Monday, September 26, 2011

Worrier Mom

I admit it. I'm a worrier. Always have been. Always will be. It's part of who I am. I was a Worrier Child. One night, when I was about eight years old, I went back downstairs after being put to bed. I told my mother I couldn't go to sleep because I was afraid to die. Perplexed, she asked me to explain. I told her that even if I lived to be eighty it was going to seem very short because the first eight years had gone by so fast. Baffled, she tried to reassure me and then sent me back to bed.

As with all personality traits, we have to wonder. Were we born worriers or did our lives create the tendency? We'll never know how much losing my brother when I was two and a half changed my sense of security. His accident was proof that very bad things do happen and the world is not necessarily safe. How do you undo that? I don't think you can. You adapt. Now it's been discovered that negative thinkers are just as good at coping as positive thinkers.

My pessimistic style was studied by Julie Norem who wrote a book called The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. According to Norem, I'm a defensive pessimist and my coping strategies help me prepare for situations because I envision all sorts of outcomes. I expect the worst and work my way back from there. Usually reality ends up being better than I have been imagining. Such a pleasant surprise. Norem says that defensive pessimists cope just as well as optimists, sometimes with even better results.

Worrying is hard work. I'm glad there are benefits to it. Anyway, I can't stop now. I'm committed. Worrying has kept everyone safe so far. Worrying about your children is the most exhausting sort of worrying. Multiple children means even more worrying. Sometimes you can hardly keep it all straight. You have to put the kids in a rotation and prioritize their problems. Something might SEEM bad. Then something else happens. Lately we've heard a lot about Tiger Mom and Warrior Mom. Helicopter Mom is still hovering out there. I'm none of the above. I'm Worrier Mom.

I once heard an expression that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child. She's also only as well as her sickest child. In this relationship, perhaps the most symbiotic and intimate of them all - it's difficult to know where one of you stops and the other begins. Yes, most women (though these days certainly not all) who become mothers have had a man inside their bodies. But, let's face it, he wasn't in there for nine straight months.

When something has gone wrong with one of my kids I've had a silent mantra. Just let it be fixable. Even if it's REALLY bad, please, please let it be fixable. So far, everything has been and I feel so fortunate and grateful for that. With three daughters there have been enough illnesses and accidents to keep me on alert. Maybe not code red, but a lot of yellow and orange.

Recently Lucy took a hit in the head (from her surfboard) and sustained a concussion. It went from being diagnosed as mild to obviously more serious. Two weeks passed before she had any semblance of normal energy. Now, three weeks later, she's still VERY tired and gets headaches if she tries to do too much. Her battery is so drained that when I sit next to her I can literally feel her taking some of my energy. She's going to be fine. It's just going to take more time. And rest and food and loving care. As for me, when Lucy's completely well, I'll start recuperating.   

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Help Wanted

I recently did an interesting calculation. I figured out what I'd made selling real estate in the prior twelve months. I then determined what it cost me to operate. I made $90 a month and it cost $150 a month to be in business. I'm no mathematical genius, but I can crunch some simple numbers. When I was expected to fork over another $500 for association dues I'd had enough. After selling residential real estate for thirteen years it is time to face reality. 

Being in real estate lately has been like being on unemployment, but without the checks. It's not that I haven't been working this past year. I have. I just haven't gotten paid for it. I've showed lots of property to clients who were unable to purchase because their own property wouldn't sell, they couldn't get a loan, they lost their job, they changed their mind - what have you. The industry is a mess, as is the economy. Homeowners under water, short sales, foreclosures. It's ugly.

There's also a stunning lack of loyalty compared to when I first began in the business. We all have access to so much information. We can compare and contrast. We think so much about getting the best deal that the human element can be forgotten. Everything and everyone becomes interchangeable. I've been burned in the past by both clients and other agents. We all have. It's part of the territory, but this year something happened to me that is inexplicable. A good client and good friend bought a property with another agent while pretending to still look with me. I found out about it by happenstance when I ran into a mutual friend. I was working for her with no possibility of renumeration since she'd already purchased her place months before. Talk about working for free.   

I know it's rather selfish, but I've decided I'd like to be compensated for my time. Like other people who work. Isn't that the point? I'm still a broker so I can make money doing referrals, but now I want a real job. I could do ANY job and make more than I have been earning in real estate. Looking back, I've definitely missed some plum opportunities. I stupidly forgot to get a government job with an awesome pension.

Welcome to my new life on Craigslist. It's fascinating and an even bigger time suck than Facebook, if that's possible. My favorite category is "ETC".  I was too busy bearing and raising my children to become a surrogate mother, but the pay is quite good. And guys, there are many requests for sperm donors. 

The best job posts are for personal assistants. If you possessed all the qualities expected by these prospective employers, you could be the CEO of a major corporation. And what a bunch of weirdos. Youthful, successful author slash entrepreneur would like someone to cook healthful, vegetarian meals as well as do filing and run personal errands. Another one expects fifteen minute shoulder rubs. I love the busy Mom who wants someone to do pet care, grocery shopping and laundry in ten hours a week. For ten dollars an hour. Even my husband pays me a little better than that. Nobody seems to want to make their own travel arrangements and who can blame them? Booking flights and planning vacations is very time consuming.         

The kids are grown and I have a lot of flexibility. I also have a variety of work experience. I'm a Jill of all trades - master of some. Full or part-time, commute or work from home, but I've done enough evenings and weekends. Amusing myself by reading Craigslist is all well and good, but we know there's only one sure way to get a job. Nepotism. It's not what you know, but who you know. If you have any brilliant leads, feel free to send me an email. Writing jobs will take utmost priority, though being a personal assistant is awfully tempting. I'll be practicing my shoulder rubs and healthful cooking.     

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Limo Parking Only

Another gloomy Saturday, totally overcast, fifty-five degrees with a blustery wind. Happy Labor Day weekend. Enough with the oppressive fog. Time to escape to the Wine Country. Road trip. An hour later we pulled up to the legendary Oakville Grocery for picnic supplies. What a very pleasant change in scenery. Women were in summer dresses, guys in shorts. Eighty-five degrees and sunshine. Now we're talking.  

The plan was to do a tasting at Diamond Oaks Winery which has a grand view of the Napa Valley. Diamond Oaks is now closed. I've since discovered that it was bought in a bankruptcy sale by Bill Harlan, real estate developer turned vintner, who happens to live next door. Such a shame because it had wonderful wine and we have some fine memories from our picnics there. We went there shortly after Eric's accident, while he was still on crutches, as well as several other times. I guess Diamond Oaks was too low key and out of the way to survive in the Napa Valley of today. The Napa Valley that is beginning to resemble Disneyland. 

I am a reverse wine snob. An anti-snob. I've even been known to make fun of snooty wine people. I fall into the category of 90% of wine purchasers who consume their wine within hours of purchasing it. Seems fairly obvious. If I wanted to NOT drink the wine it would be easier to NOT buy it in the first place. This wine hoarding, I mean collecting, is for people with money. Serious money. The non-affluence of my childhood is too firmly ingrained to allow cases of wine to sit around waiting for the occasion that is deemed special enough for consumption. Besides, while I enjoy an expensive wine, I don't require it. Give me a great ten dollar bottle and I'm a happy camper.

It may not come as a surprise that, despite my proximity to the blessed vineyards, I'd never been wine tasting until I met Eric.  Now I'm a willing participant with several caveats.Famously, not a day drinker, there may be some tipsiness, and a nap will have to be factored into the schedule. I've been told I'm a short hitter when it comes to day drinking. I suppose there are worse things. I could be really, really good at it - in which case I'd probably be an alcoholic.  

I have my own, contrary method of wine tasting.  I don't swirl the wine and I don't sniff the bouquet after not swirling. I don't discuss the "nose". You won't find me tossing out fussy adjectives like "plummy" or " jammy" or whatever is currently in vogue as a wine descriptor. I most certainly do not spit the wine out. I just drink it. I enjoy the festive atmosphere and the skinny, salty bread sticks. Some of the tasting rooms are gorgeous and it's amusing to see groups pour themselves back into the limousine after several stops on the tour. A lot of the wineries have very impressive artwork and gardens as well.  

After we struck out at Diamond Oaks we ended up at Silver Oak which is on the valley floor. Same type of tree, only much fancier. For your twenty dollar tasting fee you get to keep the etched glass. We tasted three exquisite cabernets. The first was a 2007 Alexander Valley that goes for seventy bucks a bottle. Very drinkable. The second tasting, which I have to say was quite a generous pour, was a 2006 Napa Valley blend of something and something else. Really delicious and sells for only $75a bottle. Lastly, we tried the 2004 Napa Valley, my least favorite, which retails for $110. After I mentioned the 2007 was my favorite our glasses were refilled. Definitely time for lunch. 

The air in Napa this time of year is very special. It's harvest time and you can faintly smell the crush. The vines that haven't been harvested are hanging heavily. The light is indescribable, especially in the late afternoons when the shadows are long. After relaxing for a while it was time to head back home where, of course, it was still foggy but had warmed up to sixty-two degrees. Perfect temperature for a nap.        

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wine Tasting