly. Even at just 7 years old, her charming reply was, “Well, I suppose I could come visit for a minute.” For the next hour, the kids ran around the yard, shrieking happily as only carefree children do, playing hide and go seek and tag with the dog. Their conversations were so endearing to me, ranging from simple commands of what to play next to the following commentary in its entirety:

Jill: Your garden is looking good!

Jack: Thanks! We planted corn, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, cantaloupe, watermelon, and….

Jill: You had me at watermelon! I LOVE watermelon! When it’s ripe, call me to come eat some!

Jack: We have watermelon in the house RIGHT NOW! Do you want some?

Jill: Yes, please!

So I went inside and cut up watermelon for them and when they were done, they washed their sticky hands and faces off with the hose, like I had so many times in the summers of my childhood.

Just for good measure, here is another picture of them playing together at the beach:

jack and jill at beach

Post script: apparently, our house is just outside of the pre-approved free range bike zone for Jillian, so while she and Jack were playing, her aunt and uncle were driving around frantically looking for her until they saw her bike outside our house. This is why the impromptu fun of my 70s youth no longer works…

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So I quit my job…

March 15, 2012

The Ides of March were when Caesar was assassinated, and my spirit at work was likewise killed on the above date, when everything went crazily, inexplicably, no-way-to-see-it-coming downhill. When my job went from something I enjoyed to something I dreaded and I went from a happy-go-lucky non-profiteer to an unwilling participant in a ruthless, cut-throat game of Survivor, The Corporate World. People should know their place in the office hierarchy. You are hired to do a specific job in exchange for a salary, so just do your damn job. I know there are always going to be those who strive to climb the corporate ladder, but the majority of the worker bees need to keep their noses to the grindstone or it can lead to anarchy. Take for example my office, which quickly devolved into Lady of the Files (Get it? Like Lord of the Flies but we were women and in a corporate setting!). As a general rule, whenever I have been moved to tears by frustration or other negative behavior in a job, it is time to move on (basic life lesson: work should not make you cry). Your boss should be someone who has your back, not who throws you under the bus at any given opportunity. And in turn, your job is to always make your boss look good. I know what I am talking about because I have had amazing bosses and I have had horrible bosses.

For instance, my first job out of college. The corporate world was a big eye opener after being surrounded by like-minded people in my small, all-girl, Catholic high school and then in a sorority throughout college. I realized I had no choice in the people with whom I worked, and after hearing numerous horror stories from my gainfully employed fellow alums, quickly realized that I had lucked out with my co-workers and boss. I sold advertising in a trade magazine for a private, family-owned publishing company, traveling all over the country and making a damn good salary (I had hopes of getting on as an editor, but they pointed me in the direction of the money instead, despite my credentials). At a convention in Miami, my boss and I attended a fabulous poolside party sponsored by one of our advertisers. They just happened to manufacture an ingredient similar to gelatin and featured it in—what else?—Jello-O shots! There was a dj and a limbo contest and as I tried to bend my back parallel to the ground, my boss held my head up so I could get low enough without hitting the stick. Upon successfully dodging under the limbo stick, I was promptly presented with yet another Jell-O shooter as the dj stuck his microphone in my face, asking, “What would your boss say if he could see you now?!?” to which I happily responded, “he was the one holding my head up, helping me limbo!” and my boss and I toasted with a Jell-O shot.

Several years later, when I worked in membership development and special events for a museum, I went into my boss’s office to break the news of my heretofore very private decision to get divorced (side note, of course I thought no one knew how unhappy my marriage was, but anyone who knew us both could see it). Here is how the conversation went (in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that she was well on her way to marriage #3):

Me: “Do you have a minute to talk?” (she had an open door policy and most work-related conversations always just began without any preamble).

Boss: “Please tell me you’re not quitting!”

Me: “Well, I’m not quitting my job here at the museum, but I am quitting my marriage. I’m getting divorced.”

Boss: “Oh, is that all!? Thank goodness! We couldn’t bear to lose you! Take a few days off, go shopping, call me if you need anything.”

So, in a comparison of good bosses vs. bad bosses that is as in-your-face as the chiaroscuro in a Caravaggio painting (did I mention I double majored in English and Art History? Go ahead, take a moment to Google the artist, you’ll thank me later for teaching you some good cocktail party conversation fodder), when my job brought me to tears, I knew it was time to move on. And I also know of what I speak here, too, since I have been moved to tears of frustration with two previous jobs, both of which I quit. So in this latest episode, I sucked it up for over a year while I collected a paycheck and actively sought employment elsewhere, keeping at it because of the insurance for my family. Then I realized that insurance isn’t worth it if I have a heart attack or stroke because of stress, or suffer liver failure from drinking too much. Although I learned the “work-shouldn’t-make-you-cry” lesson in two previous jobs, this time I stayed as long as I did for two reasons: one, everyone knows it is easier to find a job when you have one; and two, because I felt, as a mother, how could I quit and leave my family with no insurance?

My darling husband finally helped me see that I wasn’t just miserable at work, I was miserable all the time which of course was impacting the very people I was stressing myself out to protect! So we made a plan…we cashed out the last of our investments, paid our bills out for six months, and decided I would take a six month sabbatical from the working world, enjoy the summer with our son without cobbling together a crazy (and expensive) series of summer camps to accommodate a work schedule I hated, and start this blog so I could write on a regular basis and maybe even parlay my writing into a freelance career. When I quit, it was so freeing, I felt instantly lighter and hopeful. Although it would be easy to wish I had done so sooner, I think the timing was perfect because Tyler and I got to enjoy a couple of weeks together and then he started a new job for which he is perfectly suited.