Just Stephanie

Complain, Complain, Complain

Okay, fair warning. This post is not going to be happy and uplifting. I’m living in an empty apartment in a place where I don’t know a soul and – damn it! – I’m cranky. Like, even more cranky than normal.

How does one makes friends as an adult? Scratch that. How does one even make acquaintances as an adult? I’ve been in this apartment for four weeks and have only ever seen two other people who live on my floor. I can’t even positively say three out of the eight apartments that I walk past numerous times a day are even occupied. Is that normal? It’s been so long since I’ve lived in an apartment . . . maybe there is some special multi-family etiquette I’m forgetting. Where are those other random 30-somethings with kids whose wicked sense of humor is hidden by the nondescript appearance? There is a nice group of grandpas who hang out at Starbucks every morning, but that really isn’t my scene (nor am I their ideal new coffee-mate).
Rachel Green Alone
Now let’s talk about the dog.

The top two things I miss from the Arkansas house are 1) the couch and 2) the dog door. The couch will join me here eventually, but I’m going to have to leave without the easy access of a dog door. My dog is tiny, so I’ll assume his bladder is too. He hasn’t had to wait to go outside in at least a year and adjusting to this new schedule is a work in progress. I get that. I’m not always fast enough for him in the morning and it is difficult to do anything after work because I’m the only one here to go home and take him out. On his end, Marv tends to operate in extremes. He either tries to refuse to go out by rolling over for belly rubs while I’m trying to put on his harness or he waits by the door every hour because he is in the middle of a marking war with another little yappie dog named Stewie.

And don’t assume that refusing to go out means he doesn’t need to go to the bathroom. 99.8% chance he is just being lazy and will try to go in the corner when you aren’t looking.

Good thing he is cute. Otherwise I might trade him for a pizza.*
And for the icing on the cake – we had to borrow money. Ouch. I really hate not having enough to provide for my family. Makes me feel about two inches tall to have to ask for that kind of help. I mean, we are grown adults who make comfortable salaries . . . there should be enough. Not when selling a home, operating two households, and moving cross-country to one of the places with the highest cost of living in the U.S. Unfortunately.

I haven’t sat down and added up exactly how much this is costing us – no, I prefer to think about this is little chunks or I’d curl up on the couch and never take the leap – but it we haven’t already hit five figures it is coming very soon. And ya’ll, I’m tapped out. When the Arkansas mortgage and the California rent came due on the same day with only one California-level paycheck under our belt . . . well, there just wasn’t going to be enough.

It certainly doesn’t help that we weren’t at all prepared for this move. It was only 10 weeks between “remember that job I applied for? I’ve got an interview” to “get in the car, we’re leaving!” I really don’t recommend that. Money is flying out of our hands left and right. It is going to take quite a few skimpy months to recover (and don’t even mention building back up the savings). I don’t expect us to be really comfortable again until 2017.
Acid Betty Money Dress
Thinking long-term however, is much more promising. I’ve made a big leap in my career and the husband is about to reside in one of the best areas for his field. Services for the little man are going to explore and we’ll be able to send the daughter wherever she wants to go for college (::cough, cough:: Berkeley ::cough::).

It is the right move, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Well, I feel better already. Let’s all have a glass of wine and watch some YouTube.

*Kidding! Geez.
**Looking for an inexpensive house in a bedroom community of Little Rock, Arkansas? Hit me up!

Five Things I Can’t Live Without

Now, I’m not talking about the obvious things – air, water, toothbrush – but the fun things. The little “luxuries” that make the monotony of every day just a little bit more fun. I’m not even going to choose books or coffee as those are both obvious. I’m also not going to say gif. You should know by now that I love those little moving images.

As usual, these are in no particular order.

1) Melted Cheese
Yuuuuuuuummmmmm. You guys, melted cheese is a gift and we should honor it. The ability to melt cheese is the ability to improve on perfection.
Cloudy Cheese Bath
2) Stripes
Not necessarily my favorite pattern in the world, but definitely the one I can’t live without. I’ve got stripes everywhere – I’m wearing some right now, if you must know. A good stripe is classic and striking. Vertical is okay. Horizontal is where it is as. And don’t even try to tell me that fat ladies shouldn’t wear them. Boo, I say. Boo. I need good patterns in my life.

3) Straws
All cold drinks are better through a straw. Except maybe wine. My household starts to feel really deprived if we run out of straws and – even though it is wasteful – I try to keep an extra package on hand at all times. Hard plastic straws are fine, but I prefer disposable so I can bite the end closed and make it square. It is sad to say, but these little tubes are significant in my daily life.

Water? Better through a straw.
Iced tea? Better through a straw.
Soda? Better through a straw.
Chocolate milk? Better though a straw.
Ann Perkins
4) Skip Button
I physically cannot listen to the end of a song or watch the credits of a television show. Just can’t do it (although interestingly, I enjoy watching movie credits). Without a skip button to make my way through a shuffled playlist or to bypass episodes of a television show I just don’t want to watch . . . well, I can’t even imagine how cranky I would be. Somehow I am both picky and undecided; a skip button is imperative to my media consumption.

I’d also like one for real life. Okay? Thanks.

5) Olde Brooklyn Lantern

Scoff all you want, but I’ve gotten more humor mileage out of this as-seen-on-tv gag gift than almost anything. I love this weird, cheap thing. Anytime the lights blink you can hear someone in the family call out, “Better grab the Old Brooklyn Lantern.” Life would be a little worse without it.

The ABCs of Stephanie

Just a bit of fun today. Raise your hand if you are struggling with the time change. Okay, now keep your hand up if you are already tired of spring weather. Now wave it around if you are sitting on the couch catching up on Drag Race in your underwear. What? Just me? Seriously? You are missing out. . .

A – Absolutely
B – Burrito eater
C – Classy
My Big Fat Greek WeddingD – Dresses, preferably patterned
E – Estimated, under
F – Fat
G – Grumble
H – History
I – I’m free!
Mr HumphriesJ – Jingle
K – Knuter valve
L – Lists
M – Mosquito food
N – Nerd
Parks and RecO – Only
P – PlayfullyTacky
Q – Quiet
R – Resting face, bitchy
S – Scars
T – Tripped again
AliceU – Utilize
V – Volunteer
W – Write
Y – Yawn
Z – Z? . . . zzzzoh no she better don’t

On My Television

So, did you get a three day weekend? I’m thrilled to say that we did, most of us anyway. The little man was actually out on Friday too (he spent that day with his nana) and, unfortunately, the daughter – who I’m going to start calling *Ding because she will like that – had to go to school on Monday for a make-up snow day. We didn’t use our weekend for anything useful, just laziness and Mexican food.

How about Valentine’s Day? Do anything? We aren’t really big on these kinds of holidays in my house (making it even more fun when we do celebrate it). I don’t want you to buy me a gift since Christmas was less than two months ago and I’m certainly not going to try to go out for dinner when everywhere is packed and food is oddly heart-shaped. I do like giving little token presents though, so the little man got new jumbo crayons and stickers, *Ding got a creepy looking book, and the three of us in the family who don’t eat through a tube in our stomach got giant Reese’s hearts.

The weekend wasn’t total laze though. I read a book – mini review scheduled for March 3rd – and fit in a couple of documentaries. Which brings us to the purpose of this post.

atari-gameoverAtari: Game Over (2014)

This one was good. It told the story of the rise and fall of Atari alongside the story of digging up the infamous E.T. burial ground in a New Mexico landfill. I knew they were going to find the games, but still found myself rooting for the crew doing the digging.

It was a fascinating story and did a good job refuting the myth that E.T. singlehandedly destroyed Atari and is the worst game ever designed. Extremely important to the credibility of the story, the documentary talks with lots of big players in Atari – including the designer of E.T. – and in the modern videogame industry. Recommended even if you aren’t a gamer.

From Atari: Game Over is the Xbox Originals documentary that chronicles the fall of the Atari Corporation through the lens of one of the biggest mysteries of all time, dubbed “The Great Video Game Burial of 1983.” As the story goes, the Atari Corporation, faced with an overwhelmingly negative response to “E.T.,” the video game for the Atari 2600, disposed of hundreds of thousands of unsold game cartridges by burying them in the small town of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

PBS BedchamberTales from the Royal Bedchamber (2014)

This one is just an hour-long PBS special, but it was interesting enough to list here, I think. Recommended, if you like this kind of thing.

Lucy Worsley gets into bed with past monarchs to uncover the secrets of the royal bedchamber. She reveals that our obsession with royal bedrooms, births and succession is nothing new. In fact, the rise and fall of their magnificent beds reflects the changing fortunes of the monarchy itself. This program will reveal that while today some areas are intensely private spheres, the royal bedchamber was once a very public sphere with huge political consequence. Not only was it the site for royal marriage ceremonies, but royal births were also traditionally observed there by a crowd in order to verify the baby’s gender. As Lucy will reveal, since everyone felt that they had a stake in it, the process of creating royal babies also often took place in a semi-public context. Lucy will look at the creation of private chambers, as a reaction to the overwhelmingly public nature of royal bedrooms. She will also explore the backstairs politics that developed as a result, and the creation of highly influential serving positions such as ‘Necessary Woman’ and ‘Groom of the Stool’.

What Might Have Been

I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately (I do that when I’m stressed). In particular, I’ve been thinking about how certain decisions set my life on one course or another and how things would be different if I had chosen different option. Now, I don’t mean this in the bad way. This isn’t one of those things where I’m curled up in a ball on the couch crying over “what ifs” while drinking wine straight from the bottle. Every scenario is going to have good and bad parts . . . but I’m fascinated by just how different things could be.
How about some education-themed examples:

Life decision #1 – high school. My hometown has one of those math and science schools for smart kids and they gave a presentation at my school in maybe 8th or 9th grade. . . I’m not sure. I was fascinated and thought it sounded amazing. I met up with my friends afterwards all energized about this new possibility only to discover that everyone thought it sounded awful. I still considered the school for a bit, but I was really influenced by my friend’s opinions – what if they were seeing something that I didn’t? I certainly didn’t want to end up making myself miserable.

Had I gone to the school, I might have lost a bit of my introvert-ism and developed some more independence while living away from my parents at an early age. On the other hand, I would have missed out on some unforgettable experiences with an amazing group of girls. I couldn’t have picked better friends. Most of these women are still in my life in one way or another (yes, I’m counting Facebook) and I can’t imagine my teen years any other way. It really means a lot of me.

Life decision #2 – college. With good grades and a high ACT score, I had a lot of options when I graduated high school, but was scared to spread my wings. Not so much because I would be away from my parents, but because I would be alone. I had full-ride to one of my top-choice schools, Agnes Scott College in Georgia. Unfortunately, my parents were unable to take me to visit the school. They offered to fly me out there, but at that point I had never even been on an airplane and was terrified to go on my own. More so than the airplane, I was worried about not being able to find the person who would be there to pick me up. I later realized that this a big anxiety trigger for me, but at the time I couldn’t work past it. I ended up going to another one of my top-choice schools, but was extremely disappointed and left after one year.

I don’t know exactly what going to Agnes Scott would have meant for me, but I do think I missed a good opportunity because of my anxiety. I’d love to have experienced that women’s college environment. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have my husband or my daughter. So whoa, that’s a huge one. On a slightly smaller scale, I entered college as a German major heading for a career in international law. Picking the wrong school forced me to reevaluate everything (a year at a community college is great for that) and I eventually discovered my love for history.

Life decision #3 – graduate school. Having blown it on the undergrad school choice, I sent out a ton of graduate school applications – mostly for public history degrees, but some museum studies programs. It all came down to finances on this one; as a relatively un-established new family with a small child, I just couldn’t justify moving my family halfway across the country to live away from our support system on the pitiful salary of a graduate assistant. Especially not when there was a perfectly reasonable option just a commutable hour away. Moving away could have really opened up my career options (Little Rock, Arkansas isn’t exactly drowning in history and archival positions). But I firmly believe my marriage would have suffered if we left our comfortable life. We were not in a strong place to handle that kind of stress. I originally hoped to enter museum education, but staying local landed me a job in the archives. And this is my calling, for sure. Perhaps most importantly, the little man wouldn’t be a part of our family. Unthinkable.

I just get a kick out of thinking about this stuff. Life is weird.

Super Awesome Wednesday Updates

I have absolutely nothing to say. Well okay, I always have something to say. Let’s change that to – I have absolutely no desire to write. Wait, also not true. Hmmm . . . how about – I’m lazy. Yep, that one works.

Things have been really quiet lately. Which is nice. Any free time I’ve managed to hoard is spent curled up on the couch reading a book. Which is also nice. Last night, for example, the little man and I read an article about privacy and medical issues in records from early twentieth century juvenile reform institutions while the rest of the family was at cheer practice. I enjoyed it, but he found it conspicuously lacking pictures. Aside from nerdy archival stuff, I’m reading Bark by Lorrie Moore (fiction, short stories, 2014)* and Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial by Kenji Yoshino (nonfiction, 2015). My goal this year is to up my fiction intake by alternating fiction and nonfiction selections (or, more likely, reading one of each at the same time).

My nonfiction to-read list is constantly growing. Currently, in no particular order –
Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell (2002, used an audible credit to get the audiobook)
The Physiology of Taste: Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825, on my bookshelf)
1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back by David F. Krugler (2015, on my bookshelf)
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy (2015, on my bookshelf)
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach (forthcoming June 2016, preordered)
Tomorrow Is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt (1963, on my bookshelf)

And those are just the ones that float to the top of the pack. If you open up my library ebook to-read section, that list would instantly triple in size. On the other hand, my fiction list is small and I’m fishing for suggestions. Currently, in no particular order –
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (2014)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877, slowly working my way through the audiobook)
Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (2011, a gift from the LibraryThing’s SantaThing)

Leaving books behind for the moment, sort of. I have a couple of new projects in the works. One is an article I’ve been trying to write for a while about a local women’s group. It is time to sit down and finish it, so I imposed a February 28 first draft deadline on myself. I’m not a big drafter (I edit as I go), so it should just need cleaning up at that point. The other I’m not going to talk about because it is just an abstract concept for the moment. I’m pretty excited though.

This is our last week of cheering at basketball games. I am beyond excited. It’s not that I’m not glad my kid is in an activity she enjoys (and she does really, really love it), it’s just that this kind of schedule doesn’t really fit with our family dynamics. In other words, it is a bitch to keep this kind of schedule, keep up with the little man, and keep your sanity. A big factor in this is the lack of school buses to transport the kids to the games . . . . meaning every single away game requires a parental figure (the husband). One parent (me) has to stay home with the little man and hold down the fort. Let’s just say I’m not sad about getting a break for a bit.

I went to the first weekend of a large estate sale last Sunday and managed to avoid buying a wonderful set of dishes and at least a dozen different drawing and paintings. However, I did not manage to avoid walking away with a sculpture of a nude bather that now lives on my dining room table. Because where else would you put a sculpture of nude bather? And now I can’t go to the other weekends of the estate sale because I spent enough money. I couldn’t help it though; I love it. L-O-V-E, love it.

Last week the little man said, “Yeah, I’m going bye-bye.” Clear as a bell, would have been understood by anyone in the room. That is officially his longest sentence (beating out, “Here you go.”). It is absolutely encouraging when he has these little successes. My biggest dream for him is to gain the ability to successfully communicate verbally. Some days it is hard to keep working at it and working at it, but then something like this happens and it just lights up the room. It probably is time for another blog posts about the ups and downs of special needs parenting. The illness of his first few years is gone, so our parenting dynamic (I’m not even sure what I mean by that, you just make something up) has shifted.

*Confession: This book was a gift and I’ve already read half of it, but until typing this out just now I thought it was called “Lorrie Moore Bark.” The words are all evenly spaced on the cover and all looked the same color in the dim evening light at home. I literally thought the dog pictured on the cover was name Lorrie Moore.

More Important Questions

thats-too-much-informationMore questions! Life is a little busy and overwhelming right now, so fun little posts like these are about all I can muster until I find the time to finish some of the half-done drafts waiting in my files. These questions are just some random ones I stumbled upon. Let’s see if you learn anything surprising about me.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Right off the bat this is a hard question, so much depends on the brand of ice cream. If I had to pick just one – like, if I could only eat one for the rest of my life – I’d go with plain-Jane chocolate. I also have a soft spot for any chocolate chip that has shards of chocolate (like Stracciatella style), mint chocolate chip, and Ben & Jerry’s Late Night Snack.
What was the last thing you ate?
A baked potato with chili and cheese. It was delicious, very filling, and perfect for a cold evening. No beans in the chili because my kid has a thing about beans.
What CD is in your CD player right now?
Obviously a dated question. I do actually still own some cds though. Five to be exact – Taylor Swift 1989, AC/DC Back in Black, AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the soundtrack from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the soundtrack from Hairspray. Taylor Swift and both AC/DCs live in my car, so I would assume one of those is in the player. They often spend time in each other’s cases too which is probably some big music blasphemy.
How many keys are on your key ring?
Seven – two car keys, a house key, an office key, old keys to the junior league house (why?), and what I think is an old key to my parent’s house. Maybe? I should really take that one off.
How much money do you have in your wallet?
$0. I’m constantly surprised by people who carry cash.
List two bad habits that you have.
1. I bite my nails. I try to keep them painted to cut down on this, but it doesn’t always work. This is a habit I’ve had since childhood and it likes to pop back up anytime I’m stressing. Right now the clear coat on my nails is tinted purple from washing my hair for the first time after being freshly dyed. That doesn’t have anything to do with the question though.
2. Crank. That sweet Macon crank. Nah, kidding. That is a Bob’s Burgers reference. Actually I had a hard time thinking of another bad habit. Not that I’m perfect, just that I’m pretty good at owning up to my faults and don’t really consider many of them “habits.” Oh! I’ve got it – trying on clothes and tossing them over the end of my bed instead of hanging them back in the closet.
What’s your birthstone? Would you change it?
My birthstone is sapphire and I’ve always loved it. I’m most fond of the classic blue, but like how it comes in other shades. I don’t know why I’d bother changing it – birthstones are more of a kid thing. It doesn’t really come up a lot as an adult. I don’t even remember the last time I thought about my birthstone.
Do you know what your name means?
No. But I just looked it up. Wikipedia says “Stephanie or Stefanie is a female name that comes from the Greek name Στέφανος (Stefanos) meaning “crown”. The male form is Stephen.” And now that I’ve read that, I think I did know it.
Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
Duh. All of them, even the bad ones. Reading is amazing. It is the third best thing on earth after family and food.
What would you do if you had a million dollars?
Pay off my debt, create trust funds for the kids. . . blah, blah, boring. Even if you assume you have a million after taxes to do whatever you please with, if you are planning for the future it just isn’t exciting. I’ll go with the spirit of the question though and share this recent conversation I had with my kid when the Powerball was insane:
Me: What would you buy if you had a billion dollars?
Daughter: Everything. I wouldn’t have to decide.
Me: What would you buy first?
Daughter: Pizza.
Are you good at Chess?
Regular chess or secret agent laser obstacle chess? No to both.
Would you rather be rich or healthy?
Healthy. Anyone who picks rich is really young (or really old, own that!) or stupid. And don’t give me any of that “if I was rich I could afford the best doctors,” because life doesn’t work that way.  
Would you rather have the power to be invisible or the power to read minds?
No question, I don’t even have to think about it. . . invisible. Reading minds would be really awful. I mean, think about the things that run through your head every single day. Now think about listening in on those thoughts of the other people in line at the grocery store. No thank you.

Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?
Okay, so I totally have a thing about this. I cannot go to sleep with my closet doors open. It all started with a bad dream when I was a kid with four massive men standing in my closet door. It has been too long for me to remember anything else about the dream or anything else about the guys other than that they filled the entire space. But it stuck with me. I hate getting into bed then looking over to see the closet open. I hate it even more if I wake up in the middle of the night and see the door open. I’m a scaredy-cat.