Hurricane Harvey and other things

My family was blessed to make it through the hurricane with no damage. We live in a slice of south Houston between the flood zones. We went to my mother in law’s house as a precaution, because she has an SUV and either end of our street was flooding, which would have trapped us as we both drive sedans. The ride over was nerve wracking because 90% of the tollway exits were closed, and the ones we took were literally shut down behind us as we traveled. Hubs drove through several high water spots like a champ while I struggled not to have a panic attack. He was insightful enough to put on some slow jams I could sing along to that kept me from squeezing the lifeblood out of his thigh or yelping in terror.

The city is more or less back to normal. On my side of town, the floodwaters receded last week after the sun came out so the biggest inconvenience is that not all the stores are open, the restaurants have limited menus, and the city is still on a curfew. We had dinner with Bianca & Bernard last night, and had to hightail it out of the restaurant mid-conversation so we would make it home on time. Of course, that’s small potatoes compared to the people who have lost everything. A handful of people I know through work and my sorority had flooding to their homes, and lots of folks are still battling standing water and can’t go home. Hubs can’t go back to work for another two weeks because the campus flooded. It’s going to be a long road to recovery for the city as a whole.

Meanwhile, I’m still plugging away on document review and job applications. Recruiting season has rolled back around and I’m starting to get some nibbles here and there so I’m hopeful that I will have a job offer by the end of the year. We also moved into our house. It’s a little old, but not helped by the fact that the last tenants didn’t take care of it. G-Dub has put in a ton of work making it habitable but the bougie side of me is still adjusting. We went from a newly constructed apartment with hardwood floors to a house in the hood with TILE, of all things. I do feel better when I think about how I don’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors with my workouts or loud music, and the hundreds of dollars a month I’m saving on rent. Also, the commute is much better because most people on our side of town work locally. So even though we’re farther  from work, the time we spend driving is the same.

Also, while I’ve come to realize the utility of Home Depot (the tool rental has been clutch af), I’m still bored to death by it. So I guess I’m not totally washed up yet.

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Reclaiming My Time When Life Doesn’t Look Like It Should

Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) is a Congresswoman we can be proud of. Her no nonsense attitude is a refreshing change from the worst iteration of realpolitik spewing from the current administration. In particular, she has become famous for politely, but firmly, asserting her authority when challenged by men.

“Reclaiming my time” has gone viral and there are countless memes that apply this phrase to the dating world specifically. But the implications are much wider.

On S2E2 of Issa Rae’s “Insecure”, the protagonist’s best friend Molly is shown in therapy. After some discussion of her work and personal life, the therapist respond: “You frame a lot of things in your life with ‘should’. . .If those ’shoulds’ didn’t come to fruition, would you feel comfortable with your life looking a different way?” This is a question that I think every adult has struggled with in some degree since the beginning of time. But it’s particularly salient to millenials, who have grown up with so much choice, so many promises, and such high expectations that the reality of adult obligations has proved an especially rude, and sometimes bitter, shock.

Many of us follow the same routine day in and day out. I would argue that most of us just float through it, pulled and pushed this way and that, simply reacting to whatever happens. We waste hours on things we mostly won’t care about even a year from now–television, Buzzfeed listicles, InstaTwitBook, online window shopping, cute animal videos, etc etc. I’m guilty of all of the above (plus Pinterest recipe clipping, blog reading, and video recaps of my favorite shows). I’ve ended many a day feeling exhausted, but having not accomplished much of any real substance. Adding to my current confusion is the fact that a year ago I blew up my life by quitting my job and going back to school. Currently, I’m underemployed and my contract job hasn’t required any tax work so far. I have an interview coming up at the end of this week that I’m really excited about, but trying not to pin my hopes on. At this point, I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, dozens of which I’ve been super excited about, only to be ignored, rejected, or get to the interview and find out it’s basically an indentured servant position.

Anyway, I’m on a particularly brutal document review project. The discovery is for a corporate merger which makes the documents more technical and mentally demanding to work through than your average production. I’m putting in about 50 hours a week and the client asked everyone to do at least 10 hours, 7 days a week to meet the deadline and I just flatly refused. I’m reclaiming my time! The whole reason I do document review is that I can pick and choose my projects and my hours, and that wasn’t the requirement when I signed up so I don’t feel obligated to break my neck because the client miscalculated. I clocked out Friday and happily didn’t clock in again until Monday.

So what did I do with my reclaimed time? This brings me back around to my second point. When I was a little, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a lot of things but I always came back around to that. I wanted to write fiction, but I thought journalism would have been a good compromise. Then I got to high school and started researching careers and realized that a) journalism jobs were very hard to come by and only getting hard due to the rise of the internet; b) I’d very likely make a crap salary for the first 10 years; and c) unless I wanted to get stuck on local news I’d have to move to New York City. And at the time I decided I just didn’t want it bad enough. I grew up in a cash strapped household, I wanted to be comfortable, and I wanted to live somewhere with little to no snow in winter and a reasonable cost of living.

But lately I’ve just felt like something was missing in my life. Last year I downloaded a novel writing software called yWriter, and began working on random scenes and concepts. Last, something finally clicked. On Friday night I stayed up until 4 am and wrote about a chapter’s worth of material. Sicne then I’ve been scribbling down story arcs, character names, and background info for a fantasy novel. It might be complete crap. It may never be read by anyone but my sister, but I want to write it anyway. I didn’t have the gumption to be a full time artist, but I have a brain and a working laptop. There’s no reason I can’t still write for myself, and I know if I give it up completely then I’ll look back on my life one day and completely regret it. And if I have a kid who decides to be a writer and becomes a raging success, I don’t want to feel resentful that they lived my dream because I just let it fall by the wayside. And who knows, if it turns out half decent maybe I’ll self-publish it on Amazon and you’ll see an affiliate link here on the blog 🙂

So how are you reclaiming your time? Let me know in the comments!

Going Home Again

This past week I spent 8 whole days in Atlanta. Since I’m not working full time, I found a cheap set of midweek flights on either end of Memorial Day. When you have the money you don’t have the time and when you have the time you don’t have the money, so I just said screw it.

I came home feeling like I needed a vacation from my vacation (LOL!) but it was more than worth it. I got to see Maya and Sunny in the same place for the first time since my wedding. Capping off the reunion was Sunny’s high school BFF who didn’t got to GT, but tagged along on many of our college adventures. It. was. AWESOME! I didn’t realize how much I’d missed having my squad, however small. Since G and I are moving to a house in a couple months, we’ll finally have room to host some get togethers and the girls can come through.

I got some quality time with my family as well. I got to help my sister and brother in law with house hunting, play referee between my dad and brother (more on that in another post), have a mother/daughter movie date and see my grandparents. That last was the only dark spot; grandma & grandpa are 84 and 89 and their age is starting to manifest health issues. Grandma was diagnosed with dementia last year and I can tell it’s progressed even since I saw them in December. Grandpa’s mind is sound, but he’s using a walker and recently fell on the way to the mailbox. Not to be morbid, but realistically, I’m not sure how much time they have left so they are my first priority every time I go home. I’m notorious for not taking pictures but I did get one while I was there.

Overall, though, this visit refreshed my spirit. It was nice to escape the grind of part time work, side hustles, and job applications and have some fun. It also made me realize that it’s friends and family that make a place feel like home, and Houston will never be that unless I get proactive about making my own friends here. I’m a homebody by nature and usually content to stay in what I call “the love bubble”. But I’m going to make an effort to curb my introvert ways and do something social at least once a month. At the end of last year I finally made my own friend, Bianca.* We get along great but nothing is worse than a clingy friend with no life so I need to branch out. I’m reaching out to get active with a Zeta grad chapter again in the fall and actually make an effort this time. I’m pretty awesome and I need to share it with the world!

 

*Bianca and her husband, Bernard, are vegans and quite passionate about animal rights. Plus, she grew up in France and they actually save animals. They are literally the human versions of The Rescuers.

The Parent(hood) Trap

Two months ago, I turned 29. I feel pretty good about it. I never subscribed to the notion that your life ends when you’re 30, or you’re a failure if you haven’t accomplished every single life goal you have by that age. Unfortunately, I’m starting to notice that the sand in my biological clock is running out. I’m not in a rush to have a baby right now, or even next year. But I am aware that my uterus doesn’t give a damn about my professional or financial goals. If I am going to have the two kids I’d like (and not directly back to back) I’ve really only got two more years before I need to get a move on.

Which kinda sucks. I love being married, and kids are so much work. I like that my weekends aren’t packed with Little League games and dance recitals. If I want a night out with my husband, I don’t have to get a babysitter. If I come home from work and don’t feel like cooking, we can order takeout from anywhere. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to wake, dress, wash, and feed another human being. I just have to take a minute to mourn the unfairness of the fact that despite all the help moms may get from active fathers, the fact is that they can’t share the huge burden of actually making the baby. You might be able to go back to work in six weeks, and you may be able to have (s)e.x again in three months, but it really takes a year before your body and mind get back to normal (well, as normal as they can be when you’re sleep deprived and raising an infant). I look at my adorable goddaughter and can’t help but think about how drastically her parents’ lives have changed. Better I’m sure, but still COMPLETELY different than before.

sleep in meme

Unfortunately, biology just doesn’t seem to have caught up with society. Your body is more or less ready to have kids as soon as you finish puberty. I’ll say that was around 15 or so for me, because that’s when I hit my adult height. I didn’t finish law school until I was 25, and got married that same year. So when, exactly, was I supposed to have a kid? Some studies say I should have one now, because if I wait any longer I’ll destroy my earning potential. But you can’t make a living wage without at least a college degree anymore, and tuition costs are sky high. So being a student and a parent is nearly impossible–you’re losing time to study and money for tuition at the same damn time. I have so much respect for the people that do it though. Then when you’re finally financially and mentally ready to have a kid, your body is on the decline and you’ve got to take time away from work that will potentially haunt the rest of your career.

going to bed

Honestly? I wish I could back in time and shake some sense into Gloria Steinem and all those second wave feminists. I think they went a little too hard in the paint on all that working outside the home stuff. Now you gotta work AND be a mom and feel like you’re failing at both. And what do men have to do? Learn how to wash some dishes and do the laundry? Sheeeeiiiit. Doesn’t seem like a fair trade off to me. Lord. Somebody convince me that parenthood is worth it before I go and get my tubes tied. Just kidding…kinda sorta…

 

 

Who Lied To You?

“Who lied to you?” It’s just such a versatile question. Usually it comes out when I hear people’s ridiculous expectations for adulthood. I have low expectations from life. Some would call me cynical but I prefer the term pragmatic.

 

To clarify, I don’t mean that I’ve resigned myself to being unhappy. Far from it. My parents made sure I had a healthy self-esteem, and they’re very encouraging of me pursuing my career goals. They were also supportive of my decision to get married at a young age. But they never let me operate under the illusion that things would just be handed to me, that the world is naturally fair and just, or that I would never experience disappointment.

Some people think you should raise your kids without fear of limits, and I agree with that up to a point. There’s no need to tell 5 year old Johnny, who wants to be a movie star, that the odds of him just being able to make a living off  chewing gum commercials and bit parts like  “Guy at Bar #2” are slim to none. But 13 year old Johnny who just joined the drama club, got a part in the school play and announced he wants to go to Juilliard needs a reality check. Don’t crush his dreams, but he needs to be looking at community theater and acting lessons and open casting calls like yesterday. And if he’s not willing to give up quality time with his Xbox to work towards his dream, then maybe he’s just interested in acting as a hobby and should consider other career options.

So yeah, adulthood is expensive as f*ck. And stressful at times. But am I surprised that workplace politics are often reminiscent of grade school? Or that nobody congratulates you for cooking at home and paying your bills on time? Or that as a woman, sometimes people are more concerned about my marital/motherhood status than my job goals? No, no, and no. Shoot, sometimes when things go left I honestly wish I had an excuse to be mad. But (un)fortunately, nobody lied to me!

A lot of my peers also seem to be really invested in becoming known. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’ve never really wanted to be famous. Sure it would be cool, but (possibly to my detriment in this branding focused world) I’m more of a get sh*t done and let the chips fall where they may kind of girl. The only validation I’m seeking is my own contentment because the approval of others is a fickle beast. I don’t have time for it.

 

Can’t Shop, Won’t Shop

superstore

For the past few years, the media has been chronicling the fall of the in-store shopping experience. It never really resonated with me. Aside from everyday needs like groceries and toilet paper, I do a lot of shopping online, usually because what I need either can’t be found in the store, or are significantly more expensive there. Things like textbooks for school and electronics are much more affordable online. For instance, none of the stores near me had an HP laptop with the storage and processor speed I needed for under $600. I found exactly what I wanted on Amazon for about $400. A two day wait was more than worth it to save that much money!

I also shop online out of necessity. First of all, I have big feet. I can buy sneakers in store, because I have no shame in shopping the men’s section (there’s almost always a confused looking dude who checks to make sure he didn’t accidentally wander into the wrong section, LOL!). But there’s not a single shoe store within 30 miles of where I live has a decent selection of size 11 or 11W women’s dress shoes EXCEPT for Payless, whose shoes may as well be made out of cardboard*. I’m also plus size (on the smaller side of plus, admittedly, but just big enough that I can’t just walk into any store and find something that fits).  Most brands have an abysmal in-store plus size selection, so if I don’t want to wear

a) suits made entirely of stretch fabric;

b) dresses that make me look like a church deaconess;

c) Mom jeans with an elastic waistband; or

d) oversized floral polyester blouses that shouldn’t be exposed to open flame

then I have no choice but to shop online. Walmart can get you through in a pinch, but no white collar worker who can afford to buy better would choose to craft their professional wardrobe out of Faded Glory and House of Dereon separates. On the other end of the scale, Macy’s overcharges for plus clothes that look like they belong in Walmart. Nordstrom and Dillards are expensive, and sell more dresses and cocktail outfits than everyday basics.

Anyway, I finally had occasion to shop in store. I got a Visa gift card for Christmas, and I hate using those online because if you find something that’s more than the card value, you can’t split payments. I was looking for two things: an alarm clock with FM radio and an aux cord for my iPod, and one of those handheld massagers**. Both of these items were at Bed, Bath and Beyond. However, I wasn’t prepared to spend $50 on a clock, and the only massager available was a $250 chair cushion. The clock was $20 cheaper on Amazon, as well as a host of affordable massagers, but I felt like both of these items were too mundane to justify waiting on shipping. Surely I could find a good deal at a different store! So off I went.

Target was a bust on the clock- there was only one clock that met my specifications, and it was a super fancy $80 model. I couldn’t even find the clocks at Walmart (they weren’t in electronics or home office) and I was so annoyed by that point that I didn’t bother to ask an associate. F*ck it, I’ll buy a clock online. I suppose it’s something of an anachronism by now. The irritating part was that both of their websites claimed to have several massagers available in store. I even had the option to order online and pick up in store the same day. But THE WEBSITE WOULD NOT TELL ME WHICH AISLE THE PRODUCT WAS ON. The all caps were necessary because it was stupid. What is the point of going to the store to buy something if you can’t look at it and see if you even want it first? If I was willing to buy something sight unseen, I’d just have gone to Amazon.

At any rate, all of this integration of e-commerce and physical stores means nothing if you can’t find the product. Sure, I could have hunted down a sales associate*** to ask for help, but if I can see the inventory levels online there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to find out which section a product is in as well. Whatever. Guess I’ll just buy it on Amazon.

UPDATE: After blogging this, I  went to CVS to buy shampoo. Before leaving the house I checked the website and saw there were massagers at my local store. They were easy to locate,  and the model I bought was listed for the same price as it was on Amazon. Plus, I had a $2 off coupon and $5 ExtraBucks rewards  from the loyalty program. CVS is out here winning!

*Not gonna lie, those cheap a** shoes got me through childhood, college and law school. But the first thing I did when I started working full time was buy a $100 pair of name brand shoes. Once you’ve had arch support, there’s no going back.

**Not for the bedroom, y’all. For my neck and shoulder.

***LOLOLOL as if one would even be available? Or even have the answer? I’ve worked retail, I know what it it is.