31 October 2009

At Work...But Barely

Over on the Work it Mom! blog, Nataly’s recent entry with respect to parents receiving special treatment at work caught my eye. It wasn’t something that I’d thought about, even after having A. My office is a mere handful – 5 folks – and each of us has such unique family situations that flexibility and covering for one another is simply part and parcel of the job and always has been. I mean, sure, I end up taking more time to ferry our daughter to appointments now and that can mean leaving early or coming in late, but with only one non-parent in the shop, it’s just understood as a given during the earlier years of parenthood.

Before I was a parent, Special Needs for Parents was never even a blip on my Work Radar. I knew that other people left early, came in late or stayed home with sick children but I was never asked to cover for them simply because I was childless at the time. And let’s face it, all of us young ‘uns back then certainly took our fair share of time when we needed it for personal things too. If I ever covered for a parent to go and do parently things, it was probably because they approached me directly and I had nothing pressing going on so was more than happy to oblige, regardless of why it was they were asking me.

In thinking about it though, being a parent has changed the way I view work. If I’m going to work overtime, I’ll take my laptop home and I won’t work until after A is in bed for the night. I used to just stay late and think nothing of it. Up until my recent return to my old Air Force reserve Flight, I never stayed overnight on drill weekends unless I had to after becoming a mom (now, I have to so it’s a moot point I suppose…) but before that, I looked forward to the weekend getaway.

But the real area in which my becoming a parent changed is the frequency with which I will willingly travel or go “TDY” (temporary tour of duty). Last Friday, I got an e-mail at work from my reserve unit asking if I could take a short-notice school tour for a course I do need to eventually attend. By short-notice, they wanted me to leave that Sunday (mind, this was Friday, almost noon) to be gone for two weeks. I responded with a simple “Are you EXPLETIVE kidding me?!”

On the way home that day, I realized that if the same opportunity had presented itself before I had my daughter, I probably would have been packing my bags that night and down at the unit bright and early to finalize paperwork. My, how things had changed!

In 2003 alone, I was gone for at least a week out of almost every month to a conference or a course. In 2002, I was deployed but even after my return, I would spend a month in Georgia working at Higher Headquarters and then a month at my reserve base – rarely did I see the light of home.

It got so bad between late 2002 and 2003 that the TSA agent at the airline I used most frequently (a small terminal in a mid-sized airport) knew me by name and commented if he hadn’t seen me in more than a few weeks. We chatted a lot, he and I. He was a nice guy.

2004 saw a lot of travel as well, as did 2005 and 2006. But then, sometime in 2007, I got pregnant and my willingness to go places started to wane. Now, we’re coming to the close of 2009 and, in the last two years, I have only been on 3 business trips for work and zero TDYs for my reserve unit.

Next year is going to be different. I already know that I have two 7-day trips for exercises, one 2-week course, one 3-week overseas trip, two 5-day conferences and…oh, one 5-day course I’ll have to attend. That’s as of now. Who knows what’ll be coming my way after the new year? But I’m dreading being away for every last one of those trips, even the overseas one (to Europe again). It means I’ll be away from my family. I’ll be away from my daughter who will still be growing and constantly changing before our eyes.

I feel like I miss out on enough of the fun stuff as it is. Just yesterdaymorning, M called me at work to tell me that he was making pancakes and she was on her step-stool at the counter, “helping”. He turned his back to get something, heard her declare, “PLOP! Stir stir stir” and turned around to see that she’d thrown her giant Nemo-beanbag fish in the pancake bowl and had taken up the whisk and was stirring it in.

I’m a “little things” type of person. Those are the “little things” that make me want to spring out of bed each day to witness. I’ve missed a lot of them just by working full time and being absent for 3 consecutive days of the month, each month now. Of course, this is our choice and I am by no means whining – but it’s funny how the thought of missing a week or two or more worth of the little things isn’t as appealing after you have a child.

It’s what comes of introducing yourself to someone new in your life who takes precedence over everyone and everything you ever knew before. THAT is what being a mother has done to me. And I think that it’s payback too…

It’s payback for all of those times when we were sitting in a bar somewhere while I was TDY, listening to the guys moan about how much they were coming to hate the travel because they missed their kids so much – and spritely dumbass me would pipe up, “Hey! Just look at it like it’s a vacation away from being a parent!” Right. Lesson learned. Being a parent isn’t the chore I used to imagine it was. It’s a life changing thing that softens your heart and makes you actually miss people, no matter how short and small those people may be.

In the end, it really means more opportunity for others around me to travel now that I’m not hogging all of the good trips and, given my druthers, would never go anywhere away from home again (at least, not without my family in tow). Well, that’s how I justify not taking up my fair share of the trips these days anyway.
What about you? Do you still look forward to business trips or special events or would you rather be home with S/O and offspring? Has being a parent changed how you work?

29 October 2009

Teaching Our Daughters Gender Equality or Just Being Obstinate?

I love Mystery Memberships, don’t you? By that, I mean, I love it when I get e-mails welcoming me to organizations that I don’t recall joining…especially organizations that I wouldn’t join if I were asked to. Has this ever happened to you? Anyone? Bueller? No? Well, I’ll be.

It happened to me just this very morning. There it was, in my inbox, large as life…”Welcome, Phe! And thank you for joining She Serves – the connecting point for women of the VFW.” Um, huh? It’s true, I’m a member of the VFW. And it’s also true that I am a full-fledged member which means that the Veterans of Foreign Wars recognizes my service in a combat zone for a given period of time. But I don’t remember joining a sub-set of this organization exclusively for girls, no boys allowed.

I suspect that I know who might have signed me up for this – and if my suspicions are correct, I know that it was done with the best of intentions (I am, after all, my posts ONLY female member and have been for years), but you know what’s so often said about that road to hell and its paving stones…

So now, I have a dilemma. You see, I have a personal thing against all girls clubs, especially in the military. It stems from a lot of things, even some things that happened long before I ever enlisted. But there it is. It’s My Thing. For starters, I feel that the wearing o’ the uniform negates gender and that uniform wearers should be (and, in my world, are) judged on skill set and ability alone. Lord knows, the uniform wears me like a sack anyway no matter how fit or trim I may be (or not), so it’s not a stretch to say, “Is that a male or a female under all that gear?” Really though, who cares? I am here, with you, now. I’ve met and served alongside an equal number of men and women that have turned out to be useless – and another equal number of both that I wouldn’t trade for all of the tea in China. Er…if I drank Chinese Tea, anyway.

I have found that integrating into the unit and bringing my unique skill set has served me far better than integrating into the unit and bringing my ovaries, breasts and a large helping of grrrl-power ever could. In doing so, I have also learned that the issues that may affect me actually affect all of us – that I am not a Special Snowflake by virtue of simply being myself or a woman. Yet, She Serves promises to provide me with friendships forged out of the metals of issues that are unique to me as a woman, suffered uniquely by other women – and done in the comfort of an environment I’ll find nowhere else. Because I’m a woman.

Let me make this clear: My experience was unique because of the time (immediately post-9/11) and the place and the mission I served. Any issues I may have had have long since been resolved thanks, in large part, to the camaraderie of the men and women I served alongside and the men of my VFW post who, afterwards, welcomed me with open arms and gave me a safe place to be. Should I deploy in the future I have no doubt that experience will prove equally as unique and present me with a new, unique set of issues – or maybe not – brought about by the experience itself, not my womanhood.

As you may be able to tell by now, I have little love of any group of people who claim Special Snowflake status simply by virtue of a few shared squishy bits of anatomy - or anything else for that matter.

But…BUT…I respect what they’re doing. I know that I am a minority among women when I deride such things. I know that many women haven’t had the same positive experiences I have upon return from their operations – for a variety of reasons. For that reason, I hope that this “sisterhood” serves those women well and supports them to the fullest although I wonder what is so different about them and their experiences that they can’t go through with all of their comrades in arms, regardless of gender…those who shared the experiences with them.

Now, I wonder how my attitude towards such things will affect my daughter down the line, once she realizes what being a “she” actually means. I already know that she’s going to have a different view of life than most of her peers. For one thing, unlike her little baby friends, when she falls down and hurts herself, her first instinct is to run past me, crying for “Dada” to tell him, through her tears, that she went, “Plop!” (NOTE: “plop” is her all purpose word for, “oops, I fell, tee hee” – for those inconsequential, non-pain causing falls; “I fell and it hurts!” - for the falls that cause pain; and of course, “Toss me on the pillows again it’ssomuchfun!!!”) I’ve noticed that most of the kids we know around her age tend to steer themselves towards their moms when they want comfort but usually, even if I get to her first, she’ll squirm away from me to go to her father.

There’s one gender role re-defined right off the bat. Dad is the primary care giver and therefore, the primary source of comfort.

Not being well versed myself in the need or desire for strictly female companionship, I wouldn’t even know how to begin explaining this Sisterhood concept to her or why I don’t like it on a personal level. My friends have been an equal mix of male and female over the years, friends because of the character and quality they embody. I’ve never done the “girls night out” thing and even shopping trips end up being mixed gender affairs.

I won’t say that I’ve never felt discriminated against because of my gender, but as someone whose life motto has been, “Walk softly and carry an H&K MP5 (Silenced)”, I’ve found that those who are naysayers of me, by virtue of my reproductive system, tend to be in the minority and, once they see what it is I can actually do, it’s simply not an issue. If it continues to be for them, they end of being of little to no consequence in my life and have yet to hold me back. Gnats that can be brushed aside.

These thoughts of mine are contrary to a great deal of what my fellow females of similar age and station believe and what our daughter is probably going to learn outside the home. I trust (read: hope against hope) that somehow, we’ll do well enough by her in the end to do what my parents managed to do (without apparently trying - gender was never even discussed as being a hindrance or something special) – raise a confident woman who only ever realized that she was supposed to be a Special Snowflake because of her gender when she left the home and was so informed by Outside Influences. I credit the strong maternal and matriarchal influences in my family for that.

In the meantime, I think I’ll just continue to resolve issues that are unique to myself, as a veteran, with all of the veterans who have shared experiences with me, regardless of how they look or whether or not they have a Tab A or a Slot B in their pants. If you were there with me, you know that didn’t matter then. Why should it suddenly matter now?

I suppose the other message I would hope our daughter eventually leaves home with is this: Don’t bloody well sign someone up for something without asking them how they feel about it beforehand. It’ll save someone a lot of trouble later when they try to tactfully explain that, eh heh, see, they don’t really want to be part of this and sorry, it’s just not their thing, er…erm…butgoodluckwithit, OK?

Rest assured, the next time I’m down at the post, someone’s getting the pleasure of having a nice little Sergeantly chat with me on that very subject.

What about you? Do you think that your gender has a prominent and direct impact on your experiences? Are you more comfortable in a same-gender setting? How do you talk about gender issues to your young kids?

27 October 2009

What Happens When Your Relief Calls in Sick?

In my husband's case, this means that technically, his "relief" shift is actually at home, lying on the couch, lost under a drift of used tissues and discarded Benadryl blister packs. The only clue to the Second Shift's true whereabouts has been a sticky, red trail of dried Target Brand NyQuil (in red death flavor) leading to a wheezing lump.

I feel badly about this. Truly I do. I am one of nature's slow healers. A simple cut can take over a month to heal. A mild cold turns in to a raging infection when it meets my immune system and then takes weeks to depart the host body after ravaging it most violently and leaving it for dead.

In this case, I am aware that I should not be able to map my sinus cavities simply by virtue of feeling them trying to burst forth from my face...but I can. To pass the time earlier, I even tried to practice cartography in this fashion but got lost once we reached the alimentary canal.

So, for two days now, I've been up and down (mostly down). When I've been awake, I've had my nose buried in a book or found myself squinting at the interwebz, trying to sort out where to take this...this...this. This, this. Yes. That's it.

What I have not been doing is being a very interactive mommy. Oh, I've changed a diaper here and there, read a book (today that's out as I can't actually speak above a whisper now) or two, snuggled for Tigger and Pooh time and managed to help out with a few meals...

But I know that M isn't feeling well either. And I feel even worse for it. It's bad enough that he's the Day Shift and, too often, the Evening Shift as well, especially if A isn't interested in watching or helping me get dinner together...now he has to do it all around me, knowing I'll be as much help as a wilted toadstool on a damp morning.

It's funny...the Mom-o-Sphere has been abuzz lately with the rekindling of the Mommy Wars, no thanks to Dr. Phil (I'm not providing links it's just too stupid...), but as I watch M herd our daughter to her toddler story time at the library, kick the ball around outside on a cold, cloudy day and as I hear him tell her to leave Mommy alone, she's sleeping (through my drug induced fog), I am reminded of two things:

1. I couldn't pay this man a high enough salary if I had access to unlimited riches.

2. If I have to will myself into recovering faster, I have to. It's just silly to be a snot-nosed, wheezy lump when clearly, extra help and hands is what's really needed around the house.

What about you? How do you deal with kids when one or both parents are sick?

Bye Bye Baby Einstein, Hello Real World

In late August of this year, I packed up my laptop, hugged my co-workers good bye and said, "Hopefully this will be over soon." My husband had been recalled from Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and had been ordered, on somewhat short notice, to report to Fort Knox, KY.

This was the first time he'd be gone from home and it was going to be momentous. Our daughter would be with me all day instead of her father. I was going to have to sort out the best way to keep her routine, one she was and still is firmly attuned to; to work from home while simultaneously keeping both eyes firmly planted on her the entire time (at 16 months and running, her main mission in life was to find new and interesting ways to attempt to end her life and give us both as many heart attacks as was possible in one day without actually ending our own as well); and to try desperately to find affordable daycare if my husband's appeal to be released was denied.

As the leading opponent to TV for toddlers in our household, day 1 found us both in a funk. Daddy was gone. The house felt empty and, for the first time, not at all home-like. Both toddler and I went through the motions and even sort of chatted a little bit, but in the end, we spent the day watching TV and waiting for a phone call.

Oh, we had a walk and lunch and some outside time before the temperature got too frightfully hot...

But mostly, we just watched TV. When, for some reason, PBS and PBS Sprout channels both started repeating themselves in the afternoon, I went searching for the Baby Einstein DVD we'd been given as a gift when she was born. I found it in the study, collecting dust. I had cringed when we received it, I remember that. To me, these things were worse than "normal" kids television...they were actually trying to market genius in babies. I was smug about that, I will admit it. No gullible yuppies were we! With spending money at a premium in this household, we were both wise and frugal enough to know that the best way to turn a baby into a genius was hands-on teaching and interaction, o ho! But, never look a gift DVD in the...well...

My husband had previewed the video some time before and I recalled him telling me that it was the most mind-numbingly boring thing he had ever seen. Of course, he wasn't a baby, so that review probably wasn't the most reliable in the history of children's educational programming reviews, but I also remembered him saying that he would only ever show it to a child if he wanted to be accused of torture, it was just that bad. Similarly, I have banned Blues Clues from the house for the same basic reason.

But it was enough to make me put the DVD back where I'd found it. It was serving the household well as a collector of dust. Being too hot to play outside, daughter and I wandered in to her room instead and threw styrofoam blocks at each other .

Flash forward to now. That DVD only just now saw the light of day after our move a month ago when it was packed from it's dust collecting location into a drawer and I purposefully hunted it down and took it out. There's a note on it: Return to Store.

Over on Yahoo! Shine, I learned that Disney is offering refunds for all of the suckers...er...well meaning parents who really believed that plopping a child in front of a television watching a video specially designed to numb the brains of parents everywhere but "stimulate" infants was, indeed, to parenting what snake oil is to cancer, flux, indigestion, disease of the liver and any other ailments you can think of. Nothing more than a placebo that, in too many cases, actually caused a malady rather than cured anything.

I'm not sure, though, how this is so "stunning" to parents. The only thing that's stunned me about the refund is the fact that Disney is actually offering refunds at all. Sure, this will probably save them money in the long run (is it this or suffer a class action lawsuit?), but it's practically an admission of guilt - it's almost saying, "Yeah, we suckered you. And now your kid has attention span issues because we suckered you so here's your 25 bucks back, OK? That should cover the next bottle of Rittalin, right?"

The debate over childhood TV viewing and attention span disorders will forever rage long after this has subsided and parents will still draw their lines in the sand, prepared to label one another as Very Bad Parents for allowing/disallowing TV in the household at or under or around certain ages, or even at all!

But on that sad August day when neither of us wanted to do much of anything and both of us missed Daddy/Dear Husband and couldn't quite articulate our feelings to one another, Sesame Street and Curious George helped distract us just that little bit...and somehow, brought us closer together too. We snuggled a lot that day - and our decidedly independent hellion is not a big snuggler so that was something extra special to hold on to.

As for Baby Einstein's "Numbers Nursery: Discovering 1 Through 5" video, the cash I get back will definitely come in handy during the next diaper run. Or maybe to purchase another couple of sets of feetsey pajamas as we settle in for the winter to come.

At 18 months now, she already counts to 3 as it is...and that's just from a lot of silly songs with Mommy and Daddy and counting of fingers and toes. There really is no substitute for the Real McCoy - interacting with your kid and maybe even teaching them to count while you cook instead of hoping a video does it for you.

26 October 2009

Stay at Home Parenting - Since When is it Only for the Wealthy?

Earlier this year on the Work it Mom Blog, Nataly wrote a post on nannies at kids birthday parties. This generated a really interesting (read: somewhat ire inducing) comment thread and one theme that seemed to run subtly throughout was that parents who could "afford" to keep their kids home, out of daycare, were automatically relegated to a class of people who could "obviously" afford nannies or au pairs.

Reading through some of the comments, I could only scratch my head and say, "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. Over?"

We live in one of the more expensive cities in the country - Boston, MA. Granted, it's not as bad as NYC or San Francisco, but I've also lived in many other parts of this nation and it is right up there in terms of outrageous cost of living. That being said, as I've noted here before, my husband is a stay at home parent to our almost 14 month old child. But that doesn't mean we're wealthy. Rather, quite the opposite.

I suppose that on top of the title of "Working Mother", I also carry the honor of being a "Breadwinner Mom" (whoop dee doo?). That was never more apparent when, before Amelie came along, we sat down to figure out what our child care options were going to be after my maternity leave came to an end.

My husband worked as a mechanic and I work as an Emergency Manager for the Department of Defense. Neither of these job titles hold huge dollar signs behind them, believe me. Because that is the case, I also moonlight as a military reservist and a bartender at our VFW which makes a big difference - although admittedly, I had been performing all jobs long before my husband came into my life...and

No, the truth of the matter is that we're very, very lucky. Our condo is a 3 bedroom, 1000 square foot dream in a triple decker owned by a longtime friend - so we definitely don't pay anywhere near market value for it. We only own one car and we bought that from our best friend at a seriously reduced price after our old car blew a transmission (4 months after I finally paid it off). While I make too much to qualify for any form of assistance from anyone, anywhere in the universe, I did manage to sob story may way onto fixed price option utility plans. I have access to a military Commissary which means that even though I do spend 200 dollars every two weeks on food (so it seems), I still get 3x the amount that I could on the civilian market. Our furniture is a mix of rent-to-own, used and IKEA brand. My wardrobe, thankfully, will never go out of style unless women stop wearing jeans and t-shirts.

So that's how we do it...but why did we do it? Because the only daycares that we found in our area, with the schedules we needed, were astronomically high in price. My husband's entire paycheck and a little of my own would have gone to her care each week. We decided that working solely to provide daycare was pointless. Yes, it's meant a lot of sacrifice in terms of how we live, but I don't think that our daughter will ever know it. There's always food on her plate, clothes on her back and (too many) toys for her amusement. She has a bookcase brimming with books, enough stuffed animals to lose herself in (a favored pasttime, actually) and something to occupy her time, with or without our help.

To do this, it means we don't often go out. We have one night a month set aside for ourselves and we usually just go to our VFW where the entertainment is free, the drinks are dirt cheap and the friends are pletniful. To do this, it means I make my own lunches 5 days a week and rarely buy my coffee out anymore. To do this, we wear our own clothes and shoes until they simply can't be worn any longer. To do this, we rarely buy The Little Things - a book, a game, a trinket or bauble - that we might have not thought twice about in the past.

We're often down to our last before I get paid again, but that's OK. We have shelter, good food, lights, warmth, little perks like cable and yes, the internetz, phone and car. We use the subway as often as possible and limit our family outings to mostly free events and places (the beach, the parks, meandering, aimless rambles throughout the city).

It can be done without any measure of wealth. It's a matter of personal choices and for us, a lot of luck and goodwill from friends. We decided that we just don't NEED certain things and those things aren't missed. But does this mean we're well off enough to afford a nanny or to host an au pair? The idea makes me laugh. We've neither the income nor the space to do either (yes, we did research those options) and the implication that the ability to stay home equates to the ability to have this sort of child care is preposterous.

So, how's it working thus far? Well, Most days, M dreads the prospect of enrolling her in school and returning to work. That day is still a long way off, but he's accustomed to their routine and though he'll tell anyone who listens that he has the most demanding boss in the world, an observation that is pretty close to truth, he also admits to not wanting to trade this job in for anything else. Sure, sometimes the arrangement feels a little foreign to us - people seem to think that, by and large, we're an anomaly (not true!) and apparently, rich (lollerskates), but that's OK. Everyone's situation is different. Ours is no exception.

A Reflection on War

On September 11, 2001, I evacuated Boston in what could arguably be called the most civil, flowing crush of rush hour traffic ever. Never before had I gotten home so quickly in such a body of vehicles. Everyone, including myself, seemed inclined to drive like a normal human being and yield to others. To this day, I think that's because everyone, including myself, was completely shell shocked that they were actually evacuating a city because of the devastating attacks on NYC and the Pentagon.

When I got home to Medford, a 5 mile drive that used to take in order of 1.5 - 2 hours to make each day, I started packing my military bags and gear. Throughout the day, during intermittent periods of telephonic stability, my unit had been calling me at work to tell me to be ready to move to NYC for search and rescue efforts.

As an Emergency Manager for the Air Force and then, for the Air Force Reserves, that is one of the many, many "hats" we are trained to wear. Search and rescue. Oversight and getting our hands dirty.

While I packed and watched the images of people leaping to their deaths from the Twin Towers, I wondered how a beautiful, early autumn day had gone so horribly wrong. I tossed my bag in my car and retired to my back porch with a coffee, a pack of cigarettes and my phone. Waiting.

And then, inexplicably, I broke down and sobbed. I couldn't do it. I could not go to that site and start digging out scores of dead civilians. Dead military? Painful but do-able. There's a certain understanding (for most) that when one signs the proverbial dotted line, one is signing up for some inherent risk. But those civilians had done what I did that morning - kissed loved ones good-bye (or worse, rushed out thinking that it would just be another day), sat outside and enjoyed a coffee before heading in, checked e-mail, chatted and caught up with office gossip...all of those things that come with being an office worker, a civilian, a person who does not normally think of their cube farm as being a potential high threat area.

And now they were dead. They died a horrible death, many of them choosing to jump to their deaths rather than face the flames.

I just. Couldn't. Do it.

I didn't have to. I was in the first wave to head overseas and to this day, I'm grateful to have faced war than to have faced so much carnage in one place. Yes, there are those who will argue against it and feel free to rant and rave, but...I know of which I speak and thus far, little has been said or done to change that.

Flash forward to now and a night not too long ago...I was cleaning around the house and for some reason, I thought of that night, of crying on that porch, alone and hearing the eerie silence punctuated only by the occasional scream of an F-16 patrolling the skies. I was 26. Engaged, no children desired.

I am now 34. Divorced, re-married and with one child. I was thinking of a pending possible deployment late this fall or early next year, of my daughter and my husband and how much life had changed so unexpectedly.

What gave me real pause though was this: My 10-year old pen pal when I was deployed the first time, a student from somewhere in Texas who reached out with a care package and a "Dear Soldier, thank you.." letter is now old enough to be one of my subordinates. I wondered if he was going through basic training now (he really, really wanted to be a soldier back then) or had graduated from it and was heading to his first unit...or if he changed his mind somewhere along the way.

Of that entire 4th grade class, how many of them will I encounter in future deployments? "You wrote to me when you were a child, and now you serve under me." If that isn't enough to make one feel old...and war weary...

So I took it a step further and pictured my sweet smelling, silly little girl enlisting to carry on a tradition of fighting that started with her father in Gulf 1, is carried on by her mother in Gulf 2 and wondered, perversely, if she'd like Iran. Then realized that she, too, has every likelihood of serving alongside me should she choose that route. After all, by the time she's 18, I'll still be almost 10 years away from high-year tenure in the service and, barring any unforseen events (like an IED), I'll probably still be in uniform.

And we'll still be in the same war. Only, the way things are going, bigger. And I'll probably be on a first-name basis with Afghani farmers at that point. "Oh! Sergeant! So good to see you here again!" "Good to see you too, Mr. Al Khali. How's the wife? The kids? Seen any Taliban lately?" < / cynicsm>

And THAT thought made me sit down and put my head in my hands for a while. A long while.