Friday, December 18, 2009

Reflecting on 35 years of Holly living

Today is my 35th birthday--how did THAT happen? I mean seriously, 35 is like a REAL adult. Honestly, I am dumbfounded how I got here. The last 10 years in particular are a blur. But unless I am on some kind of mind-altering drugs or am otherwise mistaken, today is December 18, 2009, 35 years to the day that I was born, according to my mother, who should know.

It's been a pretty crazy life so far. Nutshell version: Born in KS, moved to CA, moved to TX, moved to GA, moved to KENYA, fell completely in love with it, had to depart for adulthood (which broke my heart so badly I went married someone completely wrong for me at the age of 19), spent 8 years in an awful marriage, left, found Kevin, got my doctorate, moved to DC, got a job, had a baby, bought a house. Boom. Technically speaking, I've learned a lot along the way, although I can't say that I act like it. But here's a few things I've learned in theory, if not in practice, in random order:

1. If someone has to inform you they are very important--either explicitly or through arrogance, condescension, or demanding behavior--they probably aren't. That includes oneself. If you are important, that will be apparent to others in time. If you aren't important, get over it, most of us aren't either, and there are worse things. Like being an annoying jerk. Besides, convincing everyone you are awesome all the time is really exhausting. Take that energy and channel it toward actually becoming awesome in a way that doesn't undermine or seek to control others. Just put in the work and shut up about it.

2. Marry your soulmate. They do exist. Marriage is always hard work, but marrying your soulmate makes a HUGE difference. It's like you can cut a tree down with a little bitty axe or you can get yourself a big ass chain saw. Either way, it won't be easy and you might end up dead, but one is a lot easier than the other. Trust me.

3. A really good prank to play on someone is putting baby oil in their shampoo, but it only works with an opaque bottle. And play it only someone who can take a joke and/or is pure evil.

4. No one is really pure evil, and we are all evil to a degree. Don't judge, even though it is SO much fun, like THE MOST fun. But the day will come when you are judged, and you won't like it.

5. Men and women are fundamentally, irrevocably, completely, and utterly different. I don't care what Gloria Steinem says, she is just dumb. One of the biggest mistakes a woman can make is to think she can act like a man and get away with it, or expect a man to act like a woman. It never works, it just leaves a lot of crushed expectations littered all over the floor. And then some woman will just have to come and clean it up.

6. Jesus is full of grace and forgiveness and generally rocks. His followers, however, can really be quite heinous and annoying. Learn to differentiate.

7. The world will not stop spinning on its axis if your bathroom is not spotless and you are 5 lbs. overweight. OK, I am still learning this one a little bit, which is totally embarrassing.

8. Acne does not go away with age, even with wrinkles. Which totally sucks, but let's keep some perspective here, it's not like I am living in a cardboard box and wondering where my next meal is coming from.

9. The fashion industry does not in fact care if you look good. This was a shocking revelation to me. They care about making money, and that means they have to keep changing the styles, whether they look good on anyone or not. Just because something is supposedly in fashion does not mean you have to wear it, especially if it makes you look like an ice cream cone. Just say no.

10. A work place should have a roughly even gender balance. If you go too far one way or another, you have yourself either a fraternity or a sorority house, and that's never a good thing even when it is a fraternity or a sorority house. No thank you.

That's all I got. I don't want to think my birthday away, there are so many better ways to spend it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It IS the thought that counts

More and more people seem to have forgotten what the point of gift giving is. On behalf of Martha Stewart, I'm going to remind everyone. A gift should one of two things, or both:
1)Something someone wants (you think) but either can't afford it for themselves (because they are 7 years old and don't have a job) or would not buy it for themselves because it is impractical and unnecessary (i.e. a dog snuggie. Except my friend Kim just bought one for her dog. So I can't give her that).
2) Something that communicates to the recipient, Hey, I get you, and I'm actually thinking of you and not myself for a change. I personally would hate a 3-year subscription to Cuneiform Studies, but I realize what a massive geek you are, so I shelled out the money just for you.

It seems like the chief destroyer of traditional gift giving has been the Gift Card. Don't get me wrong, I have given my share of gift cards and will continue to do so. I think gift cards are fine especially when you are not exchanging gifts with someone (as in it's a one-way transfer) and/or you don't know the recipients too well (i.e. Charlotte's day care teachers). But generally nothing is more perfunctory than a gift card, it is basically cash not even well-disguised. It is like cash with its hands over its eyes thinking you can't see it because it can't see you. That doesn't work too well for Charlotte, and a gift card certainly isn't getting away with it.

When you have people exchanging gift cards with each other, you have officially entered the realm of what-the-heck-is-the-point. Also in this realm, in my opinion, is when full grown adults with jobs tell each other what they want for Christmas. My husband's family--and I'm not putting them down, I love them more than anything--is particularly bad about this, and I have joined in the absurdity on more than one occasion. So we buy Kevin's parents the toaster oven they want, and they buy us the coffee pot we want, and we both spend $50. I don't think I am a massive Scrooge to say, why don't we just buy ourselves what we want and be done with it? We actually have stopped exchanging gifts altogether, because it literally degenerated into cash exchanges one year, and at that juncture it became easier to deny the Holocaust than it did to deny the pointlessness of our gift giving (which means that President Ahmadinejad is probably out buying us some loot as I speak).

On this topic, I give my parents a lot of credit, because while I have gotten many gifts from them that I didn't exactly cherish forever, I have almost never known what I was getting. My mother never asks me what I want, which means she has to put some thought into it. Personally, I would rather get a kitty cat sweatshirt I didn't expect than a blender I asked for, unless the blender can make margaritas by itself and clean the whole kitchen after and costs like $1 million and my best friend Bono gave it to me. Then I'll totally take the blender. Or just Bono. I would take Bono even if I asked for him, which I do every year (not in a romantic way or anything, I just want to hang out) and somehow no one ever comes through.

Of course the worst gifts are not those you expect or the gift card but gifts that show appalling lack of thought about what the other person would want. For instance you probably don't want to give a recovering alcoholic a fancy bottle of cognac. You probably don't want to give an overweight person a pair of skinny jeans (Actually, my well known belief about skinny jeans is that they don't look good on anybody, period, including you who are already starting to argue with me because you think you look so good in them, you don't, trust me, so I would just rule them out across the board). Similarly, it is bad form to give a new mom who has 30 lbs of baby weight to lose a massive box of chocolates. Try giving her prozac instead, that would be an appropriate gift for a new mom, probably the only one. You probably don't want to give an illiterate person Tolstoy's War and Peace. And you probably don't want to give a man, any man, a speedo, even if he wants it, for the good of humanity.

So there are some hints. Not that I am that stellar a gift giver myself. Most years I grasp at straws trying to come up with something for Kevin and settle for some random clothing. This year I actually got him something creative, but I won't say what it is since he sometimes reads this blog (only sometimes, and who can blame him).

This post is not that funny and pretty much sucks so I'm just going to stop now :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Tis the Season

First of all, let me address my silence last week, lest anyone out there think I have fallen off the wagon of accomplishment and slid back into a life of brainless sloth. Instead of blogging, I was in bed, feeling like that mean-girl soccer player from the University of New Mexico had kicked in the side of my head, and generally praying for death. While it probably wasn't that bad, I did have my first sinus infection, something I hope never to repeat. In fact, I've now updated my official version of hell to: Breastfeeding with a sinus infection for eternity while Kay jewelry commercials play on loop in the background. Shudder.

Which brings me to today's topic: Annoying things about the holidays. Let me first say that I love the holidays, actually, I'm not a Scrooge at all. But making a list of all the things one loves about the holidays is more difficult to make humorous than a list of things one hates ("I just love reindeer. What's up with how cute they are?" See what I mean?). So for the same reason almost all stand-up comics resort to foul language and potty humor, I will once again whine.

The timing of this blog (pre-Thanksgiving) brings me to reason number one, which is admittedly trite, and that is that the holidays now last like half the year. Soon we will live live in a constant state of Christmas to the point where there will be no more Christmas because it will have just become normal life to have a fake evergreen tree in your house, binge-eat, and buy massive quantities of goods on credit (OK so, save for the tree, we are pretty much there as it is). Santa arrived at the local mall this year on November 7. November 7! Seriously, shouldn't he still be scarfing down his Halloween candy and exercising his right to vote on November 7 instead of hanging out at the mall? I know Christmas did not start this early six years ago, when Kevin and I got married on November 8th, otherwise I know I would have made our annoying DJ (the one that had the nerve to play the explicitly forbidden Kenny G) dress up like Santa for revenge. I didn't realize a holiday theme was even an option at that time.

Starting Christmas so early means we have an entire additional month to enjoy those aforementioned Kay Jewelry commercials. This year's selections include one from last year featuring some deaf girl and the idiot she is dating, who makes up for his bumbling sign language by giving her a diamond necklace. When he asks her if she likes it (proving his idiocy), she says in her halting deaf accent, "Read my lips," and then gives him that kiss that "begins with K/Kay." Three of my teeth rotted out just typing that out. Then, brand new this year, we have another idiot couple in a woodland cabin suffering through a (rare) December thunderstorm. When the woman jumps into the man's arms in fright over a clap of thunder, he gives her some "arms surrounding you/hearts entwined/I will suffocate you with my love"-themed necklace and reassures her. He should have just dumped her right there because any girl who can't handle a little thunder is for damned sure not going to make it through childbirth, much less motherhood in general. A slight improvement on that one is the couple celebrating their first Christmas with their new baby. The husband comes to the nursery where the wife is up in the middle of the night rocking the baby back to sleep and gives her a diamond necklace. Somewhat touching at first glance, although if I were the woman, my response would be, "You can keep your damn necklace and try getting you butt out of bed with this child once in a blue moon." But I guess that is not going to sell any jewelry. I've about decided Kay's entire advertising campaign is based on the premise that if your commercials feature a bunch of really dumb people, the viewers will feel smarter by comparison and thank you by soliciting your business. That's all I can figure. Unless most people are really that dumb just for starters.

Wow, I've pretty much written an entire blog about the Kay Jewelry commercials, so I may have to save the rest of my holiday whining for next week's post-Thanksgiving extravaganza. Here's hoping I am much funnier when hopped up on sugar and 10 lbs. closer to obesity.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Leaf Raking Workout

As you know, the spreadsheet says I need to be working out. This is currently slotted for 7:30-8:00 p.m., but I'm sure you can imagine how well that is going. By 7:30, Kevin is home, infecting me with his laziness, and Charlotte is in bed for the night, which always leaves me feeling self-indulgent for having survived another day of motherhood, a.k.a. working for the most demanding prima donna since Mariah Carey. My thought process is usually, "I SO deserve that massive slab of cheesecake/massive glass of wine/massive internet shopping spree," NOT, "I SO deserve that massive workout." But ultimately I do blame Kevin for the fact that I have yet to implement this part of the spreadsheet.

So today I decided I would work out during Charlotte's nap, before blogging. But then I looked outside and realized that our house was about to be devoured by leaves. Now my original plan for fall was to allow all the leaves to fall, because why go through the work of removing them when more are simply arriving? But this strategy doesn't work for managing body hair, and it doesn't work for leaves. Because in both cases you end up being suffocated, you die, and no one can even find your body for all the crap all over it. OK maybe not, but I really don't want to take my chances with the leaves. Our yard looks like there's some kind of weird Star Wars creature living on it. And then I looked up on Weight Watchers the point value for raking some leaves, and it was like double the elliptical machine, seriously. So I went out and raked me some leaves.

And then I got to thinking, it's really pretty dumb how we whine and complain about household chores and even pay other people to do them and buy all these contraptions on TV to make the chores easier and less strenuous--and then we go work out. Why don't we just skip the workout, which is at least as tedious and boring as any chore, and just clean or rake or something? We could even wear that cool sweat-wicking workout gear if it makes us feel any better. I'm telling you, I just got an awesome workout raking those leaves. My abs are begging for mercy, man! And better yet, there are like 50 billion more leaves to rake out there, which will keep me in workouts for the next month.

Yeah, I'm totally buying a leaf blower.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Moms

I've spent a lot of time with moms over the last nearly 20 months. To be honest, the mom culture was a huge part of why I was reluctant to become a mom. From the outside, moms seemed like people who got all their information about the world from Dora the Explorer and were more than a little sniping with each other. On the latter point, the battlefronts are numerous: working moms vs. stay at home moms, spankers vs. timeouters, cloth diapers vs. disposable (or crazy hippies vs. sensible people, not to be judgmental or anything), non-vaccinators vs. vaccinators (ditto, etc. I would add to "crazy hippies" "crazy hippies who don't care about public health"), natural birthers vs. epidural users (or people who are too crazy to be out walking free on the street vs. normal people), and of course, breastfeeders vs. bottlefeeders (or women who insist on living like slaves of the 15th century vs. those who choose sanity and liberation. Again, not to be judgmental). But who am I to judge, right? I have a theory about what drives these battles, other than people being crazy, but I'll save that for another time.

Now that I have become a mom, I have a lot more respect for moms. And I am also sniping (see above) and can no longer carry on an intelligent conversation, even about poop, and have no idea what is going on in the world (Michael Jackson died? really?). I have also figured out that mom culture is very diverse. There are actually several different kinds of moms, which I will tell you about now, as if you could stop me.

To be more precise, I have identified 4 broad categories of moms that result from combining 2 key sets of criteria, organized vs. disorganized and uptight vs. laid back. Most moms are lesser versions of these 4 types or combinations of types, of course, but this gives us a basic idea:

Type 1--The Mess (disorganized and uptight)
This is the clearly harried mom, usually of multiple children, who is rarely showered or dressed in clean clothing, nor are her children, who run circles around her and destroy things as she valiantly but unsuccessfully tries to stop them from eating rocks, hitting each other, breaking valuables, or jumping off the top of jungle gyms (or buildings). Her house is basically ground zero of Armageddon, complete with blood on the floor on a bad day. Dinner is Cheetos. And conversations with her go something like this, "I think we are--Johnny come back here!--going to go to the beach--Susie, don't hit your brother!--except that Joe may have to work--Sally, get down from there!--so I don't know--Mikey, don't eat that!" You might as well not bother to relate any information of your own to her because she can no longer understand English.

Type 2--The Proud Mess (disorganized and laid back)
This type looks very much like The Mess, except this mom doesn't give a damn about any of it. Instead of trying to control the chaos, she just sits back, smokes a cigarette (either literally or figuratively), and lets it all wash over her. Her lack of control is a point of pride for her. As another mom scrambles to prevent her child from eating a cookie laying in the dirt, The Proud Mess (proudly) proclaims, "Honey, my kids regularly eat grass coated in dog urine, and they are fine." She barely contains her contempt for moms who dare show up at a mom gathering with make up on, chiding them as "over achievers," and openly ridicules moms who don't let their kids watch television or drink juice.

Type 3--The Anal Mom (organized and uptight)
This is the neat freak mom who can't quite come to grips with the fact that small children don't really go with the decor or most of her outfits. Anal Moms will buy the "tasteful," neutral color baby bouncer because it matches the leather chairs, although they may eventually cave in desperation to the colorful rainforest bouncer that lights up and is more garish than a drag queen (I speak from experience. Not because I am drag queen, because I bought the rainforest bouncer. I'm not a drag queen, just to be clear). In extreme cases, Anal Moms either make their children play exclusively in their rooms or bring out one toy at at time. Messy toddler meal times induce mommy panic attacks and therapy sessions; Anal Mom will be running a handvac all over her child and everything in the vicinity within seconds of that dropped grain of rice. Sleep schedules are enforced according to a nuclear clock. Clothes are changed multiple times a day and are all adorable little matching outfits complete with hair accessories. The children's clothes are nice, too.

A related type is the Mom, Ph.D. This is usually a well educated mom, often one who has given up a high-powered career to stay home. Instead of coordinating baby gear with furniture and devising storage solutions for toys, Mom, Ph.D. pours her uptight, organized energy into reading mountains of childhood development literature and medical studies, usually with the end goal of her child winning a Nobel Prize. If you are around this mom for more than 5 minutes, you will learn how simple, wooden blocks create 13% more brain synapses than toys made from Chinese plastic. You will learn how peek-a-boo games help your child get over attachment disorder. You will learn how the number of times your child defecates per day can inform you of their optimal potty-training age (this requires a spreadsheet). But mostly you will learn that if you let your child watch television, he will end up in jail.

Type 4--The Cruise Director, a.k.a The Perfect Mom or the Classic Mom
(organized and laid back)
If you are a kid, this is the mom you want to have. If you are a mom yourself, this is the mom that makes you want to commit suicide. Life for this mom's family is one exciting activity, cool craft, healthy and delicious meal, and fun family vacation after another. This mom just loves, loves, loves being a mom, has probably wanted to be a mom since kindegarten, and embraces it all with gusto while letting none of the pitfalls get to her. This mom takes her toddler everywhere with her, from the grocery store to Paris, because she gets such a kick out of watching her child discover the world (the rest of us, who have come to Paris to escape our children, are not quite as thrilled). This is the woman whose reaction to finding out she is pregnant with triplets 2 months after her last child was born is, "God has so blessed us!" while the rest of us would at least consider atheism if not actually convert for revenge. If this mom has only 2 kids, it's usually because "we just can't afford to have the 6 we want." Oh, and she just loves to breastfeed, it's like her favorite thing.

So those are the types. Now, few moms are solidly in one camp and in fact can change types depending on the day. For instance, I am situationally either a Proud Mess, mainly because I let my kid eat dirt and I look askance at moms who shower every day, or the Anal Mom, although I keep it under control. Toys are strewn all over my house but that doesn't mean I'm OK with it. I'm basically Anal Mom with my house but Proud Mess Mom with the personal hygiene of myself and my child. I am definitely not the Cruise Director, because I generally dislike small children and try not to go anywhere I don't have to with mine, nor am I Mom, Ph.D. Not only am I too lazy to read all that crap, I feel like my children's genes will be enough to ensure they are geniuses. I don't want to overdo it and wreck their sparkling personalities with too many synapses.

Of course, these categories are confined just to "normal" moms. I am not even going to go into the whole psychotic mom thing, that is another whole world that I don't feel qualified to speak about. Yet.

At the risk of offending the spreadsheet...

...I am actually hanging out with a friend today during the blogging slot on my spreadsheet. Horrors! So no blog today, unless I dump Kevin from his slot. He probably doesn't deserve to be dumped, but we'll see how things pan out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Struggle to be "Accomplished"

I recently decided that I need to use my like 10 hours of free time a week for better purposes than watching the YouTube video of that wedding party dancing down the aisle to Chris Brown's "Forever" 50 times in a row, which is exactly what I did one morning last week, or looking at all my pictures on Facebook for like the hundredth time and scrutinizing how big my nose looks in each of them. Enough is enough, I decided, at this rate I'm never going to become a talented writer/pianist with abs of steel who is fluent in Swahili and cooks gourmet meals for her family every day. When I stop to think about it, I really don't know why it is so important that I become this extraordinary person. Hmmm, more on that deep question later.

So I have actually plotted out all my free time on a spreadsheet and assigned various tasks to various times. Yeah, I know. Fridays during Charlotte's nap, for instance, are for blogging, thus this entry. From 6-6:30 a.m. is Swahili study, which I am mainly doing out of shame that I am not fluent after being raised in Kenya (The first question people ask when they find out where I am from is, "So I guess you speak the language?" to which I defensively reply, "People speak English almost everywhere in the world and probably on some distant planets, making it very hard for English-speakers to learn other languages.") Thursdays during Charlotte's nap are devoted to housework, the idea being if I only slot one segment of time for housework, whatever doesn't get done is not that important. Fridays are for blogging and piano practice. At half an hour a week, it will probably only take me about 50 years to fulfill the promise I showed as a 4th grader, when I won first place in the Kenya Music Festival, and become an accomplished pianist. My mother will be so happy. Dead, but happy. Then in the evenings, I am supposed to work out and read books. This is the part where the spreadsheet collapses of its own weight, as do I, in front of the TV, eating some crap.

Now that I have written all this out, it really looks kind of ridiculous. When I come to the end of my life, I really doubt I'm going to care if I learned Swahili or how to play the piano, unless I somehow end up in a Tanzanian nursing home or in some strange society where people communicate through musical instruments, in which case speaking the language will be the least of my worries. And unless I figure out how to become a real writer and something comes of this, I really doubt it's going to matter if I had a blog. The exercise thing actually might make some kind of difference, I might avoid wearing adult diapers or something. Of course, exercise is the only part of my schedule from which I get absolutely no enjoyment (probably subzero enjoyment, really). The books--yeah, whatever. I already know how to read.

So why am I doing all this? It's a bit like the 19th century obsession with women being educated and accomplished so they could....sit around the house and be educated and accomplished. Accomplishment for its own sake. Which is pretty much just ego--in the 19th century, it was male egos wanting to have impressive wives so they would seem more impressive themselves. For me, it's just me wanting to be impressive, although I feel people who know me are sufficiently impressed (don't correct me if I am wrong), so I guess I just want to feel impressive to myself. Which is really quite pathetic. And probably plenty of justification for a life of utter sloth.
Now I really have hit the jackpot--maybe I can become an unmotivational speaker and go around convincing people that sitting on one's butt and doing as little as possible is the key to a successful and happy life. I think people would pay big money to hear that.

OK, so I have to slot some time in the spreadsheet to prepare for my speaking tour. Piano's out, sorry Mom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

You're never too old for acne and pettiness

So I'm turning 35 here in a couple of months, which is quite shocking to me and probably to everyone who knows me and thinks I am gorgeous (not to mention immature). I still feel like I'm 13 years old much of the time, and worse, I act like it on occasion. And, yes, I still have acne, which I find to be a tremendous injustice, right up there with men not having cellulite even when they are obese and of course the genocide in Darfur.

Acne is one thing, but being a small person is another. And I don't mean being a size 2, a dream that died for me in like 7th grade. Seriously I could be starving to death and I'd still be at least a size 6 by virtue of my big bones. Now, see, this is exactly what I am talking about. Why do I still care what size I am?

No, I'm talking about pettiness, taking the low road, acting out of insecurity. Just for example--and this is just one among hundreds--Kevin and I were discussing personality types, with which we are pretty much obsessed. We are like Myers-Briggs experts by now. Our most recent reading on the topic confirmed our long-held theory, that the N-S indicator is the most important for compatibility (who needs a Ph.D. in psychology?). I mentioned a certain, very beautiful friend of mine as being a probable ESFJ. I later found an internet page open, which of course I did not look closely at, because that is too much work--all I saw was INTP (Kevin's type) and ESFJ. I naturally assumed that Kevin was researching his compatibility with my gorgeous friend so he could determine if running off to Fiji with her might be fun. So naturally I confronted him with his horrible misdeed. It turns out he was reading about career choices for his type and ESFJ was included on the same page since it is the exact opposite type. So while he may be thinking of leaving his job to go to Fiji, I don't think he is considering taking this friend of mine. Especially since she is an S.

Or at work the other week, I literally threw a tantrum in my boss's office because someone else was getting to do something that I wanted to do. I was like, "But I want to do that, and I've been here longer." She was like, "Um, you aren't even going to be here that day." And I was like, "But my hologram might could make it." Very mature.

Maybe the acne is a magical curse that will only go away when I finally learn to grow up and get over myself. Ever seen a 90 year old with acne? You will in about 55 years.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Agony and Ecstasy of Bulk Shopping

Sometimes there is a thin line between heaven and hell.  Straddling that line, sitting right smack-dab on top of it, is Costco.  

We finally joined Costco this summer, now that we have a real house with a real garage and some decent storage.  Once a gargantuan freezer was in place in the real garage, I headed off for my first foray. Unfortunately, I had to go on a Saturday, but I did have the good sense to arrive early, about 15 min. before the place opened to be precise, at which time there was already a crowd of people, carts claimed and positioned to knock down the doors and anything/one else in their way.  When I saw that, I started getting a little nervous.  I am not what you would call a champion shopper.   Even the normal grocery store--with its maze of aisles often organized according to incomprehensible logic and ten billion choices of rice and freaky looking customers everywhere (like the 70-something-year-old man and probable sex offender who snuck up behind me this week to inform me I have a cute butt)--gives me mini panic attacks, and even on a good day, I have an overwhelming impulse to get the heck out of there just as soon as possible.  So I'm thinking I'm probably not cut out for Costco, which is basically the Olympics of shopping, requiring super human strength, superior cart-pushing agility, marked aggression, and outstanding decision-making skills under fire.  So actually it's more like war than the Olympics, now that I think of it, which really doesn't help me.  I would suck and get myself and others killed in either venue.  

I definitely had the combat-ready adrenaline pumping as I stood there with my cart watching the entrance.  A very brave woman finally emerged and opened the gate (I certainly hope Costco offers their employees massive life and personal injury insurance packages).  And we were off.  I had a list of things I needed, but the list is the first casualty of Costco I find.  Pretty soon I was just grabbing stuff, anything I saw that I had ever used in my life, in the cart. Zone Bars.  Ivory soap.  Fleece jackets. Animal crackers.  Thank goodness they put the diamonds behind glass.  Pretty soon the cart that had once seemed the size of a Hummer was looking pretty puny, kind of like one's home does once a baby arrives with all their crap in tow (speaking of baby crap--blanket sleepers for $7!  SEVEN DOLLARS!!! grab grab grab).  So I had to have a talk with myself because I was there on a serious mission, to supply for a rather large party, so appetizers and drinks had to take priority over the massive bag of Venus razor cartridges.   

After a meager 45 minutes, my cart was so full I risked a hernia just pushing it around the floor. On top of that, I noticed preparations for the imminent arrival of Dan Akroyd, who would be hawking his new line of wines.  That was pretty much my cue to run for my very life, no offense to Dan Akroyd, he was very good in Driving Miss Daisy, but he has no business creating more havoc in Costco.  They have havoc in bulk at Costco, just like everything else.  Massive jar of Prego, butt-load of havoc, sitting right there together on the shelf.   So go to Whole Foods, Dan Akroyd.  People who pay $6 for a container of organic sea salt will not likely mutilate fellow customers for a bottle of wine autographed by a former Ghostbuster.  

So I grunted and groaned and pushed my way into the check out line, where I was soon baffled as to how this next phase would play out.  My cart was absolutely full, upstairs and downstairs; the conveyor belt thingy looked pretty small; and they don't have bags or baggers.  So somehow I would have to unload everything onto the belt then rush to the end and start loading everything back in the cart before the skyscraper of goods the checkout person necessarily constructs topples over and decapitates a small child (that's another thing--What fool would bring their child to Costco? Do they not cherish the future of humanity?)  I actually consulted the rather bored but grizzled-vet-looking man behind me to make sure this would be possible and I hadn't made a deadly error by not bringing an extra cart.  He told me it would be OK.  So I unloaded and unloaded and unloaded, sprinted to the end of the line and loaded and loaded and loaded as if my life depended on it.  The items of course did not fit in the cart like they had the first time, but I got it done.  The final bill was shocking even to the cashier, who asked me if I wanted some kind of super duper membership for the really big spenders, i.e. people who have 14 obese children or run a day camp for hook worm patients out of their homes.   I assured her I would not routinely be buying this much.  Let's pray.

I felt quite accomplished having successfully purchased a cart-load of crap at Costco, but the challenge was not over yet. I then had to wheel the cart--still weighing about 500 lbs but now a leaning tower of unconfined goods--out the door, of course stopping for the absurd receipt check at the exit (I could have had a dead body in that cart, buried--and nicely preserved I might add--under 20 pounds of frozen mini quiches, and the receipt checker would never know), across the crosswalk and through the parking lot, dodging dozens of determined parking-spot-seekers, and to my car.  Then I had to fit everything in my car, drive home, unload....Honestly the whole thing was the best workout I've had since I dared myself to run 3 entire miles at one time back in college.  I even pulled a muscle in my back.  It was like my own version of Rocky 4--instead of aging former boxing champ getting back into shape with practical workout of hauling logs across the Siberian tundra, this was aging former model (just go with it) getting back into shape after having children by making repeated shopping trips to Costco.  

So back to the heaven/hell motif--The good news is I have enough food to last through several swine flu epidemics, allowing Kevin to breathe normally again, and I probably saved a few dollars, which I will promptly spend on my 109th sweater.  The bad news is I'll probably have to go back eventually to resupply, and when I do, it might not be a pulled muscle this time, it might be paraplegia.  Or worse I might hit Dan Akroyd with my cart and make him a paraplegic, and there will never be a Blues Brothers 8.   Can you think of a darker hell?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Modest Kitchen Remodel

I was going to title this "The Great Kitchen Remodel," but that really would be an exaggeration. You technically have to gut a kitchen in order to call the remodel "great."   We kept our cabinets and floors and stayed with removing a wall and replacing the counters and backsplash.  So that's modest really.  But it was enough to cause us to flee the scene for three weeks, joining the ranks of the oh-so-downtrodden Yuppie Homeless.  We actually did without cable and internet (gasp!) but a large chunk of time.  It was tragic.

To be honest, I felt uncomfortably indulgent remodeling this kitchen at all.  It was a fine kitchen, everything in good shape, moderately attractive even.  With much of the world basically living in shacks--and most of the DC area living in shoe boxes, what with how ridiculously expensive housing is here--why exactly was it imperative that the kitchen be "open" and the countertops granite (you MUST have granite if you are a yuppie.  Anything else just won't do, won't do at all).  

Looking through tons of design magazine for inspiration did nothing to assuage my guilt.  The American lifestyle is off the hook, y'all!  Does anyone really need special little drawers with places for 50 spices (does anyone really need 50 spices?)?  Does anyone really need a stove the size of a tank? The ironic thing is as American kitchens are becoming gourmet cathedrals, people are cooking less than they did in the 1950s when people practically had to gather wood.  I mean, how would the 14 million restaurants out there even begin to stay in business if even half of Americans went in their granite and stainless steel palaces and did so much as fry an egg? The rest of the 21st century American home is equally absurd.  Does anyone really need to be able to run laps in their bathroom or swim laps in their tub?  Does anyone really need a cinema in their basement (why do we even have movie theaters anymore when it seems everyone has a "media room" these days?)    Does anyone really need their butt warmed by their toilet seat?  

In addition to my concern that remodeling the kitchen would undeniably put me in the ranks of the spoiled American-yuppie-consumer-whore (but who was I kidding anyway, three-quarters of my wardrobe is J Crew, and not all of it bought on sale either. And besides if Bono can live in luxury with a conscience, dammit so can I), I of course had fears for my marriage.  This is no laughing matter--remodeling is in fact a leading cause of divorce (I am sure there is a study on this.  Quick, let me ask Kevin).  Our marriage in particular was at risk because we don't work well together, period.  We play together very well--we have great conversations, we like to do the same things (i.e. nothing), we have the same sense of humor (we are HYSTERICAL), we both read the Economist (he reads more of it than I do of course. I skip the dull parts, which means I can gut the thing in about 15 minutes).  But we don't work well together, which is mostly OK, because he does his thing, and I do mine, and never the two shall meet.  But when they do, oh no, no, no. No.  Not good.  When Kevin approaches a task, he considers it carefully for several hours/days/weeks/years, basically however long he has before someone tells him he's fired/divorced/injured/dead.   He researches all the options, weighs pros and cons, considers every angle...he makes A DECISION whereas I have an impulse.  This is a very efficient way of doing things.  Thought/idea pops into my head and then I act on it.  I act on it quickly. Sometimes it turns out great (like my 2nd marriage), sometimes it turns out no so great (like my 1st marriage).  I just like to get things done so I have more time to do nothing.  Kevin likes to do nothing while thinking about all the decisions he needs to make.   So we are quite different.  Except for the doing nothing part.  

So this could have been really bad.  But props to our awesome selves for doing some self-policing and to the good Lord for doing his thing and to the good contractor Larry, who did his  thing at such a rapid pace, most every decision fell to me to make by default (I LOVE this man).  What ended up happening is that I made all of the not-so-noticeable decisions (i.e. faucet, under-the-cabinet lights, etc.  Seriously, there is an African child starving somewhere, and I'm deliberating under-the-cabinet lighting) without even telling Kevin there were decisions and included him (and let him have actual input rather than railroading him into my "vision") on only the jumbo decisions (granite counters, washer and dryer, etc).  Kevin for his part actually accepted the fact that we could only look at the granite at this one place because this was Larry's vendor rather than dragging us on a round the world tour of granite outcroppings (I think there's a great one in Nepal...).  And he trusted me on the rest because he knows that while I may have little to no sense, I do have good taste.  

So we survived and we have most of a new kitchen (all very anticlimactic, sorry).  Still some cosmetic finishing up for Larry to do.  I'll post pics eventually.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The month that was

Wow, has it really been a month since my last post? Disturbing.  Well, I guess since I'm in an airport with a laptop, I'll do a post...(Just for you, Kerry!)

So we moved.  I really doubt there is anyone who likes to move.  People like to have moved, as in past tense, as in they like getting a new house (hopefully), but the  process is a different story, I think most people would rather listen to preteen girls discuss at length the proper way to say, "Hey," as I did recently while buying some cords at Radio Shack (there are always cords you must have, until you end up with a box of cords--when you move, of course--for which there is no discernible purpose).  Incidentally, you don't want to say "Hey"  high-pitched and enthusiastically, that just sounds stupid, you want to say it tersely and cooly, kind of monotone and casual so the other person doesn't think you are TOO excited to see them.  This would be a horrible tragedy.  Cut to me and the Radio Shack man, who look at each other and silently agree to a joint ritualistic suicide.   

So, duh, I hate to move.  I think I've said before that it really makes me question consumer culture.  When you get down to it, this is all you need to live comfortably and decently in America:  Laptop, cell phone, Couch, TV, coffee table, dining room table and some chairs, a few pots and pans and such, a bed, a dresser, some towels and sheets, and maybe like 10 outfits.  I probably have about 30 outfits but I only really wear 10 anyway.   Do I really need an entire room filled with African knick-knacks?  When I am not in the process of moving, yes, I do, I can't breathe unless surrounded by wooden animal carvings.  And how will anyone know how cultured and well-traveled I am otherwise?  I can't just announce it, that would be gauche.   But when I am in the process of moving, I consider that not having to carefully wrap that hand-blown Israeli vase in 17 layers of packing paper is definitely worth the risk of everyone I know concluding I have spent my entire life in a trailer park in Arkansas.   And do I really need 4 tall bookshelves filled with books to convince people I am a genius? They should just know by reading my blog, LOL.  My blog certainly takes up less space. But then again no one but Kerry and a few other charitable souls read it, so in the boxes those books go, yes, even that Danielle Steele novel (hopefully when people look at my bookshelves, they will be so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books, they won't notice individual titles necessarily).  Anyway, I think minimalism is very brave and self assured.  Me--I need my stuff to feel impressive.  

Do you think it is ironic that I am typing this in a word doc the top of which has a list of things I need to buy?  hmmm, just noticed that. There is no hope for me. 

There are good things about moving.  It is a wonderful opportunity to purge all the stuff you thought would make you happier and more impressive and your life more convenient but turned out to be as overhyped as the 4th Indiana Jones film (and it pains me greatly to say that).  For this move, this included, among other things, some stick up light bulbs "as seen on TV."  Don't buy those, they give off less light than a firefly, and they run on batteries so if you leave your light by accident, it's dead next time you go to use it.  And you never ever need more than one.  I mistakenly bought 4--for the low low price of $29.99! In Europe, they sell for easily twice that amount!--not realizing you don't replace the bulb, you replace the batteries.  Money down the drain.  But I digress.  

Moving also gives you the opportunity to "get organized," which is another way of making oneself feel successful.  Everyone wants to look around their house and say to themselves, "Not only do I own a butt load of crap, I have mastered my crap.  You don't see my crap running all over a desk or table loosey-goosey.  No, I have put my crap in its place and shown it who is boss."  Moving into a new house gives you a chance to reassert your authority in case you have lost control.   Nothing says, "I own you," like throwing the object into a box and sealing it with tape.  Of course, you may have to go buy more crap in order to whip the crap you already own into shape.  That is why we have the Container Store, which is the consumer society equivalent of a training camp for Nazi prison guards.  You come to us, we give you the tools you need to have absolute power.  Those paper clips in your desk drawer will NEVER AGAIN run amok, we have a container for that.  Heck, we have a container to organize your tampons by absorbency if that is your thing.  If you buy everything we have, you pretty much will be God.  

But generally, moving sucks, and I am might glad my latest (and hopefully last for awhile) is over.  Now I only need to survive the kitchen remodel...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I should be packing boxes...

...but instead I am planning to exploit the labor of the two septuagenarians who arrive on Sunday to help us move into our new house (i.e. my parents).  They are very energetic and seem to enjoy being useful, so who am I to deprive them of the fun of packing up my entire house?  Every dish I wrap is a drop of joy robbed from these deserving people.  So I am blogging instead.

In general, I think one of the best things about American culture is how few rigid social customs we have.   In some cultures, you can pretty much alienate an entire community with a single wrong gesture.   Or in France, you can pretty much alienate an entire country by not being French.  In America, you just show up, there are no rules.  Or at least very few.  There are so many kinds of people and cultures and sub-cultures that the only thing un-American is to be snotty about it.   

But sometimes I think we could stand to have a few more customs.  Like with greetings.  The French do the three air kisses (a gesture so fraught with social peril, it is probably just another French invention designed to make people feel inferior).  Kenyans always do the handshake, coming and going, no more, no less.  Japanese used to do that bow thing, not sure what they do these days.  Russians might vomit vodka all over each other, I don't know.  Americans don't know what they do.  And this makes things very awkward.   Some people hug everyone no matter what. To me, hugging seems like a "haven't seen you for awhile" greeting, although I usually hug more casually than that, mainly because I don't know what else to do.  But then if you hug someone you see often to say hello, do you also hug them to say good-bye? That seems a bit much, but again, I'm at a loss for good options.  Guys have it a little bit easier, because they can always greet other guys with a cool guy-handshake, although the guy-girl greeting remains dangerous (usually it degenerates into the "side hug," which I think is one of the more hideous greetings.  Nothing says, "Hello! Please don't sue me for sexual harassment" like the side hug).  Then there are those who just say hi, they don't pair it with any gesture of any kind, as if they are robots who will short-circuit upon human contact.

My biggest pet peeve are the wanna-be Europeans (usually people here in the northeast, large portions of which I am sure would vote to join the EU if given a chance) who do the air-kissing even though, hello, we are Americans.  We don't have universal health care, we do believe in God, we do insist on full-sized appliances, and we don't air-kiss.  The worst part of the Americanized air-kiss is that when someone goes in for the air-kiss, you never know if they are going to do one, two, or three, which is awesome because it offers the potential for not one, not two, but three chances for humiliation.   

I had a highly unfortunate incident with the air-kiss greeting  yesterday.  I ran into someone very important in my professional world who actually knows and likes me (a bit, let's not get carried away).  He came over to greet me, and we shook hands (not sure who offered the handshake to whom), but then I thought, mistakenly in hindsight, that he was going in for the air-kiss.  So then I went in for the air-kiss, I didn't want to offend if he was air-kissing, because nothing is worse than not reciprocating an air-kiss, as it sends the message of "I think you might have ebola."  So we did the first air-kiss, and I thought, OK, that was heinously awkward but it's over, whew. But then he went for air-kiss number two, in which I only haltingly participated.  Awkward pause, waiting to see if there will be third....and, no, that's it.  Two air-kisses is all we have today, because today we are only 2/3 French.  Tomorrow, who knows?  And the rest of our conversation was tainted by the ridiculous meet-and-greet.  And I am still mortified a day later.  I ask you, is this any way to live?

So I say we have a referendum and select how we will greet one another.  Personally, I think the Kenyan way is correct (and not just because I was raised there).  Handshakes all the way around.  It's friendly, yet non-invasive.  And it's clear--if someone sticks their hand out, you know what to do with it (if you don't, there is no hope for you, you need to move to Jupiter or something).  But I'm open.  Majority rules.  Now that's American.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Farewell to Jerry, the Uberboss

Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone.  But other times you know exactly what you have and you are just very sad when it's gone.

I haven't had any truly heinous bosses, I feel lucky about that, but I've had better and worse.  And for the past 2 years, I've had Jerry, and I think it will be pretty much downhill from here.  So what's so awesome about Jerry? Well, if I could describe it exactly, I could write a book and make kabillions.   But I can't quite describe it, and besides, he is probably writing just such a book as I speak (the man has already written a dissertation-come-book and a certain-to-be-published novel in all the time he has leftover from his demanding job and two small kids) and would sue me for plagiarism. Because he's nice but he's not a fool.

First of all, Jerry is the most positive person on the planet without being too annoying. I mean, it's kind of annoying at first, but then he just wears you down with optimism until you cave and find yourself saying things like, "You're right, Jerry, it's actually a good thing that my house burned down and I lost everything I own because now I get to buy new shoes."  He also heaps (hopefully not empty) praise on his employees, and yet it doesn't seem like flattery, you walk away thinking, "Hey, I might actually BE awesome.  Or at least a little awesome. I think I might go read a whole book or run a whole mile.  That's right."

Jerry is also really into the personal growth/leadership/corporate success crapola, but once again, one's eyes do not involuntarily roll up into one's head when he is pushing the stuff.  For one thing, he's just so sincerely enthusiastic that to rain on his parade would make you pretty much the worst person in the world and no one wants to be the worst person in the world, except maybe Kim Jong Il, but he's just crazy and has bad hair.  So I actually read--READ--The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (or was it 10?), which like almost all books of that type contained nothing really new or earth-shattering and yet you find it mysteriously inspiring.  Kind of like Jerry.

Jerry also knows how to do both work and fun.  Our team is the most productive team in our organization (stats don't lie, people!)  We work, and he works.  But he also spends time each day goofing off with us, leading brainstorms like "If our team was a TV show, who would play us?" and "What female stars are 'just OK'?" and teaching us the meaning of words like "hogly" (which means hot or ugly depending on the context.  He claims Cameron Diaz is hogly, but I think he is on crack.  Try Britney Spears, Jerry).  

I think the key with Jerry is that he is incredibly socially skilled.  He always knows how to strike the right balance.  Like he is also extremely self-aware without being self-loathing.  He's confident but not arrogant.  He's funny but not inappropriate. He's short but not too short (OK he's too short.  But he has a hot wife).   He works hard and is devoted to his job, but he leaves on time.   He's upbeat but no Pollyanna.  He's encouraging but honest.  I don't think you can really teach this kind of savvy, he would probably say you can.  But I am not convinced, because despite his best efforts to induct me into the cult of optimism, I still loiter on its fringes.   

Now Jerry is moving on to bigger and better things, thankfully within the organization.  So maybe he'll remember me when he is huge (not tall, but huge).  

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Survived Princeton Reunions 2009

We got back last Sunday from a great little break from parenthood.  Kevin's mom and stepdad came and stayed with Charlotte while we drove up to Philadelphia for a couple of days, then went on to Princeton for Kevin's 15th reunion.  Philadelphia was spectacular, barring the several hundred middle school kids with whom we shared the city. You could smell the insecurity.  There was also the very frightening guide at Christ Church who very sternly told us and a bunch of the school children that we ARE the Founding Fathers and this is OUR Revolution (I'd say we are in big trouble if that is true).    But we did our best to ignore the preteen spirit and saw all the historical sites, stayed in a gorgeous hotel, and even ran up the Art Museum steps like Rocky.  It was awesome.

This sign was probably my favorite thing in Philly, at the Liberty Bell.  I just think it's so helpful when historical sites make provisions for those with uncontrollable compulsions.
Then we went to Princeton.  Historical context: Princeton reunions are an absurdly big deal.   Every 5th year class (i.e. 50th reunion, 45th, 40th, and so on) has its own courtyard where there is music, food, and massive quantities of alcohol.  Then the capper is the "P-rade" in which everyone lines a long parade route, and each class, starting with the oldest, falls in with a float of some kind, and everyone wears a like-themed costume (this year for Kevin's class it was "Smells like 15 Spirit"/Grunge).  It takes like 5 years for everyone to parade past, and the ending is very anti-climactic. After waiting for so long for you class's turn to parade, you walk along the route for like 10 minutes and then spill out into a field where the university president and a few of her friends are sitting in a bleacher clapping for you. Then everyone goes back to the courtyard and drinks some more.  

This was my second reunion.  The first one, 5 years ago, was made more wretched by my terrible attitude (and my terrible footwear).  In my defense, I was in the throes of rewriting my entire dissertation after one of my committee members decided it simply would not do two days before my scheduled defense. I also had no job.  So I was feeling a bit like a failure.  And when one is feeling like a failure, going to hang out with a bunch of drunken Ivy Leaguers probably isn't the best thing (it probably isn't the best thing just across the board, but especially not then).  To make matters worse, I wore uncomfortable shoes and didn't realize how much you have to walk at these things.  So there I was rejected, humiliated, not knowing anyone, not drunk, and hobbling around campus.  Needless to say, I was miserable and of course I had to make Kevin miserable, that really was not in doubt.  There's just no point to it otherwise.

This time, I was determined to not make Kevin miserable.  I wore comfy shoes.  I had an answer prepared when someone asked me where I went to college and why ("Po-dunk Baptist University.  Because I am only of average intelligence and prefer not to be too stimulated intellectually." Unfortunately, I never got to use it, as we talked mainly to people I had met before.)  And most importantly, I stayed focused on the fact that I was there WITHOUT A BABY.  I would almost enjoy spending a week in a concentration camp without a baby.  I still found the entire scene more than a little ridiculous, mystifying, and boring but whatever.

But I did get to see George Will in the flesh:
You can already tell these twin girls (daughters of one of Kevin's classmates) will make great Princetonians.

Here's good news: There is a policy on alcohol. And it includes a reference to diversity.  Good to know that all those people drunk out of their minds are being multicultural. 

The best part of the P-rade: Seeing the oldest living alumni.  This guy is class of 1925, so unless he was very precocious, he's around 106 years old. Awesome.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My great husband

Kevin actually read my blog, and I didn't realize until he did that I can be kind of mean and ungrateful on here.  I don't mean it, really!  I just get overwhelmed with my life sometimes.  

In reality, I am one very blessed woman.  The pathetic thing is when I married Kevin, the memory of my first very lonely marriage was fresh in my mind.  I told myself that I would never ever take Kevin for granted or forget what a gift he is, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude that God had given me a second chance. Fast forward 5 years, and you get numerous whiny blog posts.  Honestly, if I were God, I would just want to slap me across the face and say, "Wake up Dumbass!" on a regular basis.  I think we can all be glad that I am not God.  For one thing, I tend to fall apart under pressure and have trouble being responsible for one person besides myself, so 6 billion is definitely out of the question.  I should remember in fact that I am not God then maybe I would do better with the responsibilities I do have. Hmmm.

But I digress.  I am very blessed.  I have a smart, funny, sweet, incredibly good looking husband who works hard so he can buy us a gorgeous new house.  And that is just the start.  I feel a top 10 coming on:

Top ten things I love about Kevin
10. He never looks askance at my purchases.  He doesn't get involved in my shopping at all in fact.
9.  He does a great impression of a stick figure.  You just have to trust me.
8.  He keeps my brain from turning to mush.  When he's around, I'm reading the Economist and watching Frontline. When he's not around, it's US Weekly and Oprah.  Or worse.
7. He thinks I am funny and loves everything I write. Except when I am complaining about him of course.
6. He didn't even notice my thick ankles until I pointed them out to him.  It's because of him that I have finally (almost) accepted my body.
5. He's taught me everything I know about economics and patiently explains things to me over and over again even when I tell him the impenetrable shield in my brain has come down.  
4. During communion at church, he always steps out of the pew and lets me go in front of him.  I don't know what it is about that, but it gets me every time.  
3.  His episodic healthy food obsessions are kind of weird and usually short lived (like the time he announced he was only going to eat "mediterranean" food because he read a study that said it vacuumed up all the cholesterol in your arteries), but overall, he keeps our diet on a higher plane.
2.  He has also elevated my taste in movies and music.  There was a time when I liked a Backstreet Boys tune or two but now I know exactly why they suck, and I run out of a store if they are playing any kind of boy band song.   
1. He got me Coldplay tickets for Mother's Day even though he doesn't even like them (he hasn't completely changed my taste in music)! And they were awesome seats near the front!  And I had a great time with a good friend while Kevin stayed home with Charlotte. And I was so close I was able to take this picture:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A beauty product riddle

What kind of body lotion do you use if

You have extra dry skin AND
You have cellulite AND
You need sunscreen AND
You want some self tanner in there AND
You want to shave less often AND
You only want to apply lotion one time?

Solve THAT one.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some enthusiasm, for once

For once, I am posting not to bitch and moan, but to ooh and aah!  A recycling revolution has come to Arlington, VA in the form of a big blue trash bin!  

My rule on recycling has always been: I will recycle enough to feel like a decent human being but no more than is convenient for me (because I matter. And because my economist husband says that recycling really doesn't save much in the way of resources and energy after all.  Someone did a study.  And if there is a study, there is a good chance Kevin knows about it.).  In other words, I will rinse out a can of tomatoes, but not a jar of peanut butter.   

But actually I am a better person than that in practice.  I have done some level of recycling even when Arlington, VA didn't make it that convenient.  Until today, I have had to sort paper and cardboard from plastics, for instance.   And yes I felt like a hero doing it.  Because these days if I am dressed and clean, I feel like a hero.  I even told my boss I deserved an Exceptional Performance Award this month for accomplishing anything at all.  I would really like to see my group chief hand that one out: "This EPA goes to Holly for performing her normal duties adequately enough and with relatively clean hair."  

But heroics are no longer required for recycling in Arlington, VA.  Everything you can imagine to recycle goes in the big blue bin.  Paper, foil, yogurt cups, milk cartons, boxes NOT EVEN BROKEN DOWN (stop, it's just too thrilling to contemplate!), and, can you believe it, EVEN BOOKS, paperback AND hardcover. AND you can throw away wire hangers, one of my top nemeses because no matter how many times I try to root them out, the dry cleaners keep giving us more and more and more until they band together in one tangled mess and take over the closet and cause me to lose my mind!!!  AND, as if it could get any better than wire hangers, you can request them to come and pick up ELECTRONICS for recycling.  Yes, it's true.  You can throw away an entire VCR without turning some village in India into a seething pit of toxic chemicals.    

And this gets me to the real heart of my excitement.  It's not that I have a strong commitment to the environmental movement (I have a strong commitment to other people's strong commitment to the environmental movement, I'll keep living the easy way thanks).  It's that I love throwing things away.  OMG do I love throwing things away.  Now I can do it with less guilt, knowing that my trash will become a yoga mat or maybe even some house that Brad Pitt is building in New Orleans.  

This occasion calls for a rethinking of the shopping boycott in fact.  If I can so easily and usefully dispose of things, why punish the economy by not buying more?  

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day (Bah Humbug!)

Charlotte really knows how to ruin major holidays. At Christmas, in the midst of all kinds of traveling stress, she got deathly ill with RSV. And now--on Mother's Day--my would-be "day off" which I had been living for the past few weeks--she ran a 102 fever and demanded that I hold her pretty much all day (Daddy just won't do).

And she was still sick today, one of the three measley days that I go to work/have childcare each week. I have missed so much work the past few months due to her illness that it is a wonder people remember I still work here (I always feel like I've won the lottery when I actually do get to come to work and then see that they haven't packed up my desk). I got to stay home instead today and futilely attempt to prevent her from wailing and moaning the entire day, even though her fever was largely gone. I have no idea what is wrong with the child. Then I got to come into work after she went to bed (that's where I am now) in a desperate effort to make headway on a project that ordinarily/in my full time/pre motherhood days would have been done in December. Work is now my vacation in this topsy-turvy world that Charlotte has created for me.

I love Charlotte. I do. I think she is the most adorable, precious little girl on the planet. But motherhood pretty much sucks. I am exhausted, I am rarely showered, my clothes always have crap on them, and, as mentioned, I eat most of my meals off the floor. I am pretty much a German Shepherd. And not a pampered one either, like one that does stuff.

Fatherhood, on the other hand, I could really get into. I know there are a lot of dads who are slogging it out in the trenches, and hats off to you fellahs. But from my vantage point, it's a pretty good deal. You get to have an adorable little child, but you basically resume your normal life. Every now and then you watch the little girl for an hour or two when her mother tells you she's about to have a nervous breakdown. In fact the main drawback of fatherhood from what I can tell is that you are now married to a mother. That's fairly significant now that I think about it. OK never mind, fatherhood sucks too.

But I'd still take it over motherhood. If anyone knows where I can apply for a father position, let me know.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Is this what I've been reduced to?

So I've gained a few pounds since Charlotte started eating "real food."  Why you ask?  Well, that's kind of embarrassing but I'll confess anyway. 

I eat the crumbs from her table.  

I mean that quite literally.  Not only do I often eat the leftovers on her tray, I frequently eat the rejects she throws on the floor (which is more food than is left on her tray).  I know. It's disgusting.  My wake up call the other day was when I put a piece of cast-off Nutrigrain bar in my mouth only to discover a dust bunny was stuck to it.  Yuck.  

It's easy to explain why I feel the need to eat the clean leftovers--I can't stand wasting food.  Blame it on my African childhood.  But I don't think even starving African children would care to eat a fuzzy Nutrigrain Bar.  So that habit is just pure sloth. It's just easier to eat it all than go get a paper towel, pick it up, and throw it away.  Not that that is like running a marathon or anything.  But when you are a mom, you will do almost anything to save time/multitask/make your life easier.  

That's the ugly truth about motherhood.  It pretty much turns a relatively hygenic adult with decent manners into a human vacuum cleaner.  Hey, I've always said if you want something done, you should just do it yourself.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Preparing for Doomsday

My husband is extremely well adjusted and normal, with just a few little quirks to make him interesting.  One of those little quirks is an obsession with disaster preparedness.  Although that is probably just a symptom, the actual trait is more like extreme caution bordering on paranoia.  A couple of years ago, when Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff told the nation that although there was no definitive proof, he just had a funny feeling that a terrorist attack was imminent and gave us all a check list of items so we could "shelter in place," Kevin ran out immediately and bought every item of the checklist, including:
Surgical masks
Jugs of water
Massive jars of peanut butter (which Kevin explains packs the most punch, nutrition and calorie-wise)
Plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows and doors in the event of a dirty bomb
Latex gloves
We still have most of these items, except that I ate the PB already (duh) and used some of the masks in my own paranoid days, early in Charlotte's life.  

And now we have the swine flu. Kevin is once again at his vigilant best/worst.  He keeps me fully abreast of how serious the situation is so that I will not think him crazy when he arrives home with a car load of canned goods (Charlotte is too young to eat PB so there goes that brilliant plan).  I'm thinking, gee, it's a flu, it's not ebola.  I think we will be able to run to the store for some cereal.  But he argues that if people panic (um, like maybe he is?) and no one goes to work, the entire food distribution system in the United States will grind to a halt and there will be nothing on the store shelves and a piece of bread will buy a Mercedes Benz.  Did you know that New York City only has a one day food supply at any given time? Yes, and so this scenario could unfold within 24 hours and the entire city will then starve to death.  It's true.  

Now, there's really only one thing crazier than Kevin's reaction to the swine flu threat, and that is my reaction to Kevin's reaction to the swine flu threat.  For some reason, a swine flu pandemic doesn't have me up at night, but the prospect of my house being filled with canned goods that we will likely never need does.  When he broaches the subject with me, I go ballistic.  Even though he is not asking me to do anything--he is going to go to the store and haul around tons and tons of canned chicken soup.  He will put it all in the basement somewhere, and I can sit and file my nails.  There really is no reason for alarm.  Nevertheless, I go ballistic.  I myself have a difficult time understanding why, but I think in my mind, he will be introducing a large quantity of new "stuff" into the house, the order of which is my responsibility.  As it is, I spend large portions of every day managing all the stuff we already do have in the house, trying to keep it in its proper place and making sure it doesn't smother us in the night.  These canned goods--How do we know what they will do once they have access to the house?  Even if Kevin neatly boxes them up and puts them away somewhere, I have no doubt they will soon find a way to clutter up my house and my life.   What if they form an alliance with the Baby Gear?  Now THAT'S a doomsday scenario my friends.    

At the end of the day, we are all just a little, teeny bit insane.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Answer is NO

The last post ended with the burning question of whether I could go into Babies R Us and just buy the shade extender.  

No. No, I can't. And I didn't.  

In my defense, some of the other things I bought we did really really need.  Charlotte needed lighter PJs since the weather is now warm, and she needed a few more warmer weather clothes.  But did she need $100 worth?  Probably not.  

I also bought her a baby floaty thing for taking her in the pool.  We are going to Kevin's college reunion in a few weeks, and the hotel where we are staying has an indoor pool.  Introducing Charlotte to swimming is pretty much the only thing about this trip I'm looking forward to.  I spent the last reunion explaining over and over again to countless Ivy League graduates where the tiny little Baptist college I went to is located and why I went there.  Then I got to explain to them why I did my graduate work at a mediocre state school.  It was so much fun, I probably went on a giant shopping spree upon my return just to continue the high.  

I also bought the shade extender.  But now I can't figure out how to attach it to the stroller.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Call of the Baby Gear

I've already had my first major run-in with temptation since swearing off buying things I don't really really need.  Not surprisingly, it has come in the beguiling form of Baby Gear, the shopaholic's nightmare because the vast majority of it is definitely unnecessary but buying it can be so easily justified as good parenting.   Also, Baby Gear makes you think that if you just had this one toy or gadget, your child would be entertained for hours/would sleep for hours/would eat her vegetables/would poop where she's supposed to/would leave you alone for 5 minutes and you would be free to cook gourmet meals and do the Ab Sculptor Miracle Workout and read actual books and write a novel.  And maybe cure cancer.  

There are a few products out there that do deliver (my personal favorite: Kiddopotamus swaddle blankets.  Swaddling for Dummies is what they should be called, as they have been successfully tested on me and Kevin), but they are few and far between.  I have wasted my money on more baby crap than I can remember, including: the miraculous baby toothbrush, which your child will voluntarily chew on, making her entire mouth sparkle within seconds; these little net-thingies you put food in so your child can suck on/chew on food without choking (Charlotte's advice is don't buy them unless your child loves the taste of mesh, which she--apparently--does not); more types of sippy cups than I can count, all promising a easy transition from the bottle and "no leaking no kidding" (except they are kidding); a vibrating teether that Charlotte believes is a torture device.   

Knowing what I know now, you would think I would never again fall prey to The Call of the Baby Gear.  Yet this week I nearly, that's NEARLY, bought a diaper bag.  Not just any diaper bag mind you, the perfect diaper bag with little compartments for everything and so space-efficient you could pack the crib in there practically.  At least this is the claim.  But I resisted and plan to remain content with the diaper bag I have, which is the free, vinyl Similac bag I got in the hospital.  Hey, it works. And it was FREE.  

But there is one thing I think I will buy and really do need.  I plan to buy a shade extender for her stroller because the idiots that make strollers make the shades only big enough to cover 25% of the child so that you have to keep moving the shade back and forth as the sun angle changes (seriously, if you are going to make a shade, is it really that much trouble to make it big enough to cover a real human child as opposed to a like a Cabbage Patch doll?).  So I think it might be worth it, but I'm going to investigate further before I leap.  Then the real test will come--Can I go into Babies R Us and buy just that one thing?  It is a feat never accomplished by a mortal parent.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

Desperately Seeking a Hobby

I mentioned a couple posts ago a theory about there being two types of people in the world, the guilty and the screwed.  Well, there are actually more than two types because there are another two types of people in the world and combining the two sets of categories yields...4 types. Yes, 4 (pardon the delayed activation of my math skills, they aren't much in use).  The other two types are people who do stuff, a.k.a "active people," and people who do not do stuff, I'm not going to call them lazy, mainly because I am one of them, but you know what I mean.  

I was reminded of this recently as I looked at a new Facebook friend's photos.  This friend, a former classmate, comes from a large family, has 5 kids himself, and grew up with me in Africa, which seems to cultivate in boys in particular generalized outdoorsyness.  In his photos, with his 5 kids, he waterskis, he hunts, he fishes, he rides motorbikes, he rides bikes, he rides four wheelers, he plays soccer, he runs, he jumps, he does stuff. Lots of stuff.  Just looking at his photos wore me out.  Not so much because of the activities themselves, but for all of the organization/preparation that goes into the activities (especially with 5 kids!)  First you have to purchase or rent the proper equipment.  Then you have to choose a day, time, and place to do or find a scheduled event.  Then you have to either find child care or make preparations for children to come with you.  If they are small kids, that means you need more proper equipment just for their attendance (a baby backpack, baby kayak, papoose thingy, what have you).  Then you have to assemble food, water, clothing, equipment, whatever you will need for the duration for yourself and 5 (! I still can't imagine even birthing that number of kids, much less taking them anywhere) kids.  Then you have to get up, get yourself and your kids in the car and go and do.  Then you have to clean up the mess and tend to the injuries.  See, I'm absolutely in a coma right now just having typed it up, I'm so tired.  

The strange thing about these kinds of people is that very often they aren't actually very organized kinds of people, more like fly by the seat of your pants kinds of people.  Regarding this particular guy, I would never believe he in fact had the organizational skills to do all these activities if the photographic evidence weren't staring me in the face.  I, on the other hand, am fairly organized and don't do much stuff.  I feel pretty accomplished if I leave the house on any given day.  I would like to do stuff, I really would.  I am not terribly athletic--if you watched me and Kevin play tennis, one of the things we do actually do on occasion, you would swear you are at the Special Olympics, and, unlike Pres. Obama, I can say that because if anyone writes angry offended comments on here, I can just delete them--but I like to do stuff.  But I hate, HATE, HATE!!! to organize stuff to do.  This is one reason why I don't cook much.  I really don't mind cooking but I hate trying to decide what to cook, making a shopping list, and going to the store to buy the ingredients.  Maybe I over-think things (you think?).  I don't know.  

Now that we have a child--and now that I am trying to stop shopping of course!--it is becoming more imperative that I find stuff to do.  Whereas I can easily laze in front of the computer or TV for hours on end perfectly contented, she gets really bored with that.  She wants to Seize the Day!!! So I actually have been forced to schedule play dates and even enroll in a class (gasp!)  It is getting to where it takes more energy to stay home and do nothing than it does to go somewhere and do something because Charlotte will be relatively content in the latter scenario  whereas she will be screaming and crying and writhing on the ground like a demon-possessed person in the former one.  

I think the bottom line is that, other than having a child/dictator, it is good to have some kind of activity that you are passionate about, that you will get up in the morning for, that you will go through the pain of planning and organizing for.  Maybe the two types of people aren't active people and non-active people, but people with passionate hobbies and people without.  I have just got to get me a hobby.  Other than shopping.  

Another solution would be to just tie my wagon to an active person and let them plan my life for me.  Any volunteers? Seriously, just tell me when and where to show up, I'm there.  And bring me a packed lunch, you don't want to see me hungry.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Breaking the Addiction

I just came from my weekly Bible study group where we discussed materialism, always a downer.  I was convicted, not necessarily on a moral or biblical plane, although those dimensions are part of the issue of course--what one spends their money on is an ethical/religious issue.  But my disgust with myself as a consumer has more to do with a) Poor use of my time b) A general lack of discipline and c) My hatred of clutter.   

On point a), I have come to realize that one of the primary reasons why I shop is out of boredom.  These days, now that it is harder to get out of the house, it is internet shopping that is my hobby.  I watch Charlotte with one eye and cruise ebay with the other (incidentally, this kind impaired shopping is quite dangerous, especially on ebay where you can't return a lot of things; I have probably wasted $100 in the last year on things that are the wrong size or not quite what I want because I wasn't paying close attention. I also bought the new U2 album twice on iTunes, not because I just love Bono that much and want to give him all my money--which I do actually--but because Charlotte was screaming at me).    Or at work, if I am procrastinating, I am invariably cruising the J Crew sale (which isn't what it used to be, by the way. They need to wake up and smell the recession). It used to be against company policy to actually buy things on work computers, but they changed that and now it's a no-holds-barred shopathon.  Shopping out of boredom would be fine if I was content just gaze, but I am a goal-oriented person, and I don't feel accomplished unless i actually make a purchase.  Some people run marathons; I find the perfect black pants (and then I find the more perfect black pants).   

This bleeds into point b).  I used to think I was quite a disciplined person.  In fact, I used to BE a disciplined person.  In college, I worked out every day, I studied like mad, I lived pretty frugally.  Then I finished graduate school and got divorced.  After 8 years of forcing myself to do things I really didn't want to do, both in school and in marriage, I pretty much wanted life to be a party.  And it has been for the most part.  Until I had Charlotte, my existence was ridiculously easy.  I had to invent stress just for the drama of it (which I am really great at doing.  Who knew, for instance, that having weeds in one's yard was a life-or-death struggle, as if the weeds might invade your home and strangle you in the night if you didn't find time to pull them up?)  Now that I am a mother, which is actually kind of hard for real, I realize that I have lost all discipline.  I hardly work out, I spend almost no time on my spiritual growth (I mainly go to the Bible study to socialize), I eat a bunch of crap, I watch a bunch of crap on TV (including Oprah, who, as it turns out, doesn't flood your life with meaning as advertised), and yes, I buy a bunch of crap. Some of it is on sale, this is true, but it is still a bunch of crap that I don't really need, and even a lot of it, unbelievably, I don't really want at the end of the day (see point c)). I have come to lead a very thoughtless and accidental life.  And I whine endlessly about the smallest about of hardship.  It's really pathetic.  I disgust myself!  Like really, I'm sitting here with myself and feeling quite nauseous.  

My lack of discipline with time and money leads me to point c).  Much of what I buy I end up loathing on some level because it takes over my house, stares me in the face, and becomes an obvious display of how little discipline I do have.  And it makes my house messier, which I can't stand.  I hate clutter!  I hate it so much, I do regular purges where I just can't take it anymore and start compulsively throwing things in the car for a Goodwill run.    Then, incomprehensibly, I turn right around and go buy more.  It really does blow my mind when I sit down to think about it.  Some people binge and purge; I shop and donate.

So here's what I am going to do.  I've just made my last internet purchase (one needs a parting fix after all), and now I am going cold turkey.  That's right.  I am going to stop buying stuff I don't really need.  I'm going to start with a 30 day stretch to make it more palatable.  So watch out American Economy! You are about to take a severe hit.  

Friday, April 10, 2009

Who are you and What have you done with me?

Kevin had a friend in graduate school who claimed there were only two kinds of people in the world, those who feel guilty and those who feel screwed (which, incidentally, is one of the more brilliant insights I have ever heard).  I definitely fit into the former category.  I have many faults, but at least I am aware of the fact.  Still, while I think people who feel guilty a lot and therefore take responsibility for their characters are generally the better half of humanity, feeling guilty and being self aware does not necessarily prevent bad behavior.   

Believe me, I know.  I have been feeling guilty A LOT lately, because I have been screwing up A LOT.  I've never been particularly "sweet" or "nice." Many people think that I am, but that's only because they don't know me very well.   Patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control--these are the fruits of the Spirit, and the Spirit is working his butt off with this soul.  He apparently even needs to take frequent vacations to Fiji because I swear there are times when there is no sign of him anywhere.  But Holly Post-Charlotte makes the pre-Charlotte version look like Mother Teresa.  Post-Charlotte Holly it seems uses up 99% of her patience and goodness and unselfishness on Charlotte, leaving the world, and especially Kevin, to suffer.  Kevin and I used to be the most nauseating couple on the planet.  We never fought about anything.  Now it seems like hardly a day passes that I don't bite his head off for some egregious offense, like asking me where my W-2 is (because the 10 seconds it takes me to find it for him is so much more of a burden than the 10 hours he spends actually doing our taxes).  

I don't know what it is about motherhood that makes me so angry and crazed.  It seems I am not alone either; in talking to many of my Mom Friends (which are more akin to fellow support group members than just regular friends), they also are angry and crazed.  Especially at men, and especially at the father of your child.   If this is some kind of evolutionary thing, it is really counterproductive, because if you are now mothering a child, you should probably try to be a better person, not a more evil person, and you probably need to love your baby's daddy more, not less.  Maybe in caveman times, instinctually treating your man like crap was a primitive form of birth control (although it works only about half the time, I find. While men like to be treated with respect, it turns out they like to have sex even more).  

I think it's just that we women end up managing all the little bitty details of parenting a child, whereas men kind of just show up.   For instance, this is my thought process getting ready for church: OK I need to feed Charlotte, change her diaper before we go so they won't have to do anything in nursery but if I give her a snack now she won't be hungry for dinner before we leave so I better just give her a few goldfish crackers now, then about 15 minutes before we leave, I'll feed her dinner then I'll just have like a Nutrigrain bar in the diaper bag in case she gets hungry in the nursery because Nutrigrain counts as a fruit and she's only really had one fruit today whereas goldfish count as a protein oh and I had better wash her coat now because she got mud all over it this morning at the park and the other coat really isn't warm enough for this weather and I'd really better put a change of clothes in the diaper bag because her poop has been a little runny since she discovered shredded wheat and I don't want her to have a blow out at church.  Oh and I need to dress myself. Note to self: Don't forget to put on clothing.

Whereas this is Kevin's thought process: Looks like it's time for church. Let me put my shoes on.

So when Kevin needs something, like my W-2, my knee jerk reaction is, Are you freaking kidding me? Can't you do one thing yourself?  

But there really is no excuse.  Kevin, I'm really sorry. But the least you can do is forgive me after all the trouble I continue to go through to birth and rear you child!  See, I can't be helped....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

That's right, this isn't a free speech zone

I am hiding the comments section for now because some real estate agents decided to use my blog to shame me and to put their side of the story on here.  Guess what? This is my blog, where I can speak freely without shame and MY side of EVERY story gets its due, because there is nowhere else where that is true.  So there.  Sorry to those who like to leave pro-Holly comments, I will put that feature back once the realtors have lost interest.  

But, being the child of missionaries with a hyper-active conscience, I do feel guilty about bashing ALL real estate agents.  I am sure there are a number of nice people in the business who speak the truth and honestly put their clients' interests first even when it costs them money.  I have at least one friend who is a realtor, and I am sure he would fit this description.  I just think the business model is a little off.  Not so much for agents representing sellers--in that case both the agent and the owner want the house to sell as quickly as possible for as much money as possible.  But with buyers, I think it doesn't work. The agent's interest is for the client to buy as expensive a house as possible and as soon as possible, whereas the buyer's interest might be to looks for months and months for just the right house at the right price.  Realtors are only human.  So I think as a buyer, Redfin is definitely the way to go.  We certainly have been pleased with Redfin in our recent home purchase.   

And to the realtor who left the "Shame on you" comment--It is true that B and N weren't representing me. Apparently you think that means they are then at liberty to lie to and about me and treat me like crap when all I did was ask B for a smidgeon of consideration and in the case of N break some kind of  realtor rule that I had no idea even existed that cost her nothing (and in fact saved her a ton of time and effort and made her a boat load of money because I bought her house without her having to put it on the market).  Anyway, you aren't making your profession look good, you are only proving my point.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why real estate agents suck (except for Redfin)

Disclaimer: If you are a real estate agent or love a real estate agent, stop reading this now.  You will be insulted.  If you choose to read on, don't come complaining to me.  You will only add to my long list of why I hate real estate agents.  

We have unfortunately had a lot of contact with realtors lately.  We have just bought a house, and worse, we are living as renters in a house that is for sale.  On the latter issue, we have had the joy of dealing with B, who despite endless schmoozing attempts, has come to reside squarely on my blacklist.  B's sins have been many and continuous.  First she asked if she could start showing our house a month earlier than we were contractually obligated.  We said OK, provided the owner agree to a few demands.  We never heard back, except to be informed that the open house would be two days hence.  We took that to mean the owner had agreed to the demands, and we didn't put up a fight.  We sat in our house with our baby for 3 hours while dozens and dozens of people stomped through and stared and us and our baby.  After which it became apparent that the owner had no intention of honoring our demands.  Nice, very nice. B promised us we would have 24 hours notice for showings then proceeded to repeatedly ask for showings at an hour's notice.  We accommodated when we could, we aren't bastards.  But now I refuse a showing for maybe only the 3rd time out of about 100 and B goes all ballistic and contacts the owner, to threaten us with revocation of the free month's rent she had earlier offered.  You know what B? Your owner can keep her pathetic month's rent if it means I don't have to be nice to you.  So there.  

Then we have the charming selling agent of the place we just bought.  We contacted N about our new house when it was off the market--we originally saw it last summer when it was on the market and we went to the open house.  She showed us the house this winter without us having our agent present (which is apparently against stupid realtor protocol). When our agent contacted her about us putting in a bid, she insisted that we wanted dual representation and proceeded to make up lies about how many times she had showed us the house.  When we told her that he was our agent, not her, N continued to give him trouble and even tried some under the table double dealing.  And this in a BUYERS (hello, N!) market and a house that had not sold for a year.  She is lucky we didn't just have enough of her and move on.  We are suckers, what can I say.  

In fact, the whole problem with the real estate business and real estate "agents" is that in reality, no one is really working for your best interest. It is in the realtor's interest that you buy something, anything, as quickly as possible and at the highest price possible because that way they get more money.  It doesn't matter what the market is doing, they will always give you a load of crap about why "it is a GREAT time to buy," etc.  In 2004, when we were last on the market as potential buyers, the jerk we were working with then just went on and on about how the DC housing market was perpetually strong and the federal government is the most stable employer and the value of whatever we would buy would just go up and up and up.  Fast forward 5 years and prices have collapsed 20% as part of a nation-wide crisis.  Thank goodness we didn't listen to him and decided to rent.

Which is why Redfin is so awesome.  Everyone, listen up, because you want to know about Redfin, and you want to use them if you live where they operate, if for no other reason than they will eventually put the conventional realtors out of business and score one for humanity.  Redfin agents do not work on commission, they are salaried, and when you buy a house with Redfin, they SPLIT THE COMMISSION with you. That is right folks.  AND you get the same service, only without the self interest and annoying salesmanship, since your agent gets paid their salary regardless.  So you get actual, objective advice from a real estate professional. Unheard of!  And of course you get 1.5% of the value of your home purchase back, not bad either.

Incidentally, what do you think the realtors did when Redfin began? Of course they tried to put them out of business. Redfin had to sue for access to the MLS system of listings.  They won, because this is America, and the better business model will eventually triumph.   

So watch out real estate agents!  Your days are numbered. There is a God.