A Tough Week

Tuesday night, my heart broke as I watched Donald Trump become president-elect. The only time I have felt this type of grief–the full-body, pressure-cooker kind of grief–is when someone in my life has passed away.

My heart broke first for Hillary Clinton, who spent the last two years doing all of the things women are supposed to do to ensure they don’t come off as bitchy, threatening, or emotional. Who has been dealt insult after insult, accusation after accusation, and gotten back up.

Then my heart broke for me. My heart broke for me because 60 million Americans seem to think I am worth less than a man, that I may be treated like an object, and that I should not be allowed to make choices for myself and my family.

Then my heart broke for all women around me who are trying to reassure themselves that Trump’s win isn’t sexism–it’s just the way the cookie crumbled–even though it doesn’t feel that way.

Then my heart broke for all the like-minded parents around me who have been struggling to explain to their children why someone who does all of the things they’re taught not to (bully, name-call, attack, abuse) has been supported by 60 million Americans.

Then my heart broke for my black friends, my gay or transgender friends, my Muslim friends, my latino friends, and my disabled friends. It broke for my friends and their families who, over the past week, have been screamed at to “Go back to Mexico!” or told that “Trump is going to punish you!”

Then my heart broke for anyone who falls into more than one of these categories. I fall into only one and the pressure I feel wrapping around and squeezing my heart is unbearable; I cannot imagine the emotional burden of others.

And then my heart broke for everyone, because I just can’t see a way the country will heal from this. Too many of us feel too deeply wounded. The next decade, maybe longer, is going to be incredibly rough.

 

I hope Trump is a great president. I hope that he tempers his rhetoric and policies the way his supporters said he would, that his economic policies don’t pan out how they’re projected to, and that he can successfully empower the working class. I truly, deeply hope for all of these things.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Happy birthday to me! 🎁

Yesterday was my birthday and, coincidentally, the first birthday of this blog. I wish I had something profound or particularly thought-provoking to share about blogging–how it changed me to helped me refine my writing skills or drew me closer into a new community– but I don’t. I wrote some things; some of them were good, some of them were pointless, but all of them were written. 👌🏻

Although it wasn’t the most exciting birthday I’ve had, yesterday was perhaps the best birthday. With a new puppy and plenty on my plate at work and in life, I simply didn’t have the energy to celebrate (although next year is going to be a good one–drunk spelling bee, anyone?). I sat around at a friend’s house watching her play The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword while I ate fried chicken and delicious homemade mac and cheese. It was quiet, it was calm, and it was perfect.

Thanks for all the good birthday wishes, friends. I’m excited to share the next year with you. ❤️

ps– Hooray! The dog is taking a nap on the floor. I am going to enjoy a four minute nap on the couch while I can. 💤

I lied.

We got a dog. His name is Brodie and he is the cutest muppet I have ever seen.

cute-goldendoodle-puppy

Brodie loves chewin’ on towels, feet smell, and a nice thick rope toy.

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He’s currently asleep on top of The Man on the couch, which I’m sure will last a whole ten minutes before it’s playtime again.

cute-goldendoodle-puppy3

 

Holes in my house…but not for long!

Who’s got two thumbs and is on a roll with this homeownership business? The Man does.

After demolition of our guest bathroom, the Man decided to continue the home improvements. Commit 110%. All-in. Rip it all off like a band-aid. Currently, this looks like many small demolition sites in various rooms of the house but starting next week, this will begin to look like completed projects. For now, here are pictures of the current state of affairs.

When we bought the house, our hallway ceiling was covered in a sort of patterned tile. It was ugly and made the hallway feel oddly short, so The Man ripped all of that business right off. I like to think that the staples left behind are just freckles for the ceiling.

houseredo-1

(There’s also a moderately-sized hole in our hallway ceiling, but I’m too scared to walk or stand under it to get a good picture. I am just paranoid enough that some terrifying mutant creature will drop out of the ceiling and land on my face to avoid the spot as much as possible.)

The bathroom still looks like this, and is probably going to be the last project that is tackled. We had a plumber repair the broken pipes, but there’s still some gut work to do before we can replace walls and begin tiling.

loo-panorama

And this is the hole where our kitchen sink once was. We’re repairing some of the adjacent cabinetry and re-sealing the countertop, so for the time being I’m enjoying eating things that I didn’t have to cook.

houseredo-2

More updates coming as projects are completed!

We no longer play “What’s that smell?”

In lieu of your regularly-scheduled Sunday Funday post, I’d like to share a brief update on the house. We’ve been working fairly steadily on the small projects around the house, but one project in particular is a doozy: the guest bathroom.

A few months ago we started noticing a distinctly funky smell loitering in the house, which we originally attributed to the kitchen. The Man dismantled and cleaned the sink, dishwasher, and garbage disposal. The smell remained.

We moved on to hypothesis two: backed up sewage in the bathroom pipes. The Man climbed onto the roof and sprayed water down each of the three vents connected to our bathroom pipes; I confirmed that water was flowing through them by looking into the clean-out pipe (stinky), and we deduced that no clogs were present. The mystery remained…until we walked back into the house. A small puddle of water had accumulated at the base of a wall shared by our living room and guest bathroom. So, armed with what was essentially a hand-held jackhammer, The Man ripped apart our guest bathroom. Here’s a panorama of what we had left:

loo-panorama

All pipes exposed, we ran the vent test again. I climbed up onto the roof with a hose while The Man stood in the bathroom to visually look for leaks. Shortly after I stuck the hose down the vent, I heard him scream “TURN IT OFF! OH GOD, TURN IT OFF!!”

A low point in an S-bend had entirely rusted out, with a hole the size of a quarter letting water gush through. Water had been leaking from the pipe and pooling in the wall throughout El Niño season and every time the guest bathroom was used. As my friend Katy says: some days are just Poopsmith days.

These surprises are inevitable when you move into an older home, or so we’re telling ourselves. Plumber comes next week to repair, and then we’re on to the cosmetic re-do! Wheeee!

I love my new job for stupid reasons

Starting a new job is a combination of roller-coaster terrifying and I’m-so-proud-let’s-put-it-on-the-fridge fulfilling. I’m enjoying the process a lot, shoving old info out of my brain and cramming in as much new stuff as possible, and there are a few everyday delights that get me past the creeping doubt of “Oh, god, what if I muck it all up?”

  • Working for the software department of a tech company means I am one of the few women in the office. As such, I enjoy virtually guaranteed private pee trips. Every bio-break is a three minute personal meditation opportunity in the most peaceful, deserted part of the office. I can feel my chakras aligning as soon as I walk in the bathroom and see every stall is unoccupied.
  • I walk around wearing a spine-friendly backpack complete with chest buckles and padded shoulder straps and none of my co-workers can judge me because they’re also walking around wearing spine-friendly backpacks complete with chest buckles and padded shoulder straps. Neeeeeerds!
  • There is an abundance of teaspoons available in the kitchen. My last office experienced a severe lack of teaspoons and it drove me crazy. Who wants to use a giant table spoon for stirring their tea?
  • My office mates don’t know how much I swear yet so they think I’m a dignified, lady-like human being. Poor bastards.

8 reasons I’m glad we bought a house

  1. I didn’t know what to do with my weekends anyway. Why relax when I could instead obsess over all the things that could be someday if I only had infinite resources? This sounds incredibly ungrateful, but I’m going to say it anyway: the burden of possibility is crushing my soul.
  2. Furnishing and decorating a house is a daunting task that reminds me how little taste I have. Thankfully, it’s my damn house so I can fill it with whatever I want even if it looks like shit! 😀
  3. When I break things, it is now my problem. Or, more accurately, The Man’s problem. Thankfully, he is gracious partner who possesses much more patience than I do. And I’m learning so many new things, like how to patch drywall and install crown moulding which I will never do again ever because it is the worst thing ever.
  4. If I don’t have paint in my hair, what am I? My tape lines are so crisp and clean that you might as well start calling me Piet Mondrian.
  5. The Man and I are learning to communicate in new ways. When you upgrade from a one bedroom apartment to a house proper, you have to upgrade your communication style as well. In this case, that simply means shouting at each other from the other side of the house.
    “Hey, baby, can you something-something-muffled-something?”

    “Whaaaat? I can’t hear you.”
    “CAN YOU SOMETHING-SOMETHING-STILL MUFFLED-SOMETHING-SOMETHING?” 
  6. I now have to mow a yard. But we purchased a reel mower which sounds like a spaceship when you push it around. So there’s that.
  7. “Where is that smell coming from?” is a game we play now. It is not a fun game. No one wins.
  8. I’ve restructured how I think. Maybe it’s because I constantly feel overwhelmed, but I’ve learned to think “What can I do to make me feel more comfortable right now?” Although the approach does not often yield a permanent and polished solution, it does yield a great deal of peace of mind. I’ll take it.

Where Feminism Has Failed Me

I had coffee with a friend, who we’ll call Kira, recently. Kira is a whip-smart mom of two who has been married to her husband for something like five years now. Kira, like me, is proudly feminist. (Yes, I’ve just said the f-word on the internet. Yes, I do feel a little bit like I’ve said Voldemort instead of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and am willing a malevolent spirit upon me.)

Over the course of catching up with each other, we started talking about the roles we play in our relationships and how we do or do not like them. Kira and I both agreed that we naturally assume a caretaker role in our relationships– making sure our homes are clean, our families are well fed, and all parties involved are tucked in at night– because it is the best way we know how to express affection for our families. It gives us the warm-fuzzies to know that our loved ones are taken care of. We can relax when we know they’re relaxed.

We also both discovered this urge to express affection sometimes makes us feel really, really bad about ourselves.

Kira and I explored this further and came to the same conclusion: as women who like to think of themselves as proud, strong, self-sufficient, and feminist, we feel guilty when we look around at our romantic relationships and marvel at how much we put other people before ourselves. We feel like we’re failing at being the strong women we want to be. We feel like we’re failing to set a good example for our children. We feel like we’re failing other strong women in our lives because damn they’re so strong and independent and fierce and we don’t feel that way. We feel like we’re neglecting ourselves. We feel like we’re getting taken advantage of because we see the same loved ones that we’re taking care of live out their lives with less worry and stress (thanks to the time, energy, and thought we put into taking care of them), then look up and go “What about all the things I wanted to do? What about me?”

THE DANGER IN DICHOTOMY

I’m assuming (reasonably, I think) that other women who identify as caretakers or proud, strong women feel similarly. That they, too, de-prioritize themselves when they enter into a committed romantic relationship because their focus shifts from me to us, then realize what they did a few months later and react abruptly as they try to bring their focus back to me. What was once a system of us in the relationship becomes a system of you versus me, especially in times of simple disagreement or miscommunication.

This approach to relationships is not healthy for women. (I say it’s not healthy for women because I am a woman and so the lens through which I view the world will forever be the lens of a woman, but really it’s not healthy for people.) But, since we’re so swept up in getting to know and love our partners, we either ignore or are completely oblivious to the need to express the “What about me?” lurking in the back of our minds.

And then when we do realize the “What about me?”…we feel guilty about feeling guilty. If we truly loved the people around us, shouldn’t we be at peace with giving up a part of ourselves in support of others? If we truly loved the people around us, shouldn’t we be at peace with not feeling like a “good” feminist?

EDUCATION OF COMPROMISE

The Man and I recently had a discussion about our future– financial planning now for future expenses like marriage and family and retirement. Our financial assets have not been consolidated; my money and debts are mine, his money and debts are his although we both contribute equal amounts to our mutual expenses on a monthly basis.

So, when The Man started talking about my money–even in the abstract–I lost it. I lost it because I am tremendously proud of how much I have my finances in order and because that the “What about me?” lurking in the back of my brain exploded on the surface.

How dare someone, especially my male romantic partner, stick their nose in my business? I’m not accountable to anyone, much less him. I spend time and energy taking care of him. I can do whatever I damn well please with my own resources. 

Do you see what the problem is here? The problem is not that I want to look out for myself. The problem is that my first reaction as a partner human being should not be to want to open my mouth and say “Well, that’s none of your fucking business!” Lashing out defensively does no good in almost every imaginable scenario. No; my first reaction as a human being should be to take a deep damn breath and think about why I’m feeling what I’m feeling.

(Thankfully, I didn’t express my feelings as bluntly as I thought them. What I did do–sit in silence as I stewed on my feelings, then begin to get defensive at a normal noise level, then have a complete mental breakdown over feeling guilty and feeling guilty about feeling guilty–wasn’t a very productive alternative, though.)

And I will fault feminism for my inability to start a reaction with a deep breath because feminism is so easy to turn into a black-versus-white, us-versus-them framework. I will fault feminism for being so easy to misconstrue, consciously or unconsciously, into a framework with only two sides because anything that drives a wedge between two sides can do a tremendous amount of harm to both.

What I need, and what I think we all need, is an education of compromise. This doesn’t mean accepting that you’re going to have to sacrifice part of yourself when you form close relationships with others. This means accepting the need to compromise with others by clearly and consciously reassessing our limits on when we are or are not okay with compromising with ourselves.

I could have spared myself the emotional rollercoaster if I hadn’t been pushing the “What about me?” part of myself further and further back into my brain. If we can recognize the “What about me?” part and give it the attention it clearly needs, we cut ourselves some much deserved and necessary slack.

OK, brain. You’re following the path of most resistance and it’s not making you feel good about yourself. Let’s get back on track. Let’s figure out where we are and find the right, most sustainable path. Let’s learn how we’re going to compromise internally before we’re asked to compromise externally.

You can do it.

I Didn’t Win $929 Million

I didn’t win the Powerball. I know, surprise surprise. Logically I understood that wasn’t going to happen, but I was still emotionally optimistic. So, my sweet million-dollar plan has crumbled. Goodbye fantastic luxurious life of my dreams. Goodbye buying wine by the bottle instead of the glass at a restaurant. Goodbye laughing at the peasants in business class on airplanes. Goodbye paying someone to mow the lawn. It was nice to entertain the thought of you for a few days.

Still, thinking about what I’d do if I had seemingly limitless resources gave me a chance to think about things that matter to me. What you’d do with your life if you didn’t have to worry about money is probably what you should spend your life doing regardless of how much wealth you have. So, here’s my adjusted life plan:

  1. Pay off my student loan debt. So maybe I won’t get to write one check and never think about this again. There’s no reason that I can’t tighten my belt on other expenses in order to pay off my loans in five years instead of fifteen.
  2. Hire a wealth management advisor. I don’t have enough “wealth” to require an advisor, but I can continue to manage my money, budgets, and future planning with YNAB.
  3. Do something really nice for my parents. I not only returned their tupperware, I returned their tupperware with the right lids. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
  4. Donate a bunch of money to causes close to my heart. Just because I don’t have bunches of money doesn’t mean I can’t give back! I’m happy to give even twenty bucks a year to Cottey College and continue to recruit new students at local college nights.
  5. Eat everything tasty in the world. Austin is a big tech city that’s growing steadily, which means new people are moving to the city every day and bringing their food culture with them. Want authentic ramen, sushi, or dim sum? Austin’s got it. Want a mean burger, brisket, or top-quality steak? Austin’s got it. Want the tastiest tapas, curries, or wat? Austin’s got it.
  6. Ride the hell out of some amazing trains. While the US doesn’t have much in the way of an cross-country train system, Amtrak does offer some stunning routes up the west coast at reasonable prices. Could be a great way to spend two weeks!
  7. Do all the fun, expensive stuff at Disney World. I’m goin’ to the Food and Wine festival in the fall anyway! Who’s with me?
  8. Purchase a vacation home in Iceland. I can certainly begin planning and saving for my next vacation. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Iceland a few times and have enjoyed riding ponies through the alien landscape and marveling at the Northern Lights, but there are a few things left on my bucket list: exploring ice caves, SCUBA diving the Silfra fissure, and driving the ring road through the northernmost part of the island.

6 things I learned from our first house

My life is still fully consumed with housework. I’m continuing to drag sawdust through the house, we still don’t have a kitchen table, and the yard has been neglected since we moved in. It’s becoming a jungle out there!

As I sit around coming up with new ways to desperately avoid doing any work, I’m feeling sentimental. We’ve only been here for a little over a month and I’m tremendously proud of the work we’ve done. It looks beautiful and once we have furniture, it will also look like home. I’ve learned a lot in this process, including some big, life-changing stuff.

1. There is such thing as too much pizza. 
I know we all love pizza. It has a beautiful history, can taste like anything, and is even a strong breakfast option. I love pizza, too, but the past six weeks have taught me that there is a very hard limit to how much pizza one person can consume. And that’s coming from a girl who has been known to sustain herself off of an almost exclusive bread and cheese diet.This is mostly my fault. When we first moved, we discovered a great pizza joint nearby that became our default option when we needed to eat but too tired to bother cooking. Shortly thereafter we had a few free pizza days at work– and who can pass up free lunch?– and I also spent a day volunteering at the annual Carnival O’ Pizza by Homeslice Pizza.

I can’t even look at pizza anymore, much less smell it.

2. There is no feeling quite as victorious as realizing you still have one last pair of clean underwear. 
We still don’t have our washer/dryer up and running, which means I’m borrowing freeloading off my parents who live in town. Unfortunately, doing laundry takes a lot of time and I have to squeeze in running to their house to wash a few loads on days when I don’t have any other obligations or am willing to stay up past my bedtime.I was overjoyed when The Man unearthed one last box of clothing that included socks and undies to get us through the weekend. I’ve never been so happy to see my least comfortable underwear. (Ladies, you know the pair I’m talking about: the pair you only ever wear on laundry day.)

3. Beards can be sexy.
I’m starting to understand the recent resurgence of beards. Shaving fell off The Man’s radar in the midst of all of our housework, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. In fact, science agrees with this! A 2013 study revealed that women tend to find heavily stubbled men most attractive, while they thought men with full beards to be the healthiest and most competent parents.For what it’s worth, men have some psychological attraction to beards as well. A 2015 study of 154 species of primates in multilevel, competitive social communities indicates that males augment their attractiveness through ornamentation of their bodies– so-called “badges of status.” This could also explain why tattoos can get a lady’s motor goin’.

ornamentation-sohotrightnow

4. I will never be patient enough. 
Buying a house requires a whole lot of patience, packing requires a whole lot of patience, moving requires a whole lot of patience, and fixing things requires a whooooole lot of patience. Unfortunately, patience is not a quality I possess.But, that’s okay! I don’t have to be “patient enough”– I just have to be sympathetic enough to recognize when my impatience is going to impose on someone else’s good day and adjust my attitude and actions accordingly.

5. You can pretty much do anything if you try hard enough. 
This process has been eye-opening for me in that I now recognize that you can do everything a professional carpenter, tile-layer, crown molding-installer, painter, electrician, etc. can do.Yes, the learning curve is steep, but you only have to learn it once. Yes, it’ll take you longer than the professionals, but it’s not like we don’t sit around watching Netflix for hours every week anyway. And if you mess something up? Congratulations– you’re going to learn how to un-mess it up! Misadventures always make for good cocktail party stories, anyway.

6. There is nothing that puppies can’t solve.
Although I’ve never had a dog of my own, I am fortunate enough to have access to the most adorable little dog with the biggest heart. We call her Doodle, and if I loved her any more I think my heart would explode out of my chest a la Alien. Every time I see her face or she curls up on my lap to take a nap, all of the stress instantly disappears.

I realize I’m late to the party here, but I’m just now coming to appreciate how truly loving dogs are and how profound an impact they can have on your quality of life. Even when they pee on stuff.

doodledog