Friday, August 05, 2011

8/5/2011 Indian Wedding

Thursday: Julian's Kung Fu class, practicing some sort of punching/kicking exercise. He's liking it! He's ready for a yellow-belt belt test, which I signed him up for on Aug 20.

Today Dave and I both took the day off work. We'd planned to go to lunch together to drop in on -- of all things -- a wedding! Since I had such a tough week and Dave had a dentist appointment anyway, it was a good day to just take the whole day off.

Julian informed us last night that he was in a play at CDC camp today, that was performing at 9:30am today. Nice to know!! (Our CDC is running the "performing arts" and "culinary" camp, and with all 3 of our kids there, it made sense to separate the boys with Julian in performing arts camp.)

So before the wedding, Dave and I attended a hastily-arranged "Hansel and Gretel" performance. Julian had a non-speaking role as a tree. He took it pretty seriously though.

I think he needs to practice the silent role more, he did well.

The wedding is for a longtime friend and former coworker of Dave's, Uday, and his longtime girlfriend, Joann. Uday also has a 9yo son, Kirin, who spends the summer with Uday here (he lives in Cleveland) and has had playdates with our boys.

The "wedding" is complicated, because the bride is from the Midwest and the groom is Indian, so they're having several ceremonies and celebrations. Today's was (one of?) the Indian celebrations, in which ceremonies and banquets occur all day long, and apparently guests are invited to pop in and out as they please. There's also a "white wedding" on Sunday (I think that refers to race and wedding-dress color!), and another celebration in India in a few months. And I thought Western weddings were tough!

When we got to the wedding, we'd missed one of the first ceremonies, which according to the program including 25 steps of blessings, songs and rituals, but we'd arrived in time for one of the many photo sessions. Many of Joann's family (caucasians from the Midwest) dressed in sarees, that was interesting to see. So decorative and sparkly!

Joann and Uday were wearing garlands made of real flowers -- fragrant and heavy.

Later another ritual started, in which Uday and Joann sat while a cross-legged cleric chanted and sang and sprinkled them with things for about an hour. Meantime, guests mingled and ate and chatted -- it seemed disrespectful not to pay attention to such an intense and solemn ceremony, but apparently that's expected. Joann had changed into a beautiful pink saree, and even changed the jewels on her headdress and forehead.

What a difference from a Western wedding, but very interesting! I really enjoyed talking to their family and friends. I'd quizzed Joann several times in past years about what it's like growing up with two older brothers, for Katrina's sake. Nowadays the question seems irrelevant, because as a mother, my childraising experience is dominated by the boys' tumultuous relationship.

I met Joann's mother, who'd also raised two boys and a girl, and she confirmed my experience -- that two boys and a girl is mostly about the brother relationship. At least, for the mother it is. But I appreciate Joann's perspective on being the younger sister, ostensibly to help Katrina -- lately it seems more like she doesn't need much help; if anything she relieves the intense fraternalities around here. Anyway, it was nice to be there for our friends, in whatever way we were there.

Unfortunately, the day was marred with yet another horrendous behavior report from the CDC about the boys. That doesn't happen nearly as much with girls. Argh!


Thursday, August 04, 2011

8/4/2011 Burnt

This has been one tough week. I'm taking tomorrow off just because of burnout. And got kids to bed at 8:30, something we need to start being stricter about (it's been let go a lot in the summer). Now I'm watching Burn Notice and crashing.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

8/3/2011 Smarting

I'm still reeling from yesterday's work events, much of which comes from ongoing frustration at my inability to manage my own emotions. But the day turned around, unexpectedly, despite a horrendous start. First I found out that a greatly liked coworker is coming back (!), then later in the afternoon I was included in a meeting with a VP of Sales, to talk about the conference we all attended in the city last week.

Usually marketing and sales stuff sounds like Charlie-Brown-adult wonk-wonk-wonk to me, but being an in-the-trench engineer so greatly deprived of actual information, it was really enlightening and motivating to hear that our work actually affects someone. I was amused by Mr. Horrible's obvious attempts to steer conversation away from and belittle my area of expertise. He sure is working hard to make me irrelevant. I should be honored! Seems I'm smarting from someone trying to make sure I don't appear smart!

But I really need to work on emotional management and attitude shifts. I can't keep boring my regular blog readers to death with this, either. Though passion for my work is the greatest asset I have, I have to learn to control it. I think it was in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book that she wrote, "Ambition is a good servant, but poor master." My rough game plan now is to gather information, talk to people, tie up lingering projects, and then give my life some serious thought during the days I'll take off the week that school starts.

I still haven't planned whatever trip or activities we'll do that week, but I have a far-away fantasy that it can include Yosemite National Park. Few things uplift me more than the beautiful outdoors, and we have so much of it here! Now that's being smart.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

8/2/11 Humiliation

I heard an interesting story on NPR yesterday about humiliation. It's something I'd given thought to since reading the book Unbroken, a story about an American POW in Japanese camps. The things that the Japanese guards did to humiliate their prisoners were harder on them than the beatings and physical abuse, because it eroded their will.

Th NPR story was about a new book out about humiliation and the author's study of it. Why we revel in Others' humiliation. It's overall an interesting concept, and broadens what we think of as humiliation from typical embarrassing situations to more subtle ones.

I disagree with the author's stance that humiliation requires a 3rd-party observer however. He says "I don't think there can be humiliation unless there is a spectator observing it and registering it as shame and bringing the news elsewhere." He's wrong. There can be humiliation with just two people present, if one party has absolute power over the other. Ask any woman who's been sexually assaulted.

I was glad for this insight to explain the swath of of miserable, self-defeating, angst I suffered this afternoon after yet another work incident this afternoon. How can I get SO upset about something at work? Really, who cares?

There's a new project at work that is right up my alley, I've kept in touch with the guy running it, I've raised both hands saying I want to do it, I'm qualified, motivated, I have the time. The project is within my group and skillset and my manager is all for my doing it -- lemme at it.

But Mr Horrible wants someone else to do it, one of his hand-picked guys. The hand-picked guy said in a staff meeting that he doesn't know what to do -- so Mr H suggested that anyone in the group could offer help -- and then named everyone except me. I knew better, I stayed silent.

I was fuming all afternoon until some technical email discussion came up and I started to get involved anyway (if it's in writing I can ask questions much more easily), even talking to The Chosen One about it, who's bright but inexperienced. We agreed to meet tomorrow to kick off the project.

Then I got the email: Mr. H is adament about excluding "all others" from this project. Which means, me. He'd called for volunteers, but then when he hears I've volunteered, he shuts it down.

Thanks to the radio show about humiliation, I can identify the emotion. I was furious, frustrated, felt undervalued, felt left out. It's humiliating to be set aside like I'm worthless, even if I know that's only one person's opinion. It's not about respect. The American POWs were continually humiliated by Japanese guards they loathed and had no respect for, but their superior position allowed them to force the prisoners to perform humiliating acts.

This is a minor case, but that's what's been going for months: systematic, subtle, insidious humilitation, designed to drive me out. Eliminate all opportunity for me to contribute, learn, excel. Today's episode is the most egregious case.

Is it even worth attempting to demonstrate this old-style form of punishment to HR? He knows very well that HR can't mediate or judge on technical matters. He could claim that I'm needed on another project, and they can't tell if its busywork or not. He's just barely technical enough to know what work has a future and to make darned sure I stay out of it and that his guy goes into it. It's possible he even knows how much I like my work, how good I am at tackling a new project with enthusiasm and tenacity, and that's the number one thing he can take away from me.

I've invested so much in this fight that it seems like I'm giving up to say "screw this" and just walk. Not to mention giving Mr H the satisfaction, he'd like nothing better. He'd win. Am I big enough to live with that?

I always take it hard when I can't work on a fun new project, but this has an element of evil retribution. It is "humiliating" -- and I can use that word more easily now -- to be left out from my team, even by someone no one respects but who still holds our purse strings and uses them like marionnette strings.

I think I need to buy that book on humiliation, to understand it and know how to react to it. I appreciate the radio article about it, because it all fits and makes me feel less bad about myself for feeling so bad. I'm not just disappointed about not being able to work on a new project -- I'm humiliated. No wonder.


p.s. I wish my father were here. He was so insightful and able to pull out what's important. I remember him musing once with regretful amazement how much stock women put into their work, how darned much it meant to us, how we weave it into our identities. That gave me quite the insight into how men and women see their work differently. It's true -- how would my job look to me if I knew my family depended on it? Would it be easier to brush off the BS if I knew what mattered most was the paycheck? Or would I decide that my "job" was just to do what my idiot boss said?

Monday, August 01, 2011

8/1/11 Little friends

Such a shame rats have such a bad name. If someone could breed a rat with a fluffier tail and call it something else, every kid would have one. Their claws are sorta sharp too, but that's in the noise.

These girls are getting plenty of love and attention!

I too got to play with a friend tonight -- coffee with a very longtime friend who moved to North Carolina about 7 years ago and is back here visiting family. A nice break from reality!


Sunday, July 31, 2011

7/31/2011 Tanks!

Saturday, we got a tour of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation museum -- one of the largest private collections of military vehicles in the world -- which mostly means a whole lot of tanks!

The absolute coolest Dad I've met -- who homeschools his 2nd-grader (how many dads homeschool?) -- organized this tour for other homeschool kids. I met this Dad when Julian was in pre-K -- his son and Julian were friends -- he's a lawyer who's originally from Taiwan, but decided to homeschool his son when he entered kindergarten.

Gabriel claimed no interest (sucker -- he'd have loved it) and Katrina is still too young, so we found a highly overqualified (but skilled and very nice) nanny to mind Gabriel and Katrina while Dave and I took Julian. It was a pretty drive on windy hilly roads into the depths of Portola Valley, onto private property where we parked amongst 4 massive metal sheds housing hundreds of American, German and Soviet tanks -- and even a few from Switzerland and Sweden. Who knew the Swedes made tanks?

The tour was 2-1/2 hours and covered 4 huge warehouses filled with tanks, and so much information transpired I can't begin to recall, let alone write it. I didn't take notes so I'd get the technical information wrong too.

But it was fascinating, and I learned a lot more about WWII history. Not all tanks were WW-II era but most of the interesting stories about how designs were cobbled together or didn't work, came from that era. I also learned a lot I didn't know I didn't know about explosives, munitions and combat. Lots of these tanks just plain didn't work right and were deathtraps for their users, and it only took the guys driving them a few minutes to figure that out what pie-in-the-sky designers safe at HQ couldn't figure out.

The famous American Sherman tank (on the left), with a German Panzer (I think) on the right, that was far superior in every way except one: the Germans didn't make as many of them.

The business end of the Panzer.

1936 Japanese gun. Note the rifling in the barrel.

The tour included 4 enormous sheds filled with tanks, jeeps, some motorcycles, amphibious vehicles, and even an enormous Scud missile launcher (which somehow I didn't get a photo of).

The tour guide knew how to deal with kids, especially a group of inquisitive question-peppering homeschoolers, and gave them lots to do with handling real (de-armed of course) guns.

Kids were also allowed to climb in some of the tanks.

This cat named Hitler followed us for some of the time. I took this photo to show my Mom, who had a favorite cat as a child named SchickelGruber -- Hitler's original name.

More wildlife peeking through a window.

The tanks in the sheds are all restored, but they arrived at this facility looking more like this one.

A fun, fascinating afternoon! We brought Julian home and left again to go out to dinner -- we had a sitter, why squander the opportunity? She was great; unfortunately she's moving in a few months. She's a part-time nanny and is used to younger kids, and younger kids who are so used to nannies that they're not used to entertaining themselves. Our kids are notoriously self-entertaining -- she said she didn't know what to do with herself. Katrina kept her entertained much of the time though, by changing into a dance outfit and "performing." Gabriel also impressed her with his piano-playing.

Today, Sunday, my goal was to go nowhere, do nothing and see no one!! And I did it!!