rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Moving three times in the past two years has created some interesting situations. For one thing, I'm feeling extremely well-oriented to academic workplace requirements. But for another thing, taxes.

I was highly relieved to discover that the reason why I haven't gotten a W-2 from Berkeley is because they didn't cut the first check until 2016. Hurrah-phew, one less state where I need to file state income taxes. Tracking down the one from the Aggies was not so easy. Theoretically, if I had rememberd all the relevant numbers and passwords, I could have logged in to their HR system to find an electronic copy and see why the paper copy didn't reach my mailbox. But they made me surrender my ID, so it took a while to remember that I probably had typed out that ID number somewhere on a copy of a form saved to my laptop. That doesn't help, though, with trying to remember a password from two institutions back, so then I clicked the "e-mail me a temporary one" button, which sent an e-mail to the defunct institutional Aggie e-mail address (this has also been a problem for reviewing manuscripts). Brilliant.

Fortunately, the HR person working in my former department there is an absolute saint, so one quick phone call later and I am all set. On that front.

Then I gave in and paid Lincoln Electric the $5 they claim I still owe them after shutting off my electricity and paying the last electrical bill in full for the Lincoln apartment. I couldn't resist adding a little "WTF?!" note, though.

Sorting through those bits and pieces reminded me of another adulthood annoyance, however, which is that the rental manager from Lincoln never did return my deposit. I wasn't optimistic on that front and probably should have just sent in my 30-day notice without paying the last month's rent, but for some reason it felt important to do things by the books. It's frustrating, though, to have little to no leverage, especially considering the sorry condition of that apartment building. At least I no longer have that lingering cough from breathing mildewy air all the time.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Today has been an "organize the calendar" sort of day. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but at the same time this is a good time of year to take stock of things and think about plans for the upcoming year, including changes. I am not sure about how to organize this list of things I am wanting to organize, but here it is:

-Short-term: Finish bike hook installation (probably the weekend I get back to town - Jan 8).

-Schedule a piano tuner (S gave me the Gift of Tuning, hurrah!)

-Figure out rowing in the Bay Area. A big thank-you to [livejournal.com profile] dichroic for passing along a couple of lists of the area rowing clubs. Starting point: Berkeley Paddling and Rowing Club (closer), if not that then Lake Merritt (8.7 mile bike ride one-way).

-Finish out an R-12 award (i.e. ride at least a 200km brevet each month for 12 consecutive months; I have 3 more months to go). Once I finish this, I plan to focus more on rowing, with occasional recreational bicycling thrown in for fun and profit (e.g. more picnics and bike camping).

-Come up with a plan for creative projects. [livejournal.com profile] sytharin and the housemates are somewhat keen to get ceramics operations up and running, which is something that makes me dream of gas-fired kilns and learning to mix up glazes. These two dreams are impractical for the here-and-now, plus I have other, non-ceramic creative projects that I wish to attend to (specifically, quilting and knitting). Hence the need for more of a plan for creative projects. The best solution may be just to schedule Crafternoons with RAC. That should also help us figure out how I can best help her with gardening projects, too. I can see why people use shareable calendar goop for this stuff, although I am tempted to continue rebelling with my paper and text files.

-Academic to do (condensed version): make a schedule for the conference in Portland next week; push forward the leafcutter manuscript (which doom level have I reached, again?); make a semester plan; analyze data and write manuscripts; start new experiments; polish job application materials.

-Get back on track with tracking spending. As mentioned elsejournal, I'm particularly interested in doing some detailed grocery accounting. In part this should help me figure out which items I wish to buy where in the grocery landscape of the Bay Area, and in part I am intrigued by the idea of comparing grocery spending here against grocery spending elsewhere (Lincoln in particular), and in seeing what I eat over the course of a year. Lincoln groceries won't include the occasional foray to the farmer's market, but those trips were pretty occasional and mostly for pecans and fruit bonanzas, because the grocery co-op did such an awesome job of selling locally-produced foods.

Edited to add:
-Develop the Bike-Friendly Fridays coffeeshop agenda for the East Bay.

I think that covers the major bases.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
This morning I packed up the bug nerd corner.

Nerd corner

I have no idea when, if ever, I'll have another bug nerd corner. That's the uncertainty of life, moving, and academia. While I am feeling more human these days, as a result of not working quite so many 12-hour days in the past week, starting the moving process inevitably dredges up a whole bunch of emotions. This is happening in particular because I will be going from a two-bedroom apartment back to a room in someone else's house. I am going to miss having my own kitchen, even though I know that there can be many rewards to a shared kitchen if one lives with other creative cooks.

There won't be room for the door-desk, so I am at least initially planning on using my sewing machine table as a desk again, which is what I did for a month when I lived with [livejournal.com profile] scrottie. But that is forcing me to look again at the pile of creative projects: how to arrange various postcards, stamps, punches, old calendars, sewing supplies, oil paints, and watercolors, so things are both reasonably accessible but able to be put away? Will I even have time for these things in the next phase? I've made some progress on the quilting project, but not nearly as much as hoped.

Packing things for longer-term storage (1-2 years) is also different from packing things for 6-month storage. I don't expect to be able to answer the question of whether or not it is worthwhile to save things for that long.

However, I would say that I am glad to have gotten rid of as much stuff as easily possible. It's just those intermediate and uncertain categories that are hard to scrutinize.

-

One of the hardest parts - I am still not applying for any jobs this year. I need to phrase that in an active tense. I am anxiously thinking about it, but despite having some time I have not been updating my website and CV, revisiting my research and teaching statements, or keeping a list of job ads and deadlines. Why am I stalling out? Did I burn myself out too early by trying to apply in previous years? Is it because reference letters feel like a sticking point, given present circumstances? Is it because I don't know how to phrase things about "Berkeley - pending Nov 30"? Is it that feeling that I don't have a broader research vision (even if the state of my ideas is actually on par with peers, which is something I don't know)? Is it that I just can't work up enthusiasm for any of the job ads I've read? Is it that it's exhausting to bash one's head up against this process where there will always be at least 35-40 highly-qualified people applying for one job? Is it the lack of an in-person social support system?

On this last point - more than one person who's made it to the next stage has spoken warmly of they help they received from postdoc peers when applying for jobs - giving practice talks to each other, going over each others' application materials. This has strongly reminded me of how, when I was working on my comps and dissertation, other people spoke warmly of friends and loved ones who cooked for them, kept them fed and housed and clothed. My life and job circumstances just haven't afforded me those kinds of luxuries. Research has kept me locked in the lab too much (especially here!), and who knows whether that's my own damn fault or not, because I know I managed to develop good social supports in Arizona. More likely, it's the lack of adequate time, because it takes more than 9 months to find the right people to be friends.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Somehow or another this book came up in some discussions with my mother during the period when I had broken up with [livejournal.com profile] scrottie and was trying to sort through a bunch of emotional stuff. I was interested in the book not so much in the context of that immediate relationship situation, but more in general because I've felt for a long time like I haven't entirely understood the concept of forgiveness.

This actually stems back to my Catholic upbringing. One of the important rituals (sacraments, actually) in the Catholic church is the ritual of Reconciliation. Depending on who you talk to, you will hear different stories of what Reconciliation is and how it goes. The earlier versions of it were what you know of as Confession, with the private chambers where the priest hears about your sins, tells you to do some penance, and you go on your way. Growing up when I did, Confession had taken on a different tone that involved face-to-face meetings with a religious figure, but at that time I often felt like I was supposed to be coming up with a list of bad things that I had done so I had some basis for asking for forgiveness. I think this is in part because I didn't really understand the sacrament, but in part because I only received half-explanations of how it was supposed to work. I had this understanding that it was an important ritual, but that was the extent of it.

Fast-forward to graduate school. Two or three years into grad school, I hit something of a crisis point in the time right after Zack disappeared. One of those phases of, "What am I DOING with my life?!" I came to feel like I couldn't trust some of the people I had thought of as some of my closer friends, in good part because I didn't like who I became when around them. For instance - they found me funny when I was drunk, where I experienced a profound sense of alienation from myself and other people.

After certain things happened, I instinctively needed to push away, hard. Pushing away from those friends was more about who I was than it was about them, but regardless, it was a big rift. Breaking up with friends is incredibly hard.

But after some time had passed and I reached a point where I felt like I had re-aligned my sense of self, I started to experience another thing: I had this incredibly strong urge to forgive those former friends, but I also had this awareness that I really didn't know how. Ever since that point, the whole concept of "forgiveness" has been high on the radar as something I want to understand and practice better. For instance, this piece talks about teaching children to do a better job of reconciling wrongs.

I also copied out a quotation from a friend: "Forgiveness is for the forgiver and not the forgiven. Personal power arises from the ability to transcend the need for acknowledgement of our personal work. Let the action be the reward."

And when I encounter incredible stories of forgiveness, like this Holocaust survivor forgiving an Auschwitz guard, I listen.

What is going on here?

It feels like Desmond and Mpho Tutu hit some pretty big nails squarely on the head in this department. The Book of Forgiving contains some utterly horrific stories of the awful things that human beings do to each other, but it also makes a crucial point about human connectedness. The point is this: when another person hurts you, you have two options. You can retaliate, which will extend into a cycle of revenge, or you can choose to enter a cycle of forgiveness. There's a strong human impulse to retaliate, which is why the Tutus take a step back to ask, why and how can we choose to do something different?

Their perspective on humanity resonates deeply with my perspective, which is that we all need to recall our shared humanity even when faced with acts of extreme depravity. Towards the very end of the book, they talk about the distinctions between restorative and retributive justice. I deeply believe in the capabilities of human beings to become better, even while recognizing that we still live in a flawed, hurtful world. Tutu does not shy away from talking about some of the very worst things that humans have done to each other, including genocide, over the course of the book, and this is part of what makes the book so powerful.

As such, I would highly recommend the book, and I would be interested to hear your perspective, too.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So I've been reading and pondering a book that was loaned to me not too long ago by my mother. Getting the Love You Want is an interesting relationship book, both for what it contains, and what it does not (so highly heteronormative). In a nutshell, its goal is the promotion of "the conscious marriage," defined as "a state of mind and a way of being based on acceptance, a willingness to grow and change, the courage to encounter one's own fear, and a conscious decision to act in loving ways."

There are a lot of elements to unpack. I'll touch on the omitted subjects first, mostly to remark that with the way the book is written, it doesn't necessarily come into any direct conflict with alternative relationship structures except in how it stresses the importance of "closing your exits" to create a critical degree of security in the relationship at hand (boiling down to making time for the relationship instead of avoiding it). Sexual in/compatibility isn't directly addressed, either.

Laying those elements aside, I'm still left pondering several aspects of the book's approach to marriage. It is based around some rather Freudian notions, in addition to a specific concept of individual development and relationship progression. Specifically - it posits that we have all experienced unmet childhood needs, which have deeply shaped our personas and affect who we are attracted to, date, and marry (generally, significant others who resemble our parents or caretakers in key ways). These things don't rise to the surface until an intermediate relationship stage is reached, when the interplay of those combined unmet needs leads to conflict and a power struggle. For the relationship to progress beyond the stage of the power struggle, it can be helpful to go through a series of exercises to identify those suppressed unmet needs, cope with the emotions that arise upon their identification, and develop concrete methods to ask for, give, and receive these things from one's partner.

I feel like the Freudian aspect is one that a person could take or leave, depending on one's perspective on developmental psychology. There's clearly a lot that happens in terms of emotional development when one is young, but it seems to me this basis leads to the creation of a "just so" story. On the flipside, we are all sample sizes of one, and I don't think there's any serious harm that would come from taking this perspective unless it was used deceptively. And deception just wouldn't really hang in this whole framework - at that point, it isn't much of a relationship anymore. And if it helps a person pinpoint his or her hangups, well, that's useful, regardless of the source of those hangups.

The "development" aspect of the book kind of made me rock back for a minute, because it made me realize a longstanding implicit assumption of mine - the notion that a human's lifetime is a developmental experience (emotionally and intellectually). This notion is highly ingrained, tied to a concept of lifelong "spiritual development" (which can occur whether one is religious or not). I operate under an assumption that a life-long developmental process is a fundamental aspect of the human experience. The thing to ponder is, what would be an alternative to this perspective? I don't think it's the notion of being "stuck" - that just brings you back to the context of development. Humans aren't simply random, either - memory comes into play, somehow. And regardless, I *do* think the book is correct that one's personal development is intimately tied to one's relationships with others, even though the book has defined the nature of those relationships a bit narrowly. Working through this line of thinking has been helpful in figuring out why I put emphasis on long-term relationships (best friend, family members) in thinking about my own identity and priorities.

Food for thought, at least.

I also suspect that, regardless of whether one accepts the underlying theories or not, the prescribed set of activities will nurture a relationship in concrete, pragmatic ways, by creating structured opportunities to talk about and practice good, kind, and loving behavior. Will I sit down and do them? I'm not sure yet. But I can't help thinking about them anyway.

There's also a section in the book on figuring out how to express and deal with anger in constructive ways. I hadn't thought about the subject so directly before, but it touches on the notion that it's important to be able to express and experience the full range of one's human emotions.

-

While work is busy, I have grabbed the closest fluffy read I could find, Gnarr, about the Icelandic comedian who unexpectedly launched a political career, starting a new political party, the Best Party. After that, I am going to read The Book on Forgiveness, and then I think Nonviolent Communication. I suspect these two will be thought-provoking as well.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Today I spent a considerable amount of time doing certain tasks I loathe. First, calling up a Large Cell-o-Phone Conglomerate (okay, maybe not a conglomerate) to switch over to a carrier that actually provides service in my area. I talked to four different people over the course of a 40-minute phone call, and while they managed to activate my SIM card, that was about all. At the end of the call I eventually found the correct buttons on their website to set up online login information for myself, but for some reason or another no one could tell me my account number, despite apparently establishing one for me during the call (the online site shows me that it has four final digits). It must be really hard to work in customer service for that company.

This evening, I reserved a rental car for the 600k brevet starting in Falls City over Memorial Day weekend. Rental cars seem annoyingly expensive when one does not own a car or usually pay for car insurance. How much do you car owners spend each month on your gasoline-powered wheelchairs, anyway, between gas, insurance, maintenance, and cost of car? I am hoping you can spout off numbers that will make me feel marginally better about these ridiculously extravagant (not really) rentals.

In other Things I Am Not Looking Forward To, it is time to look at plane fares for the Seattle-to-Portland and for Paris-Brest-Paris. PBP is more complicated, because it requires that I answer the questions of, where would I like to go, and when would I like to be there? With hauling a bicycle along, I'm wondering if it makes sense to try and take Amtrak to Chicago, and then fly to London from there, instead of flying out of the wee Lincoln airport, where oversize luggage might be a bigger issue. We shall see.

Words

Nov. 22nd, 2014 06:30 pm
rebeccmeister: (Acromyrmex)
I've been quiet, I realize.

Things have been hectic, between the conference and visiting with family, such that I have had little mental free space.

But! I got to have drinks with [livejournal.com profile] annikusrex last night at the Stumbling Monk, where she beat us handily at Scrabble, despite a lack of practice.

The topic casting a shadow over other things at the moment is plans and future employment. I can only see about six months into the future at the moment, a future that will involve moving to a new town (Lincoln, NE) where I know very few people. At the conference I just attended, I had a series of ever-so-brief encounters with several different key figures who all made the conference worthwhile. One of those encounters happened on the final afternoon of the conference, in a symposium entitled, "How cool is entomology?" which I figured would kind of be entomology-lite but also a chance to reflect on the exciting and meaningful things that draw different kinds of people into entomology (it was, and I'm glad I went). One of the speakers is a faculty member in the department at Lincoln, and in a quick chat about my pending move she offered to forward on my contact information to her rather large research group to help me track down accommodations. Something of a small gesture, but a meaningful one. It also made me reflect on how long it took me to meet any women faculty in the research group in Texas (answer: too long).

Hard to know what sort of place I'll move into in Nebraska. I think my intention will be to establish a relatively simple/minimal living arrangement so it's easy to go between work, home, and the grocery store. Walkability would be luxurious.

I'm still in the story-gathering phase of things, to some extent, too. One of the only other female Attine-ologists was at this conference, too, and I had only a brief five-minute window to chat with her about specifics within our heavily male-dominated and hierarchical sub-sub-subdiscipline. Once again, she was helpful and encouraging.

Comparisons aren't always helpful, though. I encountered a saying the other day: "Never compare your inside with someone else's outside." I don't know my exact vision at the moment, in full detail, but I retain a sense of vision and purpose as I seek out what's next. It's more than just a successful career; it's how I address the question of "What is the good life?" Its shape is yet being revealed to me.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
About a month ago, a friend of mine posted a link to a brief PBS story about "Handsome" clothing for women and transgender individuals. I've just finally watched it, several weeks after reading and pondering a piece for women on dressing for academia. I can't get over one point in the Dressing for Academia article, the point about wearing makeup. On one level, I can understand what drmellivora is saying about make-up making a woman seem more competent. I understand and appreciate the role of professional dress in the academic workplace.

But on a personal level, ...I just can't. I can get myself to put on lip gloss occasionally, but my skin crawls at the thought of being covered up by anything beyond that. Even light moisturizers make my skin crawl. My skin demands to be kept bare. And with wearing glasses, I have zero interest in shoving anything in the direction of my eyeballs. It just sounds like a recipe for smearing goop on my glasses.

I used to wear more skirts, but there are points where those feel emasculating, too, particularly because I am not comfortable sitting in chairs like a normal human being. Skirts were fine for grad school they're splendid for bicycling, but they make me feel a bit like a gangly heron in the lab, and they aren't exactly lab-safe anyway. I'd like to feel competent without also feeling gendered. So the idea of being able to look professional without feeling gendered is more appealing to me than trying to look professional in fluffy blouses. Part of it for me also comes from being relatively tall and strong. I want to dress to project confidence, and I don't want to dress in a way that makes people focus on my gender.

I can find long-sleeve cotton dress shirts that feel comfortable and appropriate, but I haven't found much that's short-sleeved that appeals, and I'm still working on jackets. Polo shirts make me feel too sporty-mc-sport-a-lot. I've acquired a couple pairs of trousers that work, so long as I don't try bike commuting in them and ruin them prematurely, but things could still be better in that department (ugh thigh-squeezers). Some high-quality stuff that's still appropriate for warm weather would be nice, too (e.g. linen pants). A lot is confounded by climate.

Anyway. I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all approach for how to portray ourselves in professional settings, but it's at least comforting to hear the stories of other people who've felt similarly left out when clothes-shopping.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
There are days when all of the unknowns seem manageable - if all else fails, I can afford to pick up and relocate back to Seattle, and I have a feeling that I have enough connections there that I would be able to find some sort of meaningful job and establish a reasonably content life, with the hopes that I could convince [livejournal.com profile] scrottie to go up there with me.

Other days, the unknowns are overwhelming. I need to allow some imagination when reading job ads - could I really picture myself living in Oklahoma? That's a hard one. I've been to Oklahoma before. Supposedly there's some Cherokee ancestry way back there on my dad's side of the family, and connections to Oklahoma. But - Oklahoma has the same sort of economy as big stretches of Texas, dependent on extracting depleting fossil fuel and natural gas reserves, and shares a lot of cultural similarities with Texas, too - bible-thumping Cowboy Country. Plus, it is still so very, very far away from family and friends. I don't think my boss always realizes this, and how it becomes a big deal when almost all travel has to involve airplanes. Really, that's a part of the calculation for ideal living spaces for me: is it possible to live well without a car, and travel predominantly by bicycle, bus, and train. As a friend recently learned, the drive from here up to Seattle is days-long.

Do I live with others, or live by myself? In my experience, it can be challenging (but not impossible!) to find others who have a similar temperament and lifestyle (reuse or recycle everything, cook from scratch, use cleaning products made from scratch and keep things tidy and organized, don't watch TV). If I live with others again anytime soon, I'm going to go back to being very selective about it.

I've spent a lot of time admiring all kinds of Tiny Home configurations, but after all of it I'm not sure that's what I'm really after, either. A couple of posts from a Tiny Home blogger made that hit home recently (har har) - as just two examples, she wrote about how important it can be to consider Universal Design when planning out a tiny house, and also about the planning needed to live in a tiny house with pets. Both of those make me think - whew, I'm not inclined to dig into home design projects, and I'd rather live in an older, preexisting structure than figure out how to construct a new one that I am likely to eventually outgrow anyway. I'm more inclined to agree with Virginia Woolf, who wrote in A Room of One's Own about how vital it is for a writer to have just that - a space with a door that can be CLOSED. The introvert book agrees with me - not that I take the introvert book as the gold standard, but still.

Aside from that, and an interest in historic spaces, much of my focus is on exterior elements, like transportation, access to the arts, the outdoors, a sense of community, and "public-private" spaces like libraries and coffeeshops (preferably with the bible-thumping and business-planning kept to a minimum). But am I asking too much? Am I failing to imagine some possible lives that could be more fulfilling in the long run? (note that I do not ask about happiness, for I think that's a false priority)

What about for you?
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Some recent conversations and the stupid NYT bestseller book have gotten me to contemplate living arrangements in greater depth - both the ideal, and the real. A recent chapter in SNYTBB talked about how American society has transitioned from a culture idealizing strong moral character to one that idealizes extroverted personalities. In association with that change, which has affected the qualities that are sought out in businesspeople, there have been changes to how workplaces are constructed, such that the majority of workplaces emphasize group work and shared space. Ugh.

This can be harmful to introverts, or really anyone requiring quiet space for concentration (see: my current lack of office and terrible academic writing productivity). A large part of the book's premise is that introverts should receive equal attention and respect (reminds me of Somebodies and Nobodies), and I agree. So, how should this affect the shaping of our spaces, public and private?

Back to living arrangements in particular. I'm trying to reflect on what sort of living arrangements would be my ideal, and how that matches up with where I've lived previously. In this post I'll begin by reflecting on where I've lived so far, before trying to think about what might be ideal for the future. We all start out in living arrangements that are primarily driven by someone else. In the house I grew up in, it was easy to find nooks and crannies to squirrel away in as necessary - we kids all had our own bedrooms, and the house had three stories, so I could happily hide in an attic room or in the basement. Dorm life, in contrast, was a hard transition - I had to sleep and work in shared spaces (stressful), but I found relief by going to the library, hiding in the chemistry building, or walking down to the Someday Cafe. I do have a vivid memory of not being able to find somewhere safe to cry, though. 90 Bromfield was pretty glorious, once I moved out of the little stuffy room on the bedroom floor and down into the drafty room on the main floor, further away from my 3 housemates. I could look out the windows for hours, and read books on the balcony. 89 Bromfield was similar - I spent hours in my room, staring at the wall, thinking. It helped that most of my roommates at 89 Bromfield were introverted. Both Bromfield spaces had the benefit of public areas and private areas, and the benefit of multiple levels. I'm a major proponent of multi-level dwellings.

First Street, in Tempe, was not so great, because it was a single story and my housemate liked to stay up late watching television. Also, the neighbors had a super-barky dog, which would wake me up frequently, and the airplanes flying overhead were so noisy it was impossible to have a private phone conversation in the postage-stamp yard. Maple Ave was particularly difficult, between life in a bedroom right off of the kitchen (single-floor dwelling again) and trying to maintain even keel with a highly extroverted roommate who would barge in a lot. Also, late-night dinner parties hosted by a roommate in a single-floor dwelling aren't fun when I'm trying to go to sleep so I can get up early and go rowing.

Then, the Garage period. In some respects, the Garage was glorious - any messes were ones that I made myself, and the space was beautiful and peaceful, all bricks and rafters, tucked away under a big mesquite tree. I was close enough to the main house to not feel completely isolated, but still had my own space. It just wasn't quite enough room to invite over much company, though, and a bit awkward when half of the seating was on my bed and I had to perform furniture origami all the time to get anything done. I also grew weary of its stuffiness, and the lack of insulation. Keeping it cool was a challenge.

Things were pretty good in the Farmer House, although there the yard situation was kind of the opposite of the Garage - a little too much space for my tastes. I like having room for a garden, but when the yard's too big, it generates too much maintenance work in addition to the gardening space. I am thinking of the hours and hours spent pruning and managing tree branches there, and raking up and composting ornamental citrus. On the other hand, one of the greatest things about the Farmer House was that the two bedrooms were on opposite ends of the house, so even though the house was only one story it was still possible to retain a level of quiet thinking space. The house itself was also a nice size, overall - large common area for hosting friends, plenty of counter space in the kitchen, and a bike room for projects.

What about Villa Maria? It was too large for me by myself, too isolated, and way too noisy. Another large yard full of dying trees requiring way too much maintenance time. The bedrooms were adjacent to each other, separated by a paper-thin wall which is far from ideal. The kitchen didn't get any natural light whatsoever, and the whole place felt stuffy and claustrophobic. I've griped enough about it lately.

Beck Street is great in some respects, but still leaves certain things to be desired. On the one hand, the bedrooms are arranged fairly well, and the common areas interact well, too - while the kitchen itself doesn't have windows, the adjoining dining space lets in plenty of light. The house is a little strange in that it's one of those "antisocial" dwellings where there's minimal interaction with the street out in front, and maximal garage instead. The privacy and quiet can be great, and the garage does get opened up and used in a more public manner on occasion, but I keep thinking that something crazy could happen right outside the front door and we'd never be the wiser.

On top of all this, it's difficult to find quiet space when living with a five-year-old who is still getting familiar with the concept of "personal boundaries" (although he can be cute with his polite interruptions). I suspect most mothers would agree. My room is close enough to the living room that it can be difficult to filter out activities there (especially because my cat yells if I close the door all the way, even though she doesn't actually want to go out due to the ever-vigilant Luda). On the other hand, I'm now closer to downtown Bryan, and there are a couple of places there which I can easily reach if I need some time and space to think in an anonymous setting (library, coffeeshop).

So - based on previous experience, I think the Farmer House is close to ideal. My parents' house was a good size for a family with three kids, but if it were just me, myself, and I, it would be WAY too big. Maybe the Farmer House with a modified backyard, with the part along the train tracks converted to something low- or no-maintenance, and consolidated gardening spaces.

How about for you?
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
What do you do when you have to cope with difficult emotions?

not short )
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Through an accumulation of events, I've shied away from putting too much personal content out on teh internets, but there are certain points in one's life where things don't all happen in neat, tidy packages, and so here I am. From the sounds of things, Dad's surgery yesterday went as smoothly as it could, so now he's on the long, slow road towards healing for the time being (still without fully knowing about certain parts of this whole "cancer" puzzle, but hey, much of our lives is about the unknown, right?). It still weirds me out a bit, making the private, inner workings of someone else's body the focus of so much attention, but it's all part of the experience of life, I suppose, particularly as we get older and more fully realize our intimate dependence on others. Hardest when we return to a stage where we can no longer wipe our own asses. He shared a poem/prayer with friends and family that he said is giving him comfort through this process, which I'll put at the end of this post.

At certain points, our minds respond to difficult situations with emotional numbness. I have a partial sensation of speaking and thinking through a sort of thick styrofoam, tinged by the sadness of loved ones all being very far away. I had one of those moments yesterday where I was a bit shocked by the notion and remembrance that life has continued to advance without me in Phoenix, just as over the years I've come to watch the city of Seattle move on.

But in the meantime, things continue to move and grow here, as well. The thunderstorms and heavy rains which drenched me last Thursday on an aborted bike ride out to Lake Bryan meant that the boatyard grass has grown again. Yesterday I was ever so grateful to be bicycling out to the lake, if only because it would be a welcome distraction through the wait while Dad was in surgery. Practice consisted of a continuation of equipment maintenance, so while others worked on cleaning out the boats and painting the oars, I fired up the lawnmower and shoved it around the boatyard. The mower was such a beast that it made me miss Mr. Pushy, although I don't know if Mr. Pushy could have handled the grass out there. At least it wasn't as crazy as two summers ago, when we had to tackle it with weed whackers because it had gotten so overgrown. It's always amusing to go out to the lake and work hard, because for most of the other people in this region the lake represents a destination for idle recreation. Rowers, however, are all people who relish the hard work itself on some level.



PSALM OF A WAKE FOR A CHANGING BODY, by Edward Hays

Wakes are for the dead;
even the term leaves me cold.
I usually prefer to deny my death,
which comes by inches,
but comes relentlessly all the same.

Another signal from my body,
another sign of age,
has visited me, with its foreboding forecast
that l’m growing older.

I look with envy at the young
and am often tempted to try
a wizard’s wonder herb
to restore my aging body
to its former age of agility
that was free of aches and pains.

Today I must mourn,
aware that those who hold enough wakes
die with dignity
and even dance with death
in a Chronos childhood play.

To wake with great love each small death and loss
and then move on to what life offers next:
it is thus that i can honestly rejoice
at another’s youthful beauty.

I sense that by observing enough wakes
I'll awaken, to my surprise,
to a new, mature magnetic beauty
that radiates from those
whom time has tanned into a handsome hybrid
of the eternal youth.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Part of me is still wondering, what was I spending all of my time on in the old house?

I don't know that there will ever be a good way to account for it, but what I do know is that I'm satisfied with how the new household routines are shaping up, and I'm also happy with the layout and organization of the new space.

The kitchen layout here is completely different from the previous one. This goes back to an article I wrote about but can no longer find (argh Google I hate you), arguing in favor of keeping cooking and kitchens behind closed doors so that one can hide the mess and focus on entertaining when guests are over. Maybe it's true that Americans have ever-larger open-plan kitchens just as they are watching ever more cooking shows, but going out to eat more often than ever before in the past. All that said and done, this kitchen is getting heavy use, and I'm grateful for ample, well-organized counter space and the wraparound bar that allows guests to sit and watch (and help) while the chef(s) prepare food. The Villa Maria kitchen was dark and antisocial.

Both J and K have to be at work by 8 am, and have to drop B off before work, so there's a lot of activity between 7 and 7:30. I've set my alarm for 6:30, so I can crawl out of bed and make some coffee and breakfast in time to share breakfast with others. J and K aren't big breakfast eaters, but if something tempting is sitting there, ready to eat, they'll happily partake, and I'm absolutely happy to cook and share because it's about the same amount of work as just cooking for myself.

Once that hustle and bustle is over, the house gets really, really quiet, aside from an occasional whine from Luda the dog. That moment might be my new favorite time of day: I'm up and awake, I don't have to hustle in to work just yet, and the house is peaceful, so there's space to think. I can wash a few dishes, tidy a couple of things, say hello to and water the plants, make my lunch, and then bike in to work.

In the evenings, I'm not the only one thinking about what to cook and eat, although now cooking winds up being interspersed with providing entertainment for a five-year-old. And vacuuming. It's a relief to have roommates who are equally sensitive to cleaning up fur explosions. I'm finally back to a point where I am getting consistent exercise, between the daily five-mile commute, the Monday Social Ride, rowing on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Wednesday Ride. The "hurry up and get it done" project of the bike hooks is complete, so there's time for other things outside of chores. A relief, even though it all never fills in the big hole whenever [livejournal.com profile] scrottie leaves town.

I'm now feeling one of those pauses that occur at different times in life. I keep thinking back to the first months at Villa Maria, when I was broke and didn't have internet at home, and would come back to the schizophrenic living room where the only entertainment was reading a book. Will I read more books, with the current newfound free time? Or will I finally get myself to sit down and start quilting the grandma quilt? Hard to say, just yet. There's a feeling of stasis, while waiting to see how the science schedule and agenda will shape up for the fall.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
While I was in Seattle, my father made me an offer I couldn't refuse: he offered to buy out the rest of my student loan debt owed to Sallie Mae. Given the choice between making interest payments to the government and making interest payments to my father, which would you choose? I still owe a considerable chunk of money to my parents anyway, and last year, I paid $324 in interest to Sallie Mae.

Over dinner on Tuesday, [livejournal.com profile] annikusrex and I talked about what it's like to be a Millenial, as she has been reflecting on the topic in association with her wedding; many things come to a head when a person gets married, and it's one of those times where a number of financial things surface, in particular. Student loan debt is a sizeable element in the lives of many Millenials. People my age and younger generally don't have the sorts of financial resources at our disposal as previous generations. We've invested in education because we were told it was the right thing to do. Now we aren't buying houses or cars, often simply because we lack the money. It's a hard reality to face at times. In many ways, we are no longer asking for these things or prioritizing them because they've never felt like possible, tangible goals of any sort. The hardest part of the equation is that it often makes us feel powerless, especially in the face of governments that are heavily influenced by the money of lobbyists.

Meanwhile, the Wedding-Industrial Complex has been built to cater to the children of wealthy, retiring baby boomers who all-too-often use their children's life events as opportunities to display their wealth. It's *somewhat* easier to swallow that notion when the people getting married are freshly out of college, as one can understand if new graduates have little or no financial resources and parents want to ensure their children are taken care of. The situation can be more complex when the children are older. On the one hand, older children are assumed to have more financial independence. On the other hand, how does one address the unrealistic expectations that have been built up for weddings, if one isn't interested in feeding the beast of consumerism?

I'm constantly grateful for a major gift my parents (and especially father) have given me: as a family, we can have conversations about financial decisions and priorities, and the conversations and decisions don't involve any emotional blackmail or weird maneuvering. The conversations don't always go how everyone would like them to (see: me wanting contacts in high school, family deciding they weren't affordable), but they're as straightforward as they can possibly be.

It's hard to have these conversations honestly, as a society. There can be a lot at stake, especially for businesses and organizations trying to sneak into consumers' pocketbooks. Here's hoping that my generation can continue to push back and keep the focus on the human experience.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I have this feeling that, for the rest of my life, every time I visit the dentist I'll think of my good friend [livejournal.com profile] gfrancie. Like G, I went for a period of my life where I did not visit the dentist - a good six years, when I didn't have dental insurance (huzzah, grad school!), I didn't know how much it would cost to just get my teeth cleaned, and it seemed like other things were more important than scheduling a dentist appointment.* Anyway, I'm trying to reform my ways, so I went to the dentist in Seattle back at the end of December, where it became apparent that a second appointment would be necessary in Texas. I keep trying to think of ways to attach some kind of reward to dental visits, so that I'll associate more positive feelings with the experience (and so I can make such suggestions to others who don't get in regular visits). But I haven't come up with any good ideas, yet.

So, dentist visit number two. Actually, I liked the hygienist and dentist here more than their counterparts in Seattle. Unsurprisingly, since my prior visit was a mere three months ago, my teeth were still pretty clean. But unfortunately, on top of needing gum surgery, this dentist noted from the x-rays that there are five places where cavities have worn through tooth enamel. So, I'll be back to see him again in April, woo, for that fun experience of a numb mouth and fillings. Somehow, all of this has happened on the left side of my mouth. Time to chew on the right side, I guess.

The places where these cavities are occurring are along the upper surface of my teeth, where each tooth touches its neighbor, which makes me think there isn't much else I could have done to prevent the cavities - I've been brushing and flossing regularly, and using a fluoride-based mouthwash. That's all small comfort in the face of the additional expense for fillings, though. Ugh. In this case, I'm tempted to use some of my long-term, rainy-day savings to cover the cost, since it's an unanticipated expense. I'm reluctant to ever use any of those funds for anything, but this might just qualify.

So, there you go, for the Health Care Item of the Month for March. It looks like that will be the Health Care Item of the Month for April, as well, and perhaps May, if gum surgery gets scheduled for May. I may have to start doubling these things up a bit more.


*A similar philosophy applied to trips to the doctor, though those were covered by insurance, most people in my age bracket don't require regular checkups, and I did go to the doctor whenever anything came up that needed attention.

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