JP is well on the road to recovery. She’s out of the wheelchair completely now, and only using crutches when she tires. Thanks to physical therapy three times a week, she is making great strides and feeling much better. However, she’s still having some pretty severe pain in her knee, which doesn’t seem to be improving at all. (In fact, it seems to be getting worse.)

So yesterday she called her orthopedic surgeon’s office to schedule a follow-up appointment. Unfortunately, they told her they couldn’t see her until late August. She told them, firmly, that this was unacceptable and she needed to see someone sooner, but they insisted that there was NO WAY a doctor could see her any sooner. So she called another office and scheduled an appointment with a new doctor for next week, then she called the first office back to ask them to transfer her records. That resulted in this conversation:

Admin: Oh, um, well, you don’t have to do that. We might be able to get you in sooner.

JP: You told me there was no way anyone could see me until late August.

Admin: Hold on. (pause) Actually, we could see you Friday.

JP: No thanks, my appointment is Wednesday.

Admin: Hold on. (pause) Actually, it looks like we could squeeze you in Tuesday afternoon.

JP: That’s okay. I think I’m just going to go with this new doctor.

Admin: Hold on. (pause) How about 8am Monday?

So, here’s what I don’t understand. This entire exchange took place inside of fifteen minutes, so I seriously doubt those spots were the result of cancellations. If they actually had the ability to fit her in at least three times next week, why didn’t they just give her one of those spots the FIRST time she called, when she explained the pain and her concerns? Why did those spots only become available when she decided to take her business elsewhere?

Thursday should have been my last day with Baby H. I had planned to spend the day at the park or possibly the pool — one last hurrah. Instead, I never made it to work, and I spent the day in the ER.

JP and I generally carpool to work, and we were rushing through our morning routine as usual. Just I as I was coming in from walking the dogs, JP ran down the stairs…and slipped. You may recall that this spiral staircase has been a source of concern in the past. But as many times as we had joked that “one day someone is going to break their neck on that thing”, I don’t think we ever took ourselves seriously. We should have.

Luckily, it was her ankle, not her neck. And, after multiple x-rays, it was determined that the bones were intact. (I’m still incredulous — if you had seen the unnatural angle of her foot, you would be too.) It was “just” a severe sprain. Further consultations with an orthopedic surgeon and a physical therapist have revealed the tearing of all three ligaments on the outside of her right ankle. But the best part? That would be the fact that she also managed to hyperextend her left knee, making crutches impossible and treating us to a crash course in the tribulations of the wheelchair-bound. In all seriousness, I’ve never been so frustrated or angry with establishments. Going out to eat was basically impossible, and maneuvering our local Barnes and Noble was hazardous. Narrow aisles and oblivious patrons are bad enough, but I swear to god I will murder the person who invented those cardboard endcaps rickety roadblocks.

Today, for the first time in a week, JP was able to get around on her crutches. She’s sore and exhausted, but so thankful not to be confined to a wheelchair.

Baby H’s parents were utterly unsympathetic and unconcerned. Despite the fact that neither of them was working outside the home that day, they acted as if my calling out was a crisis and gave me a major guilt trip about it — as if I pushed JP down the stairs just to avoid my last day of work. Then, when I called later that day to arrange a time to meet with them to return the extra car seat and a few other things, they informed me that I would not be allowed to use any of my three remaining sick days to cover the day, and that they would be docking my final paycheck. Apparently this is the the thanks I get for 18 months of devoted service to them, including four months in which I turned down multiple job offers as I waited week by week, not knowing when my job would suddenly disappear because they refused to communicate with me about their childcare plans.

Meanwhile, my new employers have inquired daily about JP’s well-being and progress, including physical therapy recommendations. As promised, I won’t say much about them or the children. But I can say that after my first week, I am sure that I made the right decision and chose the right family. Now it’s just a matter of settling in and rolling with the punches. Not literally, I hope — we don’t need any more injuries in this house.

Jesse Helms, the former Senator from North Carolina, passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Many in the conservative community are drawing attention to the fact that this “patriot” died on the Fourth of July. Perhaps they mistakenly believe that by focusing on the date of his death, we will overlook the contents of his life.

The only kind thing I can say about Helms, is that at least he never hid his beliefs. You knew exactly what you were getting with him, be it racist, xenophobic or homophobic. He knew there were pockets of America that hated him, and he reveled in that knowledge. “If you want to call me a bigot, fine,” he said.

Of course I want to call him a bigot. This man spent his early career opposing the Civil Rights Movement and once responded to a Duke University vigil for Martin Luther King, Jr. after his assassination by stating, “They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro.”

As time went on, and he lost his battle to keep the races separate and entirely unequal, he found a new group of scapegoats. “Homosexuals,” he stated in a 1995 radio broadcast, “are weak, morally sick wretches.”

And for much of the last decade or so of his career, Helms focused his vitriol on gays. (Or should I say, “on homosexuals”? After all, Helms refused to refer to homosexuals as gays, stating, “I despise the use of the once beautiful word ‘gay.’ They are not gay; they are repulsive.”) Though he was particularly riled up on the topic of AIDS funding (and once suggested a quarantine was necessary for all HIV positive individuals), he was also quick to anger whenever an openly gay individual was nominated for a position that required Congressional approval or at any suggestion that gay Americans deserved equal rights and protection under the law. In response to the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to commemorate the Stonewall rebellion with a special postmark, Helm’s stood on the Senate floor and said, “The homosexuals are in a battle against American values. Their ultimate aim is to have the American people accept the proposition that their perverted lifestyle is as worthy of protection as race, creed and religion. I do not buy that. I say to them, bosh and nausea, and a pox on whomever in the Postal Service made this completely misguided decision.”

I was a junior at the University of North Carolina (or “The University of Negroes and Communists” as Helms coined my beloved alma mater) when he decided not seek another term in Congress. I won’t deny the fact that we celebrated, though I’m not sure replacing him with Liddy Dole was much of an improvement.

I am not rejoicing today, because I never rejoice in the death of any individual, no matter how little I respect them or how much I hate them. But I hope that with his death, there is a symbolic death as well.

Jesse Helms is not only a three-decade veteran of Congress who spent his career championing the causes of ignorance and intolerance. He is also a hero to small but vocal group of conservative Christians — the type who like to couch obviously racist statements with phrases like, “I’m not a racist, but…” I know these people. I used to live among them. My family and friends worshiped Mr. Helms, and held him up as a shining example.

I hope that his death may be another another milestone in the fight to end an era of hate and intolerance. And I hope that the leaders who rise up to replace this dying breed of politician, regardless of party, will remember that even their political foes are human beings who deserve equal rights and protections under the law.

When my phone rang this morning, my stomach clenched in anticipation. I had a final meeting with a family last night, the last step in our extensive interview process. They were the very clear frontrunner, and I knew this call would  change everything. I took a deep breath to steady myself before answering and awaiting the verdict.

I start my new position July 7.

This new family is amazing. Not only do we complete each other’s sentences when it comes to issues of childcare/parenting philosophy, but I genuinely enjoy them as individuals.

I’m head-over-heels for the children. There are three of them, ages 4-7, and I’m thrilled to be spending the rest of my summer with older children who can really enjoy outings to the zoo, the water park, museums, etc. There is also a new baby, due in seven weeks, so I’m lucky enough that I’ll get to be there from day one for this baby. Already my new boss is waxing poetic about how wonderful it will be to have me bond with the baby from the beginning, meeting her for the first time in the hospital.

Of course, It doesn’t hurt that I’ll be making more money AND working a normal schedule where I’m home by seven every night.

I’m over the moon really. So thrilled to be starting this new adventure that I find myself chomping at the bit and willing time to fly. But this emotional high brings back memories of a time not that long ago, when I was over the moon because I’d just accepted a position with a family in Atlanta who was expecting their first baby. I remember the joy I felt when Baby H. was born, and I held him for the first time, and the pride I felt as he reached each milestone.

I’ve grown weary of the long hours and the increasing demands of this position. I’m very ready to leave now, and so excited to have found this new family. But I am reminded that this new beginning is the end of something, as well.

One week. That’s all I have left in this stage of my life. I’ll try not to wish it away.

That’s how many hours JP spent at the office last week. Ten hour days followed by a full weekend of slaving away rather than lounging by the pool. And the worst part is that this week promises to be even worse.

That old adage about absence making the heart grow stronger seems to hold true in our case, because we’ve both been lonely and clingy.

Honestly, I expect that to some degree from JP. After all, she’s the one worked to exhaustion. She’s also the type who craves human interaction and is easily bored or lonely. But I enjoy no one’s company more than my own. I love my solitude.

Recently, JP and I were driving at dusk and passed a park with a small pond. Seated in front of the lake, with her back to the road, was a young woman. I couldn’t see her expression, but she looked so tranquil sitting there. “Look,” I said to JP. “See the girl sitting all by herself at the pond? She looks so …” And then, just as I was saying “peaceful” JP completed the sentence with “lonely”. We laughed, because the exchange so perfectly sums up our feelings about solitude.

But this weekend, with JP at work all day, I began to see things from her perspective. In between interviews, I found myself wandering aimlessly. I could have gone swimming or watched a movie or taken the dogs to the park, but none of those seemed as appealing without JP for company. Maybe it’s because I’m so stressed right now, worrying about landing the perfect job. Or maybe it’s just that after nearly two years of cohabitation, solitude has lost some of its appeal.

Either way, it wasn’t peaceful…it was just lonely.

I hate searching for a new job. It’s usually fun for the first day or so, as the seemingly endless possibilities begin to stream in. But after a week or so, it becomes tedious. And after a month, the search itself seems endless.

In my ads and profiles, I try to be as specific as possible, in an effort to weed out the families who won’t be a fit for logistical reasons. I make it clear that I am interested only in full-time, live-out, long-term positions. I specify the areas I’m willing to work in (based on commute). I make it clear that my primary area of experience and interest is infant, toddler and preschooler development. And I describe the types of outings I plan on a regular basis, attempting to scare off parents who plan to keep their nanny on house arrest.

And yet, for reasons that are still unclear to me, this does little to filter the emails that flood my inbox. If I had a dollar for every email that asked me to consider a two-hour commute for a part-time position with two preteens…well, I might not have enough money to quit working altogether, but I could certainly take JP out for a nice dinner. I really don’t understand why parents waste their time emailing someone who so clearly is not a likely candidate for their position.

So I spend an hour or so per day reading and responding to these emails with something that begins, “Thank you for your interest. Unfortunately…”

For those emails that actually do fall within my basic parameters, I then send the parents my resume and online portfolio, which contains more extensive information about my education, experience and childcare philosophies. In exchange, I ask them to answer a list of questions about their family and the position they are offering. This eliminates half the potential families. They are disqualified for reasons ranging from refusing to pay employment taxes to expecting their nanny to be a housekeeper as well as a nanny.

Then comes the phone interviews, in which I repeat the same information about my background and experience a thousand times, even though most of the questions I’m asked could be answered by reading the materials I provided (resume and portfolio). Although the phone interviews are a crucial step — they help me narrow the field even further, to the families I’m willing to meet in person — they are also time consuming and tedious.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Last weekend, during one of my countless phone interviews, I was standing on the balcony outlining my discipline style, when the ball of fluff who had been laying at my feet, stood up, crouched, and then rocketed out across the porch, cannonballing into a makeshift pool. The pool was actually a canvas chair filled with rainwater, but watching the beastlet, you’d have thought it was a five-star water park. She swam, she rolled, she flipped, she leapt. I’ve never seen anything like the acrobatics she put on display. And when she’d had her fill of swimming, she ran laps around the balcony, her wet feet failing to find purchase on the tile. It took every ounce of discipline I had to refrain from laughing as I watched her careen into the wall, only to get up, shake it off, and take off again.

I think her performance may be the best part of this job search so far.

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