Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mail Call

First off, no one is paying me for anything here. This is truth, my friends.

I get A LOT of catalogs in the mail. I think this is because I once ordered something from Guideboat and they sold my name and address, but whatever. I love all the catalogs. Yes, all of these things are available online, but I like leafing through a paper version over my yogurt in the morning.  Prana, Title 9, Orvis, LL Bean, Harry & David, See's Candy, and The Container Store are some of my favorites, but the best of all is obviously the Uncommon Goods catalog.

It came in the mail tonight and I was leafing through it (one of the best people in my life has a birthday in five days and while I have a couple of things for her, I thought I might stumble across something else for her) and I basically created a wishlist of things for me.  Here goes.

1. Sewing station - For the price of $58, you can have this ceramic sewing station handmade in Florida. 4.8/5 stars
I have neither a dedicated sewing location nor a need for a sewing station, but isn't it perfectly suited for a problem you never knew you had?!

2. Vintage wedding art - For the low, low price of $300 - $500, you can have some customized wedding art made. I am not even joking, but I think I want one for our new house. It's kind of pricey, but it comes with the matte and frame and it can be customized to hair color and skin tone and it's amazing.  Maybe someday.

3. Vintage cinema lightbox - For $65, you can put this in your living room and put up the name of the movie or television show you're watching. I mean, ours would just read The Walking Dead all the time, but that's because we still haven't watched the final two episodes of this past season, but I think it would be quirky and fun. Or something I would use exactly three times an then forget about.  Forget it. I don't need one of these.  (Yes, I do.)

4. Book Lover's Scarf - You can have the words to one of five novels (Pride and Prejudice, Outlander, Anne of Green Gables, The Great Gatsby, or The Princess Bride) around your neck. I personally would make a request for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but that's just me. As soon as Francie gets some love, I will definitely purchase this ($39 seems reasonable to me).

5. Solar System Necklace - This is not the right necklace for me because it's a bit too large, but I can see it being quite the hit. It even includes Pluto. I think $55 is reasonable, too, since it would be such a statement piece.

And, just for fun, here are some things I would totally buy for other people, just not the person whose birthday is next week.

6) Personalized Anniversary Journal - I wish I had one of these journals when we first got married. You fill it out every year on your anniversary. If someone you love is getting married, consider this as a present. It's $115 - 130, so you'd probably really have to love someone to make it their gift, but I know that I, for one, would have cherished it forever.
 7) Lake Topography Art - I totally lied. I'd like a series of these. One with Lake of the Isles on it to commemorate our time in Minnesota, one with the Great Lakes because my Michigan pride knows no limits, one with the Mississippi River through the Quad Cities where Dr. BB is from, and one with a nearby lake here in Wisconsin. They're all available. So maybe someday. I'm a smidgen confused by the pricing ($59 - $525) and I think it depends on the size and the 3-D nature of the whole thing, but maybe someday I'll invest. It would be fun to have them in our dining room in our new house, I think.
And that's it. I've just spent a couple grand on junk I don't really need from the Uncommon Goods catalog.  We're going to do the inspection on the house tomorrow, so I'll be sure to keep you all updated about that.  And maybe I'll tell you the story about how I feel perfectly fine, but the doctor told me that I couldn't work for the rest of the week and I have to stay home. Except then I went to the grocery story and tomorrow I'm going to the inspection. You can just call me a non-compliant patient. I am staying home from work, though. Well, wait, I just told you the whole story. No updates needed.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I made a hard sell for our book club to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, but no one was interested. So I was forced to read this book on my own and now I honestly want to talk to people about it, but I don't know anyone else who's read it, so I'm going to just babble on here.

The book tells the story of Starr, a black teenage girl who witnesses a friend get shot by a white police officer and the aftermath of that event. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this novel should be required reading for everybody who lives in the United States.  It subtly manages to get all the perspectives addressed here - white and black children, white and black adults, white and black officers - while also having a completely clear editorial position. In my race and politics classes, I spend way more time than I'd like to admit attempting to get my students to engage in perspective taking, but I felt like I was definitely even more deeply exposed to perspectives on BLM through this novel because I was in people's heads and shoes during their every day lives. 

But besides being timely and honest and raw, the writing here is clear and precise, as if Thomas spent hours agonizing over every sentence, every comma placement, and every dropped consonant in her dialogue. The writing wasn't overdone and didn't get in the way of the immersive experience of Starr's life that you found yourself in after the first five pages. I wanted to turn the pages because the plot was engaging and I wanted things to work out for Starr, but I also wanted to stay in engage in the crispness of the writing on each page.

The relationships in the novel as also startlingly powerful. Thomas shows you how Starr relates to all these different people including her parents, siblings, friends, boyfriend, and people in the neighborhood where she lives without ever lecturing you.  You see the nuances in relationships without having to be told anything. I want to know Starr's father, I want to go to their barbecues, and I want to tell Starr it will be okay. But I don't know if it will be.

So, go to the bookstore and get this book. It's well worth it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Liminal Life

During Spring Break, we reached out to our banker and a realtor in the area for the first stages of buying a house.  We've been saving for the last five years for a down payment and we finally had our 20% down payment, emergency budget, and summer money (Dr. BB is on a 9-month contract and doesn't get paid during the summer), and we have to let our current landlords know what we want to do with our lease by the end of this month, so house shopping time commenced.

We had a budget in mind, we had a list of "musts*" and a list of "highly desireables**" and two weeks ago we met with the realtor to look at two houses.  We'd been watching the listings for months, so we knew these two houses were the only ones in the area where we wanted to move that matched our criteria.

The first house was a disaster.  Somebody will buy it and love it, but it wasn't for us. 

So we went to the second house. It checked all our musts. It checked all our highly desireables except for one. It was on the high end of our price scale, but it checked our boxes.
Spring brings bullfrogs.

We dithered and dallied. We watched as nothing new popped up on the market. We looked for comps, but they didn't seem to exist. We called the realtor back and asked for a second showing. Then we made a low offer. The sellers countered. We countered the counter. They accepted.

So we're in this weird place. We haven't had the inspection done yet. We haven't really done anything except pre-approval for the mortgage. But it's "our" house and we keep talking about it as if it is ours, making plans and lists of projects and someone (ahem) frequently mentioning that the white front door should definitely be painted red.

Fingers crossed this deal goes through. Because if it does, it will be the easiest real estate deal ever done by the realtor and the least stressful search for housing Dr. BB and I have ever had.

*Musts: Single-family dwelling,  at least 2 bedrooms plus an office (3 bedrooms is fine), at least 1.5 baths, turnkey - all major renovation done, a detached garage, central air, and southern or western exposure.

**Highly desireables: 2 baths, character, wood/tile preferred over carpet, paint over wallpaper, fenced in yard, workshop space, mud room, and gas range.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Entertainment Ethics

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen when I work out, when I walk my endless loops around the neighborhood, when I'm cleaning, and when I'm in the car. Pretty much if you are trying to picture me at any given moment, just imagine me with earbuds in.  I listen to interview shows, comedy shows, and NPR shows. I listen to true crime, politics, and economics. I listen to anything, really. I could probably be convinced to listen to a sports podcast if it were well done.

But recently I've run into a problem.

I concerned about the ethical implications of my entertainment. I listened to S-Town and was slightly horrified. Yes, it was really well done. Yes, it was a compelling story and I listened all the way to the end by the day after the series dropped. But at the end I felt dirty and sticky. SPOILERS AHEAD. This was clearly a story of a man who was mentally ill. The manic episodes were clearly demonstrated early on in the show. Can a mentally ill man give permission to a reporter* to use interviews with him?  Was it fair of the podcast to out a dead man as gay?  To not talk about the mental illness until the last episode? To take advantage of the man's grieving friends?  To record at the man's graveside service?

It was a well told story. It really was. But I don't think it should have been made and I don't think I should know any of this.  I'm starting to feel like my entertainment is being made at the expense of others and I don't like it.

And that brings us to Missing Richard Simmons. I have not listened to the podcast because I firmly believe the man should be left to his privacy. There have been wellness checks on him, he's in weekly contact with his family, and he just wants to be left alone. I'd be pissed if some asshole guy with a microphone tried to get into my inner circle to dredge up dirt on me and I'm not currently opting out of society. 

I struggle with entertainment. Should the accusations of sexual harassment stop me from watching Manchester by the Sea? Should I refrain from listening to music of those who have been found guilty of domestic violence (i.e., Tommy Lee, Ozzy Osbourne).  Should I dismiss Edward Scissorhands from my mind because Johnny Depp is losing his damn mind?  I have a hard time separating art from artists and frequently do just stop supporting artists to ease my own personal guilt.

But who am I punishing by not listening to Missing Richard Simmons? My silent protest means nothing. But I guess I will switch to audiobooks if the exploitative nature of podcasts continues to be problematic in my world.

*This brings up a whole new set of problems for me. Are podcast hosts reporters? Should I hold them up to the same journalistic standards I would hold up a reporter for a major news network?

Monday, April 03, 2017

2017 Yearly Goals, Quarter 1

The following is an honest update on my 2017 goals. Most are going well and some are not. Let's recap.

Area One: Fitness Goals
1) Workout four times a week - I did this 100% of the time. Once I even worked out five times in one week. Good job me. Maybe someday working out will just be a habit and I won't have to track it, but I like that I have tangible proof in the manner of a checkmark on my spreadsheet. 

 2) Walk 11,500 steps a day - I missed this only two days of the quarter, so I'm going to call it a success. One day I was pretty close (I made it to over 10,000), but one of those days I was not close at all.  My average step count for the first quarter was almost 13,000 steps a day, so this is a solid good job.

3) Weigh myself weekly - I'm not so great at this. I missed 4 out of the 12 weeks, so 67% success rate. On the bright side, my weight has stayed within a 3 pound range the whole time, so I'm not super worried. I will try to to do better on this goal next quarter.

Overall, I'd say the fitness goals are going great. This is definitely the highlight of the goal areas.

Area Two: Communication Goals
1) Update my blog twice a week - Ha ha ha ha ha!  I started so well.  I've posted 20 times since the start of the year, which is an average of 1.67 posts a week. I will keep working on this, but I must admit that updating my blog is less of a priority for me than I like to admit to myself.  It needs to get prioritized higher.

 2) Make contact with four people (MDTT) at least once a week - This one really does need to be a priority. One of these people has a 100% weekly correspondence with me, I missed two weeks with one of them, and I missed three weeks with two of them. This is an 83.3% success rate, which is an okay start, but I'd really like it to be 100%.

 3) See my mom four times in the year -  I saw her in January, so my one time a quarter was met.

 4) Send a letter or postcard to my grandmother and two of my elderly aunts at least once a month - I met this goal with 100% success. I sent them some photos from the visit with my mom and sister in January and sent them Valentine's Day cards in February and St. Patrick's Day cards in March.

5) Post a photo to Instagram at least once a day - 100%.
Some popular first quarter photos.
These communication goals are going okay, but I definitely can do better, particularly with the first two goals.

Area Three: The Rest of My Life
1) Vacuum twice a week -  Ahem. I vacuumed 15 times. That's 1.25 times a week. That is not okay. I think I'm going to do a Monday/Friday schedule and that will force me to do it. It's getting warmer now and Zelda's going to start shedding like crazy, so I definitely need to do better and stay on top of the fur.

2) Brush Zelda's teeth when I feed her at night - I skipped 13 nights when I fed her which works out to 83.5% success rate. This is definitely better than the once a month I had going before, but I fear it might be too little too late. Her teeth have quite a bit of tartar on them and I'm a bit nervous every time we go to the vet to hear that we're going to have to have them cleaned or worse.  I'll keep at it, though. She likes the toothpaste a lot.

3) Get my sewing machine out at least once a month -100%. I did a couple of presents, worked on a dress, hemmed some pants, and reinforced some seams on our duvet. 

I guess I have some work to do, but overall it's not too bad and I have a good system for tracking everything. Let's call quarter one a win and move on to an even bigger win in quarter two.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Heaven in this Hell

I was so very nervous the first time I met her. I was the first girl her youngest son had ever brought home. It was the weekend of her oldest daughter's wedding.  There were bridesmaids in and out of the house, several freakouts about popped seams and the wrong foundation shade. Out-of-town family members were randomly stopping by, dropping off presents, and staying for "just a chat."  What was I doing going there?

But as soon as the truck door slammed, she rushed out of the garage.  She hugged her son first, of course, but then she ordered him to take our bags upstairs as she enveloped me in a hug as big as the blue Iowa sky. She thanked me for coming and chattered at me nonstop as we walked into the house where she fed me homemade chili, all the while ignoring everyone and everything else. My mother is great, of course, but she is the mother that every little girl dreams of having. A mother who listens, a mother who stocks the house with your favorites even when you live another state away (just in case you stop by!), a mother who is quick with hugs and words of praise, and a mother who is a caretaker first and foremost.

A week ago I sat around a room with her children and her husband as the palliative care doctor told her that she most likely has weeks to live. I also heard her ask the doctor repeatedly if he needed anything to eat or drink, a welcoming hostess to the very end.

One of the things Dr. BB told me about his mom on the way to meet her for the first time was that she loves her yard and especially the bird feeders she has hanging outside the kitchen window.   We've spent hours watching birds with her. And last week, when it became clear that she was probably never going to go downstairs again, Dr. BB went to the store and bought a pole that he could attach to the deck outside her bedroom window. We put a bird feeder on it and watched as goldfinches and purple finches flew around it, feeding and flitting.  When everyone else went down to eat lunch, I laid on the bed next to her and listened as she told stories about her father building wren houses and he had a drill bit just the right size for the wrens to get in, but to keep the big birds out.  She told me how tired she was and I told it was okay for her to sleep. 

And it is. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

63 and counting

Today would have been my father's 63rd birthday. I would have sent him a card, called him with my fingers crossed that it would go to voicemail, and felt badly about being a bad daughter. But instead I silently stewed at my desk as I considered calling my mother or my sister, but realizing that I just didn't want to talk to them. I just wanted to remember.
I want to remember how he taught me to tie my shoelaces. I want to remember how he would print off chain emails for me to read. I want to remember that time he nearly hit a bear in Yellowstone Park and the Pepsi in his lap went flying so that there was sticky residue in mysterious places in that minivan for the remainder of its lifespan. I want to remember how he would finish an Asimov novel and then rate it for me (his ratings were never the same as mine).

So I will remember those things and take solace in the fact that those memories are still here.
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