Cutting to the Chase

After a marathon month of screening calls, technical challenges, and behavioral interviews, I received and accepted a job offer. I started at the beginning of September. I'm excited for the challenge. I have also, as a result, not had time to blog, as — true to the story of my software engineering career — I need to learn two programming languages and re-learn another. So I'm just dumping everything in my blogpost backlog into one post.

Has a Tomato Fest really happened if I don't blog about it?

We tried to go to the Tomato Fest's Friday night preview after daycare pickup, but the temperatures were sweltering. Stephen had had a company-wide "mental health day" and I had spent most of the day in final-round interviews. The two of us went to a late, kid-free lunch before daycare pickup; our original goal was just to zone out in a Five Points bar, as we haven't done that in years. The closest parking we could get was near the chain Mexican restaurant in what used to be MadDonna's, though, so that's where we ended up. Between that meal settling, the child vacillating between wanting to balance on every retaining wall on Woodland and not wanting to walk at all, and the dog panting in his jaunty tomato bandana and thick black husky fur, we just made the block and got back in the car.

I could feel the CC cream I'd worn for camera-readiness melting off. The kid, who adamantly did not want to walk in the blocked-off street, planted her feet firmly on the sidewalk in front of Fanny's House of Music and started shrieking between insisting that she did not want to go home — well, more accurately, "I DON' WANNA LEAVE THE FESTIBLE!"

As I told a young hairstylist last year, I can't tell people's ages anymore; people are either babies, the elderly, or roughly my age. But I do think the nearby stranger who said something like, "well, she's got some pipes," was roughly my age, give or take five years.

We came back in the morning for the parade, getting a great spot near the post office. The mom who posted up next to us on the curb worked in marketing at a large nonprofit; I know this because they were also giving away fans and she was encouraging people to get them so she didn't have to pack them up. We glanced at all the booths, grabbed the customary red balloon at East End UMC, saw a daycare friend doing the same, then made our way back to the car.


Over a decade ago, after the 2010 flood, I went through volunteer leader training with an area nonprofit that connects volunteers with other nonprofits. A volunteer leader in this case is basically a greeter and paperwork coordinator, with a little sweat mixed in. Most of the projects I picked up were around sorting perfectly good medical supplies with arbitrary expiration dates stamped on them to send to clinics in impoverished villages in the global south, but one time I "led" a tree-planting project. It ended not great. I mean, the tree planting itself went fine, but the partner organization's employee took off in his Jeep deeper into the park while I was trying to collect waivers from the minors fulfilling high school graduation requirements — you know, the whole CYA reason that they send a "volunteer leader" along on those projects. I hiked behind Mr. Jeep, finally caught up, dug some holes, helped plant some trees and signed off on the service learning and community service sheets when we were finished. Afterward, one of the college-age volunteers who had glommed onto Mr. Jeep wrote glowingly about the Jeep driver and gave me a super shitty review for "having no people skills" and not making him feel welcome enough.

The nonprofit's volunteer coordinator employee actually forwarded it to me. I balked and we ended up going to lunch, and we talked about how it went. Hopefully future tree-planting volunteer leaders had an easier time, but I didn't bother again. I stuck to sorting medical supplies with pre-med kids and nurses until I joined the Junior League. Until covid hit, I got my volunteering fix there and from coaching runners.

I hadn't thought of that incident in years until a few weeks ago.

I volunteered to "coach" my three-year-old's soccer team when nobody else did. At this age, the league does everything except stand on the sidelines during their short Saturday games, and how hard could that be?

The answer: REALLY HARD.

The first practice was canceled because of 100º weather, but they had a game in similar weather the following Saturday. Nothing is quite so humbling trying to keep three to four of six toddlers you just met on the field. Just thirty minutes of chaos. (At least this happened to the other team too.) My own child sank to the grass and sobbed because she wanted to play with her own soccer ball. I pulled a calf muscle sprinting after a kid. It was so hot that half the team just started spontaneously sitting out (so much for my anxiety about how to fairly rotate preschoolers). At the end the only kids on the field were the one slightly older superstar on our team and two of the kids on the other team.

When I limped back to the car with our suddenly perky toddler and two coolers, I realized the feeling in my chest was an echo of what I felt those years before about being told I have "no people skills." I have enough life experience to now realize it's more like "no-win situation." If I'd asserted myself with Mr. Jeep, my evaluation would have said the same thing. I'd have been called unfriendly and rude to the "nice" leader.

I emailed the league's director that night. He said he was coaching a same-age team this year and, according to him, they did the same thing.

The second game was easier. One of the dads was the "field coach," while I coordinated the bench. There was still crying, but always enough kids on the field. I remembered all the kids' names, even the twins.

Other things

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