Author

Stephanie

Happy Friday!

Time to jump on the meme bandwagon!
Here is me, as illustrated by three fictional characters. I think I nailed it!
3-fictional-characters

On My Bookshelf, August-September 2016

sunlight-pilgrimsThe Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan (2016)

So, I just didn’t get this book. None of the plot lines really seemed to fit together for any real purpose and I still don’t have a clue while this story takes place during the last days before a modern ice age. Some of the plot points seemed pointless. Overall, it was just random. Not necessarily bad, but it read more like a lengthy short story than a novel.

From Amazon.com: “It’s November of 2020, and the world is freezing over. Each day colder than the last. . . . As ice water melts into the Atlantic, frenzied London residents evacuate by the thousands for warmer temperatures down south. But not Dylan. Grieving and ready to build life anew, he heads north to bury his mother’s and grandmother’s ashes on the Scottish islands where they once lived. Hundreds of miles away, twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy, mountainous Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. . . . When Dylan arrives in their caravan park in the middle of the night, life changes course for Estella and Constance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they’ll all be ready.”

the-girlsThe Girls by Emma Cline

Overall, I enjoyed this one. But I found the portions set in present day to be distracting without adding anything to the story and Cline has a tendency to poetically-overuse her thesaurus. Lots of scene-setting that ultimately takes away from character building. A nice read though.

From Amazon.com: “Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.”

Currently Reading: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

*This post contains Amazon Associate referral links.

Thoughts From The Weekend

If you hadn’t already noticed, I didn’t have time to blog last week. I didn’t even watch my beloved Drag Race until Sunday night. Sunday night, folks! There are a couple of main reasons for this – 1) My work week was super busy and 2) I pulled a muscle in my back. All I wanted to do when I arrived home was lounge on the couch, complain a little, and watch television. The muscle pain came to a head on Thursday night sending me to be super early, but has slowly dissipating since. Tonight, while writing this, I’m feeling 98% normal. Good news!

So, Friday was my birthday. I reached the grand age of 33 on 9-9. Yay! I went to work on my birthday – I’ve never really been the person who takes that off, preferring to celebrate on the weekend – but the family surprised me with a delicious chocolate cake that evening.

The original plan was to celebrate at Oktoberfest on Saturday, but we made a last minute decision to avoid the crowd and head to the Facebook Farmer’s Market instead. Yes, Facebook has a farmer’s market.

It is a regular kind of farmer’s market, but with the addition of a theme – this time it was olives – live music, children’s activities, food trucks, and cocktails. And let me tell you, I have a discovered a very important thing about life. . . every farmer’s market needs cocktails. My farm to cup sangria made the afternoon. And turned a place to buy fruits and veggies into an event.
Facebook Market
The weather was perfect – I even pulled my long sleeves down when hit by the breeze under the tent. I still just can’t get over this weather. I’ve never been chilly on my birthday before. We enjoyed lunch with some entertainment from Girls Got the Blues, an all-woman blues band. We really had an excellent time and will likely spend several of our Saturdays the same way. Next weekend’s theme is Mediterranean. Yum.

On the way home we stopped by San Mateo’s Seal Point Park for some spectacular views looking across the bay. I neglected to take any photos of the view or of the nifty kinetic sculptures taking advantage of the wind, so I’ll have to show you next time.

All around just a good day out at a family.

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2, Episode 2

Yay! Another week, another episode. And this week is everyone’s favorite episode. . . SNATCH GAME! I’ll pause here for applause and cheers.

::excitement::

Let’s ignore Adore-gate and jump right in to rate some Snatch Game performances.

BEST SNATCH
Best SnatchKatya as Bjork and Alyssa Edwards as Joan Crawford
Yes. Yes. Hi-lar-i-ous.

Best Accent? Hands down Katya as Bjork. I giggled every time she opened her mouth.
Honorable mention? Alaska as Mae West. She was on point, but for me it just didn’t surpass the other two.

WORST SNATCH
Worst SnatchRoxxxy Andrews as Alaska and Tatianna as Ariana Grande
Bummer. The Ariana Grande impression fell flat. It was a poor choice of character – there just isn’t enough personality to roll with. And Roxxxy’s last minute switch to Alaska made me want to say “aw, bless her heart.” It could have been hilarious in the right hands, but just landed with a big old splat. Epic fail.

And we also have regular runway looks to admire. This week’s theme was Latex Extravaganza.

BEST RUNWAY
Best RunwayDetox and Katya
Amazing. I love it when they turn that corner and the outfit kind of takes your breath away. Detox looked like a feature in a 90s avant-garde magazine. Katya’s dress was so tight she had to wiggle down the runway and she even had a swimmer’s nose plug as an accessory. Attention to detail, ya’ll.

WORST RUNWAY
PhiPhiPhi Phi O’hara
And Phi Phi blows the runway for the second week in a row. It is a latex bathing suit with rubber duck necklace. Come on, you can do better. The wig sucks too. Boo!

Boring, but acceptable? Tatianna, Alaska, Ginger Minj, Roxxy Andrews

First Grade!

Wheel Chair - iStock_000011476045LargeMy little man started first grade a couple of weeks ago. Now, if you have been reading this blog for any real length of time, you know that the little man is severely disabled, mostly nonverbal, and largely wheelchair bound. This makes school a very different experience for him than a typical kid. For starters, his classroom time is split between traditional lessons and life skills. His kindergarten curriculum included things like going to the grocery store and buying Christmas gifts for his family.

Classrooms like this are called different things – in our last district it was Community Based Instruction (CBI for short), here it is Special Day Classes – but either way it means 100%-ish in a special education environment. [I say “ish” because placement in these classes doesn’t prevent a kid from joining the mainstream classes occasionally.] This may be somewhat different than what you remember from being in school where there was sort of one special ed class and anyone with “an issue” went to the same place. Now schools do better with dividing kids up based on their level of disability – maybe they need to be in the full class like the little man, or maybe they only need to spend part of a day with a special class, or maybe they only need extra help from an aid throughout the day, etc.

Transferring the little man’s services has been nerve-wracking. It is a lot to do in a very short window of time. Difficult in the best of times, for sure. And still a work in progress! The school district office was closed and I wasn’t able to register the kids until mid-July, only a month before classes started. I was pre-stressed about the amount of appointments and evaluations we were going to have to go through in just a couple of weeks to get a placement for him. And about the vacation time I didn’t have to do that. And then. . it didn’t happen. The district did this amazing thing where they based his placement on his most recent IEP (completed in May in Arkansas). This may all seem very obvious to you, but I had no clue it was even an option.

The placement he started school with is a thirty-day temporary placement. We will come together soon to discuss how it is going – this gives the teachers/aids/therapists time to learn all of those things about the little man you can’t get from a handful of papers. Love this! True, I’d hate for his initial placement to fail, but it would be far worse to be locked in to something long term based on information received before they even met the kid. Or even worse, missing important school time after going an entire summer without his important therapies.

Okay, let’s talk about that placement. It looks like the school district here is going to be just a lovely and helpful as the last one (that isn’t sarcasm, they were great), but that still doesn’t mean it has been all puppies and roses. Let me replay a portion of the conversation I had with the school:

School District: We have him a place at [redacted] Elementary with [teacher]. That is a special day class that has 2nd to 8th graders.

Me: I’m sorry. Did you say 2nd to 8th?

School District: Yes. I know that is quite a range.

Me: ::thinking:: What the hell!?

To learn that my first grader was going to be the youngest kid in a classroom with middle school kids (disabled or not!) was a bit shocking. For some perspective, his class in Arkansas was K-2. They had another classroom for 3-5. Turns out the district puts kids who need medical attention – like the little man’s g-tube – in this classroom. I don’t know why there are middle school kids on-site at an elementary, medical issues or not.

I remained calm and we are giving it a try. I’ve always taken the little man’s medical providers at face value when they suggest something and know they wouldn’t do anything to intentionally put him at risk. Due to my work schedule, I haven’t even seen the classroom or met the teacher yet, but the husband had a good first impression. And the little man seems to be enjoying himself.

One week in and his teacher told my husband that she really wants to keep him in her class. And that she will work to make sure he has everything he needs geared to his age group. I’m not surprised by this reaction. The little man is sneaky and can get people tied around his little finger in a matter of minutes. Just ask his Arkansas teacher and therapists. Or his grandparents.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to having that first meeting with “the team” and getting some first-hand opinions about how he is doing in the classroom and handling the move. And he has his first appointment with his new pediatrician at the Stanford children’s hospital today. Getting that side of the services going will make me feel more at ease, I’m sure.

To sum it all up: I’m nervous. The little man is smiley, as usual.

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2, Episode 1

I have been counting down the days until last night’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2 premiere since the date was announced and I first added it to our family calendar. Yes, the family calendar. Drag Race makes me deliriously happy and the chance to see some of my favorites in action again is almost as good as Christmas.

Anybody out there love this show as much as I do? Tell me what you thought of last night’s episode and – if you have one – which queen who is your favorite.
all-stars-group-smaller
Who am I rooting for? Still undecided. I’m starting the season torn between Detox, Alaska, and Katya. But I’m also partial to Adore and Alyssa Edwards. Every Friday in the near future I plan to share the best and worst looks from the show according to me. Clearly an expert in drag queen fashion, or just fashion in general. *

Put on those lace fronts and tuck your junk, ladies! Up first, the very special entering the workroom on the first day outfits. This is their first moment to make an impression and terrify the competition. Overall I was kind of disappointed. There wasn’t near enough wow.

BEST OPENING LOOKS
Week 1 - Best Opening LooksRoxxxy Andrews and Phi Phi O’hara
Okay, this means a lot coming from me. I wasn’t excited about either of them being on the show again and I’ve pretty much never liked anything Roxxxy has ever worn. Or said. Or done. But man, when she walked in that room. With that hair. And that waist. Yas Gawd! And I love that Phi Phi kept it fun as the Riddler.

WORST OPENING LOOKS
Week 1 - Worst OpeningGinger Minj and Coco Montrese
The bathing suit is blah and the robe she had on over it was absolutely awful. Massive shoulders much, Ginger? Hate it. And Coco isn’t bad, just boring. Very modern housewives out to lunch and ultimately forgettable.

Most disappointing to me? Detox for that horrible wig and Alaska for somehow making a huge trash bag dress seem boring.

And now for the main event, the runway looks. Oh wait, never-mind. We’ve got a talent show instead of a runway this week.

BEST TALENT SHOW LOOKS
Week 1 - Talent BestTatianna, Katya, and Adore Delano
Yes. Yes. Yes. Tatianna ruled that runway. I loved Katya’s lacy take on the traditional gymnastic costume, complete with Olympic-style “Russia” jacket discarded before her routine. The panel ripped Adore apart, but I really liked it. I didn’t catch a full-body screenshot of Adore and couldn’t find one online before it was time for bed, so we’ll focus on the spectacular hair.
Best quote of the night? “Congratulations on your face.” Todrick Hall to Tatianna

Honorable mention: Detox for being almost naked, covered in splattered glow in the dark paint, and wearing a much better wig.

WORST TALENT SHOW LOOKS
Week 1 - Phi Phi TalentPhi Phi O’Hara
The shape of the dress is off and she is missing a waist. It isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t stand up to the other all stars.

*Sarcasm.
All images from Logo.

Let’s Talk Housing

I’m going to start with some stats. Yes folks, instead of just rambling on and on about how much my rent is, I actually did some research! This information comes from Trulia.com and applies to the City of San Francisco.

Median Sales Price: $1.15 million
Median Monthly Rent: $4,685
Median Household Income: $78,087
*Is it just me or does that last number not match the first two? Congratulations! You’ve just recognized one of the massive problems with the local housing market.

I live on the peninsula where it is a bit cheaper, so let’s check out similar stats for Foster City.

Median Sales Price: $1.1 million
Median Monthly Rent: $4,380
Median Household Income: $117,872

Ah, interesting. See that increase in median income? Foster City doesn’t have a Caltrain station and 95% of its residents commute by car making it much less appealing for residents dependent on public transportation (by need or by choice). Additionally, only 28% of the population is single (compared to 52% in the city), i.e. more two-income households. Foster City also boasts 70% home ownership. Is that the difference half a million in median price makes? No. This area has a booming condo/townhome industry with prices available well under a million. That’s a much more reasonable price for professional-level household incomes under $200,000. [Hello, that’s me!]

And here is a nifty chart from WolfStreet.com that gives a good picture of what has actually been happening with the housing market in San Francisco as compared to both California and the U.S. as a whole.
Wolf Street
Yikes. Am I right? According to a lot of sources out there, prices appear to at the beginning of a decline. Let’s hope that is true.

Okay, now let’s run some numbers. If you want to live in San Francisco and keep your rent/mortgage costs (minus insurance and utilities) down around a reasonable 25% of your gross, you’d need a median household income of . . . ::drumroll please::. . . $224,880. Minimum wage in the city is $13, so two adults in full-time minimum wage jobs will have an annual gross household income of . . . ::slide whistle:: . . . $54,080.

What’s the solution? Multiple jobs, cheaper apartments, unsafe areas, horrific commutes, roommates. All unsustainable when you think about the long-term market.

The first thing people me ask when confronted with the rising hiring market is “Well, doesn’t your salary increase too?” Answer: Yes, but not in proportion. Take me for example. I’m a white collar professional with a Master’s degree in a federal position. My salary tripled from low-cost-of-living-Arkansas (and is in a comfortable range for us, did my research there too), while my housing costs quintupled. We are spending around 1/3 of our income on rent alone – a number I would never have even entertained in Arkansas, but one that is considered perfectly acceptable here.

Naturally the situation isn’t quite that cut and dry. There are cost benefits associated with apartment living – no home or yard maintenance, lower utility costs, lower insurance costs – but it certainly doesn’t even out.

So, time to ponder the million dollar question – is it worth it?

4 Things I Do Not Love About Living in San Francisco

1) The Apartment Living
I haven’t gotten used to the apartment way of life yet. Honestly, it makes me feel like a college student who decorates by lining up empty liquor bottles over the kitchen cabinets. I miss my little house. All of our furniture is too big for this apartment, even though we left 1/3 of it behind. There is no place to store anything. And – get this! – there are people everywhere. They walk around living their own lives way too close to my dwelling. Yes, I’m joking around. But it is still a big adjustment. I’m used to a quiet suburb, not a complex with eight four-story buildings.

It is an adjustment and I’m just not there yet. I refuse to shell out $5000 a month to rent a house in this town though, so I better get over it.
Apartment Dino
2) The Seagulls
Or other random coastal birds that make a lot of noise. I’ve never actually seen them, so I guess I can’t blame seagulls 100%. Either way, these noisy little varmints wake me up a lot in the mornings, ruining the peaceful and cool bedroom. Birds man, big jerks. Nature and I never really have gotten along. . .

3) The Pizza
I’m looking for recommendations if you know of something better, but – so far – most of what I’ve tried has been bad. I’ve enjoyed a few slices that were fine. Nothing that met my craving for lazy Friday night gooey-cheesy pizza. It makes me want to order from Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut! In a city where you can find any type of food imaginable. . . I want to hit up a boring chain pizza place. There are plenty of delicious looking wood fire pizza joints around. That isn’t lazy Friday night pizza though.

I’m not alone in my opinion of Bay Area pizza, as demonstrated by this awesome comic I found. Click through to see the rest of her NY vs. SF series.
SF PIzza.

4) The Lack of Rain
I know I shouldn’t complain about this because winter rain is coming. But guys, I miss it. I’ve been here two months and I haven’t seen a drop! The fog helps fill my need for overcast days, but what I wouldn’t give to go to sleep listening to a rain storm. Remind me that I complained about this when we are getting a month’s worth of rain in a couple of days. Apparently when it rains, it really rains.

4 Things I Love About the San Francisco Bay Area

First impressions, really. I have only been here for two months, after all. I still have 99.6% of the area left to explore. Everyone seems to be happy and the adjustment has been a lot smoother than expected. I guess we really are all just go-with-the-flow people when it comes to where we live. I mean, I do miss my Arkansas house. But only because it is actually a house instead of an apartment, not because I’m having any sentimental attachment. I am cold and unfeeling to the core though . . . so there’s that.

In no particular order, here are four things I love about living in the Bay Area.* Stay tuned for Monday when I’ll share four things I do not love about living in the Bay Area.

1) The Weather
I don’t really feel like I need to explain this one a lot as everyone knows the weather is beautiful in San Francisco. We live on the east side of the peninsula and, although it has gotten up into the lower 80s a few days this summer, the breeze (aka natural air conditioner) comes through and cools everything back down. It can get a little hot in the house around 3-5pm on those warmer days, but almost instantly becomes ultra-pleasant again when the direct sunlight moves on. And yes, I’ve been cold at night many times.

2) The Views
Ya’ll. I’ve been a lot of beautiful places. A lot. But this one . . . this one is high up on the list. You never know when you are going to turn a corner and be blown away. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “It is so beautiful here!” Well. . . I could go out for a nice dinner, at least.

3) The Clapper
The Clapper is a nickname given to an elderly Asian man who walks around our complex for his daily exercise clapping the entire time. I actually didn’t even notice him until my husband arrived and pointed him out. And I’ve still never actually laid eyes on the guy personally. But something about his clapping makes me smile. It seems like it should be annoying, but since he is walking you only really hear it for a few moments at a time.

I don’t know why I feel strongly about having The Clapper on this list, but I suppose it is because little things like this make a place feel like home.

4) The Internet
Five times faster with no ridiculous data cap. And cheaper too. It’s a Silicon Valley perk – Comcast can’t be too much of a jerk about internet usage because Google (or something similar) would come in and save the day. We used part of the money we are now saving to get cable so I can watch RuPaul’s Drag Race in real time. What? Don’t judge me. Watch it with me. We’ll be best friends.

The little man is pretty perturbed by commercials though. He has lived most of his life without them.

Honorable Mentions: Tpumps; Leo J. Ryan Memorial Park; It’s-It Ice Cream Treats; Delicious and Plentiful Asian Food; Delicious and Plentiful Mediterranean Food; 60s-Era Architecture; The Asian Grocery Next Door

*I still haven’t figured out whether or not you capitalize that.

Georgia On My Mind

I’m back! Maybe. Hopefully. I have several posts banging around in my head and think I have time to write again. So let’s get on with it. . .

Last week I took a red eye flight from San Francisco to Atlanta to present at a conference. This was my first time on a red eye and my first time flying across that many U.S. time zones in one go (international travel doesn’t count, as it’s a whole other ballgame). It wasn’t quite what I expected.

Red Eye Misconception #1: The flight wouldn’t be as full.
I’d always heard that late night flights were appealing because they weren’t as packed. Boarding would be smoother and empty seats would leave room for spreading out. Nope. This flight was 100% full even after bumping a few volunteers. Coming home, I landed at the same gate at 11pm and saw a similar crowd waiting to fly out.

Red Eye Misconception #2: The flight would mostly be adults.
Again, nope. Lots of kids, several toddlers, and even one infant. We didn’t board until 11:30 and those toddlers were in that extreme-hyper-to-avoid-sleep phase. You parents know what I’m talking about. This might have been a product of the flight distance – I can see the appeal of taking my kids cross-country during a time they would easily fall asleep once belted into a seat. And – despite the nervous energy at the gate – they were quiet on the flight.

Red Eye Misconception #3: The flight would be cheaper.
And another nope. This flight was the same price as daytime options. It was about $20 less than other non-stop options; that is a plus, but not a huge one. I mean, $20 is $20, but that isn’t enough of a discount to compensate me for the inconvenience (if price was the only reason I was flying at midnight).

That brings me to a big plus of this flight – it was nonstop. I’d gladly fly out at any time to go 2500 miles without having to change planes. Living in Little Rock, it was next to impossible to go any large distance nonstop. I’m enjoying this big city perk.

And of course, you take the red eye so you can sleep. That was nice, but my internal clock lost four hours so it wasn’t quite as helpful as it might had been if I was traveling the other direction. Overall, I’ve always enjoyed evening flights more and the red eye was no exception.

Another plus – congestion at the Atlanta airport at 7:30am was well above manageable. I stopped to go to the bathroom then picked up a coffee and by the time I reached baggage the first class* luggage was already taking a ride on the carousel. No line for a taxi either. I was at my hotel downtown within half an hour of walking off the airplane.

In this case, I picked the red eye because I needed to make it to Atlanta with enough time to take a short nap and put in a full day of work in my hotel room. I could have worked all day Wednesday in my office and traveled to Atlanta that evening, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t as jetlagged for my Thursday morning panel. That went great, by the way. Standing room only for our session and excellent feedback afterwards. I was talking about a couple of projects I worked on at my last job and it was a really nice send-off for something I’m passionate about and hated to leave behind.

*I’ve mentioned this before, but when I fly alone I like to fly first class so I have room for my fat ass.