New Year, New You? Nah.

Remember how I resolved to learn to sew in 2016? No? Me neither. That’s why I didn’t follow through on my resolution and why I have paid someone else to have curtains hemmed, seams re-sewn, and dresses taken in over the last twelve months. As a firm believer in exchanging currency for services rendered by a qualified professional who can do a much better job at whatever task than I can, I don’t feel too guilty.

Historically, I’ve stuck to my New Year’s resolutions. I was a successful vegetarian for a few years, bought only goods on sale for a year, and cut out using my laptop in bed. All of these resolutions have developed into meaningful habits that have stuck with me; I eat meat on the side, budget and shop consciously, and my bed has become a sacred space for relaxation only. Sewing didn’t work out, though, perhaps because it wasn’t something that could develop into a habit, just a hobby.

On the heels of not following through with the 2016 plan, I’m going back to focusing on habits, not hobbies. This year, no formal New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I’m going to figure out ways to measure my regular, everyday habits–books I read, walks I take, mantras I chant, budgets I fund, sights I see. Not sure how I’m going to do all of these things in a meaningful way yet, but that’s the plan.

Wish me luck!

Merry Merry 2016

Hello, friends!

We hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the holiday season. For our friends up north, stay warm. For our friends in the south, stay cool. For our friends abroad, good luck with whatever weather is happening wherever you are.

The Man and I spent the holidays in chilly New York last year, but are staying home in warm Texas to be with our families this year. A lot has happened since that trip to NYC. Let’s recap.

The Man’s employer sent him to Australia a few times this year to work with the team he manages from Austin. His trips are largely spent working, but each gives him a chance to explore the country a little more. On his most recent adventure, he spent a day cycling around Sydney and exploring the harbor (but continues to miss out on snuggling a koala). He’s also just finished building a new computer to fuel his gaming obsession and is trying to set up his office to be the darkest room in the house…reliving those good-ol’ college days. As I type this, he’s trying to wedge his new desk through a doorway. It’s going about as well as you might expect.

For my part, I got a new job in early spring. I left book publishing and am now in marketing in the travel industry. Working in the travel industry has its perks, including periodic travel to beautiful places like Breckenridge, but also plenty of paid time off every year. I spent one of those weeks at Disneyworld’s Food and Wine Festival. If you haven’t gone before, you must. The festival is miles and miles of extremely tasty small plates, endless varieties of alcohol, and trying not to vomit on the spinning teacups.

I was also invited to join the PEO Sisterhood, a philanthropic organization working to promote educational opportunities for women worldwide. It is a cause very close to my heart as the PEO Sisterhood supported my own education, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to give back.

Perhaps the most exciting part of our year, though, was getting Brodie, our goldendoodle pup. He is a floppy, drooly delight to have in our house and I’ve accepted that we’ll never have clean floors again. Brodie is a wonderfully friendly dog, always happy to stick his nose in someone’s crotch, and has finally figured out how to bring the ball back after you throw it. We immediately became the cliché white, middle-class family that takes our designer dog to the neighborhood farmers market every weekend to buy kale. I love every second of it.

As you may recall, The Man purchased our house in Austin last year. We’re proud to report that we have successfully ripped out the last of the original orangey-pink tile, gutted our hall bathroom down to the studs, discovered the source of a strange smell that had been lurking under the sink for months, and learned that it is never worth the hassle to DIY crown moulding. We are looking forward to giving the place a good scrub and relaxing in a fully-finished home.

If you’re ever in Austin, we now have a guest bedroom ready and waiting to host you!

xoxo

Sunday Funday – November 27

Happy Thanksgiving, people of the internet! I hope you enjoyed a long, lazy day with your loved ones and remember to wear your stretchiest pants. Here are recommendations for what to read, listen to, eat, and do as I recover from a week of epic feasting.

READ. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is on sale for $2.99 (ebook)! Not sure how long it’ll last, but if you like science, outer space, badass women, speculative fiction, the apocalypse, or feeling like you’re one tiny, tiny fish in a very vast ocean…this is the book for you.

LISTEN TO. If you read my Sunday Fundays with any regularity, you’ve probably noticed that I listen to the same podcasts every week…so I’d really love any podcast recommendations you can make! I like brainy, non-fiction podcasts from which I can learn something. Hit me with your best shot!

EAT. I procrastinated my Thanksgiving shopping just long enough that, when I arrived at Central Market, the kale section was absolutely decimated. The portion of the produce cooler labeled “ORGANIC SNOOTY PERSON KALE” was entirely empty, aside from a few scraps of wilted leaves. I begrudgingly drove from store to store until I found one halfway-decent looking bunch of kale, and eventually managed to toss together this delicious Kale-Pomegranate-Bacon salad. Quite tasty!

DO. Remind yourself that Christmas isn’t all about presents, but they’re certainly fun to buy and give. I treated myself to an early Christmas present and I could not be more excited.

Sunday Funday – November 20

Whoo buddy, that cold front has really moved in! There’s nothing quite as magical as the first few days of winter…until your lips are so chapped you’re pretty sure they’re going to fall off. Anyone have product recommendations for seriously chappy lips?

Here are recommendations for what to read, listen to, eat, and do from my adventures this week.

READ. This thoughtful analysis of Trumpian economics.

LISTEN TO. The story of Ian, who hustles truffles to top chefs in NYC. Sounds weird? It is. And totally fascinating.

EAT. The croissant breakfast sandwich at Cherrywood Coffeehouse. I don’t know why it tastes so good for such a simple sandwich…but it’s damn tasty. Cherrywood is a popular, neighborhood coffee house, so the parking lot is always full. Don’t be deterred! There are plenty of tables inside and out, and the kitchen works quickly even during peak times.

DO. Love board games but don’t always want your brain to be reduced to mush? Takenoko is the game for you! It’s got everything: simple rules that are easy to pick up, cute pandas, good replay value, and plenty of strategic options. It’s going to be a great game for post-Thanksgiving feasting when we’re sitting around with our pants unbuttoned lamenting that we ate too much.

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.

A Visit to The Happiest Place on Earth

Y’all, the bff and I went to Disney World recently and it. was. amazing. We met aaaaaall the princesses, gorged ourselves at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, rode all the good rides, ran around in our mouse ears, and generally acted like idiots for three days. And do you SEE that giant pink Minnie Mouse bow? It was the best.

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Us, basically.

Disney World is, of course, a mecca for young children everywhere. Watching a little girl’s joy meeting Ariel or a little boy running around with Alice waving at caterpillars in the garden is an entirely new level of adorable. However, we discovered that Disney World is also the greatest place ever to be an adult because you have to use your brain absolutely 0% of the time. 

Lost? Employees know where absolutely everything is. Tired? Take a shuttle or tram back to your “resort” and let it practically drop you at your door. Hungry? Walk up to any country in Epcot and someone will pretty much shove food in your hand. Thirst-ay? You bet there’s a bar in spitting distance. Bored? Nope, because you’re at Disney World. All you need to do to be entertained is walk twenty feet to the right and oh my god is that Gaston!? 

Of course, all this greatness comes as a price. Not only is Disney World an expensive place to visit, it’s also one of the weirdest, most surreal places to experience as an adult. Why?

Disney World is oddly dated. Not only are some of their resorts in dire need of an upgrade, but many of the rides show clear evidence of what we would politely refer to as “simpler times.” Not only does It’s a Small World stereotype every culture in the whole world, there’s also a lot of emphasis on butts. Splash Mountain features a series of animatronic bears with their head stuck in positions that fully present their large butts to those on the ride. To top it off, there is always some sort of animatronic motion of another creature pushing suggestively on the butt.

At first glance, the Disney experience feels so low-tech. There aren’t touch-responsive screens scattered everywhere, no fancy holograms, or high-tech augmented reality spotlights. But, as you start thinking about it, what feels like “old technology” is actually seriously high-tech robotics. One of the first attractions we went into was The Hall of Presidents and we were floored by the intricate movements that made each president feel real–twitching fingers, furrowing brows. That level of intricate design, construction, and maintenance is just mind-blowing.

“Face characters” never break character. Never ever. It is utterly bizarre to be greeted by a bubbling Snow White, who you know is really just some twenty-something who eats ice cream on the couch in her ratty sweatpants like the rest of us, and try to have a conversation with her about how Doc checks her hair bow for her every morning. Or listen to Anna from Frozen explain how to make a chocolate sandwich. How are you supposed to respond to that? You can do what I do, which is mumble incoherently and just smile until the photographer is done.

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Bonus weirdness: Apparently people regularly try to dump the cremated remains of their loved ones in the Haunted Mansion. Don’t be that guy.

Sunday Funday – October 16

I love the middle of the month when my second paycheck hits my bank account! Here are recommendations for what to read, listen to, eat, and do from my adventures this week.

READSix of Crows by Leigh Barduo. If you liked The Lies of Locke Lamora, you’ll like Six of Crows. (Side note: if you didn’t like The Lies of Locke Lamora, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.)

LISTEN TO. Planet Money podcast episode Cat Scam. It’s a very insightful look into how the internet has shaped our economy and purchasing behaviors. And, of course, there are cats. What is the internet without cats?

EAT. Lick Ice Cream. Seriously, y’all, their Roasted Beet & Fresh Mint scoops are the bomb.

DO. Remember to vote! Early voting in Texas begins Monday, October 24. You can find out what (and who!) will be on your ballot by clicking here and selecting your county.

Sunday Funday – October 2

It’s October which means it’s almost kind of maybe a little bit Fall here in Texas! I’ve busted out my scarves, fuzzy socks, and even bought the most beautiful sweater dress…but it’s still pushing 90° outside. Here are recommendations for what to read, listen to, eat, and do from my adventures this week.

READ. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. This one was recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Chims!) and I’m only a few chapters in and already lovin’ it. If you enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora or The Mistborn Trilogy, you’ll probably like Six of Crows.

LISTEN TO. The latest from the Freakonomics podcast, Why Are We Still Using Cash? It’s a very thought-provoking look at how currency is actually utilized in modern societies, and even explores what would happened if we went cash-free. I did an informal poll of my friend group to ask which they current utilize more, cash or card. With 10 votes, it seems like my friend group is overwhelmingly carders, while only 3 use cash regularly.

EAT. Slow cooker beef and dumpling stew. This is a great base recipe for creating your beef stew of choice–toss in some onions, garlic, and your herbs/spices of choice and you’re good to go on any cold day. This recipe is also truly a one-pot endeavor, so clean up is a cinch!

DO. Rock a fanny pack. Seriously, these things are ~tHe BoMb~. They’ve got eight gazillion secret pockets, thread nicely through belt loops, and come in so many adorable patterns. I’m a little late to the fanny pack revival party, but I have arrived and I am ready to throw down. Throw. Down.

What does it mean to work?

I realize I haven’t posted in a while. That’s mostly because there haven’t been any exciting developments in the But Until Then household–dog is still an adorable hairy rug that pees a thousand times a day, bathroom renovation is still not complete (c’est la vie), and The Man is still as kind and funny and smart and handsome as ever.

Something exciting did happen this past week, though, and it’s taken me some time to think through it. As you may recall, I am relatively new to my current job having been a part of the team for fewer than six months. It’s been a great few months, but I didn’t really feel like an official part of the team until now. Why? Because I got to experience the crazy that is the annual user conference my team puts on every year.

Having spent the last seven days working 16 hour days, I started to think about what work means to me, why I do it, and comparing my understanding of work to that of other people. Purely based on these (admittedly) limited discussions, motivation to work comes down to two things: economic and emotional.

The economic portion is pretty obvious. We work to survive, to pay our bills and feed ourselves and enjoy fun activities in our free time. For those of us, like The Man, who see work as a primarily economic function, it is also a temporary arrangement. The Man has a clear plan to work intensely for the next number of years and save money aggressively, giving him the freedom to release himself from the economic commitment of working (at least for a while) before typical retirement age. This is a great plan and definitely smart thinking, and makes sense for The Man who very much values autonomy over his time.

That’s not how I view work, though. While I certainly see the economic value of work–I also like feeding myself and saving for the future, etc.–I don’t have the motivation to stop working sooner rather than later. I enjoy working and really don’t mind “losing” some of my schedule flexibility. I enjoy the process of being productive, working through problems with my team, and having the opportunity to contribute to something that moves on a grander scale than I, as one person, do.

To me, working is a net gain. I learn, I find meaningful community, I contribute. Working provides a sense of community and structure that I need to thrive and function, and I don’t mind doing so at the “expense” of my time. Even if I don’t like what I’m doing that particular day, or maybe I just don’t feel very good and could really have used an extra few hours of sleep, working is a great opportunity to learn how we, as people, have built our culture and communities.

Right now, retiring seems like a real drag. But ask me again in 20 years and we’ll see how I feel.

Do you enjoy working? Why/why not?

 

Pupdate 1: The Poopening

In case you missed it, this is Brodie. He is the cutest thing I have ever seen and I love him.

Brodie is my first dog and, although I have no other experience to compare it to, I can confidently say he’s a pretty great dog. He knows his name, always lets us know when he needs to go outside, can (mostly) retrieve, and knows how to sit! He’s a seriously smart cookie and, of course, a little, fluffy, teething, poopin’ machine.

That’s the one part of puppy parenting that has taken me surprise: how much time I now spend thinking and talking about poop. Not picking up poop, which I knew came with the job, but thinking about poop.

Has he pooped yet this morning? Was it a good poop? Any signs of gastrointestinal distress? How did this evening’s poop compare to this morning’s poop? What will tomorrow’s poops be? Did he just step in his poop? Damnit, did I just step in his poop? 

When he’s not pooping, Brodie enjoys taking naps on the cold tile floor, eating grass, chasing raindrops, or running away from scary things likes birds, cactuses, and the voice of Mindy Kaling. (He really doesn’t know what to do with Mindy Kaling.)

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