So I’ve had this blog for over a month now, and I’ve only produced about 10 entries, which is pretty low, if it’s something that I actually want people to read. It’s easy to beat myself up about this, because in college, I was quite the prolific blogger. I was blogging all the time. I was writing 2 or 3 entries a day on some days. It was pretty much all melodramatic whining or inconsequential updates on my life, and there’s not a whole lot of work from that time that I’m proud of, but nonetheless, words were making the long and arduous journey from my brain to the computer screen, and regularly!
So this begs the question, what happened to me? Did I get boring or complacent? How did I become so uninspired? I used to really enjoy writing, and I guess I still do, but now that I’m older, writing has become akin to working out, in the way that once I sit down and start doing it, I really like it and I’m happy and I feel better, but it’s hard to take that first step sometimes, especially when I’m busy or tired or otherwise occupied by my daily life.
Also, maybe I’ve grown to over-think it. I only religiously follow about 3 blogs (Young House Love, Making it Lovely, and Bower Power), and they’re all home-decor, DIY, style, young-familyish things, and while I love to read their ideas, I don’t really know if it fits me. Yes, I own my home, and yes, I’m youngish and like to fix things myself, but the truth is that it’s not really something I’m passionate about right now.
So when I can’t think of anything to write about that seems relevant or interesting, I just avoid it altogether and mope to myself about yet another thing that I started and didn’t finish.
But! When I wrote yesterday’s post, I really liked how it turned out, and it didn’t have anything to do with my often-crappy job (although I’m feeling markedly less bleak about it currently because of a long holiday break and a generous holiday gift) or my occasional bursts of DIY-Empowered-Woman energy. It just really seemed to echo my voice, and didn’t sound over-produced or contrived (to me.)
So I think the answer is to write more and stress less, which is probably on some t-shirt somewhere already. Maybe this is a disclaimer, then, to say that if you’re looking for something specific or thematic or cohesive, this blog may not be it yet. However, if giving up a theme lets me write more, then it is definitely worth it (to me.)
If you know me in real life, you probably think that I am not a huge fan of Christmas, and that’s sort of true, but it’s only part of the story.
As a kid, I loved Christmas in the typical manner. Even though I know now that my parents didn’t have a lot of extra cash, it never felt sparse or tight on Christmas morning. I can’t really ever remember a year when I was totally sold on a present and didn’t get it, but my mom had a way of managing my expectations in such a manner that I didn’t really expect any kind of insane gifts. Asking Santa for something was never a sure thing, but more like, “Well, Santa will see what he can do.” Santa was getting up in years, after all, and with toys getting so technologically advanced (like Teddy Ruxpin and NES), it was hard for him to keep up and I really couldn’t be mad if I didn’t get every toy on my list. One year, I asked for a “Crimp n’ Curl” Cabbage Patch Kid, and my mom said she found an article saying that the dolls were low-quality and that they didn’t get good reviews. Now, let me stop here and say that I have no idea what the real story was. Maybe the doll was too expensive when combined with other gifts I’d asked for that year, or maybe they were out of stock everywhere and my parents couldn’t find one, but this was 1991. I’m pretty sure that there wasn’t a newspaper article reviewing the pros and cons of the Crimp n’ Curl Cabbage Patch kid. But, my mom’s master plan worked. On Christmas morning, I wasn’t disappointed to find out that I hadn’t received a Crimp n’ Curl Cabbage Patch Kid because I was a savvy consumer (or at least the seedling of a one), and I didn’t want any kind of sub-par product.
Elissa tells me that I am impossible to buy a gift for because if I want something, I save my money and buy it for myself. This is true. I am borderline fanatical about reading reviews, watching prices and making informed purchases. I am not the kind of person that would like an unsolicited digital camera, for example, because I have very specific preferences when it comes to brands and features. I recently bought the new 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HD, but not until I compared it with the Galaxy Nexus 10, The Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Asus Transformer series, and the new Microsoft Surface. (Note: Not the iPad. Never the iPad!) I think this can all be tied back to my Christmas experiences as a kid, because A) my mother showed me, whether in earnest or as a trick, that you can’t base your purchasing decisions off of enticing marketing and B) if Santa ever did miss something that I really wanted, I just saved my Christmas money and bought it myself later on. I think this took a lot of the pressure off of my parents, because there wasn’t ever a make-or-break Christmas present that would elate/devastate me.
As I get older and I compare Christmas traditions with my friends, I’ve realized that Christmas was a completely non-religious event in my family. I went to a Catholic school because it was close to my house and happened to be free, so I got the usual Advent/Jesus/manger fare there, but at home, Christmas was a secular event focused around giving gifts, seeing family, and decorating the house. You wouldn’t have heard any kind of “Reason for the Season” or “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” rhetoric in my house, but don’t get me wrong: My mom will still be confused or offended if you say Happy Holidays to her instead of Merry Christmas. She doesn’t understand the irony of this, either, so don’t even try.
The other day when we passed a church, Elissa pointed out that the wise men were “making their way” to the stable, and I noticed for the first time that the wise men weren’t being displayed with the rest of the nativity folk. She explained that when her mom put the nativity scene out every year, two things were important. One, the wise men started out on the other end of the room and worked their way over to Mary and Joseph, and two, the baby Jesus wasn’t displayed until Christmas morning.
Before you say that I grew up in a family of heathens (although I did), let me state for the record that my mother does have a nativity set, and she sets it up under the tree every year. It just happens to be a sort of strange one that she painted in the 70’s when she was going through a ceramics phase. The characters are little kids dressed up as the nativity characters (sort of a low-rent Precious Moments sort of thing), and the baby Jesus is painted right onto the manger, so we didn’t particularly have the option of waiting to put him out. There were no wandering wise men, either. When Elissa said she thought that it was strange that the Nativity set was under the tree instead of on a mantle or something, I countered by saying that my grandma’s nativity set was also under the tree, in a community of cardboard houses that also featured a mirror “lake” with an ice-skater figurine. That’s approximately the point in the story when I realized that I am probably the weird one in this case, but that is only one small battle in our ongoing weirdness war, so I’m sure I’ll be redeemed soon enough.
So it’s been a week or so since I’ve written, but in my defense, things have been busy. Thanksgiving was suitably filled with turkey, pie, and excessive amounts of family, like every good holiday should be. Elissa’s entire family is in Ohio, about 2 hrs west of Pittsburgh (where my entire family is), and so holidays have become a balancing act of rushing around and jaunting across state lines.
It’s not so bad, though, at least we get to see everyone and we don’t have to fly anywhere.
I was just about ready to get on here and say that work is actually okay. I’m participating in the office Secret Santa, which is markedly unlike me, but I’m trying to make friends instead of just moping quietly in my corner cubicle about how much I miss my old friends. I still miss my old friends, obviously, but I’m now at a point where I talk to some people and they seem to think I’m okay. Whoever got me in the Secret Santa was totally stumped, though, and asked one of my teammates what he knows about me. I told him to say that I like coffee and chocolate, because I’m apparently Cathy from the comic Cathy. But really, I just want someone to give me coffee and chocolate.
Anyway, today started off okay, and ended up in the shitty column, because the owner told my boss that he doesn’t think I do enough work on a daily basis. This makes me blind with rage because:
a: the productivity metrics of my job are so non-existent that I don’t know how he could possibly have enough information to make that assessment. Maybe he saw me looking at the internet once? Doesn’t he know that millennials can check Young House Love and still get their work done? It’s how we’re wired, for God’s sake.
b: Maybe I have been slacking off, but my job is incredibly monotonous and it seems like I go weeks without anyone noticing if I’m even sitting there, and so it’s frustrating when people only notice when they deem me underproductive.
c: The guy’s a douchebag, so I’m mad that I’m even mad about his opinion. I’ve been working since I was 16, and anyone who’s ever worked with me will tell you that even though I look at the internet, and I sometimes sleep late, I am a hard worker. I do everything that is required of me, and I am smart. Way smarter than the requirements of this job, honestly.
I’m just frustrated today. Tomorrow might be better. The job search soldiers on, but I’m not sure how likely I am to get a new job 3 weeks before Christmas.
We’ve done some things on the DIY front, so the week hasn’t been a total loss. More to come on that.
So when we last left off, I was explaining about the worst day of my job to date, and how I work for an insanely frustrating human being. When I got home that night, I felt like I needed to be in charge of a project and I needed to succeed at something.
So here’s a little back story about the kitchen:
2 years ago, I had just started to live by myself after a sad breakup, and I was seeing someone new (my current girlfriend, holla!), but I was still pretty damaged and I was completely underwater financially, since my ex had been sharing the bills with me up to that point. One day, I came downstairs to find that water had been dripping out of my kitchen cabinets on to my electric range, and I panicked. I unplugged the stove, called off work, and then called some plumbing company that had a catchy commercial on TV, and they came out and diagnosed some (probably relatively small) leak in the branch lines that connected my shower to the main stack. I guess somewhere along the way, he must have given me the option to just fix the leak, but because he was a salesman before all else and I was a panicked homeowner still trying to prove to everyone (most of all myself) that I could handle this solo homeowning gig, he convinced me to replace all of the second floor’s plumbing, which was really expensive. I guess they did good work, and it is supposedly warranted for the rest of my life, but I should have called someone cheaper. At the end of that day, I was left with a gaping hole in my ceiling and an even larger hole in my available credit on my credit card, and I decided that I didn’t want to tell anyone that I had called some big name plumber because I didn’t know what else to do and I’m such a damsel in distress, etc etc.
But then inertia kicked in, and I didn’t get the drywall fixed for a whole year. And then when I finally did get the drywall fixed, the guy couldn’t see to smooth it out after it got dark that day because the lighting in my kitchen is weird, so he said he’d come back. But then I didn’t call him and he didn’t call me, and a whole year passed AGAIN of me avoiding having my family over, because I hadn’t painted over the drywall and there was an obvious patch.
Something clicked in me recently, though, and I didn’t want to be afraid of my parents or friends stopping by anymore. I wanted to maybe even invite them to stop over, so they could see this home that I have made with my girlfriend, which is actually okay. My mom hasn’t been in my house since 2009 (although we live in the same city), so maybe it would be nice to have them over. Besides, like I mentioned, I’m thinking about selling the house in the next few years, so I need to scratch these things off of my to-do list. It’s nice to take some pride in my house instead of viewing it as a burden, and it’s nice to finally get out from underneath the inertia that had me feeling so down for so long.
So Elissa and I sanded/primed/painted on Wednesday and Thursday, and then I put the recessed lighting back in today, and it is finally back to how it was, 2 full years later. Maybe there’s some kind of metaphor in there about healing, or maybe not. All I know is that it’s really nice to finish something. Especially when it has nothing to do with work.
I know I’ve been talking about coming up with a job plan, and I have sadly no updates on that, but I have come up with a house plan!
A few weeks ago while I was working from home because of my leaky roof, I found my dream house on craigslist. Let me tell you about its glory!
It had 4 bedrooms, one of which was a huge finished attic. (So much room for activities!) It had new hardwood floors, a dishwasher, a double sink (this is very important to Elissa, but I’m indifferent to the number of sinks because THERE’S A DISHWASHER, WHO NEEDS A SINK EVER AGAIN?), a first-floor half bath, a new furnace, a nice patio, 3 parking spots. Let me tell you, this house was A+ and I spent a good 2 hrs walking around my own house trying to inventory all the things I would need to do to (in my non-real-estate-educated head) sell it in a hurry. I was going all HGTV in my head and theorizing the best way to stage my house. This was it. I was going to sell the house and move to…the other side of my own neighborhood, and there was no way I’d ever be convinced otherwise.
Of course, Elissa was at work during all of this and was completely unaware that I had found the home where we will grow old together.
Also, I wasn’t really looking for a house, because E’s in grad school and I’m looking for a new job, and everything’s just a little too unclear right now to go around getting a new mortgage. Additionally, because of the (totally reasonable, in my head) price of this house, I would need both of us to be on the mortgage, which is probably a grand idea for our next house (I have all kinds of opinions on this subject!), but we should probably at least be engaged-to-be-gay-married before then. Why buy the cow, put a ring on it, etc.
Oh, also, we don’t have tons of savings right now for inspections, closing costs, etc. When E came home and joined me in basking in Our Forever House’s splendor, she reminded me that approximately 60% of the houses in our neighborhood/this city were built the exact same way, and there will probably be one available to us when we are ready, but we just aren’t yet. She was right, and I’ve spent the past 2 weeks making peace with the idea that someone else is going to live in Our Forever House instead of us. I’ll probably still drive by it now and then on my way to Aldi, though, because you don’t need a new mortgage to be a stalker.
So my new plan is this:
- Refinance! Another portion of my work-from-home day was spent making phone calls that it is awkward to make while cubicle-bound, and one of these calls was to the mortgage broker who helped me get my first mortgage. People have been saying ‘you should re-finance!’ to me forever, but I’ve pretty much ignored all of them, because it sounded complicated, like I would somehow be personally involved in doing large amounts of math. Also, I knew that I’d have to talk to people on the phone, and that I’d have to fill out paperwork, and both of these things are pretty unappealing to me. Anyway, the guy explained that as long as I stayed in the house for 3 more years, refinancing would be worth it, and I’d be able to pay down my loan faster. If I was going to sell in less than 3 years, though, it wouldn’t be worth the cost to re-finance. In three years, I’ll be 31 (how did this happen to me?), and E will be done with school, and we will hopefully be able to make large financial decisions. Moreover, I will have paid down my house more, so I can potentially (gasp!) profit from its sale, which would be a totally cool and unexpected side effect, since I never really planned to stay there that long.
- Fix up my house. About a year ago, I went through a fit where I wanted desperately to buy a new car, but I didn’t actually need one. My car is six years old, but it barely has 60,000 miles on it, so it certainly has a lot of life left in it. Also, since it’s paid off, it’s kind of awesome to not have a car payment. The solution was for me to clean all the junk out of my car and vacuum it, and it made me feel so much better. Obviously cleaning and vacuuming my house will help me, but a few coats of paint and spackle here and there, and craigslisting some stuff that has just been sitting around will probably make a world of difference. This will also make it easier for me to sell when the time comes, and will help the next 3 years seem more bearable.
- Save money and pay off debt! With E working full-time now, we will suddenly have more money, and while making more money can lead to spending more money, I want to try my hardest for this to not happen. When we do want to buy a house, I want our financial path to be clear of weird old looming bills or unexpected expenses.
- Live happily ever after, etc.
I’m still working out the layout for this fancy “wordpress” business, so there will probably be random updates to the theme while I decide what I like and how to even do it.
For example, right now, I believe if you scroll down far enough on the right, there are sea turtles, and I’m just not sure how I feel about that, but I really like the font at the top. Maybe I’ll make my own thing?
Oh, I’ve gotten so tech-stupid in my old age.
Edit: I’m revoking the sea turtles, because the fish scrolling across my page were distracting and confusing. This is not a blog about fish or underwater adventures.