Category Archives: Life in ‘Frisco

My trials and tribulations of my new life in the big city of San Francisco.

Inner Voice Outside

Most people know a little kid in their lives. And, as you think about these adorable little children, innocent and full of life, you’d never do anything to intentionally hurt their feelings right? You just want to scoop them up, smother them with kisses, and remind them of how perfect they are. (Because really they are.)

Dr. Laura had been a weekly part of my life for months and I could see the notable difference in my life: I’d reflected on a lot of things, recognized things I wanted to work on (and was actively working on them), put myself first, and was working on self-love. I’m saddened to share that all that has ended, not because she wasn’t absolutely incredible, but because it got too hard.

In my final sessions we talked about my self-perception and how I talked to myself. You see my inner voice can be really mean to me when I stop to listen to what it’s saying. It’s not like some people that think they need to be perfect – I don’t feel the need to be perfect and am very forgiving of not being the best at things. Instead my inner voice is just downright mean to me. It’s critical of my lack of motivation to work out; it beats me up over and over again about things I say to people that might be taken the wrong way; it makes me believe that because I grew up on a farm and have never been exposed to finer things in life that other people are better than me; it tries to convince me I’m undeserving of my KISA and friends that shower me with love; etc. It’s something I don’t admit to other people because I’m ashamed of it. I try so hard to keep my life loud enough outside to not be able to hear it from inside. Or else if I move fast enough I don’t have time to let it be heard. I pride myself on how well I can hide it by pushing it down so far that all of it is hidden and then faking confidence so others don’t know it’s in there.

The downfall to Dr. Laura is that she seemed like she really cared about me. She treated me so well that I wanted to make myself a better person for myself, my KISA, and her. It was like she saw something in me that I didn’t see, and I was willing to try, hopeful to see whatever it was. She was like having a stranger that cares for you in the way a mother does, even in hearing the gory truths you admit. Because of this it was inevitable that I opened myself up to her and admitted the real side of me that I was ashamed of.

I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow the inner voice got outside and she heard it. I was embarrassed that it slipped out and I could tell how surprised Dr. Laura was to hear it, which made me even more embarrassed. Like a magician’s magic scarf, she started pulling at it and the inner voice kept coming out and getting louder. Dr. Laura knew enough about my past to know that my father’s outer voice had become my inner voice, which I was ashamed of. If I’d stopped long enough to listen to what it was saying I would have realized that too, but what it was saying hurt too much to listen. Why would you listen to someone criticize you like that? You wouldn’t. Those are the people you don’t keep in your life, yet this one stayed with me, determined to be heard.

What struck a nerve with me was when Dr. Laura wanted me to imagine myself at 5. I closed my eyes and saw a little girl dancing and singing. After a few seconds I realized the 5 year old was a mix between myself and my niece, Emma. I admitted this to Dr. Laura and she asked me if I’d ever let the inner voice say to Emma the things I allow it say to me. The emotions hit hard and quick – a combination of violent anger and overwhelming sadness at how it would make her feel. Those are the things you protect children from, not say to them.

At the end of our session on August 1st Dr. Laura tasked me with making a list of the things I said to myself. She asked me to text her when I was done. I left without making another appointment, not yet realizing that I wouldn’t be back. I still carry the piece of paper in purse that she wrote on with my assignment.

So why haven’t I done the assignment and been back after all the raving I’ve done about how great she is? Because it’s really hard. It’s so hard. The idea of acknowledging that voice and what it has to say scares me. I know it’s going to hurt my feelings and upset me. I know the pain it wants to inflict. And to know it’s coming from within me and are my thoughts is too painful to see on paper or admit to anyone. Even myself. To admit that I’m that cruel to anyone, especially myself? It’s much easier to just shove it away rather than dissect where it’s coming from and relive my past.

I know one day I’ll get the strength to reach deep within myself, pull out the demon, and listen to what it has to say. And when I find that strength I’ll call Dr. Laura or another therapist and find out how to kill it. Until then I plan to smother every little kid I meet with loving words and affection so that hopefully my outer voice will become their inner voice when they grow up.

Advertisements

Wedding Planning

I’ve always known I don’t handle stress well. Planning a wedding reinforces that. I missed the last week of my senior year of high school because I stressed myself out so much I got sick with a head cold and the flu at the same time. When I was in college I stopped sleeping because I was so stressed with working full time and going to school full time. I eventually had to become temporarily medicated to make it through graduation. At my last job I used to do the sales onboard trainings and management trainings that would involve all aspects of accommodating and entertaining the staff. I would get stressed in the weeks leading up to it, it would peak the week of, and then it would take almost a week after the training to unwind and get back to my normal, still anxious lifestyle. In addition to that, my job required me to travel 2-3 weeks a month. The lack of routine, changing time zones, eating out for every meal, sleeping in different beds every night, etc. stressed me so much I’d get tension headaches for months and would have to take a break from traveling. Once the headaches went away I’d go back to my reckless schedule. 

When my KISA and I started talking about getting married I told him I didn’t want a wedding. Of course I liked the idea of it, but I’d had enough experience with myself to know I’d be miserable. He conceded and after he proposed he announced he’d like a wedding, but we’d be getting a day-of wedding planner to ensure that I was stress free. I challenged him on not wanting a wedding and he was fearful I’d regret not having one and therefore we’d have one. (Plus, let’s be honest, he loves a good party.) I proceeded to not sleep for the next three weeks in a panic of trying to figure out what I wanted for a wedding and scouring Pinterest for inspiration. Having a wedding had never been more than a fleeting thought, so I felt ill-prepared as people started asking me what our wedding colors would be, where we’d be getting married, etc. I didn’t have answers and my KISA had no strong opinions on any of it. I inevitably spent Memorial Day, four days after getting engaged, with the flu.

After the first push of booking the big vendors and determining we’d do the wedding back in Madison the stress of wedding planning alleviated and we moved to blissful planning. It started being fun. That is until my trip back to Wisconsin in June for my brother’s wedding and my bridal shower. I again stopped sleeping, spent a bunch of time crying alone in the bedroom, and could feel my stress level rising. By the end of the trip I didn’t feel like I’d gotten everything done that I needed to feel prepared for my return trip in September. Thankfully my brother was having a wedding reception in August so I could have some more Wisconsin time to plan.

Unfortunately flight prices never dropped for the weekend of my brother’s reception, so we accepted the fact that we wouldn’t make it back to Wisconsin again before the wedding. This also meant I couldn’t do more wedding planning in Wisconsin. On July 20th, two months before the wedding IT happened. I was talking to my mom on the phone about all the wedding planning that still needed to be done. By the time I got off the phone with her I could feel the sharp pains in my chest and back. I couldn’t breathe and I knew I was having a panic attack. I couldn’t stop shaking and when I stood up I fainted. Thankfully my KISA was home to come to my rescue. After making out a list of all the things I felt I needed to do before the wedding he forced me to lay down on the couch with him and watch a comedy. The pain subsided during those two hours and it was less painful to breath. As the day wore on the pain came back and I didn’t get much sleep for the next couple of days. The wedding to do list made things seem manageable and realistic, but I’ve still had stress headaches every day since.

In my sessions with my therapist she has helped me come to terms with the fact that panic attacks are like a disease that you don’t choose to have. And, as much as you can try to prevent it, it’s sometimes inevitable. It took me a while to wrap my head around that because I’m a control freak and like to think I’m in control of my body and how it reacts to things. Plus, millions of people plan weddings every year without having panic attacks. Some even enjoy it. Unfortunately I’d have to accept this wasn’t something I could control.

Another interesting thing has happened in the wedding planning – my self-perception has changed. I have always been accepting of how I look, even when I knew I wasn’t a top quality version of myself. I had self-compassion and have never been too hard on myself. However, this has changed as the wedding is getting closer. I find myself scrutinizing the size of my arms, the whiteness of my teeth, how long my eyelashes are, my skin quality, etc. I had a dress fitting last week with all my accessories, my hair and makeup done, and looking as closely to how I hoped to look on my wedding day. My KISA saw me before I left and was commenting on how good I looked. For some reason I couldn’t see the person he saw and I came home crying about how I didn’t look like a beautiful bride in my dress like I’d hoped to. He reinforced that he’d seen me before I left and that he’d thought I looked good even in street clothes. My response: “Maybe I look good in street clothes, but I don’t want to look just mediocre on my wedding day.” It’s obvious I have unrealistic expectations of how I should look as I’ve always believed my wedding day would be the day I looked the most beautiful I had ever in my life. I cringe even as I write this. And, it saddens me to know I’m that hard on myself right now.

However, I will say one very positive thing: my friends and family have been incredible. I’m serious. They’ve been absolutely amazing. Anything I even mention my mother executes on. She’s been a workhorse getting everything ready and scouting for items at thrift stores. My aunt Amy has been my sounding board for all of my ideas and gives me her honest feedback. Her husband made chalkboards for the wedding so that we didn’t have to rent them, which their daughters then wrote on and designed (in addition to making coloring books and a beautiful display of origami cranes). My aunt Karen has comforted me through my anxiety and is reminding me of why I’m marrying my KISA through the questions she’s been asking to prepare for her speech (she’s our officiant). My sister has checked in regularly with me, even just to hear my latest ideas, and planned my bridal shower. My bridesmaids and close girlfriends have been quick to reply on requests, advice, plan a memorable bachelorette party, and also to check in. My sister-in-laws are planting flowers for the bouquets. My nieces and nephews have had an excitement for the wedding that is almost tangible and makes it seem more important than Christmas or Kindergarten (which is a big deal when you’re little). My brothers and brother-in-law haven’t complained once about having to buy a suit to be in the wedding and have asked about details of the wedding and taken an interest in it. My Godfather, who’s our wedding photographer, makes it seem like we’re the only wedding they have scheduled this year. All of our friends who are paying loads of money to come to our wedding and are so excited about it. And, most of all, my KISA has been my rock throughout all of the craziness.

I have to say, even with the stress and toll it has taken on me to plan this wedding, if the love I’ve felt by everyone leading up to it is an indication of what our wedding day will be like, it will be all worthwhile. Seriously.

Dr. Laura

Hey! Do y’all remember me? I know most of you are Facebook friends with me or follow me on Instagram, so you probably know that I’ve been busy. Maybe sometimes a bit too busy – I love to be at home and haven’t been there a lot in the last few months. That’s actually not the reason I haven’t been blogging. When I’m trying to process things or work through events in my life I’ve come to prefer to journal them to understand and I think I’m finally reaching a point where I feel I can share things.

These last few months have been a big learning and growing time for me. While things were brewing under the surface for a while now, there was one life event that caused them to rush to the surface: I lost a dear friend. Now, when I say “lost”, I mean she’s still alive, but I’ve lost the friendship we once had. It was a very difficult time for me and I would compare it to going through a relationship breakup. Thankfully I’ve had to break up with more boyfriends in my lifetime than friends, so I didn’t realize how much it hurts.

Without going into too many details, my KISA and I had an argument one night when we were out, in front of her and her fiancé. My KISA was under the influence, which I now recognize was one of the first issues I unknowingly had, because I thought it would be best he go home since he was running a relay with some coworkers (including an executive) the next morning. We agreed to part ways – me going home that night and my KISA would drive home the next morning. When I was leaving to go home I overheard a conversation that was not meant for me to hear and some hurtful things were being said about our argument and me leaving by her to her fiancé. After a confrontation I left to go home. Because of the way things unfolded in the coming weeks I requested she no longer be a part of our wedding party and we’ve since gone our separate ways.

After that evening my KISA and I dissected not only that evening’s argument, but other arguments we’ve had (which thankfully aren’t very often…just for some reason in front of them). There was one common denominator: me trying to control him. It’s funny because while you can hear from everyone that you have an issue with control, until you realize it for yourself are you able to work on it.

At that point in time I reached out to see a therapist here in San Francisco. I’ve always intended to see a therapist since I’d seen two different ones in Madison, but I was always afraid. You see, it’s easy to see everyone else’s problems, but to admit your own problems and to then work on them is more difficult than a person would think. When you’re with a therapist and are honest with yourself it’s painful all the hideous things you realize about yourself. After my second therapist (a psychoanalyst), it actually put me into a deeper stage of depression, thinking that I was no good and an awful person no one should want to be around. (Hence the reason I was a little sluggish to go back to see one.)

I did a bunch of research online at PsychologyToday.com and read the profiles of many therapists that specialized in anxiety and control. One that I read stood out from all of them: her name was Laura and her theory on effective therapy had more to do with the relationship with the therapist than anything. I called her that morning, fell in love with her, and made an appointment to see her the following week. She had me fill out some long questionnaires that she requested I handwrite, as opposed to type out. I knew from my first therapist that he believed that there’s something more that registers when you write something versus type it, which I’d come to believe as well.

Our first session was reviewing my responses to the questionnaire. I knew she was going to be great when she never made me feel defensive. In fact it was quite the opposite – she made me feel loved. She explained to me that in therapy they have a term, called transference, which is when you unconsciously transfer feelings and experiences to the therapist. I felt like she was really listening and she understood me. When you’ve felt like I have the last 31 years it’s great to feel like someone finally understands you, even when you’ve been disgustingly honest with all the hidden caverns within you; you’re not crazy – you’re just hurt.

In our second session I admitted to her the falling out I’d had with a friend and we talked through it. She then brought up a subject that was a soft-spot – my KISA and his alcohol usage. I was never raised around alcohol usage, so I didn’t understand or have a point of reference on whether my feelings on it were normal or if I was being overly sensitive. Laura tasked me with reading a book, called “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and to go to my first Al-Anon meeting. She explained that she was less worried about my KISA’s alcohol usage (or diagnosing him) and more about my reactions to it.

In reading the book learned the word “codependent” didn’t mean what I thought it was. I’d always thought being codependent meant I couldn’t do anything without the assistance of others. I’ve always prided myself on being independent, so I was shocked to learn that I’m a raging codependent. To give you some examples of what resonated in the first chapter of the book:

Overly responsible; dependable; “mother hen” in most situations; anxiety; depression; control; I work while others play; with my KISA he’ll say he’ll do something later – I intervene and do it myself; I feel obligated to do things to make others happy; I worry about other people when I shouldn’t; I try to help others even when they don’t ask for help; I like to surround myself with men that are challenging; I like to feel needed; I allow other peoples’ moods to control my emotions; I believe that if I take care of others they’ll appreciate and love me more; I am constantly seeking approval and affirmation; denial; fear of anger or criticism.

You get the idea. The most startling thing in the book is realizing that all these problems I thought my KISA and past sig others had was really my own unresolved problems. Feeling the need to control my KISA when he drank was another example of this. His drinking wasn’t necessarily the problem – my feeling the need to control him was.

I also started attending Al-Anon sessions. The purpose of Al-Anon is to have a support group of other people that have or have had some sort of a relationship with someone who drinks. Again, it’s not about diagnosing the person because the group is not meant for the other person – it’s meant for yourself. I finally settled on a group that I grew to really like that meet every Monday at local church. Their group name is “Progress, Not Perfection”. The motto of the group is to continue to work on yourself because you’re never really done. They also believe that in each session you should take what you like and leave the rest – not all of it is for everyone. The biggest thing they teach is detachment and how to let things go. I’d never been good at this, but thankfully hearing other stories and sharing at our meetings have helped me dramatically. And, it has helped me realize I’m not alone in the way I feel and the struggles I have.

Similar to AA meetings, Al-Anon has 12 steps to work on how to make yourself a better person and to practice detachment. The steps seemed a little hokie to me when I first started, but every other week we read about one of the steps and I’ve come to realize they’re really good, well thought out life lessons. And, every week I feel like it’s speaking directly to me and what I’m going through in life. What’s even more interesting is that you have people that have been going for 30 years and are continually working through the steps again and again – either solo or as a sponsor (I think of it more as a life coach). Throughout life your struggles change and you look at each of the steps differently.

Granted, I’m only a few months in, but I really like the progress I’m making. While it’s unfortunate the means in which this life lesson was taught to me, I’m glad it’s something I’ve learned since I’ll be spending the rest of my life with myself. And, I need to like me. (And I suppose my KISA will be around as well.)

The Oakland Housing Market

I’m going to attempt to explain something that I don’t understand: the Oakland housing market. My KISA and I have now dedicated over six weeks to looking at houses to buy in Oakland. As I mentioned in the previous post about this, Oakland is the only area left in the Bay that we can afford…and even that is becoming more of a pipe dream. Let me explain why.

  1. Every house has two prices – a list price and a purchase price. Now, that’s not different than anywhere else in the US except that the mentality of this is different. Normally you have a list price and you’ll offer a little under that, the seller accepts, and that becomes the purchase price. Out here, they have a list price that is admittedly under what the property will sell for. (I personally believe they pull a number out of the air, but I’m sure they do some research to figure out what price will attract the right clientele that they’re looking for – not too high to deter people, but not too low for people to dismiss it.) There then becomes a bidding war with all interested buyers. It’s not unusual to see houses being sold for $150K-$300K over list price. On the date the offers are due (we’ll talk about that in the next part) they will take the top three offers and counter offer them for more than what was initially offered. This is what separates the boys from the men. You can then offer considerably more than the counter off just to ensure it will be your new residence. If not, let’s hope it wasn’t the only house you were interested in.
  1. A house is not listed for very long on the market, so you have to act quickly. There is a methodical process to the timeline from when a house is prepared to be listed until the time they accept an offer. First, the owners will have an inspector and pest control company come out and assess the property. Once that information is received they now know what needs to be fixed on the property or disclosed to put it on the market. They can then choose to pay to have everything fixed and have a clean disclosure or disclose the estimates of what it’ll cost the new buyers to fix whatever ails the house. (Many owner occupied houses don’t make the fixes.) Now, don’t think they do this out of the kindness of their hearts – they do this in hopes to prompt people to forgo an inspection when bidding gets tough and then close faster on the house. Next, if it’s owner occupied and not a flipped house, the sellers will then spend the first weekend putting their belongings into Pods or storage. That Monday the Pods will be picked up. Tuesday the staging company comes and either stages the house with the existing furniture or else puts all new furnishings in the house (always the latter with a flipped house). Wednesday a professional photographer comes and takes pictures of the house. Wednesday night or Thursday the house is listed on the market. Sunday there will be an open house for a few hours, and typically it’s the only open house unless there are some quirks to the property. On Tuesday or Wednesday the sellers will accept offers on the property. Normally they don’t accept preemptive offers, so there’s no use in tempting them with an early offer. By the end of the week their house is sold. And, if you were out of town for the weekend, you may have just missed out on your future home, so don’t plan to have a life while you’re looking for a house.
  1. The market conditions are controlled by supply and demand. Currently in all of the Bay Area there is very little supply, or people looking to sell their houses, and lots of demand of people looking to settle down and wanting to buy property. This means you have to riffle through the limited amount of properties that come on the market and figure out what you’re willing to settle for, unless you have a trust fund or are CEO of a start-up that just went public or was acquired and you have the money to put down on a house way over list price.
  1. When you write an offer, you’re not just sending them an offer, but painting a story of your life. Yes, like most places they get a contract with your offer price. In addition to that, you write a letter to the sellers stating how great of people you are and why you should be the future home-owners (and proceed to argue with your sig other on what picture you should enclose of yourselves to make yourselves look professional, yet fun, yet responsible, but not staged). This is where stealth LinkedIn and Facebook stalking comes in handy to know everything about the sellers – even if they birthed their youngest child in your potential new home (I wish I could say I was lying about that being true). You write them a check for your down payment amount to prove how serious you are about buying it. You also send them either a bank statement or print screens of how much money you have in your accounts (or just savings if you’re wealthy) to prove your check won’t bounce and that you’re not poor. Your lender sends them a preapproval letter along with an additional letter talking about how great of people you are and how quickly they can get you to close on the house (aka get the seller their cash). Your realtor schmoozes their realtor and gives up his or her free time to go to any realtor open houses they have to make themselves memorable when your offer comes in. (This is in addition to your realtor calling them incessantly in the days leading up to their offer date to see how many people have submitted offers and to get a ball park of what you should offer.) You sign their disclosures, saying that you realize all the defects of their home and promise to not make them fix them. And, if you want a little cherry on top, your realtor (and maybe your lender) will present your offer to the selling realtor and the seller, if they’re willing. Yep, it’s that exhausting.
  1. Getting a loan to buy a house in the Bay Area isn’t easy. Granted, cash is king, but most of us don’t have over a half a million dollars lying around. A lot of young couples out here take money out of their 401K to have upfront cash to buy a house, but I prefer to keep my money where it is, earning me the retirement I dream about. Plus I don’t have enough loot in my retirement fund to buy more than a run-down shack. You can do a traditional loan and put 5% down, but the maximum loan amount for that is $417,000. And, unless you’re looking for a one bedroom or a condo, this won’t buy you a house. You can do 10% down, but the maximum loan amount is $625,000 (that’s an easy $50,000 minimum, plus closing costs). Thankfully we found a loophole. There are loans out there called FHA loans. This is the financing method I used to buy our last house in Madison. An FHA loan is intended for first time home buyers, but since it had been over 2 years since I owed a house I qualified in Madison. Since my KISA wasn’t technically on the mortgage in Madison and I don’t own any existing property we were able to qualify for this. The down payment on an FHA loan is only 3.5%, but the loan max is again $625,000. We’re very ok with that because while it limits our house search a little, we don’t care to be house poor just to own. Unfortunately sellers are jaded, thinking FHA loans are for low-income people and that they have a tough time assessing, but we’re going to take our chances.

Given all this, it is difficult to stay positive and to have the energy to consistently look at places; I’d guess we’ve looked at somewhere between 20-30 houses and have put in offers on three. With that being said, if I send you links to the latest house crush I have, don’t get too emotionally attached like I do and pick out your guest bedroom because the odds are unfortunately not in our favor. And, if I send you a link to a dilapidated old house that we’re buying for a half a million dollars, don’t judge me…just offer to come visit and help us make it into something habitable; you would feel bad if our future babies died from eating lead paint chips, right?

Oakland is the New Brooklyn

My KISA is convinced that Oakland is the new Brooklyn. For those that aren’t familiar with the reference, Brooklyn has experienced gentrification in the past decade of people that couldn’t afford Manhattan or the “better” parts of New York City and therefore sprawled out into Brooklyn, pushing many lifelong residents with it, along with much of the low income housing. Oakland doesn’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to crime rates, but there aren’t a lot of places left to move to, which is why he believes it’s following in Brooklyn’s footsteps.

Since many of you aren’t from the Bay Area, let me give you some background on the 4 areas which one could live:

  1. San Francisco is super hipster and has all the amenities you’d want in a big city. However, it’s unbelievably pricey and the average person can’t afford to rent, much less buy a house in the city. My friend Sheena told me last week that her saved online search to have 1 bedroom apartments under $2500 has fizzled out in the last few months. And, odds are you’ll probably have a job down in the South Bay which you’ll need to commute to.
  2. The South Bay, which is everywhere south of San Francisco to San Jose (some people also call it the Silicon Valley) has some of the best school systems in Northern California, therefore making the housing unbelievably high and unaffordable for non-millionaires. (But your kids would be hanging out with Mark Zuckerberg and other big name CEO’s kids.)
  3. The North Bay (across the Golden Gate Bridge), which is Marin County, is absolutely stunning but has also been absolutely expensive for decades. Imagine having a house set perfectly on a hillside to have beautiful sunsets over the bay while having a skyline view of San Francisco. Yep, that’s what you’re paying for.
  4. The East Bay has cities without much crime, such as Berkeley, Piedmont, and Walnut Creek. However, as you can probably guess, people flocked to these areas early and it is now overpriced as well. Oakland is also in the East Bay and is literally the only city left with “affordable” house (I put it in quotes because you’d probably still wet your pants if you knew the prices).

In all fairness, Oakland has many of the same perks as San Francisco, including eight BART (subway) stops and is literally just a bay away from San Francisco. (I like to think of Oakland as San Francisco’s naughty half-brother…same genetics and potential, but not quite molded into its potential.) It has some really cool, hip areas with restaurants, bars, and stores – but there are more neighborhoods not like that. It also has a lot of very residential areas that remind me more of Madison than Oakland. And, since we escaped Madison to postpone suburbia those neighborhoods aren’t real appealing to us DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) yet.

When my KISA initially proposed the idea of buying a house in Oakland I naturally shut him down. I understood the investment potential as Oakland housing was already on the rise, but it wasn’t an area I saw myself living. Or at least from what I knew of the times I visited Oakland to go to an A’s game and to buy our car. Ok, maybe I hadn’t really given it a fair shot. I put my Oakland feelers out at work and I learned a lot of our executive staff lived there, including our VP of Client Marketing and our VP of Sales Operations, my boss’s boss. Then our Inside Sales Manager told me he thought it was a phenomenal idea because it was so up and coming. He warned me I’d hate the commute, though. Great. That was what put me into my panic attack a year ago and made me want to quit my job. But, maybe I could somehow tolerate that this time.

I knew my KISA often let me have my way and I realized it was my turn to let him have his way…or at least hear him out. He told me that if we bought a house in Oakland we could take the honeymoon to Antarctica, have babies sooner, and I could get a convertible. I was sold. (I mean our current car is leased, so I’d for sure be going over the miles driving four days a week until our lease is up…we’d need another car so a convertible made sense.) He knows the way to my heart; it took me all of 15 seconds to start creating a short list of realtors and loan officers to scope out.

Lent

One of my favorite times of the year is Lent. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird. In being Catholic, one of the Lenten beliefs is that you should give up one luxury from Ash Wednesday (yesterday) through Easter Sunday.

Now I don’t necessarily love Lent because I’m a devote Catholic…in fact I’ve fallen off the bandwagon more than I’d like to admit. However, I think people everywhere should practice the Lenten sacrifice for two reasons: one to be grateful and appreciative for what you already have and two to use it as an opportunity to give up any vices. In the past I’ve given up sweets, alcohol, shopping, caffeine, sweets again…you name it! This year I already gave up whining and talking bad about others for March, so I had to come up with something else.

A couple weeks ago I forgot my iPhone at work in the gym. I was at the train station and I had a choice to either bike back to work and miss my train (therefore be home almost 45 minutes later than usual) or else go without my phone.  I opted for the latter, partly out of sheer laziness. That night and the next morning I was severely uncomfortable and anxious to not have my phone; one would have thought my only child was missing for the night. I then realized how obsessive my iPhone habits were. Since then I’ve been more aware of my iPhone usage. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my email and social media. The last thing I do at night is check my email and social media. I’ve even found that when I’m taking a quick bathroom break I’ll check my email and social media. When I get on the train I’ll check email and social media. Since work has been busier than usual I don’t have time during the day to check up on that stuff, so I make every effort to do so when I’m away from my desk.

I knew an intervention had to happen and Lent was the best time to do it. Instead of going cold turkey on Sunday I deleted social media from my iPhone. Monday and Tuesday I deleted even more apps. Effective yesterday morning I shut off my personal and work email without checking it. So far I have been successful, but that’s not to say it’s not uncomfortable. However, I am finding the extra time useful. Last night, when I’d usually be catching up on social media or Pinterest I did my taxes on my laptop. This morning, when I would usually be in bed checking my phone as my KISA was getting for ready for work we instead had a conversation (weird, I know). I actually forced myself this morning to shower and be getting ready for work before hauling out my laptop to check my email (no social media, though). What’s odd is that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything social media-wise by not checking it, but my email is a whole different story.

I’ve realized that we’ve created a society where communication comes through email or instant messaging. I communicate more with friends and coworkers via email rather than the phone – my family and a couple of dear friends are the only exception. If someone emails me about something I feel the need to email back instead of calling. I wait for good news via email instead of a phone call.

So, we’re two days in and I haven’t died yet. I guess if Jesus went for 40 days and 40 nights without food I’ll be ok.

30 Days of 30

I’ve been informed that I forgot to share my 30 days of resolutions for February. As you probably noticed, my 30 days of blog postings ended on January 31st. Starting February I was doing 30 days of journal entries. For some reason I found this much tougher than writing blog postings. Part of it might be because I’m much faster at typing than writing, but I refuse to be the generation that forgets all the “old school” ways of communicating. I didn’t make it every day of the 30 days journaling, but I did a considerable amount. I found journaling to be helpful to pinpoint trends in my moods, to note self-discoveries, and to be very honest with myself on things I need to work out. I would also say that from a relationship standpoint it helped us do a considerable amount of growing and communicating. Sometimes becoming self-aware can be painful to realize horrible things about yourself, but thankfully I have an incredible KISA that has a talent for making my flaws seem easier to overcome.

Here are some of the not-so-great things I’ve learned about myself in the past month:

  • I need to stop complaining/whining. I learned it’s actually a control mechanism as well as a social mechanism; either way it’s very unbecoming. I find myself verbalizing everything that goes through my head and that needs to stop. I don’t want a child that whines, but if their mother does that’s not a great example.
  • I have to stop talking bad about other people. I’m not sure yet why I do it, which is something my KISA is working to help me identify. I am extreme in the sense that if I adore someone I can’t stop talking about how great they are. If I don’t like them, I blast them not only to my KISA, but also to other people. Again, it’s become a way of connecting with others, but I have many other things to talk about in life to connect to people rather than bad-mouthing others.
  • I need to ease up on my expectations of others. I’ll write another blog posting about men specifically, but I’ve realized that I become disappointed when people aren’t acting perfectly or how I think they should, even though I am the first to acknowledge that I am not a role model for this. This has especially been true with my KISA.
  • I need to stop inserting my opinion when it’s not asked. I feel like I have a wealth of information to share with others; in reality, it’s a wealth of opinions. I insert myself into situations where I should not and that too needs to stop. If I think a person is bad for another I’ll say it. If I think someone shouldn’t do something, I tell them. I’m not afraid to call people out on things that I think are wrong because that’s what I expect others to do for me. However, I need to remember that it’s only my opinion of what’s right or wrong and also not everyone wants to hear it. I need to start minding my own business and not insert myself into places where I don’t belong.

So, that’s a lot. I apologize to everyone that has been a victim of the above, but I am now conscious of these behaviors and am working to fix them.

Now that it’s March I decided it would be a good opportunity to work on 30 days of not complaining, whining, or talking bad about others. Granted, I’m still going to allow myself to vent when I’ve had a bad day, but I still have to draw the line in the sand between venting and complaining. That will be a work in progress. So will not complaining, whining, or talking bad about others. Wish me luck!

Strike

I know this might come as a shock to many of you, but my KISA isn’t perfect. Out of respect for him I won’t share to what degree he’s imperfect. I love him a lot; so much so that I’m going on strike for his own good.

You know the expression that you teach other how to treat you? Unfortunately I’ve taught him that I’m really good at multitasking and love to clean. My KISA’s no stranger to fun (and by this I mean he runs to anything fun, often dropping responsibilities along the way). Since he’s a charmer and I’m a control freak, all it takes is a couple bats of his eyelashes and I find myself excited about his absence because it means I can finally thoroughly mop the floors. Yes, that was my Thursday night last week. Sick, right?

Some women have their own justification of why they feel the household duties should fall on them. I’m not here to say who’s right in the matter, but merely to state my opinion for my household. We’re a dual income household with no kids or pets. I’m currently the breadwinner, although he’s nipping at my heels. We both work full-time and we both have long work days. We both eat meals at home and we dirty laundry. And, contrary to what he believes, we both love to have fun. For me, this suggests that all the household duties should be split. (Can I get a hell yeah from you sisters?!)

Now, to not make my KISA look like a jerk, in his defense we did used to split duties. In fact, he would do a majority of the cooking while I’d do the eating and cleaning. And, I was ok with that arrangement. When we moved out to San Francisco my mother rudely informed him that I actually know how to cook quite well and I was placed on part-time kitchen duty. Somehow that part time kitchen duty has continued to grow, along with the other household responsibilities.Striking

Because of my miserably long commute to work my boss has agreed to let me work from home on Fridays. Some men seem to equate being at home, whether it be an office job or to raise the kids, means that you have ample time to take care of all the household chores. (Not true, in case any of them are reading this.) That combined with being gone to Tahoe snowboarding on the weekends or having his brother in town for the long weekend means that I find myself stressed on Fridays, trying to take conference calls while cleaning and between loads of laundry. Not fair.

My KISA has been listening to my complaints and offered to look into getting a house cleaner to come every week…that I’d pay for half of. (I should mention I’m a thrifty control freak.) Many of you ladies probably think again that he’s perfect, but all I want is a dual income with dual household chores. I don’t want to be stressed on Fridays because our place is a mess and we’ll be gone all weekend. I don’t want to spend my hard earned money to pay someone to do a job that I’m willing to do half of. And, most importantly, I want to teach him that it’s not ok for me to carry more of the household chores in fear that will carry over when we have kids.

This strike is really for his own good. I’m sure he’ll thank me for it one day.

Refashioning

My late grandma, Marilyn, (my dad’s mom) taught me how to sew when I was six years old. The first project she had me work on was a set of place mats for my mom. All I had to do was follow a straight line she’d drawn in pencil on each one and sew along it. When I turned eight I was old enough to join 4-H. Since my grandmother was the sewing leader for our club it was decided that I would take up sewing. It seems daunting in hindsight to think about an eight year old making outfits, but my grandmother knew no different, took me under her wing, and taught me how to read patterns, design outfits, sew, etc.

Every year they had a special competition at the Blake’s Prairie Fair for a first year sewer to win a really nice pair of scissors if they had the best overall outfit. I still remember the pride my grandmother had when I won those scissors, as each of her daughters had as well. It felt good to please my grandmother and I wanted to keep doing it.

Throughout the years we made many outfits together. We’d laugh and joke as I pinned, cut out patterns, and ironed. Grandma was especially careful with details, so she didn’t distract me while I was sewing to make sure I did a good job. If the job didn’t meet her standards you could bet she’d take a seam ripper and make me start over. There was a high level of expectation my grandmother lived by. However, even in the times I made mistakes, like when I accidentally cut a hole in a romper when I meant to cut a thread, she always had a solution on how to salvage it and make it look even better. The year that I cut a hole in my romper my grandmother had me add a belt; the hole was never seen and the judges picked that outfit to go to the State Fair.

When I was in high school the local doll and toy museum reached out to the 4-H clubs in the area and asked us to dress some dolls that could be donated to less fortunate families. My grandma and I decided to take on the challenge and I made a Badgers cheer-leading outfit (complete with yarn pom-poms), a wedding dress, and a sweatsuit for my doll. We had a great time designing patterns and being creative with it. Unbeknownst to us they had a competition associated with it and I won some money and was featured in our local newspaper. I again made my grandmother proud.

My Junior year of high school I decided I wanted to make my own prom dress. My grandmother and I found a pattern we could start with (we liked to create our own things) and material we liked. I had a blast spending time with Grandma as I made the dress and we were both very happy with the outcome. Since we had so much extra material I decided to also make my date’s matching vest and bow tie. I invited my grandma to come to prom for the grand march and to see us dressed up. Unfortunately some of my aunts and uncles (her kids) were coming home that weekend, so my mom prepared me to not be upset if she didn’t come since it wasn’t likely. When I got to prom there was my mom, her mom, and my grandma Marilyn sitting on the bleachers smiling at us. When I told Grandma I was surprised she made it she told me she wouldn’t miss it for the world.

My niece Brielle in my prom dress

My niece Brielle in my prom dress

When we received our prom pictures I ordered an extra one and got a frame for my grandma to display since she’d put in the work of overseeing my creation. When I gave it to her, one of her friends, Charlotte, was with her. Later Charlotte told me how sweet it was for me to give that to my grandma and she told me I was the apple of her eye. I loved making my grandma proud.

My senior year of high school I got engaged to my high school sweetheart (and prom date) and my grandma and I started talking about our plans for my wedding dress. My grandmother had made her own wedding dress and she really wanted to help me make my dress. About a year later I broke up with my high school sweetheart and called off the wedding. It was also the year my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.

I’d like to say that I was there for my grandma during her fight, but I was no where to be found. I was busy with my own life and had run as far away from my hometown as I could. Plus, something about it scared the crap out of me. My grandma had a brutal fight and went into remission. Unfortunately my grandmother’s health never got back to normal.

When I was living in Madison I got the call that Grandma had pneumonia and had been hospitalized. Her health had been deteriorating for a while and my grandfather had stepped up to the plate to learn all of Grandma’s recipes and how to look after the house. I think they somehow both knew the time would come that Grandpa would lose his housewife and soul mate. At the request of my mother I went to the hospital to see her and still remember how queasy that hospital made me. I thought it had something to do with the smell and everyone could tell how uncomfortable I was. It was really because I was living in denial as I’d never dealt with anyone close to me dying. My grandfather kept telling me that Grandma could hear me and that I should go over and talk to her. I kept looking at this lady that looked like a fish gasping for air that was staring at me and wondered where my grandma was. This wasn’t the same lady that gave me my only nickname of “Matilda Jane” or that spent hours laughing and joking with me while I told stories and made outfits. I wasn’t there long before I left. I’d made plans with my new boyfriend to go to Detroit for the weekend and my mom gave me her blessing to leave. My grandma battled the pneumonia for a while and we were driving back from Detroit, through Chicago, when I got the call that she’d died.

I’m still mad at myself for leaving her when I turned 18 and then again when she was on her death bed. It pains me to think about how I probably made her feel after we’d created such a strong relationship and I then abandoned her in her time of need. Her funeral was the day before I was supposed to be married and made my wedding dress with her, had I not declared myself better than my high school sweetheart and better than the hometown I’d fled.

My grandparents on their wedding day

My grandparents on their wedding day

Life sometimes gives you second chances and I’ve been blessed with a second chance. A few months after I got engaged I decided to call my grandfather to see if there were even a slim change he still had Grandma’s handmade wedding dress. I remembered seeing it as a child in their attic, but it had been years. My grandfather confirmed that a few years ago he found it when he was cleaning out the attic and put it downstairs in his cedar chest since it seemed the mice were getting to it. Ecstatic, I asked if I could have Grandma’s wedding dress to somehow either incorporate into my wedding dress or to use to make something else. My grandpa said Grandma would have been honored.

During Christmas break I got to see the dress again and brought it home with me. I’ve been airing it out as I look at it and try to determine how I want to refashion it. I’d give anything for my grandma to still be here to help me make my wedding dress and attend my wedding. Since she’s not I’m going to instead have a piece of her at my wedding. I’m still working on what I’m going to do with it, but I’ll keep you posted as I come up with ideas. Feel free to let me know any thoughts you may have as well.

My grandma's wedding dress

My grandma’s wedding dress

Two Paths

My little sister is four years younger than me and yesterday was her 27th birthday. My sister and I are very similar in terms of our personality and our features. However, one big difference is the life paths we’ve chosen. Neither is right or wrong – they’re both just very different.

We both started out on the same path, engaged to our high school sweethearts. In my sister’s case she started dating her husband when she was in 8th grade. They were our prom and homecoming dates in high school and who we spent much of our time with. While my sister was in high school she got her CNA license and worked at a nursing home for some high school income. I faint at the sight of blood and worked at a few different places in high school, including the grocery store and an office supply store/RadioShack. My parents had instilled in both of us a strong work ethic, so it was normal that we didn’t play sports or do much for extracurricular activities – just worked.

As our paths continued on we both pursued associate degrees at a local technical college – hers in nursing and mine in computer programming. Neither of us officially graduated and we both decided it wasn’t the right career path for us.

During this time was when our paths split and we both chose different routes, not even realizing it. I decided during this time to end my engagement to my high school sweetheart. She chose to continue her relationship and get married. Her path was more traditional in my hometown and continued on with having two children and a dog with her loving husband. They bought a house and work in my hometown. It’s not to say they don’t have obstacles on their path, but they have persevered onward. She’s settled into her life and for this I’m envious.

The path I chose was less familiar and unpaved. Even in the unfamiliarity of it I was merely exploring, knowing I could turn around at any time and go down the other path. After technical school I moved to Madison and pursued some men along with my bachelor’s degree. I dated a man for 5 years before again feeling unsettled and ended it. I’d become very curious about the world and that curiosity veered me off the path and led me to pursuing my MBA overseas. I traveled to many countries before moving back and assumed my path would continue on as it was before I veered off again. However, I realized I wouldn’t be able to just pick up where I left off and that I was now too far away to turn back to the familiar path. I’d visit my family often, but realized that with everywhere my path had taken me I wouldn’t be able to go back to seeing the same scenery, regardless of how beautiful it was and how much I yearned for it to make me happy.

During this time I was rescued by my Knight In Shining Armor (KISA). He had explored this path and was more familiar with it than I was. He showed me things I’d never noticed before and told me stories of life very different from my own. He was so different he made me yearn for the familiarity again, fearful people on this path would know I was lost and didn’t belong.

He convinced me to veer off the path again to go down another that he knew of, but we were both unfamiliar with, and moved to San Francisco. For some reason you don’t feel quite as lost when you’re no longer alone and I found that in moving out here with him. We don’t know if we’re going to stay on this path or veer off again, but thankfully that decision isn’t required yet as we’re not at the crossroads.

No matter how far down this other path I go I can’t help but wonder how different and possibly simpler my life would be if I hadn’t chosen to break off onto this path. I look at what my sister and brothers have from taking the more familiar path and have an idea for what my life could have been. Hopefully one day soon my path will be running parallel to theirs. While my path took a little longer to get to where I wanted to be, it’s been very scenic.