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Archive for the ‘Self Improvement’ Category

I am dreading this recap this year, for some reason. Yet I am still doing it because TRADITION. I think I may start liberally tossing questions out the window. So BE PREPARED FOR THAT.

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & Sundry. If you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.)

Oh! And if YOU do this yearly recap, always or for the first time this year, send me a link in the comments won’t you? I love reading these.

  • What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

I quit my job to write a novel. (Which I have not yet completed, BLARGH.) (Prediction: I sense that the topic of the previous parenthetical may reappear below.)

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I said:

This year, I want to prioritize my husband, quality time with my kid, balance in my life… and I also want to really work on personal fulfillment. That sounds… vague and a little frou-frou and a lot privileged, but I think it will honestly help with the first three priorities. At least, I hope so. And I’m going to try.

I do think I have made solid steps on all fronts, and I attribute all progress to leaving my job at the end of March. I feel very fortunate that I have this little pocket of time during which I can be part-time novelist/part-time stay-at-home-mom. The reduction in stress has helped me be more present with my husband and daughter, and helped me really focus on contributing to my family in new ways. It has not been easy, for me, to give up on being a financial contributor. That has altered the identity I always felt I had, and it has been a challenge to adapt. But I do think I’m contributing in new and different ways, or at least contributing more in areas where I wasn’t before.

This year, I am going to finish the novel. That’s my primary goal. It’s taking so much longer than I anticipated just to eke out a first draft. I need to find some way to speed up the process. Because the first draft is only the beginning.

  • Did anyone close to you give birth?
  • Did anyone close to you die?
  • What countries did you visit?

Same as last year: Not really a big year for travel. I visited three states besides my own: Illinois, Florida, and my home state. All with Carla.

I can’t really imagine the answers changing in a big way anytime soon.

  • What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

Better ability to prioritize my time. A fully drafted novel. Making my time with Carla richer, somehow, rather than making a bunch of slipshod and ultimately frustrating attempts at “activities.”

  • What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 31, which was my last day of working in the office.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Taking a leap of faith and quitting my office job. (OMG, broken record much?)

  • What was your biggest failure?

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? If I can do it elsewhere, why can’t I blather and drivel my way through a first draft?

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

I am currently enjoying a bout of asthmatic bronchitis, which is super fun. Other than that, nothing too crazy.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

Scrivener!!! It is a tool for writers and I loooooooove it.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?

This goes 100% to my husband. He is a rockstar. I can’t even express all the ways he’s shown up this year without drowning my keyboard in tears, so let’s move on.

  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

I mean do you really have to ask, non-sentient Survey created years ago with no knowledge of our current times? I think I’m going to cross this one out because it makes me sad and bewildered and fearful and shaky.

  • Where did most of your money go?

This question sucks. I really want to say something fun like “a new ski lodge in Aspen!” or “a twelve-week trek around Europe!” I guess I could say my potential earnings went toward financing my lifelong dream but that makes me feel dizzy and sick to my stomach so MOVING ON.

  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Last year I said: The holidays this year. Carla is so excited about EVERYTHING, and it is so fun to see that.

As with last year, I didn’t even KNOW what excited was! She has been super over the moon about everything. And she gets stuff now. Like, she understood the little countdown-to-Christmas calendar I put in her room, and the last couple of days she switched the numbers all by herself before I even got to her room. She has been really gung-ho about Hanukkah, and has helped her dad light the menorah and say the prayers. She loved decorating the tree and every night for a week she would pick up a present that she knew was for her and squeeze it and hop up and down and say, “It’s so HARD to WAIT until Christmas to open my present!” I mean, a tree full of presents and she didn’t realize most of them were for her, and yet she got So Worked Up about this one tiny thing. She loved all the holiday books I pull out each year, and expressed interest in Santa and Baby Jesus and the Maccabees alike. She loved the stockings, and asked questions about how Santa could do such and such. She loved painting ornaments for her grandparents. She loved collecting the Amazon boxes from the front stoop and putting them in the guest room to await her grandmother’s arrival. She loved singing Christmas carols. Everything this year was just SO. MUCH. FUN. I hope we have at least a couple more years of this pure, unadulterated joy in the season. It’s a mood lifter for sure, and helps make all those I-want-them-to-be-fun-and-meaningful-but-are-really-kind-of-tedious projects seem worthwhile and enjoyable.

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2016?

I have to say the Frozen soundtrack. Carla hadn’t seen a movie in her entire life until Christmas 2015, and once we started we couldn’t stop. As toddlers are wont to do, she fell in love with Frozen and we have watched it eleventy billion times. PLUS we bought the Frozen soundtrack (we call it “Carly Songs”) on CD (yes, I still use CDs in my car) and we have listened to THAT at least seventy gazillion times. Also: Justin Beiber’s “Sorry” and “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake featuring The Beibs. “Waves” by Miguel (the Kacey Musgraves version). “One Dance” by Drake. Carla does a mean dance move to Drake, and sings along very sweetly to “Let Me Love You” and “Waves.” Also also, on the classical front, I have grown very attached to Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2. I have some fantasy that I will learn to play it. (HA.)

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder? Happier but more fearful about the future, I think?
  2. b) thinner or fatter? Fatter. Which kind of sucks because I lost 12 pounds after I left my job. I have since gained it back. But I kind of hate this question because I just do. I am scowling at it.
  3. c) richer or poorer? I am skipping this question because math.

This is a question I don’t care to answer anymore, I think. Are these really the benchmarks by which I want to measure the year? No, no I don’t think so. MORE SCOWLING.

  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. (Always.) Submitting my work for publication. Figuring out a better time management system.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying. Yelling. Procrastinating. Writing poor-quality apocalyptic poetry. Wasting time on my phone. Feeling too hot or too cold; that’s really annoying when the house maintains a stable temperature.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

Here at home, with my husband and Carla, and my husband’s parents. It was lovely and fun. Also lovely and fun was adding my sister and niece the day after Christmas, but that amped up the freneticism by several degrees. How does adding ONE additional child to the mix make things exponentially more crazy?

  • Did you fall in love in 2016?

Ugh. Every year this one makes me gag a little, but I definitely fell more in love with my husband. He has been supportive of me and my dreams in a way that shatters me. I hope I make him feel even half as loved and understood and… seen as he makes me feel.

And, as we allow the tears to dry a bit, I fall newly in love with Carla with each new stage in her life. Three has been challenging, but it has also been utterly delightful as she becomes more independent and imaginative and curious and affectionate and funny and fun and inquisitive. I just adore her.

  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

What a year for TV! Standouts from the year include the OJ Simpson mini-series, The Night Of, Westward, and the Gilmore Girls revival (even though I hated GG as much as I loved it – many flaws, no?). I also loved the latest seasons of The Americans, The Great British Baking Competition, Shark Tank, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, The Middle, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. What can I say? I like feel-good shows to balance out the gritty stuff slash real life. Oh! And two series my husband and I watched and loved that were new to us this year were Master of None and Catastrophe. God, I love TV.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I can’t even. This question has got to go.

  • What was the best book you read?

I READ SO MANY BOOKS THIS YEAR! Contenders for best book include A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin. There have been others, but those are the standouts. For me, all had great stories with interesting, well-rounded characters, and truly beautiful language that enriched the story without getting in the way. Then sometime in November I fell into a Sue Grafton wormhole and have been reading my way through her Kinsey Millhone series (again) because it’s fun.

  • What did you want and get?

A chance to write a book. More time with my daughter. More time to exercise. More time in general, I guess. Less stress. And also this gorgeous green coat from Boden that unfortunately didn’t fit so BOO to that. My hips are not British enough, it seems. Oh! And I got the sheet music for Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, and have been painstakingly picking out the right hand notes. That’s really all I’ve managed.

  • What did you want and not get?

A finished first draft of my manuscript because I am SLOW.

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Let’s see. My husband and I took a break from watching TV to watch all of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. That was fun, but I wasn’t as… enamored of the most recent (last?) film as I was of the earlier ones. (To be fair, Daniel Craig seemed less enamored of it as well.) Did I watch anything else? Of the (many) kids’ movies I’ve seen this year, Brave is my favorite, followed by Wall-E and then probably a tie between Tangled and Frozen. I did not care for Zootopia, and Robin Hood – a childhood favorite – sadly did not live up to my memory version. (Robin Hood himself is still by far the foxiest cartoon I’ve ever encountered, though. No pun intended.)

EDITED TO ADD: My husband and I watched Sicario just last night, right under the 2016 wire, and it was really well done. Dark and disturbing but a heart-thumping, thought provoking film.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 35 this year, and I can’t really remember what I did. Which is a pattern at least a few years running, so I am getting rid of this question.

  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Same as every year (don’t I ever PROGRESS as a person?!?!):

Being able to just LET GO and not freak out about EVERYTHING.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

Same as last year: I have full-on embraced the leggings-as-pants “style” that I used to disdain. COMFORT IS KEY. In your face, Past Me!

Also, this year I started doing Fabletics (I joined Fabletics? I am not sure of the proper verbiage here. It’s just a subscription service in the vein of Stitch Fix. Sort of. Third cousins.), and so have added some very cute workout ensembles to my wardrobe, which means that sometimes I switch up my leggings with legging-like yoga pants. You can spot the difference because I wear tennis shoes with the yoga pants version.

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. Being able to write every day most days.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I adore Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan of Catastrophe. The characters they play are adorable and funny and in-your-face in a way I find charming. Sterling K. Brown. Constance Wu (her and her character as Jessica Huang on Fresh Off the Boat) because she seems fearless and take-no-prisoners and also is hilarious and beautiful and talented. Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore. Okay, so maybe these are primarily TV CHARACTERS and not necessarily the actors themselves but whatever.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?

Nope. NOPE. Not even going to. CUT.

  • Who did you miss?

Same as last year, although – shocker – blogging more frequently myself has helped a teeny bit: I guess I most missed the bloggers I used to interact with regularly, back when I blogged frequently and they blogged frequently. I suppose I should figure out a way to do Twitter (which makes me uncomfortable for some reason).

  • Who was the best new person you met?

As last year, I don’t know that I met many new people this year. AM A HERMIT. Oh wait, that’s not true. I have made a couple of (tentative strides toward making) mom friends through Carla’s new school.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

Write it down, don’t write it right, for the love of all that is holey.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

(I don’t know if the following makes sense as a lyric or as the answer to this question, but it’s in my head, so I’m going with it.)

Don’t you give up, nah nah nah / Never give up, nah nah nah / Let me love you.

Happy New Year, Internet! I hope 2017 goes a hell of a lot better than we fear!

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I am sitting here embroiled in all the humiliation and frustration of an Unsatisfying Interaction… Only the Unsatisfying Interaction took places EONS ago, so all my eloquent speeches and clear, reasonable explanations are useless.

Why does the brain insist on doing this? There are DOZENS of times when I have a thousand other things to do/concentrate on/worry about/binge-watch on Netflix, but CANNOT FOCUS because I am busy replaying the events of the Unsatisfying Interaction on repeat.

I would list a few of them, just as examples, but I don’t want to because they will earworm their way back into my brain and next thing you know I’ll be calmly explaining myself or making the perfect (heretofore unsaid) retort or reacting in a totally uncharacteristic c’est la vie way that will erase the Interaction from my memory for good and I’ll have just replaced The Useless Mind Churn of the Moment for another.

WHY does the brain do this? I could try, I suppose, to make an argument FOR this functionality: perhaps the brain thinks that if I turn The Past over and around enough times, I can prevent the same thing from happening in The Future. Which makes some sense! But… in this case, I highly HIGHLY doubt that this Unsatisfying Interaction will repeat – or even come close to happening again. And it’s not like all this internal practice has helped me to now; I still have Unsatisfying Interactions; I still fumble and say the wrong thing and am obtuse when I mean to be clear and am gauche when I mean to be funny and am tearful when I mean to be strong; I still come away flustered and wanting a re-do. And I am STILL spending countless hours thinking and fretting and stressing over things that have already happened and therefore CANNOT CHANGE.

So I’m coming down firmly on the side of USELESS.

It’s like a hysterical jaw, just gnawing and gnawing and gnawing away at the past. But instead of easily crumbling like a cookie, or even gradually giving way like a rawhide bone or a piece of wood, The Past is a many faceted diamond, and at best (at BEST!) the jaw is chipping off microscopic shards of the memory, which, instead of disappearing, simply lodge themselves more deeply in the humiliation centers of my mind.

Anyway, if you spot me having a very earnest conversation with the air later, this is why.

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Sometimes I think one of my love languages is Buying Gifts. That’s probably not the right term but I don’t feel like walking down the hall to get the book and read it. Also, I think “love language” refers to how you prefer to be treated, not how you treat others – and I don’t particularly like receiving gifts, so maybe love language is not the right term at all.

Let’s start over:

I LIKE TO BUY GIFTS FOR PEOPLE.

However, I also possess a distinctly challenging personality trait that makes it difficult to actually BUY GIFTS FOR PEOPLE. What I’m saying is that I have severe gift-giving anxiety (undiagnosed). So what happens is I get all excited about buying someone a present… and then I get all weird and hand-wringy about it.

Here’s my normal thought process:

1. This is the perfect occasion to buy a gift for Person In My Life!

2a. Yay! I have a great idea for what to get PIML, too!

2b. Crud. I have NO IDEA what to buy.

3a. Is it too expensive? Maybe I shouldn’t get it.

3b. Nothing seems right. Maybe I shouldn’t get anything.

4. No! Don’t be like that! Allow yourself to give in to your positive intention!

5a. You’re totally right! The gift is in my shopping cart!

5b. You’re totally right! Spend way too much time finding the perfect gift and then finally adding it to my shopping cart!

6. Wait a second. What if PIML doesn’t like the gift?

7. What if PIML feels uncomfortable that I got a gift at all? Maybe it’s for a weird occasion or the PIML doesn’t think we’re that close or the gift itself is weird?

8. What if PIML thinks the gift is too expensive?

9. What if PIML thinks the gift is too cheap?

10. What if PIML feels beholden to me after receiving a gift? Or now feels obligated to buy ME a gift?

11. What if this changes my relationship with PIML?

12. Okay, there’s no real need to buy the gift right this second. Just take a step back and think about it.

13. ** time passes **

14. Crap. Now it is way too late to send a gift.

I would like to say, in a non-blaming way, that my husband plays a role in this process as well. He is usually of the opinion, “You don’t NEED to get a gift for that person!” Which is true! Always! No one needs a gift! But then I start doubting whether I should get a gift for that person, if it’s weird or overstepping or whatever (see Steps 6-11) above. When the gift is from both of us, that also adds a wrinkle to the gift-giving process, because then I feel like I should consult with my husband about what the gift should be, how much it should cost, etc. And that takes time, and some back and forth, and so Step 13 stretches out and out and out until we crash right into Step 14.

As long as I’m confessing things, I might as well let you know that sometimes I actually DO purchase the gift. And THEN I go through Steps 6-11. And the gift just sits there, forever and ever. The same can be said for cards. I buy them, then never send them. WHYYYYYYY.

This is a trait that I really dislike about myself. It is a variation on one of my other Most Reviled Personal Traits, which is procrastination. It has prevented me, in the past, from sending wedding gifts and baby gifts and sympathy cards that I really SHOULD HAVE. Missed opportunities that probably made a negative impression on or caused hurt feelings for the would-be recipient. Which causes me anxiety as well, plus embarrassment and guilt. I have dabbled with the idea of being A Person Who Doesn’t Send Gifts, which is a fine, perfectly reasonable person to be. But that hasn’t really STUCK.

So! Brisk clap! I am trying to combat my gift-giving anxiety. And this summer, I have had some success, I think!

  • Wedding gift for my cousin and her new wife
  • High school graduation present for my cousin
  • College graduation present for my other cousin
  • Birthday present for my daughter’s best friend
Birthday gift 1

I think it was this one. May have been something similar but not exact, though. (image from amazon.com)

  • Birthday present for another of my daughter’s friends
Birthday gift 2

Again, I can’t remember if it was exactly this one or not. (image from amazon.com)

  • Cute his and hers barware for a friend’s engagement
Engagement Gift

I do wish they were the same size/type of glass because it kind of seems like it’s insinuating that the woman should drink LESS than the man, although I admit I don’t know whether they hold the same amount of liquid that’s what it SEEMS to be saying, judgmental much glasses? but WHATEVER. They were cute. My friend and her fiancé drink beer. The end. (image from katespade.com)

  • Baby present plus older brother present for a friend’s new baby girl

(clothing image from nordstrom.com; book and Melissa & Doug puzzle set images from amazon.com)

  • Baby present plus older sister present for another friend’s new baby boy

FOX IN SUNGLASSES SWEATER. (clothing images from nordstrom.com; book and princess castle tent images from amazon.com)

  • Interesting bookmark for a friend
Bookmark

The one I got is NOT this one, but very similar. (image from mitercraft.com)

  • Housewarming gift for a friend
Housewarming Gift

Not exactly this, but CANDLES from WickHabit. (image from etsy.com)

  • Thank-you gifts for my daughter’s daycare teachers (cute personalized tumbler plus a $5 Starbucks gift card)
Teacher Gift

These are from the LuckyLilyDesigns Etsy shop and they EXACTLY as cute in person. I love them. (image from etsy.com)

  • And I am planning to (once I talk to my husband about it and help him move beyond his [possible] [likely] inclination to NOT do it) get cookies or chocolates or doughnuts or something for the entire daycare staff on my daughter’s last day, but I haven’t gotten beyond the Step 2b fretting-about-the-gift-possibilities stage on that yet.

So. I think I am making some progress, considering that I am TERRIBLE AT GIVING GIFTS.

Oh, yes. Looking specifically at the teacher thank-yous and the baby gifts up there, I realize ANOTHER aspect of my gift-giving issues: Sometimes, I start to go overboard. I get Christmas Stocking Syndrome, and start panicking about “what if it’s not enough?” and “maybe I should just throw this last little thing in here” and “oh look at this cute little extra that would be so fun!” That is how the Starbucks gift cards got added to the teacher presents (what if they hate the tumblers? what if this is a case of “you should have just given a gift card”?) and how the little board books got added to the baby presents (oh but they are under $6! And this is Carla’s FAVORITE story when she was a baby!). (And also how I added a bottle of nail polish and a tub of EOS lip balm – which is the same duo I got from a dear friend after I had Carla – to my Amazon order so I could add a little mother-self-care giftlet to each baby gift.) Giving in to Christmas Stocking Syndrome feels good at the time, but then afterward makes me worry – yet again – that I’ve been too flamboyant or overly aggressive with my gifting.

But! I am going to ignore my CSS Panic about the baby and teacher gifts and MOVE FORWARD!

In the interest of full disclosure, the engagement gift, baby gifts, and bookmark have all been purchased but not actually wrapped or sent to the recipients yet. The housewarming gift (which will be candles, from Wick Habit) has not yet been purchased. And two of the three teacher gifts are wrapped but won’t be handed out until my daughter’s last day at daycare.

PHEW. Now that I see that list, I feel both happy and relieved and also a little bit ACK! because that is a lot of money. BUT. I think each of those gifts was appropriate and I don’t think any of them was too expensive if taken singularly. And anyway, one should not think too much of TOTAL COST lest it dampen the generous impulse!

I am going to go wrap the engagement gift and then put the bookmark in the mail RIGHT NOW!

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What I want to talk about today is having something in your life that is deeply meaningful to one spouse but not the other.

I think this could take various forms. Let’s say you are very religious, and your spouse is not. I imagine that not having the same level of interest in religion could present some difficulties.  You might be thinking, well, that seems like something you should have talked about before you got married. But maybe there wasn’t such a vast distance between you at first; maybe you were a moderately religious person, and accepted that your spouse was an atheist… and only over time did your religion grow in importance to you, while your spouse remained an atheist. While people DO make this work in their marriages, I see how it could be potentially very difficult.

Or maybe when you were first married, you were both politically moderate. But over time, one of you has begun to edge into more conservative territory while the other has become more and more liberal. I cannot continue with this as an example because it’s stressing me out.

So: what about something that sounds less like it might cause a marital crisis?

What if you are really passionate about CrossFit, but your spouse just can’t get too excited about it? Maybe you can get your spouse to do a Paleo cleanse every now and again, but your spouse has no interest in exercising and really doesn’t want to wake up early to go to your CrossFit events and would rather watch Game of Thrones than the CrossFit Games. Even if you have friends who are also in CrossFit, I could see how it could be frustrating if your spouse did not share your interest.

Or what if your dream is to visit all the major league ballparks in America? But your spouse has zero interest in baseball. Your spouse might indulge you by planning vacations in cities  that have major league teams. But maybe your spouse has no interest in touring yet another ballpark, or going to yet another endless baseball game in the full glare of the sun. I can see how it would be lonely to attend a game by yourself, or frustrating to be pushed to do other tourist activities when all you want to do is walk among the bleachers of some historic field, imagining the crack of the ball against the bat, and the roar of the crowd.

I think we can all agree that spouses can and may – and even should – have different interests. And maybe we can agree that it’s important for spouses to respect one another’s interests, even if they don’t understand them or like them. We might also be able to go one step further and say that it would be in the interests of the marriage to at least try to support the other spouse’s interest. And, on the other side of things, for the spouse-with-the-interest to be respectful and understanding of the disinterest on the spouse’s side, and not to press to hard or get too bent out of shape.

My example of this is kind of frivolous, and really only becomes an issue about once a year. But I spend a lot of energy fretting about it and wishing VERY HARD that I could force my husband into not just respecting my interest but into LOVING it as much as I do.

My parents live in the middle of a picturesque forest in a wide valley between two mountain ranges. It is indescribably beautiful, so I will post a photo of it to give you the mere glimmer of an idea.

cropped-holland-lake1.jpg

I didn’t grow up there, in the mountains. But my dad spent summers there as a boy, and so we visited the area every summer. At one point, my parents bought a swath of land and built a little one bed/one bath log cabin powered by a generator, and my whole family would go there for weekends or weeks throughout the summer. There’s a little lake nearby, and my parents have a boat, and we’d water ski or tool around the lake or lie on the dock in the sun. We did lots of hiking, even though hiking isn’t really my jam, we played Scrabble in the evenings, and we spent many, many hours reading in the clear mountain air, with only the sounds of sandhill cranes, the thrum of hummingbirds and industrious bees, and the distant whir of a motor boat to disrupt the pure calm.

But this idyllic beauty comes at a price: My parents’ home is difficult to get to – most of a day of travel from my home. And it’s isolated – there aren’t any bars or movie theaters or malls or really many restaurants you can get to without a long drive.

To me – and to my parents, who live there – these are pros rather than cons.

For my husband, who was born in a city and has lived in a city of one size or another his whole life – at least I think that’s the defining difference between us, here – they seem to be more con than pro.

He goes, without hesitation or complaint. We book our flights each year, and he talks about looking forward to taking a break, and about how nice it will be to see my parents. But I don’t think the idea of being completely off-grid is as appealing to him as it is to me. No cell towers anywhere nearby. No cable television. Nowhere to drive if you get bored (!) by the beautiful scenery, unless you want to spend an hour or more in the car. (We do, now, have electricity; my parents eventually built a two-bed/three-bath home with all the amenities.)

To me, having grown up with this space in my life, it has become synonymous with peace and relaxation. So I just don’t get why my husband doesn’t love it the way I do. I want desperately for him to love it. Not just tolerate it. But to LOVE it, to feel the pull of the tamaracks and Ponderosa pine, to long for the brush of ice-kissed mountain breezes on his face, to ache for the enormous wide-open skies and gleaming silence.

It has recently occurred to me that maybe I am being unreasonable.

If I were to be a passionate marathon runner, I can envision wanting my husband to be supportive of my efforts to get into shape and eat a healthy diet. I can envision wanting my husband to make every effort to attend the actual marathons, to cheer me on and to be there at the finish line. I can even envision myself wanting him to share with me the exhilaration of pushing my body to its limits, and the euphoria of accomplishing such a physically and mentally punishing goal. But I cannot envision asking him to get up at 4:00 each morning and run 10 miles if he doesn’t want to.

I am a writer. Some of what I write is poetry. My husband is supportive of my writing, even proud. He has been to readings with me. He tolerates it when I read him poems from the New Yorker. He has bought me books of poems he thinks I would like. But he does not love poetry, or even like it. I cannot envision asking him to read books of poems just because I love it.

These things seem like reasonable deviations in our interests. So why am I so fixed on trying to get him to love visiting the mountains?

I have gone through stages. The wheedling stage: just try it, please please for me, and maybe you’ll like it! The petulant indifference stage: well, I’m going to have a good time whether you do or not. The placating stage: let’s do exactly what YOU want to do, and maybe you’ll enjoy it more! The frustration stage: there must be something wrong with you; what’s not to like?!?! The despair stage: how can I spend the next fifty years trying to get you to love something you just don’t love? The melodramatic stage: does this incompatibility mean we are destined for divorce?

Maybe the next stage is acceptance. Maybe I have to finally realize that my parents’ magical forest hideaway is just not my husband’s kind of thing. Maybe I will have to get to a point where Carla and I go visit my parents by ourselves, and don’t pressure my husband into making the trek. (Although I don’t necessarily think he’d like THAT; he doesn’t like to be away from me and Carla, for one thing, and he also wants to see my parents.) Maybe I just have to let him support my interest by coming with me, even though it’s not his idea of The Best Time Ever, and allow him to feel slightly bored and slightly uncomfortable. Maybe, over time, he will come to enjoy it more, and maybe I just have to stop pressuring him. Or maybe not. Maybe it just shouldn’t matter. After all, he may not LOVE it, but he Shows Up, and that should count for more than I’ve been counting it. And I guess I have to respect and support that as much as he respects and supports my need to have this kind of retreat in my life.

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  • I recently had an epiphany: While I really enjoy being active – walking, even on a treadmill – I really dislike exercising. I’m fine if the exercise is inherent in the activity, but I don’t like to purposefully encourage sweating and ragged breathing. Eh. Know thyself, right?
  • Carla is starting to lose the last remaining baby vernacular. She can now say “computer” correctly, rather than calling it a “com-POO-tuh” like a tiny Austrian. I am holding on very tightly to “lellow” instead of “yellow” and “collection” instead of “reflection.”
  • My in-laws donated a Crate and Barrel outdoor loveseat to us. It’s teak and sturdy and fits neatly on our back porch. But there’s no cushion and I cannot for the life of me find a cushion for it. The sizing is weird – leave it to Crate and Barrel to have custom sizes, right? – so none of the standard bench or loveseat cushions at Home Depot or Target or Bed Bath & Beyond will fit. Then I looked at Crate and Barrel for a replacement – they were having a sale – and the appropriate cushion would cost $500. On sale. I know we all have different categories of things we are willing to spend serious money on, and it turns out that an outdoor loveseat cushion is not one of mine.
  • I have made a career change, and I am LOVING it. I feel like I should acknowledge it here, but I don’t want to go into detail right now. So. That’s all.
  • My niece’s first birthday is next month, and I have no idea what to get her. Her parents always get Carla fun educational toys, so I suspect they might enjoy getting one of those… but they also live in a tiny apartment and I don’t want to send them anything that requires too much space. Clothes are out: not only does my niece get ALL of Carla’s hand-me-downs, but she also has the same grandmother that Carla does, which means she gets her own beautiful collection of clothing.
  • I just finished the third (and so far final) Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I found all of them thoroughly enjoyable, but now I’m looking for the Next Great Mystery Series to start. I like Sue Grafton and Tana French and Kate Atkinson and Sophie Hannah. But I haven’t really found any other series that have the kind of writing and characters and types of crimes that I like.
  • So in the meantime, I have finally begun A Little Life, because I’ve heard it’s a life-changing work of fiction. But I’m very apprehensive about it, because I’ve heard that it’s devastating.
  • We have lived in this house for nearly five years, and we are FINALLY getting to finish the office. We’ve re-organized the furniture and gotten rid of a bunch of junk and now just need to clean out the closet (old computers and cellphones dating back to COLLEGE and assorted other tangentially-office-related detritus) and put up artwork. We’re keeping an eye out for coupons at Michael’s, so we can finally frame my husband’s degrees, and we’ll hang those as well (my mom framed my college degree; I don’t think I ever got a physical diploma from my grad school, seeing as I absconded to Europe instead of attending my graduation ceremony).
  • Speaking of junk: we had inherited three mattresses and two bedframes from my in-laws that we finally got rid of. Alongside a massive, defunct television set, a DVD player, and some other piece of stereo equipment that is no longer compatible with modern TVs. I felt TERRIBLE sending these things off to the junk guy, but our local Goodwill had no interest and I am not holding a garage sale.
  • Carla and I planted a bunch of seeds last week. We used one of those big seed starter kits and I let her pick out a bunch of vegetable seeds. We had fun poking holes in the seed starter stuff and dropping in a seed at a time. (I was stunned when I asked her what she wanted to plant next and she said “cilantro” because I don’t recall teaching her what cilantro is.) Most of the veggies are already sprouting (which seems a little creepy to me – it’s been A WEEK) and Carla is So Excited. The first sprouts that appeared were the green beans we planted, and so she is CONVINCED that we are growing a beanstalk to rival Jack’s. I keep trying to manage her expectations but…
  • This seems worth remarking on: I had been saving, on my DVR, the final episode of House since it aired in 2012. I never watched it, because I don’t like things ending. (We still have the Parks & Rec finale, unwatched, on the DVR as well.) But we were running out of space on the DVR (wonder why?) so I finally deleted it. If I haven’t watched it in four years, it is unlikely I ever will.

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I have a high tolerance for broken things, I guess. Perhaps this is called “being lazy” or “being cheap” but I like to pretend I’m tough and who needs things to work anyway?! Weaklings, that’s who!

Turns out, having things that work is pretty awesome.

The driver’s side window of my car stopped working, oh, seven years ago? Eight? Niner? I can’t remember, so let’s just say it was not working for the better part of a decade. I can’t remember why I didn’t fix it in the first place, although I suspect it had something to do with the cost. During some routine car maintenance, the mechanic noted that the window wasn’t working, and that it would cost some ungodly amount to diagnose the thing and then there would be some sort of additional price tag on parts and labor and. Broken window it is.

Oh! There was one time where it miraculously healed itself for about three or four months, which I remember QUITE CLEARLY was in the summer of 2012. I remember this because I had just begun a new job that required the use of a passcard to get in and out of the garage. And the window worked! After having not worked for a long while!

But… The following summer, it no longer worked. So I would open my door every morning and every evening to let myself into the garage.  I felt like such a weirdo, opening my door a crack, awkwardly confusing the parking garage attendant who was never sure if I was trying to park in the entrance way or what. Sometimes I would pull up too far from the swiper, so I’d have to awkwardly half-leave my car to reach the little swiper box. I was unable to get the mail from the mailbox while in the confines of my car. Drive-through ATMs were an exercise in absurdity – and I definitely dropped my ATM card at least once as I was trying to lean out the tiny crack in my door to wedge it into the ATM machine, and then couldn’t reach it, and so had to pull forward, but the person behind me in the ATM line had no idea of my struggles so she drove up and over my card and it was a Big Thing that still makes my face flame with embarrassment. I couldn’t shoo the occasional fly or mosquito out of my car. I had to go into the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions and into Starbucks to get my coffee. You know. Pretty unimportant stuff on the Larger Scale by which we’re all expected to measure day-to-day annoyances.

This past summer I finally got it fixed. I have no idea why this summer was The Summer. None whatsoever. Oh! Yes I do! Last winter, I drove my in-laws’ car for a while while (yes, two whiles, they are both intentional, if lazy, come on, we’ve already established I don’t mind THAT) they were out of town. And the driver’s side window worked, and I found out how excellent it was to just… ROLL DOWN THE WINDOW! Such easy breezy freedom!

I believe I made some sort of hyperbolic statement to my husband about how it vastly improved my quality of life, and voila! We decided to cough up the money to fix it. (It was STILL an ungodly amount of money.)

But it is SO NICE.  A whole new world of drive-through decadence is now at my fingertips!

Then there was the faucet in the kitchen. It was… wiggly, I guess you could say. No longer properly attached to the sink part. And the spray was coming out all wonky, or sometimes very weakly.

But it was some sort of complicated faucet that my husband couldn’t switch out by himself, so it was going to require a plumber and a new faucet and someone would have to stay home from work to get the thing installed. And did I mention expensive? Blech.

It took about… two years to finally get it fixed. And I LOOOOOOVE my new faucet. LOVE IT. It’s shiny and it works and there’s no weird Sink Gunk collecting around its neck and man. Two years I could have been enjoying it!

What else?

OH THIS IS THE BIG ONE! Our dishwasher started acting up over a year ago. First, the latch that holds the door closed broke somehow. It got loose and then would work its way backward into the housing of the dishwasher, requiring the use of a knife to coax it back out to a position appropriate for actually keeping the dishwasher shut.

Then it started making horrific groaning noises, as though the sheer burden of washing dishes was causing it the utmost despair.

Then the little release toggle thingy (yes, that is a technical term) for the soap dispenser only worked intermittently, which meant that I felt OBLIGATED (because I am crazy) to re-wash multiple loads of dishes.

Which my dishwasher really took to heart, by the way, because a month or so ago it decided that the dishes needed a LOT more washing than I was directing it to do, and it would just start up. By itself. At any time of day or night. OPEN OR CLOSED. You try loading a dishwasher after dinner when it suddenly starts spraying you with water because it thinks it’s in the middle of a rinse cycle. In its final days, the thing was running practically all day long. Of course, the soap dispenser didn’t work so I ended up washing those dishes by hand anyway (am crazy). Can’t wait to see my water and gas bills! (You would be correct in assuming that I failed to disconnect the power cord until the Day of Washing was well under way.)

So for Christmas, my husband and I gifted each other with a New Dishwasher! And lo, it is wonderful and washes dishes – with soap!!!! – when we ask it to do so, and no more frequently than that. It latches shut. It’s quiet. It is wonderful.

Now that I am fully aware of the wonders surrounding Fixing Things and Having Things That Work, I can’t wait to fix ALL the broken things in my house! The banister spindles that are not properly adhered to the railing! The screen in my daughter’s room! The lattice around the back porch! There are probably dozens of other things that I am not thinking of!

Fix all the things!!!

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This is one of those posts where I make you decide who is right and who is wrong. The people you are choosing between? Me – the really-not-so-great-at-blogging-lately-blogger you adore – or my husband – a guy you don’t even know.

I am going to try my best to explain each side in as unbiased a way possible, so as to keep your judgments strictly fact-based. But you must take a side. You MUST.

Listen, Internet, I need you to really FOCUS here. Because your vote is SUPER IMPORTANT. After all, we are about to bring a CHILD into the world, and teach that child the Right way to do things. And since one of these responses is so clearly WRONG, the WRONG Spouse needs to be educated before the baby arrives.

THIS IS FOR THE BABY.

(As always, please recall that whenever I write a post that forces you, Internet, to take sides between me and my husband – which I have done, to this point, just a few times, not counting this post which is really not interesting enough to require such a lengthy disclaimer – I feel morally obligated to reference Temerity Jane, who writes similar-enough-that-I-feel-morally-torn-type posts [only better and with more hilarity]. [This is purely a moral obligation, not a Temerity-Jane-imposed obligation.])

Let’s get right to the situation shall we?

First, you need to imagine that you are standing in your kitchen, minding your own business, possibly cursing the very dishes you are washing for the ten BAJILLIONTH time because dishes never END, EVER, while your spouse is upstairs doing – let’s be charitable here – some household chore that is equally necessary and irritating, when you hear a loud crashing noise from the second floor.  (You may have to imagine that you live in a house with a second floor.)

Now, the crashing noise is… distressing in that it’s not a normal Household Sound (me: momentarily glad I don’t live in a house where crashing is NORMAL) (the baby: not yet) and so you run to the bottom of the stairs and you yell up to your spouse.

What is it that you yell?

One of us, in such a situation, would yell, “What happened?”

The other would yell, “Are you okay?”

Now, before we delve into each of these responses, let’s imagine two other scenarios.

Scenario #1 (okay, really #2 if we are counting the Loud Crash as Scenario #1): You and your spouse are standing in the afore-mentioned kitchen and one of you is loading dishes into the dishwasher and the other of you is puttering about the kitchen, getting dinner ready or putting groceries away or some such.  Then one of you – you, your spouse, doesn’t matter I guess; this is YOUR imagination – trips over the dishwasher and cracks a toe or a shin on the corner and yelps in pain.

What do you say?

“Are you okay?”

“What happened?”

Scenario #2 (really, #3):  You and your spouse are settling in for an evening watching Mad Men or Justified or [insert your own wonderful TV show with adorable leading man here], and one of you carries the bowl of popcorn while the other carries the drinks.

Just as you reach the couch, one of you trips, flinging popcorn/[drink of your choice] all over the couch and the floor and everything.

Okay, if your FIRST response isn’t laughter, what is it?

“What happened?”

“Are you okay?”

In my house, one of us almost exclusively responds with “What happened?” and the other responds with “Are you okay?”

“Are you okay?” is the more appropriate response because it defines the other person’s well-being as the asker’s priority.  Things get dropped/broken/spilled; people trip. But what is important here is whether the dropper/breaker/spiller/tripper is all right. Understanding whether the person is okay will also help the asker determine what to do next:, i.e. calling 911 or offering a hug vs. grabbing a towel/vacuum cleaner.

“What happened?” is the more appropriate response because it pinpoints the cause of the crash/trip/pain.  It allows the asker to assess the situation clearly and formulate a clear plan of action for dealing with the situation.  If the cause of the crash was an accidental backing-into-a-stack of books, that’s a whole different beast than if it were caused by a person fainting or falling down the stairs or being pinned under a bookcase. If the trip into the dishwasher was the result of a slippery floor or a failure on the spouse’s part to make it clear that the dishwasher was open and in the way, well, that’s different than if the tripper just misjudged the distance between shin and sharp corner.

“Are you okay?” is NOT an appropriate response because it does nothing to solve the situation or prevent similar situations in the future. Plus, usually, your spouse can SEE, with his/her own two eyes, that you ARE okay, so what’s the point in asking?

“What happened?” is NOT an appropriate response because it implies blame in a situation where the dropper/breaker/spiller/tripper might already feel stupid and embarrassed. Plus, it doesn’t acknowledge any physical pain that may have resulted from the drop/break/spill/trip, which might be more important to the dropper/breaker/spiller/tripper than some knocked-over books or popcorn-covered couch cushions.

It is so very clear to me that one of these responses is WRONG that I am practically shaking with the wrongness.

I have no doubt that you will take my side in this. NO DOUBT. But let’s all try to be fair and reasonable when explaining which is right and which is wrong and why.

GO.

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