Thursday, March 05, 2009

Stuff it

The paradox of parent blogs is that as our kids get older and do more interesting things, we are too busy with all of their activities to actually write about them.

When 3B did nothing but nurse, poop and nap, it was relatively easy to find time to write. At that age, even when he was awake, he could spend an hour fascinated with his tongue or trying to jam his fist into his mouth.

Not that I didn't engage him for every minute of those activities lest he not get into Stanford because my lack of parental support during infancy eliminated his hopes of a 4.5 GPA, a perfect SAT score and a list of intellectual extracurriculars as long as my leg...but I might have somehow found the time to blog during one of those interludes.

It's a little harder to blog while playing hockey, maze, jump, cave, paint, PlayDoh and carrying on conversations for a regular menagerie of stuffed animals, all with unique voices. Hence Twitter, I suppose.

The problem is made a little more acute by Mama's general fatigue and increasing workload. She's much more energetic than during her first trimester, but still, growing a baby while chasing a toddler is tiring. I mean, from what I can observe.

This, combined with Mama's increasing workload in preparation for her upcoming trips--Brussels, NYC and London--means that there are many more chores to do in the evenings: shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning. It's exhausting just to list it. It would be even more exhausting if I were doing any of it.

I do a fair amount, but I'll be honest: I'm not a big fan of grocery shopping of late, I often only have the energy to clean up the kitchen, and generally put off excavating the weekly laundry massif until the weekends, when I really don't have the time or energy either due to the aforementioned hockey, maze, jump, and so forth.

You'd think that since I don't do any of the big four that I'd have plenty of time to write, which could be true if I wasn't trying to keep up with work and life. I have no desire to get dooced in this economy so I won't go into details, but there has been some stress at work recently, which is nothing if not inspiration to work that much harder, even in the evenings. As for life, well, it keeps coming every day, doesn't it?

Going to see my family with 3B was an energizing break, but it came with its own stresses as well. Recently, however, the big timesuck was the cabal in our condo building who took over our board. Although I don't agree with their agenda for the building, they were fairly elected, so they get their shot.

I do disagree with the underhanded and antagonistic way in which they go about their business, however. They distribute unsigned letters under doors throughout the building, and then remove all of the signed--with my name, unit number and phone number--fliers that I placed under doors. They collect petitions that are required for certain actions, but never release the petitions or a record of who signed them. They announce special meetings to conduct critical building business with the bare minimum notice required, which was reduced further by their mailing the notification over a holiday weekend.

Probably the capper was when one of the cabal called me at work to tell yell at me for five minutes before telling me to "leave [the board secretary] alone." I asked her on what authority she was commanding me to not contact the board secretary. "On my authority as a board member, an attorney and as a person."

Really? As a person? If it was so easy to issue restraining orders, you'd think that nobody would be able to get within 25 feet of anybody else.

Not that any of her arguments made sense. My favorite piece of logic was this: "When you find out what's been going on, you'll thank me." Not bloody likely in this lifetime, I thought, as she continued, "You have no idea how big this is. No idea what's going on." I thought that between the two of us, I wasn't the one with no ideas, but I asked to be polite, "What's going on?"

"You have no idea. It's whatever."

Whatever? That's it? That's the summation of your argument for everything that you've been doing? Apparently my building's been taken over by Beverly Hills High School students.

Then she yelled at me, "What were you doing up at 7 a.m. walking the halls to see if your fliers were still under doors?" The proper response would have been, "What were you doing up at 1:10 a.m. walking the halls pulling them out from under doors?" But I hadn't yet received confirmation from the board members who viewed the videotape. And this lawyer was even more subversive than just removing my fliers--she only removed them from under the doors of her supporters, hoping that those who agreed with the contents of the flier would see one under their door and assume that everyone in the building received one.

I have the same question for her and her cabal that I do for anyone engaged in a coverup: what are you trying to hide? Oh, and one more question, I suppose: So, is it safe to surmise from your angry tirade that you weren't aware that there are video cameras on every floor of our building?

Turns out they had plenty to be afraid of, since they barely lost the election, although they're now appealing, despite no provision in our bylaws or the Virginia Condominium Act for such action. If you can't even scrape together 50 of your neighbors to vote in your favor, perhaps it's time to reconsider why so few people like and agree with you. Probably best to start with the common denominator in their decisions, which is you.

However, the day after the election, one of the board members who opposes the lawyer pulled an incredibly petty and dickish move, telling Mama and me about it with glee. Heads up, dude, I don't support dicks on either side of the divide in our building.

And it was then that I started to take to heart what a wise man in our building had said to Mama about this kerfuffle: he told Mama that with all the problems in the world--the economy, war, entrenched poverty, lack of education, environmental degradation, and so forth--this isn't worth his time. That reminded me of why I'm not on the board anymore--as soon as 3B was born, I resigned because, even when 3B was doing nothing but nursing, pooping and napping, he took more time and was a far higher priority than the business of the board, especially the petty vendettas.

So I am once again refocusing myself on those things that I want to do rather than allowing myself to get tugged to and fro by my neighbors' over-litigated squabbles--things like writing, and reading and making our house look more lived in and less like a tornado just passed through.

And maybe putting something on the bottom of our front door to prevent anything from being stuffed under it.

Subscribe to the Bradstein feed--Vorsprung durch Technik!


  1. All the more reason I dislike co-ops, HOA or anything similar. Now all I need is single family housing to drop a bit more, and then find a decent neighborhood.

  2. That woman needs to remember that wherever she goes to escape, there she is. Neighbors can be so entertaining, and yes, kids keep you busy.

    Remember, you weren't just stuffing fliers, you were walking Barky.

  3. Bill: Yeah, we're not big fans of HOAs either, but we still prefer building equity over paying rent.

    CAGirl: That's what I always remind myself when I walk away from someone like her--I can walk away; she has to live with herself. I also remind myself that even in a standalone house, neighbors can be entertaining.

  4. Anonymous4:28 PM

    I guess living so close to the center of our government doesn't guarantee democracy in action.

    If a co-op board member* told me "You have no idea what's going on," I would probably respond, "As my elected representative, why don't you tell me what's going on?" And sorry, I don't recall any provisions preventing me from walking the halls at any hour of the day!**

    Why are both sides using fliers and not communicating with residents directly in meetings? Are there not provisions in your by-laws for the distribution of petition results to all residents?

    *If I lived in a co-op, which I don't.

    **Again, in my hypothetical co-op life.

  5. Raymond Carver wrote (excerpted from a much longer, richer essay in "Fires," which I gladly recommend):

    "[T]he greatest single influence on my life, and on my writing, directly and indirectly, has been my two children. . . .

    "Somehow, when we weren't looking, the children had got into the driver's seat. . . .

    "During these ferocious years of parenting, I usually didn't have the time, or the heart, to think about working on anything very lengthy. The circumstances of my life, the 'grip and slog' of it, in D.H. Lawrence's phrase, did not permit it. . . . [I]f I wanted to write anything, and finish it, and if ever I wanted to take satisfaction out of finished work, I was going to have to stick to stories and poems. The short things I could sit down with and, with any luck, write quickly and have done with. . . .

    "To write a novel, it seemed to me, a writer should be living in a world that makes sense."

    Milton, on the other hand, spent his gray years dictating "Paradise Lost" (he was blind by then) to his daughters. He'd compose it all day long in his head, then each night have them write down what he'd come up with so far. So kids can be useful, eventually.

    But yes, a distraction from the important task of writing about what distractions they are.

    It's possible we have entered an age where, apart from having kids around, the world offers so many distractions, so many interruptions, that our characteristic cultural achievements will all be in short form: pop songs instead of symphonies, haiku instead of epics.

  6. Amama: Well, the condo act does call for a public place for all co-owners to communicate with each other and the board, but this board seems willing to ignore the condo act when it's convenient. I brought that up to her and she said that "the board would consider it if someone made a request." Really? So ignorance of the law is now a valid excuse? Except when I explained it to her she interrupted me: "Don't cite the law to me!" Oh, so then you can't plead ignorance. Your move, lawyer.

    MrJ: "To write a novel, it seemed to me, a writer should be living in a world that makes sense."

    So we should expect a flood of novels now that Bush is out of office?

    But yeah, when I'm done trading my toddler knives for chainsaws, perhaps it will be easier to get around to that novel.