Autumn is…when, again?

Weird thing about living in PHX is that it remains so hot here well after summer that my brain gets real confused. I keep finding myself thinking things like “I’ll do that after Labor Day.” Like: I’ll start cleaning out the garage after Labor Day. Or I’ll start working on working on my yard again after Labor Day. Or I’ll look into a fall trip with the kids after Labor Day. Or I’ll start planning my son’s September birthday after Labor Day.

Obviously, dear reader, you know it’s well after Labor Day already. It’s just that it still feels, acts, and seems so much like summer here that I lose track of time and find myself still thinking I have loads of time in front of me to tackle the things I have slotted on to my fall to-do list when in actuality, I should have already started them. At least I haven’t already missed my son’s birthday?

did I meet a murderer?

I went to a friend’s house for dinner tonight, and one woman was explaining why she decided to reconnect the cord and sign back up for cable (namely because it was a bundled deal that would make internet + cable TV cheaper than internet + streaming services).

A man then went on to explain he would refuse to ever do that because of a long-standing beef against the cable company, in which he was slapped with an $800 debt that belonged not to him, but to a different man with the same name in the same apartment complex. His name is uncommon enough that it would be seem that would be incredibly unlucky for him – his last name isn’t as common as Smith or Jones – but not so unique that you’d be completely able to dismiss that as completely impossible. So he moved in only to find the cable company had mailed him a notice that the $800 debt had been handed over to a collections agency, it ended up on his credit report, and was a huge pain in the ass.

But here’s the thing. After all of that, it turns out that’s not even close to the worst case of mistaken identity he’s been through.

A few years later, it turns out that the police called upon him to come in for questioning. He had no idea what that could be about, but it turns out that there is another man with the exact same name wanted for murder. He explained how insane it was that there were these (very unfortunate) coincidences. His name, year of birth, and even where he lived in California before Arizona, all the same. He was able to explain it all away and obviously the police have given up on him being a murderer, but how many (ahem, white) people does this happen to??

I turned to My Better Half and whispered: “Alternate theory: the guy sitting next to us, he is the murderer guy they’re looking for.”

Balancing my current work with my future work goals

A few days ago, I told my child’s teacher after I completely spaced the parent-teacher conference we had scheduled, “I used to have my shit together, and then I became a parent. But I guess 6 years in to this parenting run, I suppose I can no longer claim my new normal is temporary.” She didn’t know me in my pre-parenting days, when I really was on time to things, and even occasionally organized. A time when I could string thoughts coherently, er, string coherent thoughts togetherly.

While I don’t think I can get back to being on time or organized, I intend to regain my identity as a blogger. No, not some bullshit microblogger or #sponsored content provider or mouthpiece for a giant brand. After all, how is blogging for someone else any different from what I do now: writing web content for my employer?  My blogging goal was always to gain just enough independence that I could at the very least downsize from my full-time gig, carving out a bit more space for my creative work, whether that brought me income or not. (The answer is most definitively not, if you were wondering). When that didn’t happen – and life happened simultaneously – it became necessary for me to reallocate how I used my time.

I’ve had an autoimmune disease for 11 years. Or maybe I’ve had it for a lot longer, but I got diagnosed when I was 30. For awhile – like, say, in my adult years prior to having children, I could manage my depleting energy levels by taking a nap on the weekend or even catching a nap before dinner on weeknights. But over time, I guess as I get older, between working 40* hours a week and parenting, there’s very little time for me to ever feel “caught up” on my energy. And being tired all. of. the. goddamned. time. means that I have so little ability to clear the brain fog, nevermind the energy once the brain fog may have cleared to do anything.

* Now let’s talk about that 40 hours a week thing. I used to work 40 hours a week. Then I kept getting much more interesting work, and I was actually legitimately one of those gross people who claim to like their jobs (because I did). So losing sight of my personal goals didn’t blip much on my radar at that time a couple of years ago because I was engaged and fulfilled at work with intellectual and writery challenges. But during the past two years, my good work means that I’ve been promoted a time or two…and tasked with larger projects…that take up more mental energy…with less actual *time* during the workweek to tackle those projects. So full-time work became more, like, well, let’s just say more than 40 hours a week (and in academia, so without the pay to reflect that).

So working more left even less time to devote to my stuff. Yes, some of the bleed-over of work hours into *my* time is my own fault. But I’ll also point the majority of the blame right back on the higher ed industry, an industry that relies on churn-and-burn, hardly-paid adjuncts like My Better Half. It seems like a dicey endeavor to disengage when you are the sole source of income in your household for a family of 4. And/or have a complicated auto-immune disease that insurers know better as a pre-existing condition in this era in which it is unclear whether insurers will cover your care. To sum it up: I found myself with almost no energy, nor much mental clarity, but tethered to a job that had begun to eat up any of my free time.

I’m working on that last one, though. For the past few weeks, I’ve put strict boundaries on my work hours and will truly only commit to 8 hours a day, walking out the door at 8 hours and 1 minute. Which has begun to give me a little breathing room for places like my new work blog and here. (And, to be honest, the capacity to start looking for other, higher-paying work, as putting job applications together takes energy, mental clarity, and time. With more money could come more freedom…)

reset

Well hello there, old friend.

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

Rather than bore you with all the nitty-gritty of what has (and has not) transpired over the past 2 years, let me just summarize with: I’ve been dealing with stuff. And things. Losses, deaths, work, parenting, beaches, music, and whatnot.

There, you’re all caught up. Don’t you feel better? I know I do!

I won’t get all gross on you and go into my goal for this particular year or talk about how life is so much better now that I’ve abandoned all news cycles, diving headfirst into only the most friviolous podcasts. Or how I have been contemplating whether you can go on long-term disability for being out of give-a-sh*ts about work. Or how my parenting has evolved from attentive to “eh, they’re playing quietly in their room with the door closed, who cares what they’re doing as long as they’re leaving us alone.”

But in the past couple of years, a lot has changed, and yet, a lot has stayed exactly the same. My two tinies are now less tiny, 6 and 4, to be exact. My house has changed; we moved to a bigger place, narrowly avoiding the murder-suicide combination that can result from cramming 4 people into 800 square feet. And yet, I still have to go to work every weekday, we still struggle against the bullsh*t that is adjuncting, we are still madly in love with our tiny familial unit, and we curse exactly the same amount about it all.

So it’s hard to neatly wrap up all that has transpired over the past 2 years, but here I am, with my reset. Time to get serious about this whole blogging thing so I can cash in on the wave and monetize my influence share my rants and raves.

A Bad Dream

“Mommy, did you have a bad dream?”

I don’t really know how to answer since she’s only 4, and my crying woke her up. To her, a bad dream is the only explanation. So I tell her yes, and it’s just a dream and to go back to sleep. What’s funny, like funny in the odd sense and not the ha-ha sense, is that in a way, she’s exactly right. I am struggling with my dreams. As in how to make them happen.

I always struggle at New Years. For some reason I find myself standing at the starting line for each new year wondering why even when given another year, all the things I was unable to make happen, rather than looking fondly over the memories that were made. It is just in my genetic makeup that every January 1, I am staring down another year not with hope and optimism but with resignation at thinking that this shiny brand new year is also equally unlikely to end with me having come any closer to fulfilling my lifelong dreams of wanderlust and travel, food and writing, leaving my cubicle life behind for good.

As my oldest gets older, I find it harder and harder to quiet my growing cynicism that maybe it’s really a lie, that maybe we can’t do anything we dream. Ever since I was tiny, I dreamt of how I would go places, see things, experience ways of life in far flung places. And yet, I haven’t. I’ve never had the money. In fact, it remains a complete mystery to me how anyone ever does find the money or the time off, and my current financial situation certainly makes those dreams an ever more distant memory by the day. I want so badly to champion the notion that my children will be able to do anything their hearts desire, and wish I could lead by example. But today I stare at our monthly bills and see nothing that can be cut, nothing that can make room for travel, or even more humbly, for time off for us to just be, to find our footing, to at least plan for a life and future that are lived by choice rather than financial necessity and make space for travel…someday. So to lead by example, to call in a resignation from my job is also to demonstrate an irresponsible choice, to choose myself at the expense of the immediate and long-term needs of my family.

I spent the morning collecting and analyzing our bills and recent purchases in an attempt to see what can be trimmed to make room for saving. I didn’t come up with anything. We are barely scraping by as it is. Examining our families’ choices provides no useful data to help make an informed decision. At one end of the spectrum, dreams for retirement so long gone that I honestly have no idea what they ever could have been. No matter, whatever they once were, they were first derailed by paying for their children’s colleges and since then, obscured to the point of having been overwritten by the enormous but inescapable costs of health problems associated with aging. In other words, the takeaway message there appears to be: once you have children, surrender your own hopes & dreams as the practical needs will always prevail. I’m not convinced you can’t make room for both, but the only other familial model available to us appears to be: don’t help your kids with college to make room for your own goals while you stand by watching your kids struggle for long after college thanks to the enormous burden of student loans. Again I think there has to be some middle ground here. I want to show my kids that we (their parents) matter too but you have to balance your goals against the needs of the family and I have no idea how to do that. Mostly I came away from the family conversations about money realizing that it’s a flawed exercise to try to follow in the footsteps of your elders. Their choices and decisions were made in different eras, surrounded by different economic conditions, and influenced by their own expectations and experiences. You really are on your own with this stuff.

So I have no plans yet. No solutions. Can we afford to consider a bigger house or cutting back on my work this year in the interest of my sanity, and which of those to choose anyway since those two are at odds? Or do we double down on our efforts to live frugally because we’re committed to playing the long game? And are those our only choices anyway? For today I’m going back to sleep and dreaming that tomorrow or the next day, we will figure out how to get to a plan that lets us have it all- our own goals and dreams matter but so do those of our kids.

Still blaming mommy brain

Do I get to still blame mommy brain for the following, even though my youngest is about to turn 2? Here is my morning:

1. Ahhh. It’s amazing I have free time. I am SO organized and can just sit here and enjoy my coffee.
2. Oh. Right. I haven’t made the kids’ lunches yet. Or mine.
3. Ah. Wow. Even after throwing together lunches, I’m still doing fine on time! And I did the dishes!
4. Dawdler Toddler, sit down at the table to eat or you will OMG YOU ARE DRIPPING SMOOTHIE ALL OVER EVERYTHING. Let’s go change you!
5. Got him changed after a 10 minute wrestling battle. Whew! I’ve got to clean the table, too.
6. Okay, let’s go to the truck. Still doing uh, okay, I guess on time.
7. Why are you crying? You need a blanket? Fine. Sigh.
8. Oh, it’s good Preschooler asked for a blanket, forcing me to return to the house so I could discover I was about to drive off WITH THE FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE WIDE OPEN.
9. Okay, good. Blankets & cuddlies & lunches all packed & loaded in the truck, let’s GO.
10. Oh. I need gas.
11. Finally. At school. Should only take 20 minutes to walk both of them in since they’re soooooooo slow.
12. Ah. I finally get to go to work.
13. OMG. I never got myself dressed. I’m still in sweats. Back home.
14. Oh! Good thing I came back. There’s my coffee I never got to drink. That might help.

I hope.

Let’s Make Everything Harder for Parents, Shall We? (Part 2)

When last I wrote about figuring out how to get Dawdler Preschooler into a preschool, as in a “real” preschool, not the “preschool” room at her daycare, which is where she currently is, we were practically driven to drink by demystifying all the horribly disorganized information provided by the district. We have finally made a *little* progress, so an update. Spoiler: it’s still nearly impossible to get through the red tape of getting information.

Whenever we call to ask a question about something that’s unclear from the crazy disorganized and inconsistent information that is scattered across the district website, individual school websites, and the state department of education website, we get asked “Have you checked the website?”UGH.

We have narrowed it down to 3 preschools that have certified early childhood education teachers AND an after-school program. Y’know, for those of us who don’t consider 7:40-11:40 a HALF DAY and have to keep working past 11:40. But when we try to schedule tours of each, we were told “Since the curriculum is the same at every district preschool, you have to choose one to tour.” Uh, so entirely dismissing the critical point that the individual teachers and their levels of experience and commitment making all the difference in the world? Eh, any teacher will do as long as they follow the provided curriculum and lesson plans, I guess. (Sarcasm, in case that’s not crystal clear).

Even better though: one of those 3 options gives families a choice between a “traditional” preschool and a Montessori environment. So, maybe we should schedule our one and only tour at that one? “Okay, that’s fine. You’ll schedule your preschool tour with us, and then let me give you the number of this ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT to schedule a SEPARATE TOUR of the Montessori class environment.” Oh, lovely. Two different people to call. And they can’t coordinate tours on the same day because WHY WOULD YOU?

But wait. So once we schedule our SEPARATE tours of the preschool and Montessori at the same school and want to talk with and observe the after- or before-school care (depending on if she goes to morning or afternoon preschool), that is scheduled, can you guess? By a third, entirely distinct department, here let me give you the number to schedule a tour with OMG, just STOP.

We’ll just save ourselves a crap load of time and headache and logistical nightmares and decide here and now to unschool? Let’s just roll with that. I might as well put all this time & energy of tracking district contacts down and returning messages and waiting on people to schedule tours into planning out her K-12 curriculum.

Kidding!

Sort of.

 

Once upon a time

Dawdler Toddler Preschooler is really into fairy tales these days. This works to my advantage at bedtime since I’m particularly lazy tired and lazy. After we read 2 or 3 books, I can get her to cooperate with getting into bed and settling down by promising that I will cuddle with her and tell her a story. Even though I make up all my stories, they all MUST start with “Once upon a time…” and end with “…The end.” as all good stories should. Yesterday, she turned the tables on me and asked “Mommy? Would you like to hear a story?” This is the first time she had offered to make up a story for me. Of course I would like to hear a story.

Me: Is it about firefighters?
Her: nooooo.
Me: owls?
Her: nooooo.
Me: a baker baker?
Her: Let ME tell the story!

Sheesh. Okay. I’ll be quiet.

“Once upon a time, there was a little girl.” So far so good. “…And one morning, her mommy left for work.” Okay. “…And she was very sad…but then when her mommy came home from work, she was happy again! The end!” Uh. Cool story, hon.

I would say I don’t know what to make of that but I totally do. She’s going through something. Just what it is, I’m not sure. I would say it’s a phase where she’s not getting enough Mommy time. Because she’s crying when I leave for work every morning, pleading with me to stay “5 more minutes?” But that doesn’t explain all of it because when I pick her up every afternoon, I’m dragging a sobbing screaming defiant 3 year old out the door as she’s wailing “I sad about leaving! I don’t want to go home!!!” and stomping her feet. Every single day.

It’s gotten to the point that other parents stop and ask “Is she okay?” Or even worse, the dreaded “What’s wrong with her?” I try to understand that it just comes from a place of “awww, poor thing” concern, but really? Can we rephrase that? It usually comes from a parent whose child never acts up. So, good. Congratulations that your enlightened 3 year old is articulate to the point of being able to clearly explain the origins of their tantrums so well that you can simply use some Jedi mind trick to head off their explosive emotions. But the best I get when I try to talk to her about it is a consistent answer of “I sad about leaving. I want to stay and play with my friends.” No amount of logic or explanation or consoling has worked. I’ve tried every trick in my book: distracting her with silly jokes, timing our exit to coincide with friends’ departures, trying to make our exit a game, ignoring her attention-seeking behavior, & using a calm, soothing tone in which I offer bribes for cooperation. No matter what I do it just escalates.

But even if I knew what was going on inside her little mind, I’m not sure I would think anything was ‘wrong’ with her. She’s a very clingy, sensitive girl. She hates transitions, spending the first few minutes after we arrive somewhere or the last few minutes before we leave a place or activity crying or trying to make herself invisible. She can be very emotionally volatile. In other words, she’s THREE. It’s hard for 33 year olds to hold it together all day so I can only imagine how intensely difficult it can be to be three. Listening to grownups all day, following all kinds of rules as you try to sort out & communicate your feelings and needs…It sounds exhausting! She always has a great day at preschool so all I can figure is she uses up all of her self-control just by *being* all day. By the time we get there in the afternoon, she just doesn’t have any emotional control left. And that’s okay.

I really have no other guesses as to why she’s like this every afternoon. So until we can tease out what the root of the tantrums is, maybe I’ll just start to answer other parents’ questions with stories. I could tell them that she hates going home because of the scary clowns we invited to live with us. Or the ex-cons who babysit every night? Or how we like to watch The Ring with her for fun after dinner since it’s scary movie season? But the truth is:

Once upon a time there were parents who wished they knew how to keep their little girl from getting so heart-breakingly upset when they go to work. And who want to help their child be more cooperative with going home at the end of the day. The end!

Tempe bike enthusiasts: just stick to your URL, please

When I’m in a hurry, I usually tell people who aren’t familiar with the Phoenix area that I live in Phoenix because it’s just easier and faster than explaining that I live in the Phoenix metropolitan area but good GOD NO I do not live in Phoenix, UGH!

Phoenix serves as adequate shorthand for a ton of satellite cities that all merge together in one giant sprawlopolis. But if I have time and/or am not lazy, I’ll actually take the time to explain that I live just outside Phoenix in Tempe. It’s an important distinction.

Phoenix is enormous. It’s more than 500 square miles big. Its growth has been made possible through nearly unchecked annexation of land since World War II and 20th century car-centered geography. Low-density housing developments seep farther and farther out from any urban center, leaving gaping holes in between – with all the residual effects. Basically, it might be the world’s least sustainable city.

Tempe, on the other hand, is much more compact. It is constrained on all sides by other cities, and so it leaned towards infill development and higher population density rather than sprawl. Something about it just feels more like a community than a giant city. It also just feels much more sustainably-minded than Phoenix. We have a solar water treatment plant, one of the city’s golf courses is about to become a farm, and one of the big reasons we love living here instead of our giant sprawling neighbor is you can walk or bike just about anywhere you need to go yearround most of the whenever it is below 100 (so maybe 3 months a year). Now it’s not just us that recognize the 165+ miles of bikeways- we just got named the 17th most bike friendly city in the US. We have this whole awesome bicycling community group here who’s

Oh Jesus their acronym is TBAG.

I will now shut up about how hip my city is.

unfiltered thoughts: an ethical dilemma

The new French bistro down the street from my work is soooooooooo good. But, as it has just opened and my building is a bit off the beaten path, I find myself faced with an ethical dilemma. Do I:

    1. Tell everyone that it is a delightful little hidden gem and you should absolutely go there at every opportunity, running the risk that it will become as popular as it deserves to be, at the expense of me never having their cozy warm atmosphere all to myself again?

– OR –

  1. Tell no one to help to keep it hidden as long as possible so that should they fold I will not have to go on as extreme a diet as I would have had they stayed open long-term?

As much as I enjoy having it to myself, enjoying the peace and quiet as I sip my smooth, perfectly roasted coffee and sample their flaky, buttery croissants and delicate macarons, I am going to choose #1. If you are in my neck of the woods, you really must go to Delice.

delice-coffee-macaron