March 1993 - November 1993
Age 35

"All of a sudden there's more to life than soap operas and laundry ..."


Saturday morning
March 13, 1993

Good morning ... and hello new journal!

What a perfect time to be starting a new journal: I'm right in the middle of one of the happiest weekends of my life, the future is looking brighter than it has in ages, and I can't think of a better way to commemorate this nice time in my life than to begin writing in a brand-new journal!  Looking at all these clean, new pages is like looking at my life ... I'm beginning all over again, and the world is an open book, waiting for me to fill the pages. 

Sappy? Overly-optimistic? Naive? Maybe a little. I get a little flowery at times, I know. On the other hand, I don't see anything wrong with enjoying this happy feeling. Lord knows it's been a long time coming. I think I've earned the right to revel in it.

The girls and I have to go sell Girl Scout cookies in front of Safeway in about 45 minutes, so we're bustling around, getting ready for that. We're scheduled to sell for two hours, from 10 a.m. to noon. Then we're going to take Kacie to Jorstad Jewelers in Burien and get her ears pierced as an early birthday present. 

Monday morning
March 15, 1993

Well, it may have been one of the happiest weekends of my life, but it sure as heck wasn't one of the most productive  ...  this house looks like a plea for disaster relief. Every single room is a disgusting mess. It's nearly 11 a.m. and I've been working for nearly two hours, yet it doesn't look any better than it did when I got up. Ray's supposed to take me shopping tonight after work  --  I want to get some stuff for the house  --  but at the rate I'm going, I'll still be washing dishes and picking up garbage at 9 p.m. ...

Now that we've finally settled the house-money crap and all the furor has died down, I'm not exactly sure what comes next. I want a car: that part's for certain. Ray is going to buy Velma's old beater for a thousand bucks this week, but I really want a car of my own. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just a nice little car that I can run around in.  And I suppose I need to get over to BCTI (Business Computer Training Institute) and get myself enrolled. I don't want to put it off for too long, for fear I may run out of ambition, but on the other hand it feels kind of good to simply STOP and take a breather from worry. I mean, it feels nice to be putzing around the house and not feel guilty about it  ...  to not be feeling I "should" be doing this or I "should" be doing that. So for today, at least, I'm going to clean my house and forget about anything else. My horoscope for the week says that this is the most decisive period of my life, and that I'm on the verge of the most "exciting and sensational" periods of the year. Hmmm.

5:30 p.m.

Whew. The place is inhabitable again.  I wonder what's going to happen around here when I go back to school (and after that, to work). What will happen to the house? Who will clean it?? And how far will I have to lower my standards ... ???

Ray came home in a ridiculously cheerful mood an hour ago. Amazing what a little money in the bank will do to raise the guy's spirits: I asked for some groceries and he didn't even blink!  I'm in a less-than-wonderful mood myself, but that's due more to the unexpectedly-early arrival of my *&!? period than anything else. I jumped all over Kacie awhile ago and reduced her to tears, and even though I've apologized, I still feel crummy about it. She tries so hard to please me and I make her cry. Wonderful. 

Tuesday 8:30 a.m.
March 1, 1993

The kids just left for school, after a silly morning of "Barney," "Wipeout" and Eggs Benedict. (When Mom wakes up in a wacky mood, look out  ... )

Kacie is back to her usual sunny self: she left this morning armed with invitations to her birthday party this coming Saturday. She's inviting Tracy, Erienne and Bratha to spend the night. (I suppose we'll also have to invite Angela, although the prospect of an entire evening with her fills me with dread.)  

Jamie is being a pill about the whole thing. "Nobody is going to sleep on MY bed!" she announced. "

Oh yes they will!" I said. "It'll be two girls to a bunk."

"Then where am I supposed to sleep?" she whined.

"Why don't you go spend the night at a friend's house?" I asked, and she rolled her eyes and stomped around and said she has "no place to go."  For most of this school year she has spent nearly every weekend at a friend's house  ... Nicole's, the Bontempo's, Kaleana's, Christina's ...  and suddenly, the one weekend when I actually want her to go on an overnight, there's no place to go???  Basically she's just jealous and angry that Kacie is having a party, and that I'm going to be able to spend more money on Kacie's b-day that I did on hers. I tried explaining to her that we were dead-broke in December, and that I'm very sorry if she feels slighted, but that's just the way things worked out. I understand how she feels, but I'm not going to allow her to spoil Kacie's fun. Kacie hasn't had much of a social life this year, at least not compared to Jamie, and it's her turn for something special.

The truth is that I really wasn't planning to throw Kacie a party in the first place. She's had a birthday party every year for the past several years, and I wanted to skip it this year and just have a quiet family celebration. Somehow I got bamboozled into a slumber party!  I'm still not exactly sure how it happened, but I guess it's too late to turn back now. 

March 18, 1993

Did our shopping on Tuesday night, by the way  --  Ray drove us to Fred Meyer in the freezing rain  --  I had a ball!  Jamie and I cut a swath through the entire store, buying everything from sofa pillows to a new shower curtain to a couple of wall clocks. My favorite new "toy" is a CD/cassette player I bought for myself (for $120). I had to sort of talk myself into buying it, but now I'm so glad I did because it's a lot of fun.

Ray bought Velma's car that same night, a '72 Plymouth Valiant. It's butt-ugly, but Ray says it runs great. I haven't driven it yet but I will.  Actually, it winds up being *my* car.

Kyle's "journal"  ...  a school assignment. This entry reads:

"I like Kyle, Lisa and (somebody indecipherable).
i wish my cat was not ded.
Because if he was not ded i wood be happy
a lot and i meen happy
jest if he seed me wone more time i wood be happy.

God  ...  this is so sad. 

Tuesday 10 a.m.
March 23, 1993

Kacie's birthday weekend has come and gone, and now I'm struggling to get everything  --  and everyone  --  back to normal. (Including me.) I've been weirdly weepy and emotional the past couple of days, unable to concentrate on much. This morning I read a story about a little boy who died of AIDS, and I cried for half an hour. Yesterday Jamie and Kyle both stayed home from school with colds, and Jay and I watched my favorite movie, "The Last of the Mohicans." Even though it was the third time I've seen it, it still hit me hard  ...  I felt melancholy and remote for the rest of the day  ...  and last night I had complex, upsetting dreams that linger this morning. What is going on with me??

Kacie's birthday was OK.  She had fun, anyway. (It cost us a small fortune, it was a helluva lot of work, and the residual mess was incredible, but she had fun.)  We wound up having Tracy, Angela, Bernadette, Erienne and my little niece Karen here to spend the night on Saturday. (Jamie went to Emily's slumber party that night: she was very glad to escape the chaos around here!)  The girls made their own Boboli pizzas for dinner, watched Kacie open her gifts, played games in the bedroom and stayed up most of the night, giggling and talking. Mostly I just left them to their own devices. They all got along with each other fairly well  --  no fighting  --  if it had been Jamie and a group of her friends, it probably would've been a different story!  --  and everyone went home the next morning (except for Karen, who stayed until late that afternoon), exhausted and happy.

Originally I had planned to get Kacie the expensive Adidas jacket she'd been asking for, but at the last minute we ended up getting her clothes (two shirts and two pairs of pants), a flowered canvas tote bag, and a book she'd requested.


Kacie's birthday celebration!
Pizza on the top bunk (left); ice cream cake in the dining room (right)
March 1993

Wednesday 10:30 a.m.
March 24, 1993

Better today  ...  not as "weepy," anyway. This is an early release day for the kids, which means they'll be home by 1:00. Ray left me the "Velma Mobile" (or should that be the "Velmobile"??) and I think that when the kids get here we'll take it out for a spin, either to Burien to shop for Karen's birthday party tomorrow or else to the library. I haven't driven in months, so I'm a little nervous. Do I still remember how??

The kids are pretty busy these days. Jamie started softball last night, and Kacie starts this weekend. On Monday night Ray took them shopping and got them each a brand-new mitt to play with. Jamie's dance classes are heating up in preparation for the annual recital in May; there are rumors of a school talent show being planned for spring.


(and what's not)

Spring 1993


Fast-food burgers
White tennis shoes
The Young & The Restless
Nicole S.
"Dances With Wolves"
New Kids on the Block
Family Circle Magazine
Dan Quayle jokes


Fish & chips
White moccasin loafers
The Peoples Court
Days of Our Lives

Nicole S.
"The Last of the Mohicans"
En Vogue
Country Collectibles Magazine
Socks the Cat jokes

Sunday noon
March 23, 1993

Bright and sunny spring day. Kyle is puttering around the backyard with his Daddy, "helping" with yardwork. A few minutes ago he came into the laundry room, where I was sweatily dumping water into our shit-heap of a washing machine. "I've got something for you!" he chirped, hiding something behind his back. I fought off the impulse to say "Not now, I'm BUSY" ...  I've been working hard all morning, and interruptions are annoying  ...  but one look at the light gleaming in his eyes and I melted. Beaming, he handed me a bouquet of scraggly flowers, clutched tightly in one dirty little paw. 

"Wow! THANK you!" I said, kissing him and putting the flowers immediately in a yellow china vase. 

He was so pleased with himself! I "rewarded" him by going upstairs to the attic and digging out an old tank top for him to wear, so he'd look just like his Dad. He's growing up so fast. I watch him, clomping around in the backyard behind Ray, imitating every move his father makes  --  tossing a clump of weeds into the wheelbarrow, stopping to wipe sweat off his face  --  and my heart swells with love for my little man.

I've been driving the Velmobile all week, and I LOVE it. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of the brakes, but it's an easy car to drive and I felt comfortable with it right away. It is so exhilarating to be back out into the world, behind the wheel  ... I feel like an old Mama Bear, coming out of hibernation.

Ray and Kyle (in matching Dad-and-son mullets: gahhh) washing the "Velmobile"

Kacie had an accident on Thursday night. She and Jamie went roller skating with their Girl Scout troop (while Ray, Kyle & I went over to my Mom's to celebrate little Karen's 8th birthday).  According to the girls, an older girl deliberately tripped Kacie during a speed skate and sent Kacie flying into a wall. At first we were afraid she'd broken it (her wrist), but it seems to just be a nasty sprain. She's kept it in an Ace bandage all weekend and has been very careful about not jostling it around, and it seems to be feeling better today. Of course, this means no softball this weekend  ...  a fact that upset her terribly. Her team has a practice scheduled for this afternoon and I'm going to let her go and watch, but no participating. This has appeased her somewhat.

What else? Oh, yes: we went to the movies yesterday, the whole family plus Nicole (who is once again back in Jamie's good graces, it would seem).  We saw "Groundhog Day" at Lewis & Clark. It was OK  ...  not as good as I'd hoped, but fun to be in an actual movie theater again. It grows on you after you see it again. And again. And again. And again.  Movies have, for too long, been one of those luxuries that Polenville couldn't afford. 

Wednesday 10 a.m.
March 31, 1993

Life is good these days. How good, you ask? Good enough that I wake up in the mornings and actually feel like getting up. Good enough that I can hop into the car whenever I want to and take myself somewhere and buy myself something, utterly at a whim. (Yesterday I went to Burien and bought the soundtrack to "The Last of the Mohicans.") Good enough that Ray and I haven't argued in weeks  ...  at least, not over anything of consequence. Good enough that I can write three checks to cover the kids' class pictures (being taken today) and not only doesn't Ray complain, there is still $2,500 left in the checking account. Good enough that the future has once again become a subject of interest, rather than something to be feared ...

Friday 8:30 am
April 2, 1993

The kids just left for school  ...  I watched in horror as Kyle deliberately stomped his way through two enormous mud puddles in the middle of the street (in his new $40 L.A. Lights)  ...

Cool and cloudy this morning. This is the last day of school before spring break, so I'm determined to enjoy my "final" day of solitude and get as much done as possible. Ray took the Velmobile today, with my blessing  --  I'm hoping he'll put gas in it for me  --  so I'm committed to staying at home anyway.  I'm going to write in my journal, and clean the house, and drink my coffee with the new Amaretto-flavored Coffeemate, and talk to people on the phone, and read my book ("The Talisman," second time)  ...  in other words: same shit, different day. Or maybe that should be, same shit, different attitude!  A month ago, a day like today would have struck me as being redundant and joyless. But the new, improved Terri sees things differently now. This day seems like a wonderful gift, and I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it.

Kyle was sitting at the breakfast table, eating his toaster waffle, when he suddenly looked at me and said, "I know how to spell ‘good.' G-O-O-D!" Lately he is obsessed with reading  ...  he reads anything he sees, from advertisements on TV to headlines in the newspaper, laboriously sounding the words out until he gets them. Naturally I am thrilled with this development. It would appear that all three of my children have inherited my love of the written word. Who could ask for better? I mean, we're not talking child prodigies or anything like that, but a natural and easy love of reading is a real advantage in this world. 

Anyway, I smiled at him and said, "OK, now try spelling ‘smart.'" 

He had to stop and think about it for a moment, but then the letters slowly came to him. "S  ... m ... " (he stopped, looked up at the ceiling, poked his tongue into his cheek) " ... a ... r ..." (long, long pause while he thought about that last letter) ..."T?" 

I clapped and shouted "Yes! S-m-a-r-t, and that's what YOU are, Kyle!" There was a look of such triumph on his freckled face!

Ray drove me past BCTI the other day, just so I could see the building and see how to get to it. Now all I have to do is screw up my courage and call for an appointment with the admissions office  ...  something I haven't quite found the nerve to do yet. 

I've been having "The School Dream" a lot lately. That's the dream where I suddenly realize that I'm starting school in a couple of days and I'm seized with panic because I have nothing to wear, or because I don't know where the school is located, or something similarly foolish. (I think I had the dream again last night, as a matter of fact, although I'm not sure: there were a lot of jumbled-together dreams, none of which I recall with any clarity.) Obviously, this is a very big step for me to take, and I'm scared.  I've waited such a long time to get to this point  --  being able to afford school, I mean  --  and you'd think I'd be ready. I've had something like 13 years to gear myself up, after all! But here I sit, paralyzed with fear.

Sunday noon
April 4, 1993

Still "paralyzed with fear," but at least I can now report that I've taken a tiny "baby-step" towards my goal. Tomorrow at noon I have my first interview with the admissions office at BCTI. I'm purposely trying not to dwell on it today  --  I'd work myself into a nervous frenzy if I do  --  so I won't even write much about it until after the interview tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Spring break is now in full swing  ...  the girls are screaming at each other in their bedroom, Kyle is following me around jabbering at me 100 miles an hour, Ray is skulking about the garage with a beer in his hand. (The really awful part is that he is also taking this next week off  ...  SIGH.)

Tuesday morning
April 6, 1993

Good grief.  It took me five minutes this morning to find my journal  ...  it was buried beneath an enormous pile of junk, here on my desk. The whole house looks this way, and I'm in despair: Ray and the kids are systematically trashing the place the moment my back is turned. This is turning into another one of those Spring Breaks In Hell. I mean, It wouldn't be so bad if Ray hadn't decided to take the same week off as the kids, but all they do is bicker and tear things apart and drive me insane. Thank God I have the next three weeks to myself before school starts  ...

... and that's the good news: the incredible, wonderful, mind-bogglingly-good news: I'M GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!!!  The wheels have been set in motion, and what has been, until now, merely wishful thinking is reality  ...  I'm going back to school!  (Just writing the words sets my heart racing.)  My classes begin on May 3rd; I'll be attending the evening sessions, from 5:45 to 10 p.m., five nights a week for twelve weeks. I'll graduate sometime this summer, and soon afterward will be working at an actual, paying, honest-to-God job. 

Imagine that. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself here: I want to back up and tell you about my appointment yesterday.  I was in terrible shape, to being with: I'd only gotten two hours of sleep the night before, and I was dead-tired. (I'd lain awake all night, worrying about the interview and battling a horrible stomach ache.)  It took every ounce of inner strength in me just to take a shower, put on some makeup and do my hair. Amazingly, though, I did OK. My hair is too long right now, but I curled it and pulled it back with a white headband, and it looked fine  ...  a bit on the Hillary Clinton side, but fine.  Makeup managed to hide the dark circles under my eyes, and my outfit  --  white slacks, blue and white silk blouse and red blazer, with new white leather flats  --  looked perfectly presentable. I was pleased by the way I'd managed to pull it all together, in spite of being exhausted.

Ray drove me to the BCTI campus. Originally I'd planned to go alone  --  "This is something I've got to do on my own," I told everybody, as though I were marching off into battle  --  but the truth is that I was worried about driving when I was so tired. And there was something comforting about knowing that Ray would be waiting outside in the car while I went through my interview: a little invisible moral support, I guess. 

I arrived right on the dot of twelve, filled out some preliminary forms, and soon after was ushered to a back office to talk to my "career consultant," Cara Lyn. She and I have been corresponding on and off for nearly a year and a half, ever since I made my first tentative phone inquiry about the school ...  she's been sending me updated course schedules and polite little notes of encouragement ("Please let me know when the time is good for you"). And she's every bit as nice in person: I felt comfortable with her  --  and with the school  --  immediately. It's hard to explain, but I felt as though I belonged there.  She took me on a tour of the place, explained the course schedule and the fees, and made me feel so comfortable that I felt my nervousness and exhaustion melt away.

The school is smaller and more informal than I'd expected  ...  nothing at all intimidating. The tuition fee is higher than I'd hoped  --  it's $5,295  --  but in the long run I know it'll be worth it. We have the option of applying for financial aid, but after talking it over with my mom (she stopped by yesterday after I'd gotten home) we've decided to save ourselves the $2,000 in interest payments we'd end up with and pay my tuition in full, before I start classes.

Monday 11 a.m. 
April 12, 1993

They're gone!  Ray and the kids went back to work and school today, after what felt to me like the longest Spring Vacation on record. HALLELUJAH.

Lori and I went to Value Village this morning for their 50% off sale on all used clothing: I got a few things that will be great for school this summer. My favorite outfit is a bright print skirt, white silk blouse and a robin's egg blue blazer.  Which I wore exactly: never.

Kacie's first softball game is tonight.

Tuesday noon
April 13, 1993

Spending a long, lovely day home alone  ...  yesterday I had to do a lot of running around, but today there is nothing on the agenda until tonight (Jamie's first game of the season). So technically today is the first day of MOMMY'S VACATION. I made myself a big fattening breakfast, after the kids left for school, and spent the rest of the morning clipping recipes and watching junky TV. Bliss.

I was very proud of Kacie last night  --  she played very well, considering that it was her first game ever. (Her team tied with Gregory Heights, 7 - 7.)

Kacie's softball picture

Friday morning
April 16, 1993

Velma is coming over in an hour, to pick up the materials for Jamie's dance recital costume  ... she's offered to sew it for us. Seems like every time she and I drift apart from each other, something happens to thrust us back together. Frankly, this is one "friendship" that I would prefer to see die a natural death: her sour outlook on life and outrageously bigoted comments drive me up a wall. But here I go again, putting myself into the position of being "obligated" to her. Guess I have no one to blame but myself.

At 2:00 I have another appointment at BCTI: I'm paying my tuition (w/a cashier's check) and filling out my registration forms. And this time I'm going alone  ...  no Ray sitting outside in the car waiting for me. Hope I can manage to find the place w/o getting lost  ... !

Easter Sunday, incidentally, was on the 11th. It was one of the nicer holidays we've had recently: no driving anywhere, no company, just Ray and the kids and I.  I did the Easter baskets myself this year  ...  I bought two pretty baskets (empty) for the girls and filled them with things I thought they'd like  -- Noxzema, mousse and sponge rollers for Jay; Lip Smackers, Silly Putty and rollers for Kacie; candy for both. For Kyle I bought a pre-filled basket but added extra candy and toys to it. (Kyle is the only one who still believes in the Easter Bunny, by the way. I thought Kacie still did, but apparently she's known the truth for a long time but hasn't said anything.)  Ray put a ham on the Webber, and I made au gratin potatoes and asparagus w/Hollandaise & peanuts; Jay made us a coconut cream pie. The best part about this Easter, though, was something that happened spontaneously  ... it began to rain, suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon, and the kids and I threw on raincoats and tromped around the yard in the downpour, looking for (and finding) a rainbow. It was a sweet, silly moment I'll never forget.

One very sad thing happened last week that I've forgotten to mention  ...  Aunt Mabel Beatty passed away suddenly in her sleep. Kathy Bach called me from Portland to give me the news. I was (and still am) very sad about this.


Whew. Velma just left. (Before she showed up, Janet popped in unexpectedly just to visit, but the minute she heard Velma was coming over she high-tailed it outta here! Velma gets on EVERYBODY'S nerves, I'm afraid.) Our visit was fine until I happened to mention that I'm planning to take Kyle to see Dr. Kay next week. The rash on the back of Kyle's legs has gotten markedly worse lately, and I want the doctor to look at it. 

"Dr. EDMUND Kay?" Velma sneered.

Right then I knew I was in trouble. "OK," I sighed. "What's the matter with Dr. Kay?"

"Let me put it this way," she said primly. "We settled out of court." And then she went into this long song & dance about how Dr. Kay "almost killed her" when he delivered Jonathan a few years ago.  JEEEEEEE-ZUS H. KEEEEEEE-RIST.

April 23, 1993

Now it's a whole week later  ... Friday afternoon, April 23rd. I don't seem to be as consistent about writing in this journal as I'd like to be, but then again this has been a very busy month for me. Suddenly, I feel so alive!!  School starts in a little over a week, and there's so much to do in preparation: I'm nervous, but I'm also very, very excited. All of a sudden there's more to life than soap operas and laundry, and even though I know I ought to be recording all of this stuff in my journal, there never seems to be enough time. I'm sorry about that: I'll try harder, I promise.

I had to run an errand this morning  --  I had one final piece of paperwork to drop off at BCTI  --  and I'm pleased to report that not only can I find the school w/o getting "lost," it only took 5 minutes to drive there!  It's practically in our backyard! Anyway, I dropped off my paperwork, and then I decided to just drive around for awhile before going home  ...  I went to Payless and bought a couple of things (glue stick, a b-day card for Velma, a magazine) and then went to our new video rental place and checked out five movies for the weekend. I got:

  • "Unlawful Entry" 
  • "My Cousin Vinny"
  • "Honey I Blew Up The Kid"
  • "Stop or My Mom Will Shoot"
  • "Single White Female"

Ray's birthday was on Tuesday, by the way  -- his 38th. Jamie played hooky from school that day, and we went shopping for his birthday ... we got him a nice Timex watch and a digital clock radio.

April 30, 1993

I am too embarrassed to tell you what day it is now. (OK, OK... it's the next Friday! April 30th. So much for "trying harder, I promise" ...)

The Bow Lake School Carnival is tonight, and the kids are all lathered up about that. I've made it clear to one and all that I have no intention of going this year  ...  I hate those stupid school carnivals  ...  so either Ray can take them or they can go together as a group, provided Jamie keeps a close eye on Kyle. I'm going to stay home and enjoy a bottle of wine and whatever "Mom Project" I decide to work on.

This has been a quiet and uneventful (fairly) week. Ray put his car in the shop last week, so he's been driving the Velmobile, leaving me "stranded." I haven't really minded.

Hold on a minute  --  I'm going to switch mediums here.

I'm continuing this now with the typewriter.  I've had a peculiar backache for the past couple of days, and an hour ago I took some aspirin with caffeine in it. It's made me a little "nervous"  ...  I was finding it hard to write without wobbling. The typewriter will make it easier for me to put some thoughts down on paper.

Actually, now that I think about it, this hasn't been an "uneventful" week at all. In fact, a couple of major changes have taken place.  I just meant that I've spent the week here at home, alone, without the car.  No "quick trips" to Burien.  I haven't really minded: next week begins an important, exciting new period of my life, and I've needed this week alone to think and "recharge" myself, mentally and emotionally.

We found out on Wednesday night that it'll cost $1,000 to have the engine in Ray's Chevy repaired, and to be perfectly honest the car isn't even worth that much to begin with. Ray was all upset and gloomy about the news, so I did something totally unexpected: I called Velma and asked if we could buy the other car she has for sale. It's a 1976 Grenada, which they're selling for $950. In other words, I picked up the phone and "ordered" Ray a car  ...  just like ordering a pizza! You should have seen the look on his face!!  He's at the bank right now, withdrawing the cash to pay for it. (He test-drove it on Thursday, and his comment was, "That car runs like a Cadillac!" I take that to mean he likes it.) So we'll have another "new" car here, hopefully sometime this weekend, so I can have the Velmobile back and all to myself in time for school on Monday.

Ray and I both agree that this is the last major withdrawal we'll make from the savings for a long time.  I figure that it's worth it, just to make sure we both have a reliable means of transportation.

The other "big" news is that we've adopted a new kitty, as of last weekend. "Gillie" is a one month old female, a gift from Janet. She's a little tiger-striped ball of fur, so small she fits into the palm of my hand. She has completely taken over this household. The funny thing is, Ray was adamantly opposed to adopting her  --  "Take her back!" he said, when he saw her  --  and yet the next day he went out and bought her a box of Kitten Chow, without prompting. The big sentimental lug. (And once or twice I've caught him holding her.)

Brina is somewhat less than thrilled with the new kitty, of course  --  she hisses anytime Gillie comes within three feet of her  --  but I hope that in time they'll at least come to tolerate each other. In the meantime, Gillie follows me everywhere, all day long. She wants to be on my lap (or on my shoulder, or on my back if I'm laying down) every minute of the day. This makes it difficult to get much done in the way of housework, but she's such a sweet baby that I don't mind too much. And she's made the kids so happy. They still miss Spuddy, of course, but Gillie has gone a long way towards easing some of their grief.

"Gillie" (here in Kyle's arms, on his birthday) became the next great love of my childrens' lives

School is now three days away, and I'm vacillating between excitement and terror. I don't even want to write much about it, for fear that I'll work myself into fullscale panic. I'm 3/4 ready: Janet came over and cut my hair this morning, and later this weekend I'm going to pick up some Loving Care and color it. That way I know it'll "behave" for the first couple of weeks, at least: one less thing to worry about. I still need a good pair of jeans, and I need to do as much in the way of advance preparation for Kyle's (next Tuesday) as I can this weekend. Other than that, I'm "ready." Or as "ready" as I can be, I guess.



I love the fact that his birthday present (a basketball backboard) was bigger than HE was.
May 1993

Saturday morning
May 8, 1993

OK, OK  ...  I've broken my promise, again. It's now over a week later, and I haven't written a thing in this journal. What can I say? I'm simply not the most consistent person in town. (Isn't there an old saying about that? Something about "consistency being the something or other of small minds," or something along those lines . . .? I'm going to have to look that up: I may be able to use it in my own defense.) Besides, this past week has been, without a doubt, one of the most challenging and pivotal weeks of my life. I've barely had time to catch my breath, let alone sit and write anything in my journal: I mean it. Getting used to my new schedule and my new life has taken every ounce of concentration and willpower and energy in me. (I'm so glad that today is Saturday  --  lovely, wonderful, "catch up" Saturday  --  I could turn cartwheels  ...  !!)

I'll try to get some things written this weekend, anyway, in between housework and phone calls and whatever else I need to get caught up on. I can't promise anything cohesive  --  it'll probably wind up being lots of bits and pieces  --  but I guess that's better than nothing.

I feel like I've been a student at BCTI for months and months, when in fact it's only been five days. I have to admit that the first night was kind of tough. I had no idea what to expect, like I was venturing into the unknown  ...   it was probably one of the scariest (and bravest) things I've ever done. The first thing I did was drive the wrong way into the parking lot. Instead of going around the front of the building, I went around the back, which put me on a one-way street  --  going the WRONG way. Naturally there were about a million people standing there watching me: I felt like an idiot. Then, I was the first person in my class to show up. I was only ten minutes early (class starts at 5:45), but I was still the only person sitting there in the classroom, and I felt as conspicuous as a pimple on a forehead.  The classroom is fairly big. There are four rows of long tables running from front to back, and then another long table running vertically on either side. Each table holds four enormous electric typewriters and four 10-keys. I found myself a place at the second table from the front, far right end seat. (I didn't want to sit directly in front, but I still needed to be close enough to read the board.)  At each typewriter was a cellophane-bound packet of textbooks and class materials. This caught my interest immediately.  I LOVE stuff like that!   It reminded me of the first day of first grade, when I walked into the classroom and found the little brown square of modeling clay on the desk, next to the "Terri Vert" name tag.  As a matter of fact, a lot of the things I was feeling on Monday night mirrored my feelings on that long-ago first day of school  ...  excitement, anxiety, shyness, desire to please and to do well  ...  the six year old me and the thirty-five year old me have a lot in common.

Anyway, I sat there and "played" with my new textbooks while the other students gradually began filtering in. There were two textbooks  --  "The HBJ Office Handbook" and "SuperWrite Alphabet Writing System"  --  a smaller booklet called "BCTI Office Automation Student Workbook," two steno pads, and a packet of pens, pencils and hilighters.

May 11, 1993
Continuing my story  ...

My instructor for the first four weeks of the course is a tiny dynamo named Jan L. I think she must be around my mom's age, fifty-something. She's wryly funny, but very serious about teaching: the result is that I'm learning a lot in a very short time, but in a relatively painless way. Already we've worked on typing, bookkeeping, 10-key, SuperWrite, proofreading and grammar  ...  and class has only been in session for six nights!  

Two nights a week we also go next door to the computer room and work on keyboarding. Our instructor there is named Greg Wiedower ...  I think he'll be our fulltime instructor during the next section of the course.

I was a little upset the first and second nights, when I thought I was the oldest person in the class, but since then I've discovered that four or five other students are also in their 30's. I'm not accustomed to feeling like "the oldest" in any situation, let alone a classroom, so it's comforting to find out that there are other thirty-somethings who are just starting out like I am. There are a couple of very young (19 - 20 - 21) girls who sit directly in front of me, Tara & Pam, and I find myself sometimes staring at them in frank envy. They sit there in their cut-offs and their running shoes, all long blonde hair and tanned skin and lean bodies, and it makes me feel like such a frumpy/lumpy mess. I know I shouldn't let it get to me, but it does. I've let myself go the past six years, and I know it. Is it too late to pull myself back together?? My wardrobe is OK at the moment  ...  between trips to the secondhand store and things my mom has given me (including two GORGEOUS suits  --  one navy, one dove-gray  --  which she gave me on Sunday), I've managed to put together a fairly decent working woman's wardrobe. At this time, we're not required to "dress for success" in class  --  there are no dress codes yet, although that does happen later in the course  --  but at least when the job searching begins, I'll have something to wear. I just wish I could lose some weight, and do something new with my hair and makeup, and feel better about my appearance in general.

(I really was hoping to have breast-reduction surgery later this summer, after I graduate, but now I don't know. The logistics  --  and the expense  --  are confounding me at this point.)

Anyway, my point is that now that I've started classes, I've become aware, once again, that mirrors do exist  ...  that just because I avoid looking in them doesn't mean they aren't there. Do you know what I mean? While I was babysitting and staying home with the kids all the time, it didn't seem to matter what I looked like. I could get away with thirty extra pounds and a wardrobe of sweats and no makeup. (At least, I thought I could.) I never looked in a mirror so I was able to assume I looked OK. "No one sees me anyway," I rationalized. Now I'm back out in the world, and I can't delude myself any longer  ...  I look terrible!!! I'm bloated and sluggish and pale, my hair and makeup are exactly the same as they were 20 years ago, and I'm so out-of-shape that walking half a block leaves me sore for days afterward. Help!!

I've kind of digressed here, though. I have a feeling that I'm going to be motivated to change the "outside me" this summer, so I'm not going to obsess about it right now. (I'm already trying to watch what I eat, and that's a start.) 

More about school:

* I really like working on the computer. I wasn't sure I would, but I do. So far all I've really learned to do is enter & exit the MAVIS program (that's our keyboard-instruction program), but it's still a lot of fun. Yeah, it was pretty much love at first byte for me and computers.

* I also like the SuperWrite system of speed-writing. It's easier than shorthand, and although I haven't built up a lot of speed yet, I think I'll get it before too long.  And then promptly forget every bit of it, the instant you graduate!

* One thing that is really emphasized is camaraderie among the people in my class. Actually, I guess what I mean to say is that they want us to get to know each other and work together as a group. They started the very first night, having us learn each others' names.

Friday morning
May 14, 1993

Still plugging along. We had a big test last night, on business letter styles, memo styles, interview questions and SuperWrite. I think I did well, although I'm 85% certain that I screwed up on at least one SW word. (Is "cheer" Cr or Cer? I finally chose the latter.) We're doing a lot of bookkeeping now, too, which is tough, tough, TOUGH. I've always been horrible at math, and having to face it again after all these years is like a nightmare come true. I'm determined to get through it, though. I don't plan to become a whiz at it, but if I can just master the fundamentals and pass that section of the course, I'll be happy.

I still pretty much keep to myself in class, although there are a few people for whom I feel genuine friendliness  --  big nerdy Richard, Norma, Sharynn, Jan. The younger people in the class kind of ignore me. They sit in the back rows of the classroom and joke around among themselves. Do I feel left-out? Maybe just a little. There are echoes of the old clique system from junior high/high school here, and it's not hard to remember the pain of not fitting in. The difference here is that we're all (supposedly) adults now, and the priorities are different. For me, the important thing is doing well in class  ...  not whether I'm included in the joshing-around. I smile at people, and I make polite conversation when it's required, but other than that my focus is definitely elsewhere.

I'm still very uncomfortable about the way I look. Like I said before, my clothes are fine  --  they're great, even, but the extra weight is bothering me like never before. Yet, I don't seem to be able to do anything about it: last night I wound up eating half a box of chocolate/peanut butter cookies when I got home from school. (My period started this morning, though. I've noticed that I crave junky food a day or two before it starts, so maybe that had at least something to do with last night's binge.)  Need to WORK ON THIS.

I like driving to and from school. It's a really great feeling of independence, of having "control" of my life.

Yesterday was the Bow Lake School Talent Show, held at a special assembly at 1:15 in the afternoon. Both Jamie & Kacie participated, so I walked over to the school to watch it. Jamie borrowed a routine (and costume) from her dance class, a tap dance to "I Love a Piano," and performed it flawlessly. She looked wonderful, and I was very proud. The BIG surprise, though, was my Kacie.  She had singlehandedly put together a gymnastics/dance routine  ...  she choreographed it, picked her music ("Club MTV"), even put together her "costume"  ...  all without help from anyone. I watched her take the stage and I felt my heart leap into my throat. "Please let her do OK!" I begged God. There were a lot of rude, rowdy little boys in the audience who laughed at anyone who made a mistake: I knew that if even one person laughed at her, Kacie would be devastated.  I needn't have worried.  Not only did she do "OK" - she was spectacular!!  Her routine was easily the highlight of the Talent Show, and when she was through, the audience burst into wild applause. It was Kacie's moment of glory, and I was so proud of BOTH of my poised, talented daughters.

Two areas of my life experiencing temporary dysfunction: housework and friendships. There's no time for either, and even when there is time, I don't have the energy. The house is a pit, and my girlfriends probably think I've abandoned them.

Saturday 9 a.m.
May 15, 1993

Feeling so good, it's scary.  I don't drink or smoke at all during the week while I'm going to school, and all that abstinence has a great effect on me. By Saturday morning, I feel positively recharged. Today I'm actually going to go into Kyle's room  --   which, at the moment, is the filthiest and most disgusting room in the house  --  and clean it from top to bottom.

Ray's working today  --  another reason I'm in a good mood. I know this probably sounds terrible, but one of the best things about me going to school nights is that Ray and I hardly see each other. Two ships and all that. Amazing how well we get along when we don't h ave to spend time together  ...

Jamie is spending the weekend on Camano Island (or "Tomato Island," as Kyle calls it) with Nicole. She left last night and won't be back until tomorrow evening. Kacie, Kyle & I got up at 8:30 this morning to watch our favorite Saturday morning cartoon, "Eek the Cat."

School was OK last night, although I still have that feeling of being apart from the rest of the class. (I'm not even sure that the instructor likes me all that much: when I was finished with all my work and asked her if it was OK to leave, she gave me this look of distaste.) I don't know. Maybe I'm imagining all this. I've always been a solitary sort of person anyway  ...  it takes me a long time to feel comfortable around someone, and maybe that's misinterpreted as arrogance or aloofness. Maybe they think I'm stuck-up. I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter, that the REAL test for me will be when I get hired somewhere later this year  ...  then I'll really have to work at being friendly and sociable.

May 27, 1993

It's almost two weeks later now  ...  a warm but drizzly Thursday afternoon, and I am on V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N!!!!!  I had last night off, plus tonight, tomorrow and Monday  ...  a sort of extended Memorial Day "weekend."  It feels wonderful. As much as I enjoy school  --  and I do enjoy it, most of the time  --  it's great to kick back for a few days and put thoughts of Account Ledgers and SuperWrite quizzes on a back burner for awhile. Today I actually managed to mop the kitchen floor and catch up (almost) on laundry. A miracle!

Last night was Jamie's dance recital  ...  the culmination of many months of hard work on her part. I'm pleased to report that she did beautifully. She danced three numbers: "I Love a Piano," "Music Box Boogie" and "La Bamba." Whenever she was on stage, I got up as close to the front as I could and furiously snapped pictures: I pray they turned out, because she looked gorgeous.

My beautiful Jamie at her dance recital

Peg & Don returned this week from their five-month R.V. trip around the country, so they were able to come to the recital with us  ...  a fact that meant a lot to Jay. (Grandma Beeson went to the Monday night recital.)  It was, as Jamie observed, the first time we'd seen them since CHRISTMAS! They looked great  --  tired, but tanned and healthy  --  and we were all really glad to see them. (Peg brought me a beautiful pewter picture frame, which I love.) All in all, it was a nice evening.

I actually only have two more nights of O.A. class (Office Automation) next week  --  that's the class with Jan as instructor  --  and then we move on to the next phase of the course, which is fulltime Computer class. I can't believe how fast the whole thing is going.

Wednesday 11 a.m.
June 2, 1993

Tonight is the last night of O.A. class, and we're having a giant final exam. As soon as I'm done with my last cup of coffee, I'll go through my notes and stuff and attempt to get organized.

A subtle change has come over me, I think. When I first started at BCTI  --  one month ago tonight!  --  I was filled with this burning desire to be the best in the class, in everything  ...  perfect attendance, highest quiz scores, first one done with everything. Now I'm content to just do my best and complete everything I start. The way things are looking at the moment, I'll probably be finishing third or fourth in the class  --  at least the O.A. portion of it. And that's good enough for me. I'm trying to set my sights ahead, towards the job search I'll be undertaking later this summer. I want the most comfortable, interesting, good-paying job I can find, and I'll settle for nothing less.  Sure you will!

June 3, 1993

The next morning. The final went OK, I think  ...  I went in at 4:30 to start it and was out of there by 7:00. The only bad moment came when Pepi and Fay, the friendly Samoan girls who sit behind me, asked me for an answer on a time-zone question ("If it's 9 a.m. in Seattle, what time is it in New York?") and the teacher's aide who was sitting near us reprimanded all three of us.  I'm worried that she may have said something about it to Jan. Geez. Shades of junior high school ...

Tonight we start Computer Class, anyway.

June 11, 1993

About ten days later now  ...  Saturday, June 11th. I just dropped the kids (plus Tia B., who spent the night) off at Shannon South for Tracy's annual birthday/swim party. It's cloudy and cool, threatening to rain, but the kids are determined to swim anyway.  I'll be going back over there shortly to join the party, but I needed/wanted a little time to myself first, so I came back home. Listening to a new Jeff Lynne (ex-"ELO") tape I bought for a dollar at Six Star. (I also bought two tapes by "The Call," some peach-colored taper candles, and birthday gifts for Tracy and for Kyle's friend Marcel.)

Ray is working all day today, and tomorrow as well. Yipee.

School is still going fine. Our class has become much tighter-knit over the past couple of weeks. I'm not so much on the outside anymore, and it's a nice feeling to belong to a "group," even if it's only for the summer. We have Computer Class (with Greg Weidower, who I like very much!) from 5:45 to 8:00 two or three nights a week; the other nights we only stay in Computer until 7:00 and do a one-hour SuperWrite with Jan in our old O.A. classroom.  From 8 to 10 every night we're in a class called Career Development, with an instructor named LaDon McPike. LaDon is an amazingly energetic and ambitious young guy and an excellent instructor: already he's helped me write my résumé, and in the weeks to come we'll be learning how to interview effectively. All of this stuff will help a lot when I'm job-hunting. 

Computer Class is tough  --  a lot tougher than I'd expected, frankly  --  but I'm keeping up as well as I can.  And my brain is enjoying the challenge, especially now that we've started actual word processing.

Wednesday 11 a.m.
June 16th, 1993

The first full day of Summer Vacation: the kids were let loose yesterday at 11:40 a.m., and now the fun begins  ... 

I honestly don't know what this summer holds in store for us. I'll be going to school for several more weeks: that's the only thing that's certain so far. And the girls will be going to Camp Cedar Springs again for a week in July. Beyond that, I don't know. This is the first summer in ages that I'm not babysitting anyone else's children, which lends me a certain freedom  ...  and I have a car. I have a feeling that we may actually have some FUN this summer!

I bought two brand-new "interview suits" yesterday at Southcenter for about $40 each, and they're GORGEOUS. One has a navy jacket with white polka-dots and pearl buttons and a solid navy skirt; the other has a peach skirt and a pastel print jacket. It was a major investment for me, but I think it will pay off when I start job-hunting (soon?). Now all I need are some white pumps and a decent haircut, and I'll be set.

June 22, 1993
Tuesday morning, cold and breezy

Some things have happened since I wrote last  ... I'll try to quickly bring everything up to date.

I've had some problems with my health, first of all. I was sitting in computer class on Friday night when I was suddenly seized by a gripping pain around my middle.  At first I thought it was indigestion, or that my clothes were too tight (I just bought a new bra, and it has some uncomfortable underwires in it), so I tried to ignore it. It got worse and worse, though  ...  by the time I went to Career Development I was in major pain. So I left school early. On the way home I bought some Alka Seltzer and a bottle of 7-Up, and that seemed to help because the pain disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. I felt well enough to eat some McDonald's, as a matter of fact, and slept that night about as well as I ever do. 

At 8 a.m. Saturday morning, though, the pain was back  --  and this time it meant business. I was literally writhing around on the floor in agony. The girls were scared to death (Kyle, fortunately, was away on a Royal Rangers camp-out so he missed the whole frightening scene). I tried to ride it out for a couple of hours, but by 10:00 it was clear that I needed medical attention. I called my mom and gasped that I needed a ride to the hospital.  She was at our house in 12 minutes flat!  She ran two red lights getting me to the E.R. at Riverton Hospital  ...  if I hadn't been in so much pain, I would have giggled at her daredevil driving. She stayed right by my side for the next three hours as I was poked, prodded and given an excruciatingly painful ultrasound exam. (I was put on a Demerol I-V, which helped a little, but as soon as they took me off it I was back in pain.) 

The long and the short of the whole thing: there's either something amiss with my gall bladder, or (less likely) I have hepatitis. We still don't know for sure. I have a doctor's appointment in a few hours, and maybe I'll have more information then. In the meantime I missed school last night and will probably have to miss it again tonight  --  frankly, that has me more worried than anything  --  I don't want to get too far behind, especially in computers.  More about all of this later, after I've spoken to Dr. Kay.  We never did figure out what this was all about.  I still get these attacks, maybe once every four or five years, but never as bad (or as dramatic) as that first one.

Another noteworthy item (speaking of computers): I am now (almost) the proud owner of an IBM home computer!!  Velma & Ron are selling me one, complete with printer, for $300!  Velma is supposed to bring it over tonight, and I'm really excited.  Again, I'll tell you more about it when it gets here.

Finally  --  my hair. Arrrggh. Jamie and I went to Haircrafters in Burien last Thursday, where a dour old battleaxe named Bernice gave me the worst "haircut" I've ever had in my life.

Kacie in the laundry room "office" with one of our
earliest piece-of-shit computers

Friday morning, 9 a.m.
June 25, 1993

The kids are still sleeping, although I don't expect that to last much longer  ...  they'll smell the coffee and hear me clattering away at the computer (not to mention all the noise the damn daycare is making this morning). It's supposed to get hot today, 82 degrees by this afternoon (o god: that'll make school tonight hell on earth), so I've already got all the doors and windows open, trying to keep the house cool. Kacie spent the night last night at Tracy's, apparently; Nicole is here with Jamie, sleeping on the floor of her bedroom. Kyle is curled up on the loveseat, in the living room.

Kyle was still awake when I got home from school last night, at 10 p.m.   All the lights were turned off inside the house, and all of a sudden this little figure in dark blue pajamas comes gliding across the kitchen floor at me and says, "Hi Mommy." I was so glad to see him! This summer Kyle and I are having more than our share of disagreements ...  his seven yr. old willfulness and "macho" posturing are driving me wild  ...  some days (like yesterday) it seems like all I do is yell at him. Where is the sweet little boy who used to slide his arms around my neck and tell me how much he loves his Mommy? Last night I got a brief reassuring glance at that part of Kyle again, and it did my soul good.

Ray was already in bed asleep, and Jamie and Nicole were in the bedroom with the door closed, so Kyle and I had a little bit of alone time before we went to sleep. I fixed some food for myself: I hadn't eaten much all day, hadn't really felt like eating much, but by then my appetite had returned. I had a bagel with some of the nonfat cream cheese. It was gag-me AWFUL, the consistency of Glue Stick. So I had a bowl of canned ravioli and a little bowl of cereal. Then we laid on the sofa in the living room, with one lamp on, and read library books for 45 minutes until I got sleep. It was a sweet and companionable time spent with my son, he with his "Clifford The Big Red Puppy" library book, me with my novel  ...

Going back to school (after so many nights away) was OK  ...  better than I thought it would be. Richard was very understanding about my having to miss our coffee get-together last weekend. I told him about being in the hospital, and he could see all the needle marks and bruises running up & down my arms (from the I-V and all the blood tests), so he knew I wasn't just putting him off. Sharynn and Greg (my computer instructor) and a few other people seemed happy to see me back, and that made me feel good. I managed to catch up on all my assignments, and by the end of the evening I felt completely back in the swing of things. I still wish I didn't have to go tonight, but then again I always seem to feel that way in the mornings. By afternoon, I'll be back in the "school mode" and I'll be raring to go. I hope. 


I don't have another doctor's appt. for two weeks, and in the meantime I have to stay on an intensely rigid nonfat diet, get more rest, drink more liquids, etc. I have some painkillers but I'm trying to stretch those out as far as possible, since I doubt I'm going to be allowed a refill.

Sunday night
June 27, 1993

Oh God. I have just found out that Ray has the next WEEK AND A HALF OFF FROM WORK.  

I  am plunged into total despair.

More tomorrow.

Monday morning 11 a.m.
June 28, 1993

He swears that "he TOLD me" about this vacation coming up, but if he did, it didn't register. Maybe I blocked it out because it was too horrible to contemplate. For the next eight days he'll be in my face, in my hair and on my back  ...  oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

It has started already: I woke up this morning to the sound of him washing dishes and making coffee. In other words, invading MY territory. Now he's off doing some grocery shopping. I gave him a nice long list so hopefully that'll keep him occupied for a couple of hours. Thank god for school.  It'll give me a legitimate reason to escape this booby hatch every night, and evenings are generally the worst time around here when he and the kids are all on vacation together. Maybe I'll even get some 4:30 Keyboarding classes in this week.

Tonight is our SuperWrite final, by the way. I'm more than a little nervous about it: it's the biggest test we've taken, so far, and it counts for 20% of our OA grade. Before I leave this afternoon I hope to put in a good solid hour of review, especially all those fucking abbreviations. I just want to do well tonight, and then I can forget all about SuperWrite forever.

3:30 p.m.

Microwave cappuccino, cigarette, bare feet, hair in rollers, beginning of a headache. School doesn't start for a couple of hours. Ray is putting gas in the Velmobile; Kyle and the omnipresent Joey B. are slamming the basketball around in the carport behind me. I reviewed all twenty chapters in the SuperWrite textbook, and I think I'll do OK as long as I can remember "suggestion/suggestion" (sg) and "trans" (T) and present (pr), among other things.

Tomorrow we have ANOTHER test, by the way  ...  this time in Computers. So I'll be cramming again tomorrow afternoon.

Same time, same place.

Time to go put my makeup on, watch "Oprah" and figure out what to wear tonight. (Pink sweater, white slacks?)  Later.

10:10 p.m.

I'm home, and I survived the test. I already know that I screwed up one word  --  "another"  --  I wrote "antr," and it's actually supposed to be "anotr"  ...  oh well. Otherwise I think I did OK.

It's a cold, raining night. Driving home I cranked up the oldies station on the radio ("Baby It's You" by Smith, which I keep hearing these days).  Ray and Kyle are in bed already, but the girls are still wandering around, fixing tea and watching a Julia Roberts movie on TV. (Julia Roberts, incidentally, married LYLE LOVETT this past weekend.) The house is moderately wrecked, but at least they had the decency to clean up their own dinner mess, and it looks like Jamie finished the laundry for me. I just took a couple of my last precious pain pills, mainly because my legs are killing me  ...  what did I DO this weekend?? The muscles in my thighs are so sore I can barely walk  ...  and fixed a cup of peppermint tea.  I guess I'll sit here and organize my notes for tomorrow's computer test, and then I'll go to bed.

June 29, 1993
Tuesday night 10 p.m.

Same time, same place. Wondering whether this writing-the-journal-on-the-computer stuff is going to be a permanent thing (as opposed to the old notebook format)?  ...  haven't made my mind up about that yet. Part of me feels oddly "disloyal" to the barely-touched journal sitting forlornly on the shelf above me. I've been writing in notebooks for how many years now? Since I was thirteen or fourteen. It's a tough habit to break, and the fact is I'm not sure I even WANT to break it. What if I accidentally erase everything I've got written on the computer? What if the girls begin routinely accessing my file and reading the things that are meant to be confidential?

How would Doogie Howser resolve this dilemma?

The computer is so quick and easy and FUN.  I'm beginning to enjoy sitting here in the evenings, after school, and punching in a few random thoughts. I guess I'll keep doing it for a few more days, anyway, and then we'll see how I feel.

The computer test was difficult, as I expected, but I think I did fairly well. The first section was all multiple choice and True/False questions, and I breezed through that: the second part, typing and formatting a letter in Word, was tougher. No matter how hard I tried, I simply could NOT get two of my paragraphs to justify. Finally I said "hell with it" and printed it the way it was, minor errors and all. I have recently resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to graduate first in the class: the "Barbie Dolls" (that's what Sharynn and I call Tara and Pam, the blonde twenty-somethings) will probably tie for that honor. (Or maybe nice sweet Norma Elder, the older gal with 20 yrs. of accounting experience.)

Wednesday afternoon
July 7, 1993

Over a week later now. I've been battling one of those out-of-the-blue depressions I get every once in awhile. It was particularly awful yesterday. School is alternately difficult and boring (depending on whether I'm sitting in Greg or in Don's classroom), the house is a sticky summertime mess, and I seem to have lost some of my "zip." 


Greg is wonderful: he was pleased to see me return to class yesterday (after the three days I missed last week), and he helped me catch up on the Lotus lessons I'd missed. By the end of the evening I'd almost caught up completely.

LaDon, on the other hand, is an asshole. What IS this man's problem? I didn't spend almost $5,000 to listen to his inane, over-the-top babbling about "sixty contacts." I paid my money to learn about computers  --  period. This Career Development stuff is fine for all the young people in the class who are just starting out, but I'm not looking for a major career, dammit  ...  I'm trying to learn some computer skills, enough to find a job I enjoy, and that's it. He senses my disinterest, I'm sure, and now he's out to get me. Fuck him.

10 p.m.

I take it all back. LaDon is not an asshole. We had a really good talk tonight ...  I think our Instructor/Student relationship has been set back on track, and I'm glad. School is starting to be fun again: Sharynn and I are co-editing the class newsletter, my résumé is being submitted for laser printing (finally) and I'm caught up with most of my work. Tomorrow will be busy, busy, busy.


July 9, 1993
Friday, 3:40 pm

Thank God it's Friday.

I need to schedule an appointment (this evening?) with THE singularly most obnoxious person on the BCTI staff  ...  Tina "You-guys-you-guys-you-guys" Poulsen. This I am looking forward to like a pap smear, but I need to clear up some of this "60 contacts" bullshit and EXPLAIN to this person that I don't intend to start my "career search" until I'm ready  ...   which is, primarily, after I've GRADUATED.  Please God let me be civil towards her.

Saturday morning, 10:30 a.m.
July 10, 1993


I've been sitting at this computer for over an hour already  ...  still in my p.j.'s, sipping coffee that Kacie made for me. (Jamie, my usual "coffee person", spent last night with Tracy.)  Theresa Beatty showed me last night how to erase files from Word, so I've been getting rid of some of the cornball stuff that had been bugging me ("Fuckum.doc", "Staout.doc", etc.). I've also started a temporary file for the newsletter and one for the school assignments I have to finish: as soon as I'm through with BCTI, I'll wipe those suckers out FOREVER  ...

I have a lot on my mind today, and hopefully I'll get some of it written today. Quite a lot of it has to do with school. But first, I need to transcribe an utterly bizarre dream I had last night, and see if I can figure out what the heck it's supposed to MEAN:

Jamie was having a slumber party at our house, with four or five of her friends from school. These girls were the real "big shots" at school, and Jamie was dying to make a good impression on them. I was on my best behavior, serving snacks, etc.  ...  trying to help Jamie along in the popularity department. We were, incidentally, living in the Kirkland house. Anyway, I went into the house and discovered, to my horror, that RAY had cut a big hole in the living room floor  --  for what reason, I have no idea  --  but it was a huge, gaping, ugly hole, clumsily covered over with a little shitty piece of cut-up carpeting. I yelled at him: "Why did you DO this???"  He gave me some lame excuse about fixing the "heater" under the floor. I was so angry with him for spoiling Jamie's party that I followed him out to the carport and really started chewing him out. Jamie and her friends were standing right behind me, listening to every word. Ray was holding a mugful of steaming hot soup (?), which he attempted to throw into my face (??), but instead of hitting me, it hit the little girls standing behind me. That REALLY did it. I picked up a hammer and hit him on the top of the head. Now this is where the dream becomes intensely weird. I wasn't trying to kill him or anything  --  I just wanted to hurt him  --  but apparently I hit him harder than I'd intended, because he fell unconscious to the floor of the carport and just laid there. I could see an enormous goose-egg developing on the back of his head, and then  ...  he turned into my Dad. I mean, he was still Ray, but he was also my Dad. And I was incredibly angry at them both. I was sorry that I'd hurt him so badly, but I was still boiling mad. Jamie and her friends were still there, though, and I figured that I'd better call for help so they wouldn't think I was too despicable  ...  the hostess with the mostest or WHAT?  ...  so I tried calling my mom. My ex-stepdad, Ken, answered the phone, and when I told him what had happened, he started chewing me out. "You shouldn't hit people with hammers!!!" he shouted at me, and I was so amazed that he was taking Ray's/Dad's side that I hung up on him.

End of dream. (Or, end of what I remember of it, anyway.)

Whew. No wonder I was so happy to wake up.

Please do not expect me to analyze this horror. I have lots of dreams about being so angry at Ray I could explode, and quite a lot of the time "Ray" turns into "Dad." Don't ask me to explain it: I just work here  ...

Kacie and Kyle are screaming at each other, whining, throwing stuff, bickering, bickering, bickering. Think I'll go jump into the shower and escape it for a few blissful minutes. More later.


Post-shower. I came out of the bathroom, toweled and dripping (and blissfully calmed), to discover that my evil children had miraculously turned into angels and had picked up the living room for me. A pleasant surprise, to say the least. What d'ya suppose it is they want  ...  ???

School. God. I kinda hate to get into this, because I'm afraid it's going to cost me the rest of my (supposedly productive) morning: once I start writing about it, I might not be able to stop. There's so much I want to accomplish today (cleaning out my desk drawers/organizing my school notebook/starting my collage assignment/working on tapes/starting AutoSpin/cleaning house/finishing the laundry)  ...  I might as well face up to the fact that I'll be lucky to accomplish one-tenth of this stuff, especially if I start drinking wine later in the afternoon  ...

Oh well. Just a little bit, then.

I'm beginning to get this slight, sneaky, sinking feeling that BCTI is not exactly what I thought it was going to be. Actually, I've been feeling this way for a couple of weeks now, but last night --   talking to Sharynn, who has become my favorite friend at school  --  and discovering that she felt the same, it just kind of hit home finally. What we both agree upon is this: BCTI is nothing more than a glorified  --  and VERY expensive  --  employment agency. The "computer training" is what I paid for, and yet it seems to be given short shrift next to the push, push, push, to GET A JOB RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!   I mean it. The focus is not on computer training at all. I've been totally misled in that regard. I've learned some valuable stuff about computers, and about word processing and spreadsheets. Greg Wiedower, my Computer Instructor, is the greatest. But the focus at this place is CAREER DEVELOPMENT, period. If you haven't gotten a job before you've graduated, you're considered a failure!!  And I find that very disheartening.

The worst part of all this is feeling that I have made an enormous mistake enrolling there in the first place. The thought of all the money I paid, up-front, is enough to make me want to cry  ... or puke. Or both.  Yeah, BCTI was a rip-off.  But it did get me out of the house and back into the *real* world.  

Thursday afternoon
July 13, 1993

The girls left for Camp Cedar Springs yesterday morning. I think about them often, and miss them a LOT, but I know they're having fun and I want the week to pass slowly, to prolong their good time.

Speaking of things moving slowly  ...

...  What IS it with me these past couple of days?? All I've felt like doing is curling up with a Dean Koontz (yesterday I finished "The Hide Away," which was one of the best I've ever read; today I'm already two-thirds of the way through "Cold Fire"). I am completely enervated, and I hate it. This house defies description. Every room, every closet, every drawer is in utter disarray, and there doesn't seem to be a darned thing I can do about it except drink mug after mug of lukewarm coffee and wait for my energy to return ...

Only 12 more nights of school: thank GOD.

10:15 p.m.

Home, after an especially long and difficult night at school. (CD was difficult because it was borrrring; Computers because I couldn't get the hang of "mail merge.")  Ray is sound asleep: Kyle and Joey, who is spending the night, are banging and crashing around in Kyle's room.

I stopped at Taco Time on my way home  --  I've been ravenously hungry since about 7:30.  I'm going to eat, read a little, and sleep, in that order. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a more productive and emotionally-satisfying day than today was. I'm feeling weighted down by all the things I have to do  ...  maybe getting up early and starting over fresh tomorrow will help.

Thursday night, flush with triumph
July 15, 1993

It's a couple of days later, and yes, I did manage to "rev up" a little yesterday. I got a lot of housework done and even more in the way of homework done, especially stuff for the newsletter. (Have I mentioned that Sharynn and I are editing it? We've become pretty good friends these past two weeks. Neither one of us has mentioned continuing our friendship once BCTI is over: I hope she brings it up eventually because I'm too shy to ask.) Anyway. I guess I did TOO much yesterday, actually, because by school-time I was a frazzled, nervous wreck. I felt clumsy and stupid and practically burst into tears more than once. Theresa Beatty, who sits next to me in Computers, gently suggested that I try to "calm down." (I was struggling with mail merge and not doing a very good job of hiding my frustration.) The real icing on the cake, however, was LaDon. I felt like he was picking on me personally, and when he announced that I would be doing my video-taped mock interview with Tina the next day  --  today  --  I flew into a total panic. God. I just did NOT feel ready. I came home from school last night and promptly started yelling at Ray, who was tipsy and (I felt) unsupportive, and then I finally did burst into tears. He went to bed disgusted with me.

Well  ...  as they say, what a difference a day makes.

I woke up this morning determined to prepare myself for the mock interview, determined to do the best damned job possible, determined, in fact, to knock everybody's socks off. And that's precisely what I did. I'll write some more about it in the morning, because right now I'm still on an emotional "high" from school, starving (Ray left me a homemade hamburger) and exhausted. I have another new Dean Koontz to start  --  this one is called "Twilight Eyes."  And tomorrow my ladies are coming home from camp!!!!!  More tomorrow.

Friday morning
July 16, 1993

Still re-living last night's moment of glory. I think I can safely call last night one of the nicest evenings of my life  ...  and the amazing thing is, I wasn't even expecting it. I was DREADING it, in fact. Go figure.

I had my nice two-piece blue suit that I bought in June, so I wasn't worried about what to wear (although the "what color pantyhose?" question had me going for a while: I finally settled on good quality, "suntan" hose and my new white pumps). What I was worried about, in order, were my hair, my makeup, and what to say in the mock interview. Goofy priorities, maybe, but that's the way I felt. LaDon has been harping on us a lot, lately, about "ladies" (he never mentioned names, but I was sure he was talking about me) who wear too much makeup and inappropriate hairstyles (hair hanging in the face, instead of neatly pulled back). So I felt a lot of pressure in that area.

My disastrous haircut from last month has finally grown out a little  --  at least to the point where I don't cringe every time I look in the mirror  --  but I didn't have the faintest idea how to wear it for the interview. My usual teased-and-hairsprayed look was out. I look ghastly in ponytails and headbands. What, then, to do?? And as for the makeup  ...  I knew that I'd have to tone down the eye makeup, especially. I mean, I'm not a complete idiot. So Kyle and I jumped in the car yesterday morning and I went to Payless in Burien, where I bought a couple of hair doo-dads, some new, subtler brown mascara and liner, and some pantyhose. When I got home, I started experimenting. Unfortunately, the hair doo-dads were a disaster: a big, clunky gold barrette studded with fake pearls wouldn't stay in my hair, and the big white clip-on bow looked ridiculous: I looked like a demented Minnie Mouse. In a panic, I drove back to Payless, where I exchanged the hair stuff for a plain white headband. I got home, tried THAT on, and it looked awful too!! (When will I ever learn?) By this point I was approaching nervous


Saturday morning, very early
July 17, 1993

Just back from a quick, early morning dash to Safeway for coffee creamer and syrup: Ray is at work and the kids are all asleep still. I can never sleep late on a Saturday anymore: this is my "catch up on stuff" day, and I always seem to wake up early, ready for action.

It's so nice to have Jamie and Kacie home again. When I got home from school last night, Kacie was waiting up for me. She seemed a little pensive, and I was perceptive enough to recognize the signs of "camp-sickness"  ...  an affliction I always suffered as a kid when I'd just come home from camp. She'll miss Camp Cedar Springs for a day or so, and then hopefully her bouncy good spirits should return.

Tuesday noonish
July 20, 1993

Another cold, damp day. "Summer" is still eluding us, at least weather-wise  ... a fact that's perfectly fine with me, but is causing everyone else to grumble (especially Jamie and Ray).

I have six full days of school left. Our Achievement Ceremony is next Thursday night, July 29th. After that, I'll have to attend two (I think?) "Express Seminars," and then I'll be finished with BCTI, forever and for good. I still have some lingering doubts about the "education" I've received there, but one thing cannot be denied: I'm a great deal more "computer literate" than I was eleven weeks ago. I also have a stack of fine, printed résumés, a handful of new friends, and a real shot at a decent job. Was it worth five thousand dollars? I suppose only the next few months will tell.

It's hard to imagine myself working. How difficult an adjustment will it be? Am I going to find a job that I enjoy? Will I be paid well? Will I meet people at my new job who will eventually become important to me? How will my working affect our family? Questions I wish I had answers to  ...

By the way: Tara did her interview last night (so did Sharynn and Richard), and I am meanly pleased to report that she didn't do nearly as well as I did. SO THERE. Score one point for the Baby Boomers.

Saturday morning
July 24, 1993

Woke up with the stuffy head and scratchy throat that herald my annual summer cold. I was up and moving by 7:30 this morning, determined to get a lot done today  ...  I took a shower, made a mammoth pot of coffee, fried an egg for my breakfast  ...  and then promptly fell back asleep. Shit.

Stupid song, #1

I'm the Mommy! The gay and happy Mommy!
And I wear a cheerful grin where ‘ere I go.
I just love to go to school at night
And when my children fight, I SMACK ‘em good alright!        (no I don't)
For I'm the Mommy! The gay and happy Mommy!
And I wear a cheerful grin where ‘ere I go.

I had a moment of rare and unexpected insight last night, as I was sitting in the Career Development classroom. There are now only three full days of school left, not including Thursday night's Achievement Ceremony, and as I sat there in the classroom, looking around at all the familiar faces  --  Sharynn, Richard, Drew Garrett picking at his ears, Sheri, Queen Tara, Theresa, all the others whom I have come to know so well over the past three months  --  it suddenly struck me that in a week, these people will no longer be a part of my life.  We've been thrown together so intensely for the last twelve weeks, and then all of a sudden, boom  ...  it'll be over. We'll all go our separate ways. It reminds me of summer camp, or of high school graduation  ...  the transitory nature of relationships.

Tuesday morning
July 27, 1993

I'm sick. I woke up with a horrible cold on Sunday morning, and it persists today. To make things worse, it's finally starting to get hot  ...  we're supposed to reach 80° by this afternoon. Yuck. (Note: It barely got to 78°  ... in fact, by school time tonight, it was RAINING again.)

Sharynn and I spent almost three hours in the copy room last night, trying to print out all 59 pages (!) of the newsletter; I think we've finished about a third of it. Today and tomorrow we have final exams, too. More pressure. I'm trying like hell to enjoy these last few days of school, but with so much to do (and feeling so rotten), it's difficult.

ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE, this house is so disgusting, it makes me want to cry. It's absolutely, completely, thoroughly, totally FILTHY!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday morning
July 28, 1993

Another drizzly gray morning  ... my last official day of classes at BCTI. We've been awake since 9:00  --  we woke up to watch Carly get buried alive on "Days of Our Lives"   --  but, as usual, two hours later I'm still sitting around in my pj's, wearily surveying my grungy house, wondering how in the world I'll ever get it to look presentable again  ...

Stupid Song #2

We're the Polens! The gay and happy Polens!
And we wear a cheerful grin where ‘ere we go.
We just love to clean the house all day!
And when our Dad's away, we party down and play!
Cuz we're the Polens! The gay and happy Polens!
And we wear a cheerful grin where ‘ere we go.

I actually had a dream about housework last night. I dreamed I was in some sort of neighborhood contest, to see who could present the cleanest, happiest home. I dragged everything we owned onto the front lawn, intending to sort through it all and organize everything, but right in the middle of cleaning I had to go "somewhere"  ...  to school, maybe, or to work?  ...  so I made Ray promise that he'd finish it for me. So naturally when I returned, everything was STILL spread out all over the yard, and Ray was nowhere in sight, and the contest judges were already working their way down the street towards me!! I burst into frantic, disappointed ears. I felt so let-down.

Amazing, isn't it? Here it is, the last day of BCTI, and all I dreamed about last night was housework. Why am I so bothered about the house?? And why can't I make myself DO anything about it??? I feel paralyzed.

The damned newsletter still isn't finished. Sharynn and I copied as much as we could last night, but there was a Career Development review that we couldn't miss (in preparation for tonight's "final"), and a test in Computer class that we obviously couldn't skip, and we had to leave things unfinished at the end of the evening. She and I are both frustrated by how long it's taking.  I'll go in early tonight once again, and hopefully we'll finish copying and collating it in time for LaDon to take it to the printers.

My mom is home from her trip to Arizona  ...  she called last night, just as I was leaving for school. She'll be attending tomorrow night's Achievement Ceremony, as will Ray and the kids.

10:10 p.m.

Well, it's over. Except for the Achievement Ceremony tomorrow night, my BCTI days are over  ...

Tonight was a blur of collating newsletter pages, test-taking, a quick run to Office Depot with Sharynn (to drop off the newsletter, all 55 pages of it, for binding), and chit chat with friends.  Katlin and Tina came into C.D. for one last blast of BCTI rhetoric  ...  chiding those of us who haven't' found a "career" yet, making a giant deal out of those who have  ...  I smiled and nodded and thought to myself, "Thank God I don't have to listen to THIS crap anymore!!"  ...  

THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT BCTI: Sharynn, Richard, and a handful of other students who were actually human beings  ...  Greg Wiedower, our computer instructor  ...  

THINGS I WON'T MISS!!!: Tara F. and Laura D.  ... 

Very early Thursday morning
July 29, 1993

I have an interview with City Wide Mortgage in Tukwila in a couple of hours. I'm not really interested in the position  ...  the pay is crummy ($6.50/hr) and it's definitely the wrong kind of company for me  ...  but I'm going to go anyway, just for the experience. I'm not a single bit nervous: in fact, I'm so confident that I'm already wondering how to gracefully turn DOWN the job!

Ray left me twenty bucks for gas and potluck materials, but I'm considering going to the bank anyway, after my interview, and taking out some money for the weekend. Tonight, of course, is my big night. Graduation night!  I'm not nervous about THAT, either.

More later.

1:30 p.m.

The interview went smooth as silk  ...  as I expected.  I was poised, articulate, intelligent, professional. The interviewer was very impressed, I could tell. Sometime this afternoon she'll be calling to let me know whether or not they want me, and guess what  ...  I don't care. I'm not going to take the job anyway.

In the meantime, I just got a FANTASTIC phone call in response to another resume I sent out  ...  this one is for the Arbitron company! The TV ratings people. I have an interview scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday morning, and I'm walking on air. Looks like Terri is on her way, folks  ... maybe not this job, maybe not the job after that one, but soon. I can just feel it.

My Achievement Ceremony
by Mom

On Thursday, July 29, 1993 I officially graduated from Business Computer Training Institute. 

At my BCTI "Achievement Ceremony" with my pal Sharynn
July 29, 1993

Tuesday morning
August 3, 1993

It's only 8:00 in the morning and already it's HOT. Summer is finally here, weather-wise. It was amazing  --  the entire month of July was cloudy and cool, but first thing Sunday morning, August 1st  ...  pow!  Blue skies and soaring temperatures. Overnight, practically, we went from cold to hot. I have a feeling it's here to stay, too  ...  the air has that thick, heavy feeling I hate. Oh well. Time to crank up the fans, don the shorts and refill the ice cube trays  ...  

Lots to tell. Where to start?

First of all, I am alone today. Peg and Don came and picked up the kids yesterday morning, for their annual summer week at Grandma and Grandpa's house. They'll be gone at least until Thursday or Friday. (Ray looked at me last night and said, "Aww  ...  do you miss your girls?" I guess I had a pensive expression on my face, but the truth is I wasn't even thinking about the kids at that moment: I was contemplating the condition of my toenails.  Gee, the man reads me like a book, doesn't he?)  Anyway. They called me last night (Kyle's funny little Mickey Mouse voice chirping in my ear  --  "HI Mommy!") and they seem to be having fun so far. I'm a little worried, though. Don hasn't been well lately and I worry about the kids stressing him out (and vice versa). How will he cope with Kacie and Kyle's constant, annoying bicker-bicker-bickering  ... ?

Peg is taking them to buy some school clothes and shoes, which will be a big help. They'll probably eat fast food every day and watch cable TV till their brains rot and be pampered like royalty, and then they'll come home at the end of the week and sit around and complain at me (Mom, I'm borrrrred). Funny little people. 

In the meantime, I plan to take full advantage of some much-needed time ALONE. It's been months, literally, since I've had some time to myself, and it feels like a VACATION  ...

The job interview yesterday at Arbitron went fairly well. We'd spent the previous evening over at John and Lori's, watching the hydroplane races, barbecuing chicken and drinking champagne, so I wasn't feeling as sharp yesterday morning as I could have. But I did OK. I found the office right away, for one thing  ...  always a good sign. It's right down the hill to Southcenter, in the Central Pointe Business Park. I was momentarily spooked to discover the office was totally empty: no people, no furniture, nothing. I waited in the lobby for awhile, and at 9:00 the two men who are doing the interviewing/hiring showed up. I filled out an application and then interviewed for about 45 minutes. The gentleman I interviewed with the longest, Tom, was very nice. He asked me a lot of questions along the lines of, "What would you do if someone criticized your work?" ("Accept the criticism in the way it was intended and make the necessary changes" I said, I think). I choked a couple of times, but for the most part I'm assuming I did my usual articulate, outwardly-smooth job. I'm usually pretty good in these situations. I would like this position, but it'll be another week at least before I hear anything. If I do get the job, it doesn't start until after the Labor Day weekend next month. (Actually, that would be kinda nice  ...  I could take the rest of summer vacation with the kids.)

11:30 a.m.

HOT. I've been cleaning frantically for the past hour.  The living room looks OK now (except for the horrible grimy carpet) and so does the kitchen (except for the horrible grimy FLOOR)   ...  I'm flushed, sweaty and pooped. 

Talked to the kids about an hour ago: Jamie wanted to tell me that Kathie Lee Gifford had her baby (Cassidy Erin). Loud music emanating from the stereo, out in the living room   ...  a tape I made last December (which seems like a million years ago). Wondering what to do with the rest of my day? Should I go to the store and get a bottle of cold wine? Or is it going to be too hot for that?

Thursday noon
August 5, 1993

Still puttering around the house, enjoying my "vacation." I'm enjoying it TODAY, anyway  ...  yesterday was a different story. It got up to 95°   --  the hottest day of the year, so far  -- and I was hungover on top of that. The combination made for complete misery. Mostly I just layed on the sofa in front of the fan and watched TV. By 10 p.m. it was still so damned hot that I couldn't sleep, so I grabbed a pillow and went out to the garage and curled up on the loveseat for a half hour. It was much cooler in the garage, and I probably could have spent the night out there, but then I started worrying about bugs and spiders and things, and it spooked me so much that I had to come back inside. I slept in the living room with Gillie curled up next to me, and the front door wide open. 

It's a little cooler today, thank God. I'm doing laundry and cooking a special dinner for Ray and I (chicken parmesan), so that's heating things up a little, but so far it's bearable.

I talked to the kids this morning, and I guess they'll be staying at Peg and Don's until Saturday. I've missed them, but I have to admit that the solitude has been nice. What I've really appreciated is how clean the house has stayed!  I did a nice job on the living room two days ago, and it still looks OK. A miracle! 

Monday afternoon
August 9, 1993

Several days later. Cloudy and cool. The kids came home on Saturday, as expected, and within hours the house was completely trashed. To make matters worse, I fixed tacos and burritos for dinner last night, and the kitchen is a horrific greasy mess. Disheartened.

Still haven't heard anything back from Arbitron. Tomorrow I'm supposed to interview at BNC Telephones in South Park  ...  if I can find the place. 

Tuesday morning, 7:30 a.m.
August 10, 1993

Jamie and I hopped into the car yesterday afternoon and drove around South Park, looking for BNC Telephones. After a couple of wrong turns, we managed to locate it in an industrial park at the end of Des Moines Way Memorial Drive. When I saw the place, I started feeling these funny "vibes"  ...  as though this may be a place that I come to know very well.  A premonition? Maybe. I came home elated, for no reason I can pinpoint. 

Now I'm sitting here in my rollers, three-quarters made up, sipping a strong cup of coffee and preparing for my interview. For some reason, I just know that this interview is going to go very well: I feel strong and confident and in control.

When my interview is over, I think I may zip over to Burien and try on some dresses at Value Village  ...  whaddya think? Then I'll come home and tell you how the interview went. Wish me luck!

9:45 a.m.

Well, I'm going to need more than luck to get THIS job  ...  I'm going to need a major face-saving MIRACLE.  My interview is not until 1:00, folks. That's right: The Dummy of the Year showed up four hours early for her interview. The dark office and locked doors gave me my first clue. I sat in my car, outside the office, and waited   ...  and waited  ...  and waited.  By 9:15, there were still no signs of life within BNC Telephones. There was a man on the loading deck next door to the office, and I asked if he had a phone I could borrow. I quickly called Jamie and had her bring up my job-hunting information on the computer. She gave me the phone # for BNC, and I called the main office (which apparently is separate from the South Park office). The lady who answered said that the interviews weren't scheduled until "1:00." Like an idiot I gave her my name, so now it's a matter of record that I can't keep a simple interview time straight. WONDERFUL. That means I'm going to have to work doubly hard this afternoon to wow the interviewer, to make up for this blooper. If he doesn't mention it, neither will I.  "He" turned out to be a guy I'd gone to high school with, interestingly enough.

Friday morning
August 13, 1993

Three days later. Some things are good, some things are not-so-good, but overall, life is interesting today  ...

More clouds and gray skies. The kids are out in the living room (Jamie and Kacie laying together on the loveseat), watching "The Bodyguard"  ...  Jamie's second time, Kacie's first. When they're not wrapped up in the movie, they're fighting over Gillie. Ray is in our room, asleep. He got up this morning at 6:30 a.m., hacking and wheezing, and called in sick. I've gone in and checked on him a couple of times, but he's dead to the world. Hope the rest of us aren't going to get this, whatever it is. I've just finished cleaning the kitchen, and now I'm thinking about putting on some makeup and going to the grocery store for floor cleaner and 7-Up (for Ray).

I am now among the employed, by the way. Ta-da. Just like that.  I KNEW I was going to get that telephone company job, and I did! 

Tuesday afternoon
August 17, 1993

Ray went back to work today after four days of "sick leave"  ...  time he spent mostly laying around in bed or snapping at the kids and I. It's a relief to have him gone. 

Took Jamie to Dr. Kay's this morning for her 6th grade measles inoculation. Afterwards we went to Payless for shampoo and fingernail polish remover, then spent an hour and a half browsing around the Burien library, then stopped at McDonald's for lunch. Sweet, companionable morning with my Puss. Kacie and Kyle stayed home, playing with the Nintendo and (I can see by the looks of my office) the computer.

Speaking of the computer. Ron and Velma came by yesterday and re-installed the computer games for me, which I'd accidentally loaded incorrectly. I was supposed to get WordPerfect, too, but something was wrong with the disks Ron tried to use and they'll have to try it again tomorrow. I was disappointed, because I've really been looking forward to teaching myself W.Perfect (I'll be using it at work next month), but I guess I'll live  ...

Friday 6 p.m.
August 20, 1993

Warm and stuffy afternoon drawing to a close  ...  just dropped the girls off at Linda Loveall's house for a slumber party.

I start work on Monday.  Bill called me Tuesday and asked if I would have "any problem" coming in a week early. I tried to sound really cheerful about the whole thing, but the truth is I'm disappointed  ...  I was hoping to have the rest of summer vacation with my kids. O well. 

Jamie and I went shopping today and I bought all the clothes I'm going to need for work. More about this another time.

Sunday morning
August 22, 1993

God. Here it is ...  my final day as a fulltime homemaker. After thirteen years of babies, laundry and soap operas, I'm going back out into the real world. It must not have completely sunk in yet because I don't feel sad, I don't feel nervous, I simply feel  ... accepting. As if it's meant to be.

If I have one regret it's this: I wish I could go off to the new job tomorrow morning with everything neat and tidy and in order, house-wise. But as usual the place looks like a pit. There's no way in the world I can get it all done in one afternoon. (Especially with Ray pulling his Zombie Routine again today: he's laying in bed looking like he's moments from death, and it's NOON already. I asked him, "What? Are you going to be dead all day again today?" and he just nodded, bleary-eyed. Wonderful.) This bothers the Neat Freak part of my personality, but it can't be helped.

Poignant moment from this evening: ironing my work blouses and listening to Judy Collins, "Who Knows where the Time Goes?" ...

Monday afternoon 5:30 pm
August 23, 1993

Well, I'm home from my first day as the secretary for BNC Telephones ...

I'm sweaty, I'm a little tired, I have one helluva blister on my left heel from my new shoes, and I don't have the faintest idea what to feed this family for dinner  ...  but I'm elated!  It went very, very well  --  as first days go, anyhow.

First impressions: I'm going to be spending a lot of time alone there.

"Ray" stopped by my new office on his lunch hour and took this picture of me
Summer 1993

Monday morning, 8:45 a.m.
August 30, 1993

Sitting at my desk at work. This was the first morning I had to come in at 8 a.m. ...  ugh. I woke up at 5:30, knew the alarm was going to go off in fifteen minutes, and decided to face the inevitable and simply GET UP. I showered in darkness, started a pot of coffee and turned on the early-early TV news, and by the time Ray began lumbering around at 6:15, I was well on my way to waking up.

"Oh good!" he said, when he saw me sitting there slathering foundation onto my nose. "I'm gonna have someone to wake up with!" 

I just glared at him. Getting up early is one thing: getting up chipper and cheerful on a Monday morning is out of the question  ...

I was the first person here this morning, so I had to unlock the door, turn off the Answering Service, start the coffee (déjà vu) and get things running. Randy and James showed up shortly afterwards, but now they're off on the road again and I'm back to sitting here in an empty office. Not that I mind. One of the things that appeals to me about this job is the amount of autonomy  --  and solitude  --  I get to enjoy. Right now, for instance, I can sit here, sip my coffee, listen to KBSG ("Something tells me I'm into something good") and gaze off into the distance through the open office door, appreciating my view of the downtown Seattle skyline. Not a bad way to start a Monday.

Yesterday was our 13th wedding anniversary, by the way. We spent it at Marymoor Park in Redmond with the whole extended family, celebrating Barbara's baby's 1st birthday. True to form, Ray was broke and didn't buy me anything for our anniversary  ...  hell, I didn't even get the usual ink-smeared CARD this year!  ...  but I'm not going to go berserk.

What IS driving me crazy is the disorganization I feel right now. The house is a mess. My journal is a mess, spread all over various computers and notebooks. My life just feels ragged and out of control. Weekends don't help: if anything, they make things worse. It would help if I could get just one thing taken care of ...  say, the journal, for starters. Tonight when I get home I think I'm going to attempt to put it back together, and then KEEP it together. That might help. And next weekend  --  Labor Day weekend, three and a half blissful days off  --  I am determined to do a MAJOR housecleaning. Once I get things put back in order, I'm sure I'll feel a lot better and can concentrate on my job and my computer studies with less distraction. Nothing short of Hurricane Emily is going to stop me (from cleaning next weekend)!!!!! 

Tuesday lunch hour
August 31, 1993

Well, at least I've gotten the journal more or less put back together  ...  that's a step in the right direction. It's going to wind up being the oddest journal I've ever had   ...  some pages are handwritten, some are computer-printed, there's even a couple of pages typed on the little electronic typewriter  ...  oh well. At least it accurately reflects the changes my life has undergone this past year: moving from pen to word processor, a sort of metaphor for all of the internal changes  ... ?

I'm trying to be in a good mood today, without much success. I HATE getting up at 6 a.m., for one thing. It throws me so far out of whack (ravenously hungry by 9 a.m., exhausted by 3 p.m.), that I don't know how I'll ever get used to it. Also, it's incredibly depressing to get home at 5:00 and survey the landfill that is my house  ...  huge mountains of dirty laundry, three inches of dust on everything, floors as sticky as fly-paper. Last night I came in and immediately wanted to cry. I had to resist the impulse, though, because the kids  --  especially Jamie   --  are trying so hard to help out. The dishes are mostly done, the living room is (sort of) picked up, and my bed is made, at least. Maybe when the kids go back to school and Velma starts coming in twice a week to clean for me, I'll be able to relax and not worry so much about this. God, I hope so.

The other thing on my mind today is my first paycheck, which is coming tomorrow. I went against Ray's wishes and listed no dependents (the bookkeeper in Spokane advised me to do it this way), and I'm afraid I'm going to wind up with a little dinky paycheck every two weeks. How much do they take out, anyway?? Lori said it could be as much as $180. My heart just sank when she said that. Hope I get a raise QUICK. Guess I'd better make myself pretty damned indispensable around here   ...   

Thursday 10:45 a.m.
September 2, 1993

Ugh. I have a horrendous hangover this morning, and another five and a half hours before I can go home and crawl back into bed  ...

...  Serves me right for drinking wine on a weeknight. I was so happy about my paycheck last night, I decided to "celebrate." Now I'm paying for it. Mainly I'm just tired. A few minutes ago I was seriously considering going into Bill's office and laying down on the floor and taking a quick nap. Unfortunately, I never know when my boss is going to make his appearance, and wouldn't THAT look cute  ... Goldilocks nappy on the Big Bear's office floor??

4:00 p.m.

Only half an hour to go, and then I can go home and lay down. I can hardly wait.

Got my office furniture this afternoon  ...  it's all solid oak, totally beautiful. I have an L-shaped desk with lots of work space, a credenza and two small file cabinets. Brad helped me move it all in. I'm too wiped out to finish putting everything away  ...  that can wait till tomorrow morning.

Had the most bizarre phone conversation with, of all people, DEAN H. (My boyfriend from 11th grade.) Turns out he's the manager of the Federal Way Albertson's, one of our phone customers. When I said "Dean, it's Terri. Terri Vert?," he came undone. We chatted for ten minutes (God! He sounds so grown-up!) and it was very sweet. Dean was one of my favorite all-time boyfriends. He broke my heart in the end, but while we were together it was pretty intense.

September 7, 1993
Tuesday afternoon

Back in the office after three and a half days off (for Labor Day). Very hot today: it's supposed to get up into the mid-90's by the end of the week. Ugh. I suppose this is penance for having a tolerably cool summer. I brought the little mini-fan from home, and it's clipped to the window beside my computer. All it really does is toss my hair into my face a lot, but it's better than nothing  ...

This is the kids' last day of summer vacation: tomorrow it's back to the salt mines for them, too. Last night Jamie and Kacie slept outside in the tent  --  one last blast of summer vacation, I guess. Kyle was going to sleep out there with them too, but fifteen minutes after he'd kissed me and disappeared out the back door, he was back! He wound up sleeping in the living room with me, on the loveseat. Sometime in the middle of the night he woke up from a nightmare: I found him perched on the arm of the loveseat, muttering something incoherent, and had him come over and snuggle with me for a few minutes. Then, when I got up this morning at 5:45 a.m., he insisted on getting up with me. All this disruption in his sleep schedule is bound to have an affect on him tonight   ...  he'll probably be pretty cranky by bedtime  ...  and then guess what, folks? He has to get up and go to school tomorrow. O boy!

Our weekend was OK: not the best on record, but it was nice to sleep late for a couple of days. Found out that Lori's mom, Crystal, is terminally ill with lung cancer  ... she's not expected to live much more than a month or so. That put a damper on the weekend. Also, I had an unpleasant encounter with some drunken teenaged boys on Sunday afternoon, when I was taking the kids school-supply shopping  ...  I don't really want to talk about it right now because it still hurts  ...  suffice it to say that it served to remind me that I'm older and fatter than I think I am most of the time. Another emotional "damper." Maybe I'll write about it another time.

I'm continuing to make the occasional mistake around the office, mainly on the phone, and it puts me on edge. I would hate to lose this job because of my own stupidity: I thought that was something I'd put behind me forever. Gotta try HARDER.

A caterpillar crawled into the office awhile ago. James looked at it and said to me, "Uh-oh, another one of our favorite creatures!" I had mentioned last week that caterpillars are the one insect that truly repulse me: this conversation coming about because there are always bugs, creeping/crawling/flying into the office (right now, as a matter of fact, there is a giant grasshopper on the wall). Randy scooped up the caterpillar and tossed it out the door, and then the guys left and I was alone. I sat here for about 45 minutes, trying to enjoy a cold glass of Gatorade  ...  but all I could think about was that goddamned caterpillar, which was now in the middle of the road directly in front of my open door. Every time another big truck would come rumbling past, I would cringe: please, please, please don't let it run over that caterpillar!! I couldn't bear the sight, let alone the thought that my dislike for caterpillars had brought about its demise. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore, and summoning up every ounce of courage in me, I walked out to the street, scooped up the caterpillar with a piece of paper (it was STANDING UP! UGGH) and took it over to the side of the road, beneath the tree where the caterpillar nest is hanging. Now I feel strangely virtuous and pleased with myself. 

Friday morning
September 10, 1993

Alone in the office. Randy and James were here, briefly, and Bill's dad stopped by to drop off some papers, but other than that I've been by myself all morning. Not the worst way to be. Pleased that this is Friday, and that this week passed as quickly and easily as it did. The kids went back to school; it's been swelteringly hot for five days running; Ray's been impossible (especially in the evenings); we've been somewhat "cash-poor" all week; I've made some dumb mistakes on the job  ...  and yet we've managed to get through it all on once piece.

This was the first year, ever, that I missed opening day at Bow Lake. Did I feel guilty? Maybe a little. The kids have been so great about it, though  ... getting themselves off to school in the morning, I mean. I get up at 5:40 a.m., and by 7 a.m. or so they're all usually in varying stages of alertness. When I leave at 7:30, they're well on their way to eating breakfast and getting dressed. Jamie has posted a list on the back door, reminders of things to do before they go to school (unplugging the coffee, locking the doors, remembering lunches & homework, etc.) and so far the system seems to work.

Jamie and Kacie like their new teachers (Ms. Denner and Mrs. Lyons, respectively) and have started the new school year on a positive note. Last night Kacie showed me her notebook, which is impossibly neat and organized: hope it stays that way! Poor little Kyle, though, is having a tougher time of it and he's not very happy. For one thing, they've stuck him in one of those infernal split-grade classes  --  in this case, Grades 2 and 3  --  and there is only one other second grade boy in the class besides him. They're in a portable instead of the main building, which further separates him from his old friends. Finally, I just found out yesterday that his teacher is only a substitute until they hire someone permanently. The whole situation sucks major wind, in my opinion. I've had a difficult enough time trying to get Kyle fired up about going back to school, and this just makes it that much tougher. I talked to Mom about it, and she recommended staying positive and waiting until the new teacher is hired. ("You might wind up with someone wonderful," she said); she also reminded me that usually only the brightest and most adaptable kids are placed in the split classes. This was somewhat consoling, but Kyle's still unhappy and it's going to take some time to work through this.

(Ugggh. I just discovered a caterpillar crawling up the credenza next to the fax machine. How do they get all the way across the parking lot, anyway???)

The house still looks like it's been stirred with a stick, but I'm trying not to care. Nobody's home during the day to look at it, anyway. Every night after work I try to run two or three loads of laundry, so I can be semi-caught-up on at least one household chore. Next week Velma starts coming in to clean, and maybe things will improve then. 

Monday morning
September 13, 1993

... And then, in the blink of an eye, the weekend has come and gone and it's Monday morning again. 

Even as we speak, Velma is cleaning my house: I can hardly wait to go home and see what it looks like. 

I have a sore throat and a weird headache behind my eyes; hoping I'm not coming down with something. I want to avoid taking any time off from work until I've built up a solid three or four months of perfect attendance. 

Tuesday, late morning
September 14, 1993

The pace is picking up at work, and I couldn't be more delighted. I walked into the office this morning and found a stack of letters to be typed, three feet high. I had faxes to send, copies to make, filing, phone calls to take and make  ... it was great. As much as I enjoy all the free time, I also enjoy having things to do: it's one of the reasons I went back to work in the first place. Things were hopping all morning, with all four of the guys here in the office, but now it's back to KBSG, Kevin the UPS guy, the computer and me  ...  

Velma left me a note when I got home last night. "Sorry I didn't do more!" it said. God. She managed to accomplish more in 90 minutes than I've done in three months  ...  the house was so clean, it was alarming. I felt like I'd walked into the wrong place. The floors were mopped and vacuumed, the newspapers picked up, the dishes washed and put away, the bathtub scoured. The air was redolent with potpourri, furniture polish and pine cleaner (instead of the usual dirty socks and stale beer). She even left the kids an after-school snack. I wonder what she'll accomplish when she's really motivated???

Naturally I feel two ways about this. Where Velma is concerned, I always have mixed feelings. I love the help. I love how thorough and cheap and reliable this set-up is going to be. On the other hand, there's a part of me that is uncomfortable with Velma knowing so darned much about us, simply by cleaning our house. She knows that our toilet seat doesn't stay up, and what brand of shampoo we have in the shower. She knows what we had for dinner last night or for breakfast that morning. She knows what library books I'm reading, what bills we've gotten in the mail, what phone calls we get during the day. I wouldn't feel this way if it were Lori, or a family member, or even a total stranger!  ...  it's just something about Velma, about the way she's always insinuating herself into my life, that makes me uneasy baring all these intimate details of our family life. Already she's offering to replace the toilet seat, she has figured out where everything goes in my kitchen, and she is planning the next after-school snack for my kids. It's like we're being invaded . . .

The girls and I went to the new Burien Drug Emporium last night after work. What a neat store. We wandered around for almost an hour, looking at everything. I bought two huge bottles of Suave shampoo, 2/$5.00, some personal stuff for whenever the hell my period shows up (and it better be darned soon or I'm going to start playing the "What If" game again), some makeup sponges and a big fat brush to put loose powder on with, and a few other little odds and ends. When we got home we fixed leftovers for dinner (leftover enchiladas, leftover shish kebobs, baked potatoes, French fries, cold ham sandwiches  ...  there was a little bit of everything floating around). 

Then I made a HUGE mistake. Thinking it might help me relax and make my headache and sore throat go away, I took three extra-strength Pamprin. Forty minutes later  --  8:30  --  I was sound asleep on the sofa!!  I can't believe how fast they knocked me out. I completely missed Monday night TV (and it was my favorite "Northern Exposure" episode, too, dammit  ...  the one where Shelley can't stop singing; I was going to tape it). Fortunately I didn't feel especially groggy or medicated this morning when I got up at my usual 5:40  ...  if anything, I felt more well-rested than usual. But I'm still going to be careful about the Pamprin from now on. Those suckers are lethal. 

Thursday afternoon
September 16, 1993

I've had two crummy days, back to back, and this afternoon I am as wrung-out as an old dishrag ...  

My period started this afternoon, right in the middle of my work day. Thank god I'd had the presence of mind, earlier in the week, to pick up those tampons and stash a few in my purse  ...  otherwise I would've had a real mess on my hands. 

Ray and I had a horrible fight last night. It was my payday, and I went out and picked up some Taco Time for dinner. Ray threw a tantrum because I brought him a soft taco instead of the two crunchy tacos he claimed he ordered (he didn't). We ended up throwing things at each other and I went to sleep in tears. My eyes were a puffy horror this morning when I got up, and I've felt bedraggled and sad all day. On my way home a little while ago I stopped at Taco Time again and bought him two tacos as a peace offering. I was planning to stay mad at him but I don't think it's worth the effort, frankly.

I wish like crazy that it was Friday: a glass of wine would be particularly grand right now. That or a margarita. I learned my lesson the painful way two weeks ago, though, about drinking on work nights. It's a mistake I'm not anxious to repeat.

Monday afternoon
September 20, 1993

This was one of the most incredibly stressful days I've ever had in my life  ...  

I got to work this morning and discovered that our office had been broken into! The glass door had been shattered, and everything in the office had been stolen ... the computer, the new laser printer, the fax machine, the copier, the new paging system  ...  EVERYTHING. My locked desk drawer had been busted open and the strongbox containing the petty cash was gone. The thieves also took some equipment out of the warehouse  ... some new receivers still in boxes, some of Bill's expensive tools, etc.  I was in shock. It was one of those situations where your eyes see what has happened but your mind refuses to believe it for a while. I called Bill at home and then I called 911. The rest of the morning was spent itemizing our losses, getting the broken glass cleaned up and the door fixed, and watching the police fingerprint everything. Bill was remarkably good-natured about it all . . . probably because we're insured for everything. He immediately sent his wife out to buy a new typewriter (ten times nicer than the old Selectric) and a fax machine so we can continue basic operations. Later this week the insurance appraiser will come out and we'll be able to replace the rest of the stuff.

If one good thing came out of this experience, it's the fact that it seemed to bring us all closer together. The guys were especially kind and solicitous towards me, and I felt more like "one of the gang" as a result. Lately I've been doing some really good work, and I'm beginning to earn some respect and acceptance. The break-in just helped seal that.

Tuesday evening
September 21, 1993

Continuing this the next day. 

Last night Kacie had her first gymnastics practice at Highline High School from 7:30 until 9:00. Jamie and I dropped her off; we stayed to watch the first few minutes, and then went to McDonalds for a snack and then to Drug Emporium to "browse." (Quickly becoming my favorite store!) 

When we got back to Highline, Kacie was having some problems in class. Most of the other girls in her class have been taking lessons for some time, and she's got a lot of catching up to do. I think she went into this expecting to be the best in the class, and it hurt her to discover that she's not . . . she was crying at one point, especially when her instructor kept calling her "Marcie" and yelled at her to "Pay attention!"  Driving her home, I tried my best to bolster her feelings. This gymnastics class is something she's wanted for a long time, and I wish it had been more fun for her. I told her that she's showing a lot of potential, and that if she sticks with it I'm sure she'll catch up in no time. She seemed to feel a little better by the time we got home.

Jamie fell at school yesterday and hurt her right wrist again. She was in so much pain this morning (plus she didn't sleep at all last night) that I had her stay home today. She's got it wrapped up in an Ace bandage and has been putting it in ice packs all day, but she still seems to be in far too much pain. I pray to God it isn't broken again. If she doesn't feel better by tomorrow, I guess I'll have to take her to the hospital and have it x-rayed.

Thursday early evening
September 23, 1993

Another looooong day. The girls are yelling at each other out in the living room . . . fortunately the washing machine, the dryer and the CD player are drowning them out so I can't hear what argument #6,564,789 is about . . .

Waiting for my brother to show up! He called this morning as I was leaving for work and asked to borrow $100.

Monday afternoon
September 27, 1993

I never seem to get anything written on the weekends, do I? It always seems to be a Friday or a MONDAY when I'm sitting here typing a journal entry . . .

Still no computer at work, and I've already gone through two ribbons for the new typewriter  --  only one left, and I'd better save that for stuff Bill needs me to type  --  so I spent this day reading a book and munching on jellybeans. The phone rang a grand total of three times all afternoon, and two times it was Bill . . .

Oh well. Monday is Monday.

We had to endure another one of Angela's birthday parties on Saturday: this year, we went roller skating at the Southgate Roller Rink. Surprise! I actually had fun!  It's been seventeen years since I strapped on a pair of roller skates, and that first turn around the rink was verrry shaky, but pretty soon I got the hang of it and in no time I was zipping around the rink, just like old times. It was great. 

Afterwards, I took the kids (and the ever-present Nicole) to Dairy Queen for Blizzards.

Fall is officially here, by the way  ...  in name only, anyway. Hot weather predicted all week.

Tuesday 5:30 pm
September 28, 1993

Tired and crabby. Running laundry, making Hamburger Helper and bread for dinner. Mad at Kacie: two things I specifically asked of her the past couple of days were ignored (DON'T throw her new vest into a crumpled heap on the floor; DO turn on my computer for me this afternoon so it would be ready when I go home). She wants to take flute this year at school but I'm seriously considering telling her "no" . . . her bunk is a rat trap, she "forgets" everything I tell her to do/not to do, and I'm fed up.

Bill misplaced some stuff for 3M at the office and then told Chuck Atkinson that I "lost" it. I had to get on the phone and tell Chuck that I would look for it, but I was steamed. If Bill finds the paperwork at home tonight, I'm going to expect an apology.

Velma called me at work today. "You didn't call me last night!" she whined. Apparently I'm supposed to call her every time she's cleaned my house and thank her profusely. God.

What else? No computer at work yet . . . Bill says "Friday" now. I read four library books at the office today because there was virtually nothing else to do. 

I feel like I'm floundering. The house, in spite of Velma's twice-weekly cleanings, is still a disorganized mess and I am disheartened about it. Right now I feel pretty low. Tomorrow is payday  ...  maybe that will help.

Wednesday a.m.
September 29, 1993

Thought I'd hand-scribble an entry for old time's sake  ...

Having another crappy day at work: that makes two in a row. Guess the honeymoon is over. Whenever I imagined what coming back to work would be like, one of the things I most looked forward to was payday. I expected it to be this happy, gratifying experience  --  the best part of the whole week. And just like practically everything else, the reality is a disappointment. This is my third payday since I've started this job, and every single one of my paychecks has been fucked up for one reason or another. (Tears stinging my eyes again, dammit.)  Now it turns out that I've been misfiguring my hours, right from the start. Bill came in and gave me this long, confusing, patronizing speech about it awhile ago, leaving me feeling completely humiliated. I'm deeply disappointed that I'm not making as much as I thought I was, but by far the worst part is how stupid I feel. I've been trying so damned hard to fit in around here  --  to appear smart and self-confident and capable, and to win everyone's respect  --  and instead I feel like some dopey little kid who has wandered into the office by mistake ...

Anyway, the paychecks just arrived (by Fed Express), but I'm waiting until Bill leaves to open mine. I've made enough of a fool of myself today: no way am I going to let him see me hunched and weeping over a paycheck that's a hundred bucks smaller than I thought it would be.


Well  ...  the good news is that the check is made out for the amount I figured, more or less. The bad news is that the overpayment will come out of my next paycheck. Sigh  ...

Bill's gone. His annoyingly high-handed wife is due to come in this afternoon and drop off some strapping tape (the last time she came in, she never took off her sunglasses, the whole time she stood here and talked to me ... it was like holding a conversation with a State Patrol officer), but other than that I expect to be alone most of the afternoon. Good. I need to compose myself and get rid of my headache and pull my shit together before I go home tonight.

God. All I write about anymore  --  all I type, actually, on the computers  --  are terse, abbreviated accounts of stuff that goes on at work. Occasionally I'll gripe about the house, or about Velma, or briefly mentioned something new that's happened in the kids' lives (Kacie's gymnastics)  ...  but overall it seems like my universe has been squeezed and condensed into one hard little knot of interest and concern: the job. At least, that's the impression someone would get from reading this journal. I don't write about the kids anymore  ...  at least, not in the consistent, anecdotal way I used to. No thoughtful commentary on their development, no wry observations about our lives together, no funny stories about the latest crazy things they've done. There was a time when they were all I would write about, and now they barely rate a passing mention. Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt. Some working mothers feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids, or about not being there in the afternoons when the children get home from school. My personal guilt departments are:

1. The kids not being my whole world anymore (reflected in my journals)
2. The house
3. My journal being so neglected & sparse ...

October 7, 1993 (my Dad's birthday)

I was sitting at my desk this afternoon when I got a phone call. "Is this Mrs. Polen?" a woman asked. 

My heart sank: any time someone asks for "Mrs. Polen," I know it's probably not going to be good news! And it wasn't: Jamie fell on the playground at school during a game of catch and broke her left arm (again)!!  It was only 2:00 and I couldn't possibly leave the office, so I wound up calling Ray at the plant and asking him to go fetch Jay. He was surprisingly nonplussed about the whole thing, and left right away. At 4:30 I sped out of the office and drove straight to Dr. Kay's office, where Jamie was just finishing up. She has a temporary cast on the arm for now, will have to go back on Monday for the plaster cast. 

We're all home now. Obviously she's going to be out of commission for awhile. (Damn! My best helper!) She also won't be able to write, shower, wash her own hair or do much of anything for a long, long time. Poor baby!

Work is heating up. We're getting newer and bigger accounts all the time, and my workload is increasing accordingly. Yesterday the phones were NUTS. Today it was a little quieter, because Bill is in Spokane until tomorrow morning, but I still had a lot of stuff to do for Brad and Randy.  I made a couple of goofs again, nothing serious, but it still bothers me when I get caught making a dumb mistake (like overlooking an important heading on one of Brad's letters, misplacing Bill's flight information, forgetting to get the phone number of a caller: today's goofs). I still want them all to think I'm really competent and reliable, not some ditzy little hausfrau who wandered in off the street  ...

Oh, that reminds me  --  another goof. This one was three days ago, I think. I broke one of my own cardinal rules and cried at work.  I was talking on the phone with the guy we bought our computer from  --  Matt G., ACT Compact Computers in Auburn  --  and he was giving me a rough time. I mistakenly thought he was sending us a computer preloaded with software (WordPerfect and Lotus), and he blew up at me! Seems he considers software dealers/installers the scum of the earth (and frankly after last week's Print Shop Deluxe fiasco, I tend to agree with him), and how dare I expect him to lower himself that way??

"How am I supposed to know what software you want?"" he snapped. "For all I know you could be using Mrs. Butterworth's Underwater Basket-Weaving program."   

"I understand," I said, "but I don't think I deserve this kind of diatribe."  And then, to my horror, I started to cry. In front of Brad. I just thank God Bill wasn't in the office.

Sunday afternoon
October 10, 1993

Quiet Sunday afternoon. Kacie and Kyle are riding bikes at the school; Ray is puttering around in the garage, watching a football game; Jamie is watching rap videos on MTV. Pleasant weather all weekend  ...  not too warm, not too cool. I've spent most of this day cleaning up the kitchen and running laundry, and I've just put a chocolate cake in the oven ...  now I'm going to sit here with a Pepsi and relax.

Jamie has been taking it very easy the past couple of days, since breaking her arm. She gets the permanent cast put on tomorrow afternoon, and until then I'm a little nervous: I don't want her doing anything that might damage it further. She doesn't seem to be in much pain, thankfully, and she's sleeping OK at night. Mostly I think she's just kind of embarrassed about breaking her arm again. Funny: it was just this time of year, three years ago, that she fell out of the tree at her grandparents' house and broke both arms. What is the connection between Jamie, autumn and broken arms, anyway . . . ??

Tuesday evening, just home from work
October 12, 1993

I try to be in a good mood when I come home from the office every day, for the kids' sake, but it seems like the minute I walk through the door, I'm yelling. Today it was the same old thing it always is: all the drapes were pulled shut and the house was like a big gloomy cave. 

"For God's sake!" I snapped, yanking open the dining room curtains, "can't ANYONE around here ever remember to open the curtains?" 

Kacie and Kyle were glued to the TV, as they always are. "Did you remember to make my bed?" I asked Kacie, and of course she had not. Another reason to get mad. Jamie, who was standing here in my office doing some one-handed laundry, took my yelling personally and withdrew into her bedroom: now I have to apologize to her. Mainly it's Kacie I'm mad at. Actually, that's not even true  ...  I don't know WHO I'm mad at. I'm just tired, I guess, and cranky, and when I come home I expect things to be perfect. And when they aren't, I come undone ...

It seems that I've screwed up at work again, this time in a major way. For the past couple of weeks Bill and everyone at 3M have been in a lather about some woman's clothing store accounts that were overlooked, and now it turns out that it was my fault. The last time Bill's parents were in the office, they handed me a stack of papers and asked me to make up a file for them. I did a really thorough job, labeling everything neatly and filing it away in my new filing cabinet . . . except that I also filed away the uncompleted work orders, and no one has known where they were all this time. Mrs. B. figured it out today. She called the office right before I left and asked me if I knew anything about them, and of course I told her that I'd filed everything away, as I'd assumed I was supposed to do.

Thursday afternoon
October 14, 1993

Having a stressful afternoon. Last month's office burglary continues to disrupt the order of things around here. Bill has been waiting for weeks for his insurance check ("It's in the mail!"), and now the insurance company wants original invoices for everything that was stolen! This means a lot of backtracking and phone calls and nail-biting on my part this afternoon, and I've managed to work myself into one doozy of a headache as a result ...

Period is due today. I've got a lovely premenstrual zit in the middle of my face and I can't keep my hands out of the M&M's, so I know it's probably only moments away. This leaves me fragile, emotionally and hormonally: I know it would only take one more mini-crisis to put me right over the edge. Treading carefully.

Got my paycheck yesterday. As expected, it was a "short' check: Carla had to subtract last month's overpayments. Then Jamie and I went shopping last night while Kacie was at her gymnastics class, and I'm afraid I went a little crazy with my money ... I spent about $75 at Drug Emporium and Payless (makeup, pop and typewriter ribbons for work, Christmas magazines, shampoo, facial cleanser, soup, blank tapes). I still haven't given Jamie, Kacie and Kyle their allowance (that's $20, $17 and $10, respectively: two weeks' worth, paid at once), and I'll owe Velma for housecleaning tomorrow. Shit. I was counting on getting a check from Bill today for $165  --  to replace the watch that was stolen in the burglary  --  he promised to write it for me "before the end of the week," but with this latest insurance company snafu, who knows?? The long and short of it is, my money's almost gone and it's only the day after payday! Shit!

Tired. I'm ALWAYS tired anymore. The alarm didn't go off this morning, by the way  --  an extremely rare occurrence. (I think Jamie forgot to set it last night.) I was asleep on the couch, having an unhappy dream about Tony Ramos, when Ray shook me awake. "It's 6:05!" he said, and I was up in a flash and in the shower before the fog even cleared. I felt OK coming to work, and I cruised through the morning w/o any problems, but now it's 3:00 and all I can do is sit here and dream about a pop on ice and a cigarette when I get home.

Home from work now

Reflections on the drive home:

* Gentle pleasant rain began splattering my windshield halfway home. Fall is in spectacular full plumage now: the trees are vivid reds and oranges and golds. Still warm. No Mt. Rainier today, obscured by clouds. Feels like a storm is brewing.

* An old man walking his dogs.

* Two houses that got my attention: one, festooned with Hallowe'en decorations, made me feel guilty about our own bare windows and lack of autumn decoration. The other has a wonderful sign hanging out front ("The Personal Touch"), a home-based word processing business. Wonder if I cold ever start something like that?

* The usual Thursday battle of wills: the urge for a cold glass of wine vs. the desire not to feel awful tomorrow morning. The Bad Terri won out  --  I stopped at Trailer Town and bought one small bottle of cold rosé. Sipping it slowly, letting it relax me after this powderkeg of an afternoon.

* Listened to "Kool Oldies" instead of my usual KBSG. Played an interesting Herman's Hermits song I've rarely heard before: need to look it up. ("Listern People.")  Would like to hear it again.

* My old beater of a car gets zero respect from the other drivers, especially the impatient ones in the hot new sports cars who careen past me. 

*My gas tank is empty.

Friday afternoon
October 15, 1993

Hasn't this been a strange journal?

I've spent most of the day here in the office working on it: putting all the pages together and adding things, like photocopies of notes and letters, graphics from The Print Shop Deluxe, re-typed entries, etc. Now what? Do I take it somewhere and have it professionally bound? Do I continue adding pages until this poor little three ring binder explodes?

Something inside of me says it's time for closure  ...  time to stop this journal before it wanders any further out of control, time to start something more structured.

The insurance problems seem to be more or less cleared up. There was a bad moment or two earlier, when I realized I'd probably thrown away the receipt for the HP laser printer  --  the one that was stolen  --  but turns out we don't need it anyway. Bill wrote me a check for $165 this morning, just before he left the office for the day. I will stop at the drive-thru on my way home in an hour. I'm glad because now I can give the kids their allowances and pay Velma: no excuses, no hurt feelings anywhere.

Friday. Funny: it doesn't really FEEL like Friday to me. I've been busy all day and the time has flown by.  Bill's mom and sister stopped by unexpectedly at noon and stayed for half an hour or so. (Bill's wife is the one who still has the ability to freeze my blood, but fortunately I don't have to deal with her too often.) I don't know what we'll be doing this weekend. Our friend is out of town, so I imagine we'll have to be quiet and good. (Darn!) I'll probably pick up another bottle of wine on my way home and spend the evening goofing around with the home computer and working on tapes. (My latest passion: having cassettes and CD's mailed to me from the King County Library System  --  you wouldn't believe it, they have EVERYTHING!  --  and then taping them. Right now I'm working on a complete set of Beatles tapes.) Nicole is spending the night tonight, and tomorrow I'll probably take the kids somewhere. Lately we've been getting into the habit of going somewhere "fun" every Saturday, just the kids and me: last weekend it was lunch at Shakey's and an afternoon at the Burien library. Tomorrow, who knows  ...  ?

Wednesday evening, home from work
October 20, 1993

I'm staying at work until 5 p.m. now, starting this week: my choice. When Ron Colby moves down from Spokane next month, I was supposed to begin staying the full 9 hours, but I've opted to start now; I can use the fatter paycheck.

It really doesn't "feel" that much different, anyway. A long day is a long day. If I pace myself and stay busy all afternoon, the time seems to fly. The only thing that doesn't last long enough is my makeup: my face is so greasy right now you could deep-fry some onion rings on my T-zone. Yuck. Long night ahead of me, too  ...  Kacie's first gymnastics "meet" (actually it's more of an exhibition for parents) is tonight, and I've got to stay and watch that. Bedtime is an eternity away.

Bill and Randy left this morning for their vacation at Disneyworld. They won't be back until next Wednesday. (Brad and I were poking fun at Bill this afternoon. When I left the office, I said "Don't forget to hang up the blanket!" and he laughed. "Good thing it's electric! That'll really scare off the burglars!" he said.)

Frozen pizza, breadsticks and salad for dinner tonight.

Friday afternoon
October 22, 1993

Just beginning to rain  ...  a chilly drizzling rain. I've been alone most of the day: Bill and Randy are still on vacation in Florida ("It's too hot!" they both whined on the phone earlier), and Brad and James are out on the road. I've been working on a funny newsletter to mail out with my Christmas cards this year,"The Polenville Times." I also have a stack of library books about writing your life history, another book about The Print Shop, the usual KBSG oldies on the radio and a warehouse fridge full of pop. What more could a secretary ask for?

God, I love this job!

I had the Ridgway Packaging Dream the other night, by the way, for the first time since I got hired here at BNC. I was surprised: I would think that getting this (infinitely-better-in-all-respects) job would exorcise the old Ridgway demons, once and for all. But there it was again: me begging and pleading with that old fart, Howard, to pleeeease give me back my piddly little receptionist job.  I don't get it.

This is the best job I've ever had, no question about it. I don't just mean in terms of salary, or autonomy, or even all the cool office equipment I get to "play" with all day  ...  I also mean in terms of respect and position. At Ridgway, I was the young cute dopey receptionist who everyone humored and patronized. Patti Owen, the Executive Secretary, was my idol. I wanted to be just like her, poised and smart and invaluable. I wanted to be "the secretary." Do you know what I mean? There's a real distinction there. A ‘receptionist" is at the bottom of the corporate totem pole; a secretary has more prestige. Not a lot more, but enough. And now I am the secretary, and it's a wonderful feeling. It only took me thirteen years to get here from there, but hey! I'm here!

Let's see, what's going on at home? Jamie is riding the bus home with Nicole this afternoon (and spending the night there). Kacie had her gymnastics meet the other night  --  actually it was more of an exhibition for parents  --  and she won a first place ribbon for the balance beam! Needless to say it was her shining moment. Kyle is desperately in need of a haircut ...  he has a serious case of the shaggies, and picture day is next Wednesday. Help!

David J. is home from California. He stopped by last night to buy some firewood, and he'll be coming over again tonight around 6:00.  I've got some Chablis chilling in the fridge at home, even as we speak ...  a Beatles CD from the library (Abbey Road) that I haven't even listened to yet ... I cannot, cannot, cannot wait to get out of here. Only three more hours to go!

God, now it's pouring outside. There was a spectacular sunrise when I left for work this morning: I've never seen anything like it. The whole sky was vivid pink. Kacie and Kyle always watch me out the living room window and wave as I'm driving off to work in the mornings, and there I was, gesturing frantically at them to "LOOK AT THE SKY!!!!"

Whenever I want to "treat" myself in the afternoons driving home, I detour off 8th Avenue and drive down Des Moines Way, past my childhood neighborhood. The combination of gorgeous autumn leaves, instant nostalgia and a good song on the radio (yesterday they did it again: they played my favorite, "I'm Into Something Good," just as I drove past 134th!) almost always makes me feel light-hearted and happy. Yesterday, though, it had the opposite effect on me  ...   suddenly I felt a heart-crunching wave of homesickness for Grandma and Grandpa and my childhood home. I fought back tears for the rest of the drive home. Wonder why it hit me that way  ...?

I was looking forward to another nice drive home today, anyway. The autumn colors won't be around for much longer, and I was hoping that today's drive down Nostalgia Lane would leave me happier than it did yesterday. It's so dark and rainy and gross outside, though, that I'm going to simply hop into the Velmobile and head straight for home and that glass of wine. Only another hour left  ...

Wednesday lunch hour
October 27, 1993

Payday: my check is short, as usual. (This time Carleen "forgot" to add all the overtime I'd accumulated, staying till 5:00 last week. Shit!) After work I have to go to the bank, go home and pick up the kids, take them Halloween costume shopping, pick up dinner, come home, get everything ready for work/school tomorrow  ... and then collapse.

Sad news. Lori's mother Crystal passed away on Monday night of lung cancer; Lori called me at work yesterday afternoon, and the instant I heard the flat empty tone of her voice, I knew her mom was gone. Driving home from work yesterday the radio played "Spirit In The Sky." I cranked it as high as it would go, looked up at the clouds overhead and said, "This one's for you, Crystal." She was a sweet, funny little woman and my heart hurts for Lori  ...  I know how much she's going to miss her.

Projects I've got going at the moment:

1. Preparing to write the autobio (for real). Working on a "lifelist" today, a suggestion from the best book I've read so far on the subject of writing memoirs, "Turning Memories Into Memoirs" by Denis Ledoux. I'm going to use the copier here at work to add photographs.

2. The kids' Memory Book. Arrrggh. This one jabs at my conscience, even though it's not my fault it isn't done yet. I was three-fourths of the way through typing it, looking forward to having photo pgs. printed and having it professionally bound, when the assholes broke into the office and stole all the equipment.  The new laser printer doesn't match the old one so I have to start all over again.

3. Recording everything the library sends me (cassettes and CDs). Have to do R.E.M. tonight because it's due back  ... also the 4 CD Bee Gees Anthology, the Melissa Manchester, Jamie's Aerosmith  ...?

4. Hey! I actually finished something: letters to Kathy and Deanne!! Still haven't mailed Deanne's but I will after I buy some stamps tonight.


Hallowe'en 1993

Monday afternoon, 4:20 pm
November 1, 1993

This has been one of the slowest and quietest days I can remember having here at work ...  but coming on the heels of an intensely busy weekend, that's been fine & dandy with me. I've done some work on the Autobio, read a Lynda Barry book, eaten a leisurely lunch and enjoyed the quiet and solitude.

We set our clocks back this weekend, and I'm having a tough time adjusting to it, as usual. This morning wasn't so bad  --  it "felt" like I'd gotten to sleep in an extra hour, and the drive to work was pleasant. But now it's getting dark outside already (another half hour to go before I can leave!) and I'm having to fight to keep my eyes open. And tonight is another gymnastics night, too. Shit.

Yesterday was Halloween, and for the first time in a couple of years I had fun! For one thing, the kids and I weren't stuck trick or treating with Velma and her kids ...  we spent Halloween with Lori and Tracy. Just like old times. Lori has a car now (she inherited John's old car when he bought a new one from his mom a couple of weeks ago) so we drove the kids up to 35th and 36th, near the 7-11 by Shannon South. They had a ball. Jamie was a little Demonette, Kacie was a Dead Miss America and Kyle was a Pirate. Funny moments to remember:

* "Another fucking Milky Way." Kyle Polen, age 7

* The confused Asian lady with Christmas decorations (even a Christmas tree!!) all over her house.

* Standing in the driveway of one house and hearing someone say, "Is that Terri?" Turned out to be Jan S., this person who is about to become my friend, I think. Her kid is in the same dance and gymnastics class as Jamie and Kacie, and I keep bumping into her: she wants to start car-pooling.

Anyway, we got home from trick or treating around 8:00. Because of the time change and the wine I'd had to drink earlier in the day, I was exhausted. I was also starving and freezing (Ray had the front door wide open because he was building a fire in the woodstove). Ray hadn't bothered to make any dinner for anybody, so I threw a hamburger into the microwave, ate it in about four bites, curled upon the sofa with a sleeping bag tucked around me and promptly konked out! (The last thing I remember is Ray admonishing the kids to "Shut up! Mom's asleep!") I was still exhausted when I got up this morning, although like I said that extra hour from the time change made it a little easier. I decided to skip a shower, thinking that my hair was "clean enough." It bought me an extra 15 minutes to sit on the couch and sip a cup of coffee, but I've felt scrungy and unkempt all day as a result. Good thing I've mostly been alone all day.

This is going to be downright WEIRD, leaving work in the dark every night. Huge black clouds are rolling in overhead, too  ...  maybe a storm? Wish I didn't have to drive around Burien tonight, but I have some petty cash in my purse (and a list of stuff the office needs a mile long) and I'd like to swing by Drug Emporium and maybe the library, too. Jamie will come with me, I'm sure.

Ray called once today, to see if I still want Steak Umm sandwiches and French fries for dinner. Frankly, I've been so hungry the past couple of days (partied Friday and Saturday so food was an afterthought: catching up with me now) I'd eat almost anything.

Friday morning
November 5, 1993

Interminably long day looming ahead. I got to work early this morning (I can't believe it: they actually played "I Am The Walrus" on the radio this morning!!), just after 7:30 a.m., and so far I've been the only person in the office today. Looks like I'll be by myself for most of the day. I've got my autobio project to work on, the Christmas newsletter, a pile of old magazines out in the car (for an emergency) and a talk show on the radio. I guess I'll find ways to keep myself occupied during this long, long day.

We continue to have the most beautiful autumn I have ever seen. I keep expecting a huge windstorm to come along and blow all the beautiful leaves off the trees, but so far that hasn't happened and my morning drive is as pleasurable as ever. It's getting wickedly cold at night, though. Last night I had to get up in the middle of the night and get another blanket. Woodstove season has begun in Polenville.

Monday afternoon
November 8, 1993

(Herman's Hermits, "I'm Into Something Good" on the radio, just as I begin to type this ...)

Here is my final entry for this journal. I've just finished designing a cover and a title page, and in a couple of days when I get paid I'll take the whole mess in and have it bound. In the meantime, a word of "farewell" ... 

This has been a fun journal to put together, and it represents a very happy and busy time of my life. It's been a long time since I've had a year as interesting as 1993 has been. It kind of makes me wonder what could possibly be in store in the months ahead  ...?

Hope this journal has brought as much pleasure to the reader as it has the author!

Terri Polen
November 8, 1993

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