are YOU better off than four years ago?

Time changes a lot.  When you’re in the How I Met Your Mother timeframe (several years after college has ended), things start to move more slowly.  For your whole life, until you’re 22 or so, every four to six years your life completely changes.  Different school.  Different phase of life.

But as an old friend said when he graduated college and  got his job, “Well, time to work until I’m 60.”  That’s a long time with not a lot of change.

Only four presidential election cycles have occurred in my lifetime in which I’ve been able to participate.  And I’ve participated in all of them, voting in the 2000 election only three weeks after my eighteenth birthday.  I’ve volunteered and canvassed and listened to my candidate speak in the other two elections that have already happened.  My guy is coming to Hollywood on Sunday, and I’ll be out of town, visiting friends who are in from out of state.  That’s just the way my life has been heading, I guess.

Because of my comparative youth, it’s no indicator of the economy to say whether or not I’m better off than I was four years ago.  I do have the same job I did four years ago, although many of the details of the job and my workplace have changed significantly.  In 2008, most teachers in my area were struggling to hang on.  But by now, we’re steadily recovering, and there are more jobs in my field than there were four years ago.  So that’s something.

I also bought my car four years ago – the first car I’d bought in my own name, even with my own bad credit.  (It’s still not great, but I blame that less on the economy.)  I bought it September 21st, 2008, and the guy at Carmax who sold it to me and who discussed Tommy Friedman with us set my radio to Praerie Home Companion as I drove away on that early Saturday evening.  He kind of ruled.  My car payments kind of haven’t ruled over the past four years, but I’m getting it down and will have it paid off next September.  I also bought it about a week before all of the markets crashed.

Back to my job, and even a little further back than that now, I got my job in April of 2007.  I graduated college a week later.  I was set, and according to many economists, the recession, at least in Florida, began in April of 2007.  My timing could not have been better.  Whatever misgivings I have about my job at this point, the reminder of being able to hang on keeps me where I am.

So I got a job right as the housing market started slipping, and held onto it when Florida schools started slashing through teacher jobs.  I got my car, even with my shitty credit, before the markets tanked and there was no credit available.  I needed it, too, as my brakes were failing in my beloved Neon and I needed to get to work.

And looking away from economics for a moment, timing also sealed the deal on me meeting my husband.  It worked out perfectly.  Suffice to say, he is also a hell of a lot better off than he was four years ago.  He’s three years older than I am, and in the fall of 2008, he had just returned to the US after three years living and teaching abroad, landed at this parents’ house, without a single job prospect despite multiple promotions in his prior jobs, despite the fact that they were overseas.

(Side note: if you’re going to teach overseas, don’t look at it as a career move.  Do it because you want to have the experience, and you plan on getting more training back home in the US.  Unless you plan on staying out there.)

We met in the summer of 2009, and suffice to say, we’re both better off for having one another in our lives.  We don’t have a ton of savings, but we have some.  He has some investments, I have a small retirement plan and good, cheap benefit, and we’re doing what we can do.

We flirt with the idea sometimes, but we don’t really want to touch the housing market with a ten-foot-pole, although friends are telling us that it’s only going up from here.  They’re right.  And as much as I want to act out House Hunters, not happening.  I’m into fixer-uppering, and T-storm would rather just buy something without problems.  Although he did marry me, so that philosophy doesn’t exactly hold.  (Heh heh.)

We love living in Wilton Manors, and we love being married, and for all intents and purposes, we are better off than we were four years ago.  I don’t make any more money than I did four years ago, but that’s the fault of my ineffective union* and Rick Scott, who has really screwed me.

So that’s our status.  While that doesn’t particularly affect who we’re going to vote for, as we have our own ideas and we do a lot of research on a lot of things – and for Christ’s sake, we live in Wilton Manors – that’s the answer to that question.

 

*sidenote: I believe in unions, and supported the teachers’ union in the recent Chicago strike.  It just happens that mine gets shockingly little done.  That’s South Florida politics, I guess.

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chicken or the egg? really, it starts in the ovaries.

So let’s just get this out in the open.  My father, a lifelong alcoholic (and also a writer – imagine that!), wrote a story in his waning years.  He was in poor health, so he wanted me to type up his handwritten manuscript.  It was about me, and me getting pregnant and faking suicide to not shame my mother.  Not about me by name, but, you know, it was about me.  Sigh.

So that’s a big reason that I was a goody goody my whole life.  I think I desperately wanted to prove him wrong.  I frustrated the living crap out of boys in high school but I didn’t care.  I don’t even think I noticed.  Not that I was exactly miss hot to trot, but I surely left quite a few blue balls in my wake.

I believe in family planning and contraception, and there are studies that show that providing reliable, long-term contraception dramatically lowers teen pregnancies and abortions.  My students have been asking me a lot lately if I have kids, to which I respond no.  Not sure if that makes me a role model, being 30, married, having a steady career and almost a masters degree before I have kids (because the vast majority of the kids I teach were not born under these circumstances).  Whatever.

Of course, for as long as I’ve been involved in serious relationships, the pill and I have never gotten along and so I’ve always had mild panics once a month.  Many women know these.  Before I had visited serious relationshipland, when I was a freshman in college, I went five months without a period.  Seriously, body?  I had some ultrasounds when I was in high school, and they saw minor ovarian cysts, nothing major.  It was so long ago, and something not followed up on, that I have a hard time remembering, but whatever they found were minor impediments to being regular.

All through my life, I have never been the kind of person to easily adjust to habit.  Like – you mean, as soon as I wake up I brush my teeth and as soon as I get home I lock the door?  My lack of regularity with habits and sleep schedules and the like baffles most normal people, including my husband.

But, as all women are, I was born with the body parts I have and all of the eggs I would ever have.  And I just happen to have a body and eggs that don’t plan on being regular, well, ever.  It sure will be a fun time in the old corral when my husband and I do start trying to have kids.  The “oh crap, do this guy and I have to get married?” panic attacks have gone away at this point.  And that’s a good thing.  Plan B makes me a little crazy, and the off-brand pink-boxed pill you get at CVS is worse.   The  more first-world problem-esque “will us having a baby ahead of time prevent us from having an awesome wedding?!” panics have subdued.

The question is: did me being highly emotional and lacking regularity in my sleep schedule or other daily habits cause my body to rebel, or does my highly irregular body cause these issues throughout the course of my life?  How do you ever expect me to be on time anywhere I go if my eggs never, ever arrive on time?

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birthday inventory

“After that I never put another time line on anything in my life.” – Cameron Diaz

While I don’t necessarily consider Cameron Diaz to be a role model of mine, she’s absolutely correct.  Your life is going to happen the way it happens, regardless of the way you design it to happen.

That said, upon reaching certain milestones, you start to gain some perspective on your life, and where it’s going.  Where you want it to go.

Last year, in September, I went out to a gay dance bar that featured some beautiful male entertainers with a friend of mine who was turning 30.  We had a blast.  The question that she felt she was getting asked a lot, however, was, “Are you happy with how you spent your 20s?”  And she would sort of grimace and turn away.

Which, whatever.  She lived internationally, she wrote a lot, had many adventures, lots of ups and downs in relationships, and did a lot of the typical things, such as graduating college and the likes.  In the year since then, she’s moved to Philadelphia and started law school, and incidentally began a relationship with another very close friend of ours (which, ha ha ha, happened during our wedding weekend ::stops to pat self on back::).  He visited her just this past weekend.

But that question comes up to me.  Quite a bit.  Am I satisfied with how I spent my 20s?

Definitively, the answer is yes.

In regards to party, my husband and I are combining my birthday this year with tailgating for a football game (at our alma mater).  Which essentially means it’s a picnic party, with lots of drinking and just hanging out all afternoon, playing cornhole and the likes.  I am going to drink mimosas all day long and talk with my friends and grill avocado and have a fabulous day.  And then go sing some karaoke after the game.

Today, while walking through the massive halls of a discount store with a friend of mine, I said, “I had wanted to go to my most frequented Orlando bar, which is where I also went when for my 23rd birthday…”  I trailed off.  Holy shit.  Had I really been going to the same said bar for the past seven years!?  I remember being 23, and it not being so terribly bad I guess, but when I think about it in terms of that being seven years ago, I feel like I was an infant then.  Geez.

Lucky for me, many of the things in my life turned out the way I’d expected them to, even at the age of 19.  If I were to take a checklist of the things I’ve done in my 20s, as per what I had wanted to accomplish, I think I’d have come out ahead.

  • graduated from college
  • began my masters degree
  • started my career in my long-since chosen field
  • published a really long and fancily bound academic paper, even if no one ever really reads it
  • had a couple of very informative long-term(ish) relationships
  • traveled overseas, and to the Pacific coast
  • performed, a lot
  • exposed myself to a lot of new things and people and ideas
  • moved away away from home home
  • got married to one awesome dude
  • learned how to freaking cook (and how to bake)
  • published some stuff in stuff
  • have been kind of a big deal in quite a few kids’ lives
  • loved & danced a lot

The last two may be uber-cliche, but they’re important to me.

I forsee some of this in the next decade of my life, and surely, the plans will change the specifics will vary.  A lot.  Just as they have in this decade.  I don’t even know about writing down goals for the next one, just because I don’t like being one of those people who specifies so much, is so sure of what’s going to happen, only to see everything go to shit.  Or to deny that I ever thought any of my previous goals would occur.

So yeah.  Here’s to being lucky enough to come out ahead, and that luck continuing for the next decade of my existence upon this earth.

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why do we even live in South Florida anymore?

(sidenote: why does September always run by so damned quickly?)

The fall always gets away from me, as it does most teachers, and I found myself last weekend on a trip that I’d barely had time to look forward to.  But it mattered not.  I went with my two best friends to Portland, we saw concerts and went to free art museums and ate so much delicious food and went hiking and saw waterfalls and visited Pumpkin Funland! and saw other friends, all of whom have roots in South Florida, and have since become at least temporary Pacific Northwesterners.  And took a hot air balloon ride.  Excellence indeed.

Also will happen this month: I will turn 30.  The trip was taken in part to commemorate that.  And T-storm and I have been thinking, a lot, lately about our living situation.  One of his two best friends, who often takes his bad decisions and projects them on other people, has informed T-storm that we really should buy a house sometime soon.  Because, you know, prices have bottomed out.

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get it, girls.

New York Times 2012

Are you watching the Olympics?  I would watch more of the Olympics if every time I turned it on, there wasn’t water polo on.

Also if I had regular TV.  There has also been a ton of traveling this summer, and now I am watching lots of NBC on my mom’s TV with my brother.

And apparently, in about 10 minutes, a young fighter from Flint, MI is going to battle for Olympic gold, and her story is just amazing.

I could yammer on and on about how much I wish the press would cover this woman’s story, instead of Kurly-Kue Kardashian or whoever, or Kristin Stewart being sad, or whoever else is on reality TV these days (I don’t even watch VH1 anymore).

But I’ll let this amazing young woman speak for herself.  It’s a really, really long story, even for NPR standards, but it’s worth every minute of listening.

Claressa Explains It All

(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Also, some more Gabby Douglas photos because I can’t get enough of her and I think she’s amazing.

Role Model

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The summer of only two pots

So now that I’m still technically a newlywed, I am also a grad student living and studying remotely.  And of course I should be in the process of writing two papers right now, but alas.  That will come.  Finish laundry and then off to the library.  In the meantime!

I love my program, and I’m here with some truly outstanding people, but there’s a certain sense of disconnect in some ways.  I miss my husband terribly.  I miss our cats.  I realize how grateful I am for my typical life, although I don’t always realize how terribly awesome it really is.  I will be sad to leave this terrific summer, and there are people I’ll pretty much never see again, which sucks, but I will return home with a new sense of gratitude.  As I had predicted when I made the decision to do this program.

I also miss cooking.  Surely, our kitchen is the opposite of anything to write home about (the building was built in 1972 and the kitchen has not been remodeled since;  home decorating TV shows have made us all crazy about remodeling, but seriously many aspects of our kitchen are not entirely functional), but I miss that it’s stocked with every kind of rice cooker and pot or pan and mandolin slicer and everything else that we could even imagine to be able to cook with (thanks to our lovely friends & family) — not to mention spices, stocks, sesame oils, etc.

So I’ve been trying to cook while on a tough schedule and with limited supplies.  But I’ve done alright.

Firstly, while I didn’t bring/pack/whatever any of our old junky kitchen supplies of which we have a few, I instead bought what I could from Publix: some flimsy little “cutting boards” with pictures on them and some uber-cheap yet astonishingly useful knives.

the beef one I will forever use for tomatoes

And went back to being a mostly vegetarian cook; I ate poultry and occasionally bacon while out (as is standard now), but only cooked vegetables, rice, and beans while here.  And a terrific vegetable dish for a 4th of July cookout — secret ingredient: thyme.  And dipped into some tasty pasta salads (mixed with homemade salad dressing, not mayo) but I didn’t get any photos of those.

morningstar farms “ground beef”, green beans, brown rice. homework. 

Sauteeing onions, kale & tomatoes to add over brown rice. Nom nom nom.

My good friend cameraphonevegan would be very proud of the above dishes.

I am very pleased with myself, however, that I have almost completely cut soda out of my life.  For reals, though.

The coconut water cocktail!

Of course, most of us who are here in this program are in the same circumstances.  We are all away from our friends and loved ones, so we tend to eat out a lot.  And sometimes I eat out by myself.  I got used to that when I was interning – I actually had not had my own car to drive for much longer before that, and come on, there was Tijuana Flats right down the street and Stardust coffee to consume nearby.  I surely gained 10 pounds as a teaching intern.  Oh well.

Here, we’ve got a couple of distractions:

Yes – that is a PBR tallboy, not an 8oz, for comparison.

DISCLAIMER: I did not order these myself. I admittedly ate a few, but dude. Seriously. Don’t order pizza fries unless you are willing to deal with the consequences.

But I’ve eaten enough at those particular establishments to feel a certain amount of regret.  Much of it has been fried.  Some of it after midnight.  Some of it while studying intently, some of it while my friend in from out of town developed an affinity for the ginger bartender.

Falafel and pita fries. At least what’s in the cup is an unsweetened iced tea.

These are gifts from Jesus, no joke.  Greek Jesus.  The falafel is not the greatest I’ve ever had, but the pita fries.  Yes.  Someone took a pita, sliced it up, seasoned it exquisitely, and put it together with some seriously delicious sauce I cannot spell.  I brought some of these fries down to a party in Orlando last weekend and even after being reheated in the oven and making the four hour drive, people raved over them.  Oh man.

yes!

Directly nextdoor to the blessed establishment that sells pita fries (and is the only one I’ve ever seen as such) is one of my now favorite coffee shops ever.  Their custom creations are divine, their iced coffee delicious (especially a mint mojito iced coffee with a cold banana), and their pourovers represent truly delicious coffee.  It doesn’t help that they’re around the corner from the building in which I spend most of my time.  And I’ve been depriving myself of sleep in a lot of bad ways, and therefore dependent on coffee.  And my coffee-maker supreme husband is not around.  Thus, I am the VIP card champ at this place.

And don’t let that delicious looking red velvet cupcake fool you – I hate to say it but it wasn’t that great.  Really spongy, not very flavorful, yeah.  Their sandwiches are tasty but really super greasy (aiming for the college crowd, I guess) but their once-the-kitchen-is-closed curry chicken wraps are really good.

I guess I’ve been busy, haven’t I?  You wouldn’t believe the amount of schoolwork I’ve gotten done in the midst of all this eating, either!

Enough to warrant a bottle of this, which is the only alcohol I’ve bought to keep at my living space this summer:

textbook, articles, wine cork, bad ideas all abound.

I texted my husband this photo and said, “bad idea or WORST IDEA?”  It turns out it was a little more toward the latter.  Between one, maybe two glasses (read: 1/3 filled plastic crystal cups) of that and putting on old Gilmore Girls while I drowse off to sleep, it helped to drown out the noise coming from the bar directly behind my sublease apartment.  I cannot imagine what the decibel level must have been inside the establishment.  Ugh.

Suffice to say, I’ve had some fun and learned a LOT (irrespective of anything I’ve eaten or not eaten), but I am ready to go home.  After I steal that pita fries recipe.

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monsoon-ish wedding

You guys.

Can we invite large, Indian families to every single wedding ever from now on?

I like to dance and all at weddings, and I thought my personal playlist of When in Rome, George Harrison, Dr. Dre, and Florence & the Machine would make for great wedding dancing.

And there was much dancing at my wedding.  We had a bluegrass(ish) band, and there was so much dosey-doing.

But it did not compare to the wedding we attended in State College this past weekend.  The family of the groom is rather religious – his uncle performed the ceremony and talked about God more often than I’ve ever heard the bride speak of the big man in the last 11 years I’ve known her.

And I thought to myself, “It’ll be a John Lithgow thing, where they reject dancing.”

Little did I know.

I had a friend tell me, “Of course Indian families dance a lot.  Haven’t you seen a Bollywood movie?”

Yeah I’ve seen Bollywood movies, with lots of dancing.  But to assume that everyone who is Indian likes to dance like they do in Bollywood doesn’t seem like a fair stereotype.

Except maybe it is.

SO.  MUCH.  DANCING.

When the reggae wedding band came on, and everyone was STILL going berserk dancing, my friend Ryan asked me if it would be cheesy to start a conga line in the middle-of-nowhere lodge wedding venue.  I said, “If the Indians join in, then we’re golden.”

And so I followed him, and the groom’s mother latched onto my cardigan – immediately – and said, “LET’S GO!”

The bride’s blond-haired, Italian-American mother was a whirling dervish, as well.  Everyone caught the spirit; it was unbelievable.

Best wedding dancing ever.  Seriously.

Sort of like the following, but with 30 people doing it, spontaneously.

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