Not Great News

“So then what did they say?”  I asked R, turning towards him while we both lay in bed ignoring the ten o’clock news.

R had refused the position in El Paso.  I wasn’t sure how much he actually wanted to refuse on his own merit, but he was able to see the logic in my argument that it was unwise for us to move right now.  Between the baby on the way and Z just gaining footing here, it just seemed crazy to go chasing after another job with this company that couldn’t seem to make up it’s mind.

“They told me that they understood, but unfortunately, that means I need to find another job.”

I replayed the sentence I’d just heard in my head before responding, “What?  How do they go from offering you one job to telling you that you’re fired?”

“Well, apparently what they really meant by offering me this position in El Paso was that they were moving the job I currently have to El Paso, whether or not I wanted to go.  Meaning, if I say no to going, then they will fill my position with someone else who will go to El Paso.”

I gulped.  “That’s not good.”

R sighed in the flickering dim from the television set.  “No, it isn’t.”

“Do you want to go back and say yes?”   I couldn’t even imagine it.   With all of the back and forth about this job business it was now early December.  Moving at this stage would put me between 7 and 8 months by the time we moved.  It seemed crazy, but it wasn’t like losing your job before having a baby was a great choice either.

“No,” R said firmly.  “At this point I’m frankly a little irritated with them.  Don’t worry, they said I can stay on until after the baby is born.”

Somehow, that news didn’t really make me feel any better.  “Well, what are you going to do?”

“I can look internally within the company for a job.   Which is what I will do.”

“Are there any jobs here?” I asked hopefully.

“No.  There aren’t any jobs for someone with my skill set, at my level here.  We’ll definitely have to move.  It’s just a matter of when, and where to.”

“What do you think the options are?” I asked, my voice tinged with doubt.  “Will you go back to Wisconsin?”

“It might be a possibility, but the company has a lot of subsidiaries.  There’s stuff all over.  I’ll start putting out feelers and we’ll see what sticks.”  R looked at me, my brows tight with worry.  “Look, you can’t freak out about this.  It’s not good for the baby, or for you.  It’ll be fine.  I’m not worried at all.  It’s not like you love it here, anyway.”

I nodded.  “That’s true.  It wouldn’t break my heart to leave here, maybe move back somewhere closer to family.  But I just hate to uproot Z so quickly; he really does like it here.”

R was silent for a moment next to me.  “We’ll figure it out. It’ll be OK.  I promise.”  He leaned in to softly kiss my mouth.

I kissed back, trying to not let my worry, still so close to the surface, show.


Photoshop and Memories

Amy greeted me warmly at the coffee shop.  “Oh my goodness, look at your belly!  You really have popped since I saw you last!”

It was true.  The last time she’d seen me was late October, when we’d driven seven hours north to Omaha to see Corey Hart open up for Celine Dion in concert.  We’d had nosebleed seats, it had been a long drive for me with my burgeoning belly.  It was now early December, and I was very obviously showing.

I hadn’t made a lot of friends in Stillwater.  We’d gotten here in April, and the first month or so I’d spent unpacking boxes.  I spent the next month doing everything I possibly could at Zach’s school; payback for five years of schooling during which I could never volunteer because I always had a classroom of my own to tend to.  I had hoped that while shelving books at the book fair or holding the tape at the end of the fifty yard dash on Field Day that I’d meet a few other mothers.  But so far, I’d not bonded with any of the few that I had met.  And then I’d gotten pregnant; a few months were spent sleeping and just barely keeping up with my tasks around the house.  I’d felt better in the fall, but I was now immersed in working on Rick Springfield’s website too much to go looking for new friends.

It was a good thing I had Amy.   R might not like that the base of our friendship was our mutual adoration of rock stars, but he recognized that she was a liferaft in a sea of unfamiliarness.

“So tell me about Chicago,” she asked after I’d ordered a herbal tea and had the steaming bowl sized mug placed before me.

In addition to our Omaha trip, I’d also flown solo to Chicago in November.  R hadn’t been pleased, but when a Chicago TV station had contacted me via the fan club website and asked if I would be able to round up a group of fans for a TV show taping while Rick was in town.  Would I?  I immediately contacted Vivian and we put the word out.  It was my job to keep track of who would attend and create the guest list.  I could hardly miss going since I was doing so much legwork; two concerts and a TV taping?  I booked my own flight out of Tulsa on Southwest using an online service called Travelocity.  I didn’t even need a ticket; they gave me something called an “e ticket” that I could print out and show at the airport.

“It was a little nuts,” I started to tell Amy.  “The shows were at a bar, with no seating.  Probably not the best place for someone who is in the second trimester of pregnancy.  It was like a mosh pit during the shows.  But there was a little balcony area where they put me and the fan club VP so I wouldn’t be caught in the fray.  Which was good.”

Amy looked at me impatiently.  I knew what she was waiting to hear.  Were there any good stories to tell?  “Did you get to talk to him at all?  Or was it too crazy?”

I thought back to the soundcheck Vivian and I had attended on the first day.  All of the other shows I’d been to, when fans had been allowed at soundcheck, it was a group of ten or so of us.  This was different.  It was just Vivian and I.  I was surprised to find that the other band members had far more to do during the process, so Rick sat down on the side of the stage and talked to Vivian and I.  We told him about the new mailing list we’d set up for the fan club, an idea for a chat room that I was researching that would allow us to host “moderated” chats with him; fans could see him typing answers but couldn’t enter the room.  He told us about the live CD they were recording here at the shows, how excited he was to be working on it.  It was just an easy conversation back and forth, and once again, I’d quickly forgotten who I was talking to as the time moved quickly.

“Yeah, he talked to the fan club VP during soundcheck.  He seems to like the direction we’re going in with all of the online components, which is nice.  He made a big deal about me being pregnant and that his sister in law was about as far along as I was.  She came to the show that night; how she wears high heel boots at this stage I’ll never know.”

Amy listened, with the proper amounts of ooohing and aaaahing in all the right places.  As the story started to lag, I realized she had her laptop with her.  “What’s doing on the computer?”  I asked.

She opened it up.  “I wondered if we could maybe talk about this new website someone wants me to do.  I have so many ideas but I’m not sure how to make them happen.”

I nodded, eagerly, looking over at the screen.  It was beautiful; how did she create this amazing graphic?  I couldn’t do anything like it with the software I had.  “But I’m not sure how to work with this…what software do you have up right now?”

“Adobe Photoshop,” Amy answered.  “Are you familiar with it?”

I wasn’t.  But I would be.

Another Move?

“So…” R said, lifting his bottle of beer to his lips.  He looked in the direction of Zach’s bedroom to make sure that Z wasn’t still in the hallway.  We were sitting at the dinner table, the remnants of my latest experiment scattered about.  The windows were open; even in November, the weather was still in the 60s and warm.

“What is it?” I asked.  R hardly ever engaged in leisurely conversation after dinner these days; there was always something to attend to.  And frankly, I didn’t mind.  I ended up in bed most nights not long after I’d cleared the dinner dishes, sleeping twelve hours before I woke up, still tired.

“Well, my boss called me into his office today.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” I countered, filling the loaded pause.  I remembered R’s boss; he’d come over a few times after we’d moved in, and had us over for a barbecue in May.  I had walked around their house, completely intimidated.

“It depends, I guess, on how you look at it.  They are happy with the work I’m doing.  But to really be more effective in getting us into the Latin American market, they’d like us to be in closer proximity.”

I digested this for a moment.  “But wasn’t that the whole point of moving you here from Wisconsin? Everyone said you’d be able to do this all from here.”  We still hadn’t even unpacked all of the boxes; the guest room closet housed them, floor to ceiling.

“I guess they feel that the experiment isn’t working out as well as they’d hoped.”

I gulped.  “Experiment?  It would have been awfully nice to know this was an experiment before we uprooted our whole lives to come here.  I would have stayed back in Michigan if I had any inkling this was temporary.”  I could feel my emotions rising, fast.

“I agree.  I am a little pissed, frankly.  This is definitely not the way they framed this position when they offered it to me.”  The olive branch of solidarity lowered my blood pressure, slightly.  I put my hand on my belly and absent mindedly rubbed it.

“Well, spill it.  Where do you they want you to go?”  San Diego, maybe.  I hated the thought of being so far from family, but the weather and water might assauge all manner of ailments.  Arizona might not be terrible.  I remembered Tucson fondly, and it wasn’t that far from the border.

“El Paso, Texas.”  I could see R looking to me, sizing up my reaction.

“Oh no!” I said, a gut reaction.  “That’s even worse than here!”

I meant no offense to those who loved El Paso, but it seemed like everything I disliked about Oklahoma would be intensified there.  The heat; I’d hated the hot, dry summer.  The brown landscape that didn’t support anything green from mid June until October.  The fact that nothing grew locally, so produce had to be shipped in from places as far away as Colorado.  There were no cider mills for fall fun here; apple trees didn’t grow. The endless driving everywhere because nothing was close.  Even the politics of it; I was a moderate, but I felt completely alienated by the red state culture that lived and breathed around me.

I looked at R, carefully.  “When do they want us to go?”

He shrugged his shoulders, his expression flat.  “Before Christmas.”

I could feel my blood pressure rising again.  “That’s impossible!  We just got here, for heaven’s sake.  We haven’t even been here a year!  How am I supposed to tell Zach that he has to move, again.  To somewhere even farther from our families.  He’s finally made friends here.  And do you honestly mean to tell me that you want me moving at six months pregnant?  Really?  Does this make any sort of sense?”

R held up his hand.  “Calm down.  We don’t have to decide this tonight.”

I looked at him, puzzled.  “Decide?  Can we say no?”

He nodded, slowly.  “We could.  I don’t know exactly what they would do if we said no, but we could.”

I concentrated on breathing in and out.  I felt so helpless, so out of control.  My destiny, my life, none of it were in my hands.  I’d just gotten my Oklahoma teaching certificate, just learned which store was better for produce, the short cut down to my friend Amy’s that I hadn’t realized was there before.

“I don’t want to move again so soon,” I said quietly.  “I can’t even imagine us in El Paso.  I’d have to find a new doctor and hospital and…” I trailed off.

R nodded.  “It’s not ideal.  Let’s chew on it for a few days before I give them an answer.”

I got up from the table and started clearing the dishes, ending the conversation out loud, but with many, many voices floating around inside my head.

All of them were saying, “No.”

Names and Faces

“Are you ready?”  My doctor had come in the room once I was prepped for the ultrasound, to talk us through it while the tech performed the exam.  I thought this was a nice touch;  my previous OB in Michigan had never seemed so personally involved or invested in not just the health of his patients, but their well being as well.

“I’m ready,” I said, looking at R.  We had both agreed ahead of time that we definitely wanted to know the sex of the baby.

I was in my nineteenth week of pregnancy, and other than gaining extra weight, everything seemed to be going well.  I left the first trimester of nausea, aches, and general malaise behind to feel renewed vigor in my second trimester.  I was already well into my maternity clothes, having had to shop all over again for new ones.  I hadn’t kept many things from my first pregnancy, but the clothes had been off season anyway.  We were heading into the cooler months now as my belly grew; with Z, my biggest months had been the summer months.

R had been thrilled with the pregnancy, though he stopped short of wanting to feel the baby’s kicks, which were starting to become much more pronounced.  The whole idea of feeling the baby made him nervous, and he much preferred just looking at my growing belly from a safe distance.

Z was excited too, though definitely hoping we came out of this exam today with news of a brother on the way.  I wondered if it bothered him that he had just celebrated his tenth birthday with a sibling on the way; most of his friends either had older siblings or ones much closer in age.  I certainly felt like the only mother of a fifth grader at school with a bulging belly.  But overall, he took the news of the pregnancy in stride, an expected development of us all being together as a family.

The technician started the exam, and R and I couldn’t help but gaze at the murky images on the screen.  I could feel myself flashing back to my ultrasound exam back home, just ten months ago; seeing a small but recognizable baby on the screen and the line of questioning that followed, leaving us without a doubt that there was something very, very wrong.

But today was different.  The whole baby wouldn’t even fit on the screen today; the tech explained to us each part we were viewing, and took measurements.  Because things seemed to be going well, all of the comments were reassuring; “measuring right on track for nineteen weeks,”  “no abnormalities in the brain or spine,”.   Tiny black squares spat out of the front of the machine every so often, photos that the tech was allowing us to take home with us.   My doctor nodded and joked and laughed with us, his arms casually folded in a pose of ease and casual comfort.

“The moment of truth,” the tech finally said, holding the wand still.  “One last time:  do you want to know the sex of the baby?”

R and I both nodded, trying to figure out on our own the grainy mess on the screen, but having no luck.

The tech looked at our doctor, who delivered the news.  “You’re carrying a girl,” he said excitedly.  “A healthy, nineteen week girl.”

I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding my breath, but I exhaled then.  R took my hand.

“We will name her after my mother,” I said, not having even thought about names up until this very moment.  “Is that OK with you?” I quickly asked R.

“Let’s give her your mother’s name as her first name, and my mother’s name as her middle name,” R suggested.

The tech smiled.  “What a beautiful tribute,” she said.

I nodded, unable to speak.  I was having a girl.  A sweet, wonderful, baby girl.  I wiped the tears off of my face and wondered what she would be like.

Make It Happen

I was getting worried.

I had sent the email to Rick Springfield (I still felt a strange thrill to be able to do such a thing) over 24 hours ago with my proposal for a redesign of his official website.

Once Zach had gone back to school in mid August, and with no teaching prospects anywhere close by anyway, I’d decided to take it easy for the duration of my pregnancy and just be a stay at home mother.   It would give me time to really learn the craft of web design and put together a quality product for Rick.  He’d agreed that the limitations put on content for his site by the original design were great; he asked me to come up with some ideas for a redesign.

I spent the whole first full week of Zach’s school year locked in our tiny office, hardly even noticing the hours slip quietly by.  I’d break from the screen to eat, or go to the bathroom.  I ignored the phone unless it was R or the school.   I agonized over my lack of knowledge.  I bought Adobe’s Image Ready product to help me design buttons and graphics for the page.  I looked to the previous site for graphics to use, pulling the few photos out and reworking them into a totally new design.

When I finally had everything finished and all aspects that I wanted represented in the design, I uploaded all of the files into a secret folder on the website and sent Rick the link; no one else would be able to see it.  And I waited.  Hours went by; I knew from my work that Rick was not touring or taping anything for TV that day, so I wondered why I wasn’t receiving a response.  In the few months I’d been working for him, I noticed a pattern to Rick’s emails.  If he could answer a question quickly, he responded usually within an hour or two; he checked his email multiple times a day when at home.  But if he didn’t care for something, or the email contained a question that required more than a two second answer, or if he was afraid the person he was writing to wouldn’t like what he had to say, it took him longer.

When I got up the next morning and there still was no response to my “here it is!” query, I knew he hated it.

Shit.  Here I was on my first try out, and I’d blown it.  I was going to get fired before I even had a chance to step up to the plate.

I pulled up the redesign page and looked at it critically.  I tried to see it as Rick would, rather than myself.  If this were all about me, what would I change?  What would make me cringe?  What was more like my own tastes than his?

Immediately some ideas flew into my head, and before I knew it, Zachary was opening the door that afternoon; the whole day had gone by while I redesigned my redesign.  I got him started on his homework and finished the work, on a roll and now determined to prove that I was worthy of this position.  Just before R returned from work, I uploaded the new files and sent the new link to my favorite rock star.

Within an hour came the response:  “You nailed it.  Make it happen.   Love, RS.”

It made all of the hours of doubt and worry worth it.

Testing, Testing….

I was sitting in the cafeteria of the middle school in town, a number two pencil in my purse and a bottle of water in front of me.  I looked at the woman next to me, similar in age and possibly station and life, and smiled.

“So are you already a teacher?” she asked me, trying for a question that made clear she recognized the difference between me and the impossibly young college students that surrounded us.

“Yes,” I responded, laughing a little.  “I moved here from Michigan, so I’m trying to get my Oklahoma certificate in time for the start of school.”  I knew I was cutting it close; it was already July and school started here in mid August.  “You?”

“I taught preschool for a long time, but then finally decided to go back to school to get my degree.  I finished student teaching in the spring, but this is the first chance I had to get down here to take the test.”  I nodded, understanding.

“I wonder how long after you take the test it takes to get your certificate?”  I mused, already adding up the days in my head.

“Oh, if you have an active certificate in another state, and have done all of the testing here and everything, you can still apply for jobs.  Just tell them your Oklahoma certificate is pending,” she answered matter of factly.

I knew this, of course.  My original plan, when I had booked the test a month ago, was to do exactly that.  But now, with my new pregnancy hopefully growing every day in my belly, I wasn’t sure.  According to my new doctor, my baby was due in mid March.  I wondered how I would be able to manage teaching, knowing right from the starting gate that I was going to be out in March.  Six weeks from there took me to the end of April, and the schools here ended for the summer around May 20.  I just wasn’t sure what to do.

On the one hand, I wanted to teach.  I missed it terribly; not just the work but the feeling that I had an identity outside of the work of being a wife and a mother.  Even with the exciting new website work I was doing, there were still days when I was watching the clock far too often.   I enjoyed the extra time with Zach, taking him easily to his myriad of blossoming activities, but it still felt sort of like I was a kid playing hooky from what I was supposed to really be doing.

On the other hand, R and I had always said that when we started having more children that we planned on me staying at home for at least a year or two.  If that were the case here, how crazy would it be for me to go and get a job teaching only to leave it less than a year in?  I just wasn’t sure what the best course of action would be.

Still, I reasoned, there was no reason not to take the test and get the certification to teach here in Oklahoma.  It left all of my options open; if I wanted to teach, I’d be fine.  If something happened to the pregnancy, God forbid, I’d still be ready to work.  And if for some reason I decided to take it easy and stay home instead, then it wouldn’t be any big deal to not use the certificate.  It would be good for years; I could go back later.

“Thanks,” I responded to the woman next to me.  There was no time for more conversation; the proctor began to talk and give out our instructions for the test.  I gave her a sympathetic nod as we both busied ourselves with our pencils, each working towards our own new fate.

Over My Head

I was in way over my head.

I stared at the computer screen, dumbfounded.  It had taken me hours of painstaking sorting through the raw HTML code on Rick Springfield’s website to determine how to make updates on the beautiful, graphic based page.  Every website I’d ever worked with (which amounted to exactly one other) was a simple combination of images, written words and links to other websites or pages within the website.  I knew how to set up a background image for it all to lay upon, but that was about it.

I had purchased a new web design program, Adobe PageMill, to help me with the heavy lifting.  It was like a word processor, but for web pages, allowing you to click on icons to add different items to the page, rather than having to learn the raw HTML language that really built web pages.  It was similar, but had more capabilities, than the free Netscape Navigator program I’d been using for the last three years.  One advantage it had was a much easier way to view the raw code on a web page, which was sometimes just necessary to make changes that weren’t built into the program.

Which had been the case with Rick’s website.  The image that the site was created upon had certain segments of it that were clickable links.  This wasn’t obvious to the user at first (and one of the chief complaints I’d heard from fans), and so you had to move your arrow around the image until you found areas that would allow you to click.  This made for a very, simple, beautiful web page, but it also led to one that wasn’t exactly user friendly.  Many fans reported leaving the page thinking that there was no content there yet.  Ones that did figure out how to navigate the site still lamented that the clickable areas were not labeled, so each click was a mystery until you opened it.  I hadn’t wanted to rock the boat too much though; so I went about just updating the current design before broaching the idea of a redesign with Rick.

I had quickly figured out how to add tour dates to the set up on the tour page, and no updates were needed to the bio.  But the fans were craving more interactivity from the site, so I wanted to add a News section and a Message Board to the page.

I had the News page all designed, ready to be linked to the front of the site; this would allow fans a quick way to find out all of the latest information about Rick in one place; he was doing a lot of TV appearances this spring and summer; VH1 was taping a “Behind the Music” special on him, and they were coming to a show in August for footage.  Rick was doing guest spots on a sitcom called “Suddenly Susan” and an adventure show called “Martial Law”.  There were CD signings and new concerts and all sorts of things going on; the fans were clamoring for more information, all of the time.  New fans were coming to the site after visiting the shows, all of the time.  We needed more content.

In addition, I wanted to add a message board to the site.  The fan club had grown so much in the last three years that our AOL chats were hardly manageable with the room cap of 25.  There was already one internet mailing list devoted to Rick, and Vivian had talked about starting another one for the fan club.  It was clear the fans wanted to chat and talk about all of the shows and things Rick was up to.  They wanted to do it directly, not wait for me to post a review on the website.  A message board would address this need and allow fans to freely share.  I’d found a service that would host the board for us (since I had no clue how to set one up myself).  I had it all ready to go; I just needed to figure out how to link it to this graphic on the main page.

I had looked through every button and hadn’t figured out how to make just part of this huge image clickable.  There were no words on the image to highlight to use the normal internet hyperlink tool.  I had sifted through all of the code manually and I could see the HTML for the linkage, but couldn’t copy it because there were commands that referred to the location, in numerical format, of the area.  Each area linked corresponded to a specific part of the image, and having my new ones randomly placed wouldn’t make sense.  I was just about to pull my hair out when I accidentally clicked on the shape tool and it created a square in the middle of the graphic on my screen.  Below that, a window opened up asking for a website address.

Tentatively, I added the link to the news page I’d created and hit the preview mode to see if I’d actually created the link.  I crossed my fingers and watched as my arrow turned into the little hand that indicated an area was clickable on an image.  I jumped up from my chair and screamed “YES!”, causing Zach to come out from his room and look at me with a mixture of curiosity and embarrassment on his face.

I sat down quickly and excitedly drew another clickable area for the message board and uploaded my handiwork.   Maybe I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I would keep at it until I figured it all out.  No one would ever have to know how clueless I was when I started this whole endeavor.

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