Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Dwelling in Possibility

Sara of $2000 Wedding is often talking about Dwelling in Possibility on her personal blog.  And while I'm personally not a fan of sharing all of my hopes and dreams and goals on the internet, I am okay with sharing it with my husband.  Because part of being married is that whole "two people facing the world" thing.  Or as Meg calls it, ambition squared.

So this weekend we went out to Deep Creek Lake with a number of friends.  Our rental cabin happened to be for sale, for a mere $430,000.  This spurred much discussion over the weekend about how we should really buy a vacation home.  Possibly before we buy a real home.  It led to frequent comments like, "how amazing would it be to celebrate Christmas out here?" or "we could have your parents come stay!" It led to much nudging on our run (he slowed down for the last mile so he could nudge me) of houses with nice porches and lakefront views.  It led to a discussion of where else we could possibly get a vacation home, and what did we really need in a vacation home, and how much of a hassle would it be to rent it out when we weren't using it?

All of this is to say that we are home now, and although I did spend a bit of time researching vacation homes before getting discouraged (how does one buy a vacation home?), we have for now abandoned the search for a vacation home and are instead plotting camping trips for this summer.  Which is a different kind of dwelling in possibility, and quite possibly much closer to dwelling in reality.

All of this is to say that dwelling in possibility has value.  I think it's important to have dreams as a person, and as a couple.  I think that where we dwell in possibility is a reflection of our values as a couple, or as people.  I think, for example, dreaming of a vacation cabin means dreaming of both having a place to go together to spend time with each other or our family and our friends, and also means that for our future, we value the kind of work-life balance that allows us to enjoy that.  I think regardless of whether the things we joke about while stretched out in front of the fire at a vacation cabin ever actually come true, having dreams and giving voice to them will bring us closer to them in the future.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Drive

I'm an incredibly driven person.  I only say this because I got asked about this on a job interview recently, and it's been rolling around in my head.  Because here's what I said, when they asked me about my drive. 

"I'm driven to work hard for my clients, to help them reach whatever goals they had in mind.  I'm driven to help them achieve what they were hoping to achieve when they walked into my office, and if I can't help them achieve that, I'm driven to find them answers and get as far as I can go on a case.  I'm not driven to make partner at a big law firm downtown." 

Essentially, I think in this profession, drive is a good thing and a bad thing.  Drive can push us to work hard for our clients, or it can push us to work hard for ourselves.  I want to be in the first category.  I'm pretty okay if I'm never a household name as an attorney.  I want to be the kind of lawyer my clients trust and other attorneys respect.  I'm driven to be that kind of professional.  I'm not driven to make partner.

Here's the thing about drive that nobody seems to want to admit though: there are all kinds of ways to be driven.  I'm ambitious about taking on projects, but I also genuinely believe the best way to avoid burnout and feed your drive is to spread it across a lot of goals, without making any of them too lofty.  My athletic goals of finishing particular types of races will probably never include winning that race.  My crafting goals will probably never progress past making things for myself and my friends that we like and find useful.  My professional goals?  I have no idea what they ultimately are, except to go to work every day and feel like I am doing good things while working with good people.  I'm still trying to decide how exactly I want my career to progress and how much work I'm willing or able to do to get there. 

I think being driven and pushing yourself is good.  I think pushing yourself to success on the backs of your clients, especially if you forget their end goals, isn't so good.   I think pushing yourself to success by taking advantage of the kindness of others, isn't so good.  I think pushing yourself to achieve goals of other people and calling it drive, isn't so good. 

If nothing else, let's all be driven to be happy, okay?  Most of us don't even know what that looks like, but we can all at least push ourselves that far, right? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Try, try again.

I've written before about how the husband and I are lousy, lousy workout partners.  Nonetheless, when I needed to do a 16 mile run all by my onesies on Saturday, Mark stepped up and offered to pace me for the second half, since he needed to do an 8 mile run anyway.  Around 11 miles, I seem to hit some kind of terrible wall which I can only solve by gossipping and babbling to the person next to me on the trail.  If you are alone, you risk looking like a crazy person, so we set out.
Okay, so when the trail looks like this, you look like a crazy person anyway.  We didn't look as crazy as the guy in shorts.

I was concerned about the slushiness of the snow and the possibility of hypothermia, so we agreed I would cut my run short and Mark would wait for me at the car.  3.5 miles later, I came back to the car and we set out for our 8 miles together.  Poor Mark tried to stay with me, and he even waited for me to catch up to him, and he tried finding me a playlist with a faster bpm so I might run at his pace and he even tried adopting a new stride that made him a little slower, and still, within the first mile, he was so far ahead of me that I couldn't see him.

After eight years together, the only thing I find frustrating about this is his insistence that no, he can slow down enough to run with me.  It's like after every run, he immediately forgets how slow I am, because the next time we run together, he's next to me going, "can't you pick up the pace ANY?"  Which is why I've mostly given up on us running together, and agreed to it this once because I was concerned about safety and also can't really drive myself home after long runs.

The funny thing was, even though he was nowhere near me, he still kept me going.  When we got back to the car, he offered to drive four miles down the trail and let me finish my run so I didn't have to cut it quite so short.  On the way, he stopped at the grocery store and bought all of their food, and then met me at the bottom of the trail.  Knowing that he would be waiting for me and not wanting to keep him kept me moving for the last four miles.  So as a pacer, he's pretty much useless, but as crew? Priceless.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Housing and Health

Last night I attended the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women briefing, which is a fantastic event that talks about upcoming legislation that matters predominantly affecting women.  One bill was the Maryland HOME act, which will prevent housing discrimination based on source of income, which matters for women because poverty is very much a women's issue, and women are more likely than men to be using alimony or child support or a public housing voucher to pay for housing.  But one of the most interesting things that was mentioned as part of the importance of the bill was the connection between housing and public health. 

Quoting directly from my briefing packet, which is citing a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, "The report concluded that women who were able to move to areas of lower poverty concentration reduced their risk for diabetes and obesity by one-fifth in each category.  Studies show that a family's zip code and neighborhood are often greater determinants of health outcomes than more traditional factors such as race and ethnicity..."

I think this argument is interesting, but obviously, you can't just move people from poor areas into wealthy areas, because there are too many people.  So while this is interesting, relocating families isn't the solution to our current public health and economic crises.  There is also the fact that often situations of poverty are perpetuated by poor health, lack of adequate health care, or lack of health insurance. 

I'm not trying to offer a solution here.  I'm not even sure what my opinion is, other than that the current economic climate is bad, the health care system is broken, and everything is so connected to everything else that we can't solve any problems in a vacuum.  But everyone wanted more feminism and social policy discussion, so let's hear your opinions on the connections between poverty, housing, and public health in the comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Being a Good Friend

I find being a good friend to be a struggle sometimes.  It seems like it should be so easy, but all relationships take work.  Personally, I am terrible at two things: (a) communicating that I care about the other person and (b) communicating when I am upset about something. 

When I say I am bad at communicating that I care about the other person, I mean - I am bad at asking somebody what is new with them. I'm terrible at asking anyone (even my husband) how their day was.  I have a tendency to hog conversations.  I have a tendency to identify with people by comparing their experiences to my own, which means I come across as a story-topper and seem like I'm making everything about me.  Being aware of this tendency and how irritating I find it in other people makes me try to do it less, or just offer that I've had a similar experience and wait for them to ask. 

When I say I am bad at communicating when I am upset, I mean, I am a huge avoid-er of confrontation.  When I first had to tell opposing counsel that we weren't going to consent to what they wanted and we wanted them to give us money, I felt sick over it for two days and put it off as long as I could.  Whenever a friend upsets me, I stew and rant about it, but I don't say to them, "when you did x, you hurt my feelings."  Which means that the issue doesn't get resolved, and I'm likely to turn to gossiping behind somebody's back to say that I'm upset. I'm also likely to simply sit there and take it when somebody is lashing out at me, which probably isn't healthy, but I don't know how to diffuse a person and point out logically that they are being irrational (since I hate it when my husband does this to me.)

What's funny is that I have these same problems in my marriage, but once I realized our relationship was strong enough, I began to be able to be angry at my husband and tell him that I am angry at him.  I began to realize that my response to him asking how my day was needs to be "eh, okay" or "great" or "terrible" followed by, "how was your day?"  Usually, then he will say, "pretty good. What went wrong for you?"  Then I get to talk, but I have also made it clear that I care about his day.  I try to apply this strategy to friends.  When I realize I haven't taken a breath in awhile, I stop pretty randomly and say, "enough about me. How are you?"  Then I try not to hijack the conversation.  It's not cohesive, but it's not selfish either.  I still don't know how to confront my friends when they do things that hurt my feelings or make me angry.  I'm not confident enough in my friendships that they will weather any storm, the way I am about my marriage. 

What do you find the most challenging about being a good friend?  What advice do you have me for confronting somebody when they have hurt my feelings? 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Earnings

First of all, blogger now allows stacked comments so you can reply to other people's comments, so let's all just jump for joy on that one and I look forward to adequately replying to your comments.

Secondly, I wanted to talk a little bit about marital earnings.  Since I graduated from law school, my husband has outearned me at a rate of at least 2:1.  When I was earning nothing, and he was earning everything, that was particularly difficult for me to cope with emotionally.  But even now, when I finally make enough to cover my "half" of our rent, and pay for my health insurance, I still feel a little uncomfortable about not earning as much.  This is for a few reasons.

1) It makes me feel like I'm not trying very hard.  My husband works long hours at a job in a challenging and  often difficult environment.  I work reasonable hours (10-5) for a boss I really like, who doesn't have outrageous expectations or ever get mad at me when I make a mistake and who is supportive of my job search and where I want my career to go.  My job can be really, really, really demanding, but most days it's just sort of hard, and it's not really challenging me the way I want to be challenged. (If you are thinking, "why doesn't she just get a new job?", you clearly don't understand this economy.)

2) It makes me feel like I don't have to take a job just because it pays well.  That we earn enough money between us to support both of us and put some in savings means that I can hold out a bit and try to actually build a career in a field that I like.  While this is the dream, it is not the reality for many of our friends in this economy and they have taken jobs that they don't enjoy, or they are working crazy hours, and I feel over-privileged that I do not have to make that choice.  At the same time, money is a motivating factor to push yourself to find a job that challenges you, and lacking that motivating factor, I'm only applying to jobs that look fun and interesting to me that are geographically well situated for us.  (Note: these are jobs like, "Medicaid and Estate Planning" and "Elder Law", not "ice cream taste tester.")  This doesn't displease me, but it disquiets me because it's a luxury that not everyone has right now.

3) It makes me feel guilty because I have expensive hobbies.  If you are following along, I work less than my spouse, I make less, and I'm the one who is always going to yoga or signing up for a gym or a triathlon or an expensive hockey league.  My husband doesn't have pricey hobbies (and the ones he has, he doesn't have time for.)  This makes me feel incredibly selfish and I haven't reconciled that feeling yet.

4) I feel like I'm not contributing.  You would think that if I wasn't earning as much and had flexible hours, I would do all of the cleaning and the cooking and general housewifery.  I don't.  I cook dinner most nights because I like to eat before 8pm, and I do almost all of the grocery shopping, but I still don't do the laundry or do the dishes when I make dinner.  The bottom line is, I do not think that I am making enough contributions to the marriage to justify that I am making less than half what my spouse makes.

So what do I do about these feelings?  The most important thing is to talk about it.  I talk about my feelings of inadequacy and discomfort with my husband, and he reassures me that it's fine and he's happy to let me try to build my career and get the experience I need and hold out for a good job.  I talk to him before I spend a lot of money on a triathlon or a gym membership, so that he knows I'm not just spending his/our money without thinking it through.  I make more of an effort to not make the house messier.  I apply to jobs even if I'm not sure that they are the right choice, because I don't want "holding out" to become an excuse for laziness or keep me from getting a job that could be perfect for me, even if it doesn't look that way on paper.  I take care of more chore-errands, because I drive to work and get to work later, therefore I can get an oil change before work or stop and pick up some household necessity on the way home.  And for the most part, right now we live a lifestyle that I can afford, so I do not feel as if I am living significantly far beyond my means.

Does anybody else have a high income differential in your relationship?  Do you struggle with it, or accept it?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Garden Planning

I put us on the waitlist for a community garden this year instead of doing a CSA share.  Hopefully we'll get a plot nearby, but then the question is - what do we plant?

The garden plot is organic, but I'm not sure if that means using organic seeds or just no pesticides or Miracle-gro or things like that.  I'll assume organic seeds.  I'm also not sure if there is any way of keeping squirrels out of the plots, as we have been having quite a time with that in our apartment, but hypothetically, let's say we can.

So then the question is: what do we grow?

But I know that we want to grow tomatoes, both cherry and roma, and peppers - red and yellow and green bell peppers.  I would like to grow cucumbers because they are easy and don't take up a ton of space, and I think something prolific and delicious, like yellow squash or zucchini. Then there are the requisite dark leafy greens like spinach, arugula, and kale.  I'm tempted by some kind of green bean or broccoli.  But I don't know how anything but tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini grow.  I know zucchini will ruin your life and take over your garden, but it yellow squash as bad?  Herbs we will continue to grow in our aerogarden and our window box, since that has worked out pretty well for us (minus the squirrels). 

There are some other tricky details about taking part in a community garden - for example, how often do we have to go tend it?  Daily?  Every other day?  This website recommends 3-5 hours a week, which seems pretty manageable.  Do we need to bring our own gardening supplies?  (Only hoses, wheelbarrows, and wood chips/manure are provided.)  Do you have a community or container or square foot garden? Any resources you recommend?  Should I attempt to grow squash or not? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Downloading library books to your Kindle.

Did you get a Kindle for Christmas?  It seems like everybody did!  It makes my 2nd generation Kindle look pretty sad, what with all these sleek new Kindles.  There is also one major disadvantage to having a 2nd generation Kindle - no wireless, therefore borrowing books is a bigger pain than it will be for you, lucky new Kindle owner!

Nonetheless, both you and I are finally able to achieve a feat that has been the hope and dream of every bookworm since they were a small child.  We can get library books in our pajamas, at unreasonable hours, without leaving our house.  Yes, you say, I know, but how do I actually do it?  I have heard tell of this mythical library lending, but so far have just figured out how to download free classic books that I didn't want to read in high school and certainly don't want to read now.

To start getting books for free from your local public library, you may need to go to the library and get a library card.  If you have a currently working library card and PIN number, you are good to go!  Otherwise, head to the library, bring some (official looking) mail if your driver's license doesn't have your current address, and sign yourself up.  Then you head to the OverDrive website or the local library website.  Note: In Baltimore, you do not google, "Baltimore City Public Library."  You have to google, "Enoch Pratt Public Library" or you can head to the Maryland Overdrive site directly.  Once you are at the site, log in using your library card number and pin.

You can search for books in the search form (in MD it's on the left.)  The first thing you will notice and find frustrating is that the book you want probably isn't available.  It isn't a perfect system, but it is free.  There are two different links you can click to "save" the title.  There is "my wishlist" or "my holds".  If you just want to keep the book in mind, you add it to your wishlist.  If you actually want the book, you click "my holds".  Then it asks you for an email, and it will email you when it becomes available.  You can also go to "my account" and then "my holds" and it'll show you where you sit on the wait list.

Once the book is available, you will get an email, and then go to the Overdrive website within the specified time and put the book in your cart and checkout.  Once you checkout, you go to the Amazon page where you get to download the book, and if you are on wireless, you send it to your Kindle!  If you have an old fashioned Kindle like mine, you hook up a cord, download it to your computer, and then transfer it manually.

You have your book for two weeks, so happy reading!  If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can also borrow books from the Prime Lending Library, but there is a detailed diagram with pictures here, so I'm not going to re-invent the wheel.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lady Firefighters

My grandpa used to tell me, "I'm going to lecture the lady firefighters next week" or "I just met a lovely lady firefighter."  He was a firefighting instructor and worked with firefighters around the country trying to make sure they didn't get killed by the buildings they were fighting in.  I personally prefer to call lady firefighters "firefighters", but he was enchanted by female firefighters and how they took on a somewhat sexist industry and worked hard to save lives.  When he died (6 years ago this month), several of the people that spoke at his memorial mentioned his commitment to women firefighters and not discriminating against female firefighters and mentoring female firefighters when he had the opportunity.

So when Lauren shared Beth's guestpost, I was pretty outraged.  It is 2012!  My grandpa was more evolved than this!  I spent my high school years being asked by people why I thought feminism was even necessary since we'd reached equality. To them, I say, because small town fire departments would still rather have incompetent volunteers than women.  Eff that noise.  I'm not sure yet what we can do to help Beth, but I'm sure if you wanted to leave a supportive comment, she would appreciate it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nesting: Crafting Space

Last year, before the wedding, we decided to move into a place that had, y'know, separate closets.  It also came with a "bonus" room, which means that we have enough space for each of us to get our own space.  And it means that I get my own crafting room.  Technically it is the crafting and guest room, but I'm more than happy with it.  For the first year and a half, I made do with a table that came with our apartment as a table for my cutting mat and my serger, and a desk my parents gave us because I'm pretty sure it's bombproof and my sewing machine weighs upwards of 20-30 lbs.  The room came with built-in shelving which we were using for storing suitcases, wedding gifts, and other items.

I didn't really take before pictures of our re-design, but I have the pictures from before we moved in:
The table that came with the apartment.  It was significantly more bowed by the time I was done with it.

The built in shelving.

Awhile ago, it occurred to me that I needed a good way, a really good way, to store my scissors, thread, buttons, bobbins, ribbon, and everything else.  As the husband and I were discussing what might work best, an idea hit me.  A pegboard!!!  

Apparently I'm not alone.  A quick Pinterest search yielded dozens of craft room pegboard ideas.  I was sold.  We drove to Lowes, bought a 4x4 pegboard, realized it wouldn't fit in our car, cut it in half, and then drove home where I painted the pegboard using some light blue paint that we had lying around.  We also bought a starter kit of pegboard accessories which should get me started.  

And started I did:
(first attempt at rearranging)

(still rearranging)
So right now the space looks a little more like this - making better use of the built-in shelving that came with the place, and helping me stay organized.  

I decided that I could wait until it looked like a catalog, or I could just be a normal person whose house isn't arranged by professional designers and show you all that even if we aren't perfect, we can still take steps towards a future in which we can find our scissors.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: New Year's Resolutions


I'm surprisingly big on New Year's resolutions for somebody that makes fun of New Year's Resolutions.  I don't believe in the big, "this year, I'm going to lose 200 pounds, work less, spend less, and take up curling" resolutions.  I don't believe in saying, "I will not eat any sugar in 2012."  But four years ago, my New Year's resolution was to start running, and this year, I'm running my first marathon.

I like to start the year by looking at where I am in my life, and where I want my life to be.  My resolution for 2011 was to get a job.  I looked at where I was, considered what it would take to get a job, and more importantly, the kind of job that I wanted, and I made it happen.  Not totally, but enough to the point where I have a job that I like.  It may not be the last job I ever have, but

My resolution for 2012 is to be less cluttered and less lazy about housework.  While the instinct is to go buy a ton of organizers at Ikea and the Container Store, I think I am better off using the egg timer that my in-laws got me to make sure I'm getting in my 10 minutes a day of cleaning, and to try to actually adhere to doing weekend chores, which are so easy to let go when all I want to do with my weekends is sleep and run and see my family and friends.

I think it's also important for couples to make resolutions together.  In the past, we have set a goal to budget our finances better and make sure that we are being smart about money.  This year, we are both trying to be better about making sure chores get done, but in terms of making a general resolution, and since the world might end and all that, I suggested we resolve to live 2012 with no regrets.

Not "no regrets" in the "seize the day! fly to Tahiti on a whim!" kind of way.  But no regrets in the making-sure-we-get-things-done-and-still-have-fun way.  No regrets means not getting to the end of a weekend and saying, "gee, I wish we'd gotten more done" or "gee, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend."  No regrets means saying yes when you might have said no.  No regrets means taking chances and making smart choices for ourselves and our relationship.  It means not acting selfish or taking our partnership for granted.  It means making sure that we are balancing work and play in a way that works for both of us.  It means making sure that we are saving money, but also spending money in ways that matters to us and is helpful to us.  It means trying new things, together or separately.

My latest issue of Self tells me that telling others about your resolution increases accountability.  So feel free to share yours!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Blog!

So, in the spirit of 2012 being here, we've rolled out the "new blog".  So the blog name and the header has changed, and everything else is the same.  I originally wanted to call the blog "Tea for Two" but the URL wasn't available, so Wedding for Two it was.  Our wedding planning archives are still here, and the wedding planning tags will stay in the right hand corner.

In taking into account the survey responses, we/I will continue writing about marriage, and begin to write about being an adult and about feminism and social issues, with a little bit here and there on crafting and nesting.  I've decided I'm also going to do book reviews, because a number of people have been asking on Twitter recently for book ideas, and I always like it when bloggers share what they are reading.  If you don't read, you can skip 'em.

So welcome to 2012!  Stick around.  It'll be fun.