I'm Dreaming of a White (Elephant) Christmas

One of SCL's family traditions is an annual family-wide Christmas party with White Elephant gift exchange. There's a standard $10 limit, and while gifts don't have to be gag gifts necessarily, is there really anything more fun than buying something ridiculous?

Our source of inspiration: As Soon on TV products. More specifically, the BumpIt.

Despite our best efforts, we could not find a BumpIt in time, which saddened SCL to no end. He really thought this would be the best gift ever. I'm not sure if there's just really that high of a demand for these godawful devices, or if they're still in their "TV only" stage.

So, he had to go with the next best thing....
That's right. EZcombs. Aren't they stylish? It's like a grown up version of the Topsy Tail.

And for me, a slightly different but clearly related product...
Look at that cleavage! I really hope a guy gets this one.

The best part was they were both on sale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, plus we had coupons for 20% off, making these babies $5.38 each. And if we don't get to go because of this massive snowstorm heading our way, I will have new fashionable items to sport after the holidays! :-)

Finals Time

Finishing up his first semester as a PhD student, SCL is swamped with papers, papers, and more papers. Who knew that someone could give you a final that lasts THREE DAYS LONG? Doesn't that seem like cruel and unusual punishment? Good news is that he's got two finals under his belt and is working on part 2 of his 3-essay exam for his final course. Come Saturday, he'll be free!

Honestly, I can't say that this season of finals has been any different than the ones SCL had last year when he was finishing up his masters. At least from my side of things, that is. He's not someone who gets super-duper stressed out over work. He's pretty disciplined, scheduled, and just knocks out the work.

A few things that we've encountered that I'd like to reflect on...

  1. Housework. Sometimes I'm a baby about this. I forget that there are times when SCL really picks up the slack for me. I usually forget this when I'm picking up the slack for him. I just got to get over this--and remember that at least in this case, I was doing heavy duty cleaning for a party that I was throwing. Get over yourself, G-S GF!
  2. Sleeping. I've been going to bed alone at night while SCL stays up to do work. This has interrupted our sleeping pattern a bit, so I'm looking forward to the nights when we go to bed at the same time. SCL, however, has perfected the art of getting into the room and into bed without making a single solitary sound and rarely wakes me. I, on the other hand, have perfected the art of laying in the exact middle of the bed, preventing my bed buddy from getting his equal share of pillow, covers, and mattress.
  3. Conversation. "What'd you do today?" "Studied/worked on exams/read boring books." Not much else going on for SCL these days. Of course, that leaves more room to talk about my new job (!!!)
  4. Dinner. It's been Trader Joe's city for us. We've also been going out more than usual, but now that I'll be working from home (!!!) I'll have a lot more time to do domestic things in the new year.
All in all, it's been a fairly painless exam time for me. I can't speak for SCL, but he seems to be on top of things and doing a great job. I'm glad this isn't how it is all the time, but I also feel better knowing this isn't going to be as horrible as I predicted.

Survey Says...

I got the JOB!!!! *dancinglaughingjumpingupanddown*

O Universe, I have finally fallen into your good graces.

My new job begins on Jan 4. My last day at my current job is next Monday.

Merry Christmas to me!

The Scary Things That I've Done This Month

1) Auditioned for Chicago

2) Auditioned at callbacks for the role of Merry Murderess

3) Applied for another job

4) Interviewed for said job

5) Waited anxiously for calls about cast and job

While I know I didn't get cast for the show (damn it!), I am still waiting to hear back from the job. I've tried willing my phone to ring, but so far, it hasn't worked out too well. I know that they want someone to start at the beginning of January, so really, a phone call earlier rather than later would be best for all involved.

Let me just say, despite fears of jinxing it, I would be perfect for this job. The director and I are completely on the same wavelength about it. In fact, my interview was just a straight up conversation with no interrogating questions at all. I felt relaxed, knowledgeable, and even enjoyed myself. And now I'm just trying to stay hopeful that all of my good luck will be concentrated into this one thing.

Keep your fingers crossed.

December--it's not just for holidays

So, have we all recovered from Thanksgiving? After a few days of sloth-like behavior, I've managed to get myself up at 6:30 everyday this week to hit the gym. December is definitely a month where my energy can feel low but the demands on my time are high, leading to potential physical, mental, and emotional stress. To avoid this, I've been working out, limiting my wine intake in the evenings, and popping some Vitamin D every morning. But I'm still really missing that early morning sunlight of the spring and summer.

In my mind, I always look forward to December because I love holiday music, treats, and cheer. But when December actually rolls around, I recall that it's also a really stressful time of year, and I don't just mean dealing with family and gift buying (though those are definitely stress-inducing for me). I mean end of the year craziness at work and of course, SCL's finals.

Up until this point, it hasn't really felt like our schedules have conflicted too much. Since SCL's not teaching, he's got time during the day to do reading and other work, so usually it doesn't really feel like he's in this big scary PhD program. But now, I'm like, "Holy crap! You have finals. Are we going to get to spend time together? Are you going to be stressed 24/7?" and other freak outs like that. Like other painful parts of life, I have forgotten how rough the end of semester crunch can be. I'm wondering how we'll need to negotiate things like time and apartment space.

Stay tuned.

Bringing Relationship Skills into the Office

Not to toot my own horn too much, but in general I am a good communicator. Thanks to a lot of therapy, hard work, and a mom who likes to talk, I've learned to say how I feel in pretty clear, concise ways. This makes relationships of all kinds a bit easier for me. So, I should have known when my co-workers wanted to confront our supervisor about some office ridiculousness that they'd put me in charge of it. Awesome. Actually, the conversation went really well, and I'd like to share what I think helped.

Before sitting down, I had consulted the other people in the office and narrowed down our concerns into two over-arching, interrelated themes: communication (logistical) and feeling valued (emotional, stemming from the logistical). I decided I would outline these and then give everyone the opportunity to elaborate individually about their particular concerns or situation.

Once I brought my supervisor in, I began by stating the obvious--conversations like these are awkward, and I was feeling somewhat uncomfortable as a result. But we all agreed that it was for the health of the organization and for our individual well-being as employees to discuss some problems we had been encountering consistently over the last few months.

After opening, each employee took an opportunity to share and provide specific examples and then our supervisor responded. At the end, we developed a plan of action for how to proceed and discussed a system for addressing future problems.

I think this is a good model for effective communication in any setting, and I learned most of it from conversations with SCL. To summarize:

1. Clarify the problem before talking. Write it down and read it back to yourself. Keep it short and clear.
2. Explain why the conversation is important (i.e. "I really care about this relationship/office/you.")
3. Lay out the issue briefly and follow up with specific, recent examples. Going back months or years only makes the problem worse. It's better to refer to something that happened recently and is fresher in both of your minds.
4. Give an opportunity for the other person to respond. Keep an open mind and be prepared to hear suggestions for how you could do things differently or more effectively.
5. Design a plan of action for how to address the issue and what to do if things do not change.

Being a Daughter at the Holidays

My mom and I like to touch base on Gchat at least once during the day, and this morning was no different. But unlike most chats, this one left me feeling a little more than bitter about the holidays and my role as the only other woman in my immediate family.

Our family is pretty big on gift giving--not so much spending a ton of money, but rather everyone buying everyone else a present. We don't have a ton of people to do this for, but it does get expensive, stressful, and time consuming especially now that my brothers and I are getting a little old for this. I have both a doctor and a lawyer for siblings, so there is literally nothing I could buy them that they need. And one of my brothers has the tendency to buy himself whatever he wants at the drop of a hat. Last year I found him the perfect gift (a Flash Gordon t-shirt) only to find that he had ordered himself one the day before. How can I buy gifts for someone who constantly buys himself ones?

On to my real frustration: stockings. Yes, we still do stockings in my family. It's something my mom loves to do, and we all enjoy getting them. But, things have changed over the years. It used to be that my mom did them for everyone (expensive!), but then I started taking over hers because she figured I would do the best job. Cool, I don't mind. I keep my eye out for things during the year. Not a big deal. But, this year SCL is coming home with me (a big yay), and she reminds me that I have to do a stocking for him. So, that's two stockings I have to do. Daughter: 2. Sons: 0. And I doubt my mom would even consider that if I'm doing one for SCL, maybe he should do mine, too.

And, need I say that I am the youngest sibling with the least amount of cash? Yet I'm the one expected to do my mom's stocking because I'm a girl. UNFAIR. It's turning what should be a joyful thing into a really infuriating one. It's not just about the money either. It's about the time, energy, and creativity required.

I don't want to turn into a humbug, but why don't the men have to contribute to the stocking frenzy? Why is it just assumed that my mom and I should have to put all of the thought and energy into the holiday season?

The Game

SCL and I are still on a mission to find mutual friends and things to do together. So, despite my only attending it once while I was an actual student, we are seriously considering attending a showing of The Game here in DC. The Yale-Harvard game, that is. Read: worst football you will ever subject yourself to.

But, The Game isn't all that bad. My second year of grad school I decided to actually go to The Game, mostly because my Harvard (boo! hiss!...just kidding) friend was visiting. I didn't really give a shit about going, but she insisted. And my brothers would have given me hell had I not attended the only important sporting event at my school at least once. So out of guilt and a little touch of hospitality, off we went.

Now, SCL and I weren't dating at the time, but we were flirting a little. We'd been at a Halloween party a few weeks before and he'd admitted that he thought I was hot. *smile* So needless to say that when he showed up and sat on my row just a few seats down from where I was, The Game got much more interesting. At half-time my friends and I decided we'd had enough (we were getting our butts kicked BIG TIME), and that we'd pass on the second half of what was a terribly painful performance on the part of Yale's football team. Instead we opted for a meal at the very luxurious Chili's, and imagine my delight when SCL, despite having to drive 6 hours home that evening, decided to join us for lunch. I'll never forget he ordered a margarita--a margarita in freezing cold November at lunchtime. It would take another four months and another big game (this time college basketball) to bring us together, but I still consider that our first sort of date.

Tomorrow it will have been two years since our first Yale-Harvard game. But this time I'll be warm (we'll be watching indoors--yipee) and cozy, next to my partner. And maybe we'll ditch it again at half time for some Chili's.

Feminism and Difficult Choices

"Feminism is not simply about making sure women have choice. Feminism is the work of making sure that the hard choice do not fall disproportionately to women."
--My brilliant feminist friend L

I love having smart, articulate friends who just *bam* hit me with brilliance. Defining feminism is one of those things we feminists love to sit around and argue about, and we usually agree to disagree and continue on working for justice. But, when I got this in my inbox yesterday, I found myself saying, "Yes, yes, yes!"

I do believe there is such a thing as being paralyzed by possibilities. When I was graduating from graduate school, I heard a resounding, "You're young! You can do anything, anywhere you want!" Does it not occur to those who says such things that not having parameters can be terrifying? It is isolating, overwhelming, and exhausting to try to review endless possibilities.

Progressive women (and men) are striving for new models of relationship, career, and family, turning the more traditional roles on their heads and using their creativity to arrive at new solutions. Things like job sharing, hyphenated or combined last names, and referring to one's partner as "partner" are all evidence of this. But it doesn't mean that it's easy to move into new models. And, when the new model fails, someone bears the brunt of the breakdown.

In the corporate world, there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of equalizing responsibility and access for women and men. For instance, I work at a women's rights organization, but just yesterday my co-worker wastold she has to use vacation time to attend a parent-teacher conference, something that is not a problem for other co-workers. What kind of model for "healthy family" are we setting? At the same time, I think I am guilty of holding women's organizations to a higher standard when really all organizations should appreciate the value of family and life outside of the office. AND, employees should experience an office culture in which is it is acceptable for both men and women to take advantage of a family leave policy.

Why should women be the ones advocating for these options when they benefit everyone?

We live together. Now what do I call you?

Disclaimer: I know the title of my blog is "Grad-Student Girlfriend," but that's only because of the cute alliteration.

Language is really important to me. What you call things does matter, and frankly, I think there aren't enough words to describe relationships--romantic or otherwise. The ways couples are living out their relationships are varied and complex, and yet the language we have is not. Many couples are choosing what SCL and I have--to be committed partners living together but not (yet) married. But, what do we say when we're introducing each other to other people that expresses that commitment but isn't TMI?

Option 1: Boyfriend/Girlfriend. Do not like this. Too tenth grade. Too big of a spectrum ("My girlfriend and I started dating a month ago.") Doesn't connote commitment.

Option 2: Partner. Like this. Feels awkward with some people. Not culturally relevant for our families. Kind of sounds new-agey/hipster. Kind of sounds like we're not ever planning to marry (we are).

Option 3: ???? Are there other options?

Obviously these cultural cues aren't what is most important to us, but it is frustrating not to be able to shortly articulate what we are: committed adults who love each other, share our lives together, and support one another. Hopefully others can see that in our interactions, but it does not make me any less frustrated.

What are your thoughts? How do you get around this language barrier?

I came home from New Haven...

And SCL had made me a cake. Not just any old, box-mix cake either. A delicious, rich, full of dark chocolate masterpiece.

I should go out of town more often. :-)

Wedding Dress Weekend

Our good friends L and J got engaged about a month ago, and I was thrilled when L called to ask if I'd join her for a weekend of wedding dress shopping. Um, of course! It's given me an actual reason to look at bridal gowns online and watch episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress." I did both of these things before, but now I have a very good excuse: research.

It's so cute to see them both so happy, and I have to give J a lot of credit because last night he was watching the shows right there with us. He doesn't seem at all bored or annoyed by any of it, the way that some men can be. None of this "I'll just show up, you do this rest" nonsense. They are really modeling partnership in the decisions they're making.

It's really nice to have friends striving to have the same kind of partnership that SCL and I work towards.

Now it's time for lots of pouf, sparkle, and lace!

Why there should be an E-Harmony for friends

Nothing made me feel more at ease about moving to a new city than knowing I got to take a friend (aka SCL) along for the ride. I knew I'd have someone there with me to go through the same bouts of crappy days and awesome ones. That really is a gift. I know there are people yearning for that kind of companionship, love, and stability and do all kinds of things in the hopes of finding even just a little of what I've got (remember the shopping bags?). I am a lucky woman indeed.

Before moving, SCL and I had a common group of friends because of grad school, but now that we're in a new city--and need I remind you that he's in grad school and I'm in the non-profit world--it's hard to make friends as a couple. First, my wonky friends at work are just that--my wonky friends. Love 'em, but they're mine and we tend to do women-only events. Second, SCL doesn't have that much time to spend with his classmates, and despite being in the same program, they don't necessarily have a lot in common outside of academia. Third, it is highly unlikely that these two groups of people would ever come in contact with one another, and well, I don't think we'd even want them to.

So, how does one go about making couple friends? I feel like I'm too desperate and will scare off anyone remotely friendly who seems like they'd be fun to hang out with. We did have success a few weeks ago at a gala for a domestic violence organization when we were seated next to a young couple who had just moved from Boston. He works for the FBI; she's a human rights attorney. They seemed fab, and we're having dinner next Sunday. I'm excited, but I can't help but also feel nervous--like we're going out on a friend date. What if they don't like us? What if we don't click? What if they don't want to go out on a second friend date? We'll never find real friends. *Wah*

One thing SCL and I have discussed is how to expand our social activities to ones that we can do as a couple. We both love ballroom dancing. We both went to Yale. There you go--those two things are probably enough to find us a whole slew of friends. But it's still hard. I'm tired of walking into a room and only knowing a person or two, having the same "where are you from? what do you do?" conversations. It's exhausting--and I'm the extrovert of the pair! But I guess just like before the move, I will be bringing a buddy, someone to stand awkwardly with, someone to latch onto, someone to share laughable, horrible, or laughably horrible stories with afterward.

We just have to go for it. Anyone want to go out on a friend date?

Sharing is Hot

Sometimes I wish I were a more practical blogger, like my friend Karen over at Living Well on Less. She has a fantastic blog today about the benefits of sharing a car. My first thought was, "Oo! Oo! That's something SCL and I do! Yay I'm doing something smart financially." I don't know if any of you read financial blogs, but most of the time, they depress me and make me feel like I'm not frugal enough. These feelings of inadequacy can only be alleviated with chocolate or new shoes. So, I don't really read them much anymore. I'm contributing to my IRA, consolidating student loans (finally came through!), and not going into debt. And SCL and I are still on track with our budgeting. We're even building up a balance in our joint account; imagine that!

But, Karen's post had me thinking about sharing and how it can help your relationship, not just financially but in other ways, too. Sharing a car means 1) less gas money needed 2) one parking permit rather than two 3) one insurance policy instead of two. We also just drive less in general. But, sharing a car means another shared space that we have. Most of the time spent in the car is together time for us, driving to an event or going to the grocery store. It reminds me of being a little kid and having good conversations with my mom when she took me to my millions of lessons every week, bless her.

Sharing, I'm learning, is about having another person in mind, not just splitting things in two. Whether it's the last piece of pizza or the first one to get into the bathroom in the morning, we try to be mindful of the other. Honestly, I think SCL is better at this than me, even though I'm the one with siblings (though to be fair, I have two older brothers, and if I wanted the last of anything, I had to snatch it when I had the chance. Survival mode, baby.) But, I'm learning to be better at sharing. Trying to better anyway.

Sharing also means a lot more work sometimes. Every time I do laundry, I complain that there are way too many white undershirts to clean. (WHY DO MEN HAVE SO MANY WHITE T-SHIRTS????) There are more coffee mugs to wash, more hair on the bathroom floor to try to vacuum up with little luck, less time for the DVR to record all of my favorite shows--and believe me, there are a lot of them.

This will be the first year we're sharing on holidays. We'll spend Thanksgiving with SCL's parents and Christmas at my house. Even harder than sharing is being shared, I think. It's another lesson, another opportunity to grow together, and more than anything, I'm thrilled to finally be sharing the holidays with the one I love.

How He Met My Mother

My mom has always told me, "Want to know how a man will treat you? Look at how he treats his momma." Too true. I would add my related new-found wisdom:

Want to know when you've found a great man? He treats your mom just as well as he treats you.

SCL and my mom had only met each other briefly right at the beginning of our relationship when I was finishing up grad school. She'd obviously heard a lot about him from me, but they hadn't had much time together. When my brother surprised my mom with a plane ticket to DC for her birthday, I was excited to see her (it'd been nearly a year!) and even more excited for her to spend time with SCL.

Now, my mom likes to talk. A lot. To anyone. About anything. SCL, on the other hand, is more on the quiet side, so I was concerned about how he might feel having someone talk at him 24/7 for the entire weekend. But he was a great sport and was patient, even when he heard the same story about my nephew for the third time. (By the way, no one thinks your child/grandchild/niece/nephew is as cute as you and some of your immediate family members do.) Each morning he made us all coffee, brought it in on a tray, and sat down with us as my mom talked, resisting the urge to open up his laptop and escape into cyberspace.

The real gem of a moment, though, was when Mom and I decided to go shopping, one of our favorite pastimes. After making a trip to DSW and obtaining some really cute, but very heavy rain boots, we were trying to figure out how we were going to make it through a trip to Nordstrom when we were bogged down by all those bags. I thought, "Hmm...maybe SCL will come get them." Now, he had already dropped us off at the mall earlier and had planned to pick us up later that afternoon. So, we were requesting a third trip to the mall just to pick up our bags. And you know, when I called him, he actually thought it was funny that we'd bought too much stuff to carry. Fifteen minutes later, there he was in the car, ready to unburden us of our shopping weight. He did later confess that he felt a little silly carrying in big DSW bags into the building.

What a great one I've got.

More than Roommates: Pulling Ourselves Out of a Comfortable Rut

Some time has passed since I reflected on living with SCL. It's been just under four months since we moved into our cozy little 1-BR apartment, and I'm realizing that other than a few reflections here and there, I've essentially hijacked this blog to bitch about my stupid job. That will not be the case today!

Before we moved in together, one of my friends cautioned me that one of the challenges of living with your partner is that it's easy to slip into patterns of being roommates. There are many reasons for this, I've learned. It's easy to take the other person for granted when he's there all the time. It's also easy for your together time to be by default whenever you're both home at the same time, even if you're just watching tv or doing separate activities. And, there's the added pressure every weekend of trying to figure out what you want to do together--and everything is expensive and a pain in the ass to get to and you end up just watching a pirated movie on your tv. Of course, this is all hypothetical.

A few weeks ago, SCL and I realized that we'd quit doing the things we loved to do with each other and that we'd both let our relationship slip into one of roommates. On my end, I got tired of talking about how shitty my job was and so ended up not sharing much about my life at all. My guess is SCL thought I wouldn't care much about what he's reading for class and so he wasn't sharing how we felt about school. We weren't communicating in meaningful ways and we weren't investing in our relationship. It's scary how quickly we fell into this bad pattern. Luckily we recognized it and are working to turn things around.

How are we doing this? For one, we talk about our days for a solid block of time once we both get home. This takes precedence over fixing dinner, checking email, whatever. Some days may be longer than others, but we share our days with each other, no matter how boring or dreadful they were. We have started working out together in the mornings. This is something we used to do when we lived in CT, and now that we live in a building with a gym on the top floor, we have no excuse. It's amazing how much better it is to work out next to your partner. I won't lie; getting up early sucks, but it sucks to get up no matter what time. So, we might as well do something that feels great and helps us as a couple. We have added an additional $50 to our "fun" account each month. Investing in ourselves by doing fun things together is something we both feel is worthwhile. We've moved some of our other budgetary things around, so neither of us is contributing more to the monthly budget than we were before. Related to that, we have been going out together more. DC is a fun city with tons to do, and who better to explore it with than with SCL?

Relationships are tough as hell, especially as they change. But I'm thankful that we've been able to talk through what's been going on, admit our mistakes, and change things.

How do you keep from just being roommates?

Patience vs. Complacency: Anyone know the difference?

I've been thinking about this a lot today. Waiting for something to happen or for things to fall into place can either be an act of patience or complacency. Maybe the difference is the expectation: patience assumes something for which one is waiting whereas complacency is settling for things not changing.

Here's the back story to this. You may remember how I almost got the job of my dreams a few weeks ago. Just when I was beginning to get over that, I found out that one of my colleagues, who has been fed up with the nonsense in our office for a long time, has found another position and will be leaving at the end of the month. Truth be told, I'm jealous that she got what we both wanted--a way out--and nervous about what will happen when she does leave. I'm predicting a serious shit-hits-fan moment, which will leave the rest of us remaining to do a lot of dirty work.

I feel like I've been waiting, waiting, waiting since I graduated college, and damnit, I'm fed up! In my head at any given time I'm thinking one or several of the following things:
  • I don't know that I like working in DC or that I will ever get where I want to go if I stay here.
  • I really want to be doing more independent work.
  • My bosses are going to freak out when my colleague leaves.
  • I really want to be a minister/get my license to be a pastoral counselor/work in a Faith Based Organization/be an event planner.
  • My organization is taking advantage of me by not paying me what I'm worth.
The thing is, there are days when I feel okay (aka complacent) about my job, but never good, much less great. So, what do I do in this period of discerning/waiting/trying to learn patience without becoming too discouraged?

Worst. Rejection. Email. EVER.

Take a look at this gem that landed in my inbox:

Thank you for your interest in our organization. We had many fine candidates apply for the position of (Associate) which made it very difficult to choose just one. Unfortunately, you were not selected. We wish you the very best in your future endeavors.

WTF?! I was in the final two! At least I already knew that I didn't get the job. What a blow to the ego.

Bleh. Grrr. Yargh. Ew.

No official news yet on my interview on Monday, but I do know that I am in the top two--and that the other candidate has 30+ years of experience. Now how the hell am I supposed to compete with that?

I took a Mental Health Day yesterday, which I'm sorry to say I didn't spend well. I used up most of the morning on Gchat with my colleagues at my current organization and the one where I'd like to work. By 11:00, I'd had enough and decided to go shopping with money I don't currently have. That's what credit cards are for, right? (Answer: wrong. This was the grief talking me into doing things I shouldn't.)

Needless to say, after hours of browsing and try on, I didn't find a single thing I wanted to buy. Let me rephrase that: I didn't find anything worth the hassle of standing in line, swiping the credit card, and lugging home with me. I knew deep down that no purchase was going to make me feel better about the job situation. Good for the wallet, but not so much for the spirit. And so I wandered about aimlessly, no shopping bags to keep me feeling temporarily fulfilled or happy. It was a sad sort of day.

The evening wasn't better. I suppose when it rains, it pours like hell, and yesterday was no exception--stuff with SCL I don't want to get into. I'm just wondering why I moved to this damn place at all.

My realization is that I should probably go back to therapy. Not a bad idea at all.

Wishin' and Hopin' with Cautious Optimism

You all know how I am not liking my current job so much, right? I decided to take matters into my own hands and apply for a new job at an organization where I have wanted to work for years. Granted they're kind of in a financial clutsterf*ck at the moment, but heck, what organization isn't? The fact that they're hiring during aforementioned clusterf*ck is further indication of its utter dysfunction. But, it is dysfunction of which I am acutely aware--unlike my current job when I strolled in with the rosiest of fashionable glasses. Oh yeah, and the position at the other organization would be $20K more than my current job. That's right. TWENTY GRAND.

Here's the thing. I have an inside source who believes that the head honcho already had somebody picked out for the job. This is disappointing but also sort of good to know so that I won't get my hopes up too high. So, as in the title, I am waiting with cautious optimism. At the end of the day, I have a job already, and as my good colleague who actually did the interviewing said to me today, he predicts I'll be working at his organization in the next three years or so. This might not be the job for me, but there will be a job for me eventually. I just have to trust.

All of this has me contemplating/fantasizing about what I would do were I to receive a job offer, accept, and give notice. Would I take the opportunity to say to my current boss, "Hey douchebag, I'm outta here because you suck, treated me and the others like shit, and I hate how you say "um" NINETY SEVEN times during a TEN MINUTE presentation! That's like saying "um" every six seconds!" Ok, so probably not quite like that. But I feel like I would have to say something to her about her shitty managment style and how sadly, I had no reason to stick around and that's why I'm leaving.

Hmm...I'm wondering, are my biggest motivations getting a big fat raise and the chance to say "good riddance" to my current boss?

Yeah, so my job is shitty. But that doesn't mean life is.

Here is a list of things in my life that are not shitty:
  • My health. Despite feeling tired and run down from the week, I have yet to catch SCL's cold from several weeks back. I appear to be in the clear for the time being. <>
  • My friends. Girlfriend L and her man are engaged! So excited to help with wedding dress shopping and vicarious wedding planning. Girlfriend C and new man K are visiting this weekend and we have plans for dinner this evening. Yay!
  • My partner. SCL has listened to a lot of my bitchin' this week over work and never complained about it. Now it's time to have some fun and forget all about this stupid job because it does NOT define me. Piss me off? Yes. Frustrate me? YES! Define me? HELLS NO!
  • My after-work activities, including adult glee club (read: super cheesy and fun) and college alumni reception at swanky location next week. This reminds me that my co-workers and I also need to plan another post-work happy hour!
So, this was for my own benefit, but I find when I'm feeling really bad about something that it helps to make out a list of what things I love in my life. Work, while difficult, is only one piece, and I have to keep in check how much of my energy and time I give it (reason #1 for not getting a blackberry; reason #2 is because I couldn't afford it!)

Oh dear. Have I fallen off the face of the blogosphere?

Hi friends. Have you been wondering if I was still alive? Or perhaps if I was just another unfaithful blogger who grew bored of writing and just gave up? The answers are yes and no.

The truth is that over the last month or so, my job has gone from generally disappointing to ridiculously crazy and intolerable. I've just returned from an East Coast "tour" with international guests, and it's all I can do not to quit at this very moment. I've done event planning in the past. I know how stressful it can be. But this time I do not even feel the satisfaction of a job well done. All I feel is dread of having to go back to work next week. Eh.

The biggest problem in my office--and probably most offices and certainly most relationships--is a lack of clear communication about expectations. No one knows what their role exactly is, which means that is constantly changing and being dictated by the circumstances and feelings of the ones holding the most power. The result is that we all get run into the ground, everyone ends up unhappy, and lately it's been so much that I have trouble setting it aside when I go home. And that is not cool.

I want to talk to my boss about this, but I've heard from other staff members that she doesn't react well when confronted about anything. But I can't just sit back and take all of this in. Something has to be done.

My question to all of you is have you found a way to go throughout your days at work without feeling totally miserable and powerless?

Sniffles, Coughs, and Sleep (Or, lack thereof)

It's that time of year when colds abound, and SCL is their latest victim. He started feeling bad on Monday, and yesterday he sounded just terrible. In my opinion colds are underrated in the misery category. Yeah, so they're common, but there is nothing more horrible than a bad cold.

On Monday evening, we headed to bed around 9:30--SCL in a cold medicine-induced coma, and I just exhausted from the day. But around 11:30, it started. The clearing of the throat every few minutes. That is one of the worst stages of a cold, when you can't really swallow and you feel like you're going to drown in your own nasal drip. Ew. I felt horrible for him, but at the same time I wasn't getting any sleep either. So I reluctantly headed into the living room and plopped down on what I thought was our very comfy couch. As it turns out, it isn't the best for sleeping. I'm not sure if I got any more sleep by moving to the couch.

Last night I decided to sleep in the living room again, but this time I pulled out the twin mattress, thinking that would be a little bit better. Not so much. I tossed and turned all night, something I rarely if ever do when I'm in our bed. So now I'm going on two nights of very poor sleep, which in my situation is akin to death. The good news is that SCL has been through the worst of the cold and I may even get to sleep in our big bed tonight. Hurray!

SCL has been a pity-evoking, but not demanding sickie. In fact, he turned down nearly every offer of medicine, juice, or other comforts. But he did let me rub his back for awhile. Now I'm saying a prayer that I'm not the next victim...but it seems more than likely that I'll get sick, too.

To all you more experienced co-habitators, how do you avoid getting your love's germs? Or is it just an inevitable part of being together?

I've been watching too much Glee.

Every time I watch Glee all I want to do is run away and start a grown-up cheesy singing group. So imagine my delight when I discovered there is such a group in my area! And they're having open auditions next week!

What do you think? Should I go for it? And if so, what song should I sing? Some possibilities:

  • At Last
  • On My Own
  • I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You

My Mom, Your Mom

SCL's mother came to visit for the day yesterday. Too bad the weather was horrible, but she was a good sport about it. We went into the city for a few hours to visit some museums, an activity I always think will be more fun than it actually is. The Mall was ridiculously crowded (on a Saturday afternoon? Shocking!), but we visited some of the smaller buildings which were substantially less populated--and with good reason. They had very little inside them! That was perfectly fine with me because all I could think about was going home, putting on pajama pants, and eating lots of Milk Duds while watching Gossip Girl. Hosting on the weekend is challenging after a long week. And even though SCL's mom said, "Oh, don't worry about entertaining me," she did come to see us, so we couldn't very well leave her in our tiny apartment while we went on our merry way.

It's hard adjusting to another mothering style. SCL is an only child. I'm the youngest of three and the only girl. That alone constitutes substantial differences in parenting. By the time my mom had me, she basically had the whole parenting thing down to a science, and while she may try to give advice to my oldest brother, she rarely does so with me. I think she has figured out that motherly advice is usually not welcomed with open arms, even when it's asked for by a struggling child. Let's just say SCL's mom is not quite there yet. *grin*

Being a future daughter-in-law isn't easy. It's hard to just nod and agree when I definitely disagree, and I'm not particularly good at lying, even if just to put another person's mind at ease. I worry about how this will play out along the road: when we get married, when we buy a house, when we decide we'd like to have kids. When it is okay to say, "Thanks, but we've got it all taken care of"?

"When I Was Your Age" and Other Reflections on "Supervising" An Intern

One thing I think many of us can agree on is that we sure do like to glamorize our earlier days, don't we? I'd like to think that in my first internship, I was fired up, ready to go, sharp as a knife, and absorbent like a sponge (in terms of learning things, duh). I picture myself a spunky, energetic, and dependable worker, happy to take on mass mailings and other menial tasks. Even just writing that makes me realize how ridiculous that is.

Let's face it. Being an intern is hard. Working for a cool organization, or at least one with a cool reputation, while doing stuff like mailings and answering phones is not very fun. You're the bottom of the totem pole. But until today I never really realized just how important they are. Today I began working with a new intern who is (wait for it) taking on some of my work! That's right; I'm able to ask someone else to help me! At work!

There is, of course, a downside to this wonderful thing called interns. Most of them have never worked in an office, or if they did, they don't remember much from it. All you have to do is say the words "mail merge" and you'll be looking at one scared intern. And believe me, nothing is more painful than walking through the process of mail merge with another human being. Damn, I hate just doing it myself, but having to go step-by-step through it multiple times? It's like a slow and painful death.

But, here is a great opportunity for me to learn some things about how to manage another person, how to be a good resource, and most importantly, how to be patient with a young person making her way in the world.

My computer broke :-(

After installing an update on my beloved 4-year-old PowerBook, it didn't want to start up again. Thankfully, I have a computer genius for a boyfriend who put it back together. Hurray once again for SCL! It did get me thinking, "Crap, I don't want to have to buy a new computer." And then I began to realize all of the things I feel I "need" my computer for and how conditioned I am to go check email, read blogs, look at the weather, throughout the day. It's really quite sad. I don't like feeling dependent on it.

Needless to say, the combination of computer brokenness and work craziness, my blogging has been sporadic at best these last few weeks. Thanks for your patience, peeps!


Shoot, y'all. That was one helluva week! I cannot even tell you how very happy I am that it's the weekend.

As much as I would've liked to have had a quiet night, SCL and I had company (the most polite, warm, and gracious company) over. One of my favorite things about living in DC is being able to offer up our place to friends who come through for conferences, meetings, etc. I'll be honest; yesterday I was way too tired to be thrilled about a night of hosting, but as the night went on, I realized that one of the best parts about being grown-up and having our own place is sharing it with cool people.

Again, I have to give SCL his propos. He was an awesome partner and gracious co-host! Honestly, he did most of the cooking, cleaning up, and even some nerdy computer techie stuff today before our guest left for the airport this morning. The whole time I was thinking, "Wow, I have a great significant other. He's so kind and welcoming to my friends." I never thought about it much before, but having your S.O. treat your loved ones well is a way for them to show you love.

It was kind of fun to treat my friend to a worry-free night. She'd had a long week and had been staying at hotels for the last few nights. Not being from a big city, she had been super-stressed about navigating DC, so I took her to and from the Metro personally. We made our self-proclaimed famous pizza-- veggie-only for her--and she was so grateful! I had forgotten how fun hospitality can be.

I didn't grow up in a house where people were very welcome. I had the occasional sleep over, but we never had dinner parties or guests over often, probably because my parents were too busy. Also my dad is a weirdo (a subject for another time). I was never shown what it means to be a hostess and invite people into my home, so it's definitely a learning experience. But my hope is that SCL and I will always have a home where friends are invited, welcomed, and shown love.

Is This Real Life?

With SCL in his second week of class and me entering my third month of work, the speed of daily life is rapidly escalating. Only one night this week did I get home before 8:00, which happened to be the evening SCL had class until late. Most of the time I've been getting home closer to 9:00. It's exhausting for me to be out that late and frustrating to have little energy and time to give to our relationship when I do get home. We still haven't made it to the grocery store (minus a small trip SCL made yesterday). Life feels all out of whack at the moment, and we've got quite a weekend ahead of us: hosting a friend this evening, Rosh Hoshanah dinner tomorrow, and I've got a brunch on Sunday.

*yawn* I'm ready to go home, yo.

In some ways, this is how I like to be: busy, involved, and on the move. The other times I've been like this, though, I was single. If I got home at 10, ate some ice cream, and went straight to bed, it didn't bother anyone. But now it feels like I'm cheating myself, SCL, and our relationship when I get home too exhausted to really even talk.

I guess this is how real life is. I would love to be able to divvy up my time equally, but as a wise person told me a few years back, this is just ridiculous and impractical. I have to remember that just because this week was so crazy doesn't mean next week will be, much less "forever." There's an ebb and flow to being busy. Some weeks I can handle it better, others I can't. And I need to quit putting so much damn pressure on myself to do things perfectly or by the book. SCL isn't expecting me to be, so why should I expect it of myself?

Perfectionism, and thus the fear of screwing up, is the biggest oppressor. Time to get this monkey off my back.

Monday's Post, A Day Late

We got back from Wedding Land late-ish on Sunday night (aka 9:30, a mere half hour before I usually fall asleep.) I did the best I could to unpack and put things away, but after sitting in a car all afternoon, I didn't feel like thinking about the week ahead or going back to work. I realized how dependent I am on the weekend to refresh and reorganize, and without it I'm feeling a little out of sorts. We haven't been grocery shopping, we haven't done any kind of cleaning other than some laundry, and we're expecting a house guest on Friday night. I'm also way overly scheduled this week, albeit all fun stuff I want to do, but it's not quite as fun when I'm tired and cranky.

Next time we go out town, I'm hoping we/I can improve things a bit by doing some of the following:

1. Go grocery shopping for the following week ahead of time. We had Friday evening and some of Saturday, but we were more planning for the weekend than what we had to do when we got back.
2. Plan our on-the-road snacks and meals a bit better. We ended up skipping lunch on Saturday and then were famished for dinner by 5. I ended up with a horrible headache that night and didn't really get to enjoy being away because of it.
3. Resist the urge to get overbooked the following days after a trip. I've kind of shot myself in the foot for the week because I won't be getting home until at least 8:00 every night. That means if I want to go to the store, it'll be late and I won't be in the mood for it.
4. Figure out what things can wait until the following weekend. I need to chillax and realize it's ok if I didn't get to reorganize my closet by color this week. (Ok, I'm not that bad, but you know what I mean. Most things I feel I have to do aren't that important and can wait.)

What are your tips for readjusting to life after a weekend of travel?

Hitting the Road

In a few hours SCL and I are heading to NJ (yuck) for a wedding (yay), and I'm not planning on bringing the laptop with me. See you on Monday!

Reflections on 1929, 2001, and 2009

It's definitely a day for remembering and reflecting. My grandfather was born September 11, 1929. He would've been 80 years old. Honestly, the main reason I remembered was because his birthday is ingrained in my memory after 9-11-09. I had just started college. My roommate's father was flying that day. I can't believe it's been 8 years.

Tomorrow it will have been two months since SCL and I moved into our apartment together. Here's what I've learned so far.

Cohabitation, though an unsexy word indeed, is incredibly fun, challenging, and seemingly way less counter cultural than I thought. When I meet people now who don't live with their significant others, I think, "Aw, I hope you get to someday soon because it's really, really great." If it's the right person, of course.

Sharing has never been my strong suit. I'm the baby of the family and the only girl, so I'm not used to having to share much. I can't help that my brothers never wanted to play with my Barbies, My Little Ponies, or ballet costumes! Sometimes when I see SCL with a snack I love, I immediately go into panic mode that there won't be enough for me, too. I need to chillax and realize he can have whatever he wants because he lives there, too. Seriously, the lessons we learn as small children are really all we need to know.

Grocery shopping is surprisingly a great bonding activity for us. We're a team, trying to get in and out as fast as we can and with a low bill.

The little things, like having breakfast together in the morning and watching our favorite shows while snuggling on the couch, are the highlights of my day. I try not to take them for granted.

Having personal space is key to maintaining a sense of self. Even if it's something as small as a closet or as big as a room, find your own space.

Speak up when something is bothering you. It helps no one to internalize your feelings until you explode. (I am good at this at home, not so much at work. I'm working on it.)

Continue to date your partner. Make time to go out, have fun, and live it up like you did before you moved in together.

Be silly together. SCL is pretty much the only one I'm a complete goof in front of, and I find this to be incredibly comforting, reassuring, and sacred. It's a side of myself that only he gets to see, which is so cool. Sometimes he doesn't appear to be amused by my antics, but I know that he loves my in spite of and perhaps even a little because of my goofiness.

What lessons have you learned from living together?

Career Freak Out!

It started as a pleasant evening: walking past the Capitol building at sunset, enjoying free wine and food, meeting new people. Then I met Socially Awkward girl who decided to cling to me for the next hour. Honestly, it wasn't that bad, but she was...well, awkward. For instance, in talking about my current position I said, "It seems really hard to find a good boss." And she replies loudly, while spooning hummus onto her little plastic plate, "YOU DON'T LIKE YOUR BOSS?"

For whatever reason, despite this obviously inappropriate outburst, I continued to talk uncomfortably with SA girl on the outside patio. Now in addition to enduring social awkwardness, I was also scratching and swatting pesky mosquitoes that were eating me alive. I told her that no, it's not that I dislike my boss (sort of a lie), but that I'm struggling to get some direction in terms of career. Lucky me, she does some career development and began to ask--no, interrogate--me about my life goals.

SA Girl: "What's your ideal job?"

Me: "Um...I don't know. Maybe (bullshit) or (more bullshit)..."

SA Girl: "Is there anyone in your office whose position you would like to have one day?"

Me: " No one really."

And the panic attack commenced. All of a sudden thoughts were running through my head--I don't want to do this work. I hate being in an office. I thought I wanted to have more interaction with people in my daily work. Etc. Etc. Etc. The poor girl had no idea what her mundane questions had incited. Then she suggested I look at a career in a university, at which point I almost a) punched her b) burst into tears. I excused myself and found other safer colleagues to spend the rest of the evening with.

Later that night after navigating around the police who were everywhere on Capitol Hill (Obama was speaking/being heckled) and suffering through a Metro ride with a fellow passenger who thought she would serenade me with opera arias, I finally made it home around 10. I walked through the door, announced to SCL that I was having a crisis, and promptly plopped down on the couch, cookie dough ice cream and soup spoon in hand. In between bites, I told him what had happened and how I didn't think I wanted to be in a non-profit anymore if I meant I couldn't have genuine interactions with people. This is not really a new realization, but one I am rediscovering. The idea of having influence appeals to me, but the way to get it--and the way people react to you when you have it--do not. I love the issue, but just not the way I'm working on it. How can I be passionate about justice when my day is mostly consumed with inner-office political nonsense?

As I've already realized, your twenties are kind of sucky, especially in trying to figure out what the heck you want to do; I mean, really want to do, not just want to do because someone ought to do it or because someone ought to be good at doing it and why shouldn't that be me when I'm capable of it. Seeing as how bad the market is and how few months I've actually been in my current job, I'm not planning on doing anything drastic just yet. I need to formulate a plan, but first I need to be able to answer the question, "What job do I want?" This will require some soul searching and probably some sitting down with people who've been around and know their stuff.

In the meantime, I am networking like crazy (4-6 events a week; so glad I ordered my own business cards!) and finding leadership roles in volunteer settings. I'm finding that my job really can't do all for me that I wish it would, and it's up to me to find other ways of gaining the skills and the connections I need. I'm learning what it means to be my own advocate and how to initiate my own opportunities. I'm confident these are skills that will benefit me in whatever thing I decide to do next.

Any words of wisdom from former career freak out-ers?

Cheap Eats: Black Bean Deliciousness

Besides watching oodles of Dexter, this weekend I decided to get creative and make up a recipe. We had 2 cans of black beans in our pantry that probably came with one of us from CT, so I figured it was time to do something fun with them. I'm finally getting comfortable enough in the kitchen (and with knowing SCL will sweetly eat anything I make, even if I refuse to eat it myself) to start making it up as I go.

Here's the concoction:
1 lb. chicken breast
2 cans black beans
1 cup rice
1 onion
1 green pepper
4 flour tortillas
2 cups cheese (cheddar, jack, whatever you like)
1 jar salsa
1 container sour cream

1. I cooked the chicken in the skillet, threw in a little cumin and lime juice to make things interesting. Diced and cooked the onions and peppers with the chicken.
2. Cooked the rice. Drained the beans.
3. Mixed the chicken, onions, peppers, rice, beans, salsa, and sour cream together.
4. Layered the bottom of a casserole dish with the tortillas (I cut off the ends to make them fit). Put 1/2 of the mix into the casserole. Another row of tortillas on top. The rest of the mix on top of that. Sprinkled top with cheese.
5. Cooked for 30 min at 350 degrees.

Result: absolutely delicious! And enough servings for 4 meals, which makes me very, very happy.

Tonight SCL and I are doing dinner separately. He's got class (boo) and I've got a reception on Capitol Hill to attend. The invitation promises that "unlimited complimentary wine and generous appetizers will be served." Holla for free food and wine!

Our (Non) Labor Day Weekend

Unlike the rest of the world (or so it seemed to me), SCL and I had no plans for the weekend other than a free gallery walk in Dupont Circle on Friday evening. Here's the recap:

Friday evening: Went to Dupont. Drank lots of free wine. Got asses kicked by little old ladies who actually wanted to look at the art at the galleries (the nerve!). Mingled. Networked. Made new friends. Stumbled to the Metro before it closed for the weekend. Ate late night drunk munchies at Chili's. Watched Dexter. Crashed.

Saturday: Slept in. Drank coffee. Morning shopping (sans SCL) at Marshall's (Michael Kors blouse for $29.99!) Caught up on reality TV from the week. Discovered there's a new season of Tool Academy on VH1. Finished season1 of Dexter. Organized closet. Watched first six episodes of Dexter season 2. Never left the apartment.

Sunday: Slept in. Drank coffee. Ate french toast. More Dexter. Went to dinner with aunt. Bought ice cream at CVS and watched more Dexter. Finished season 2. Success.

Monday: Woke up slightly earlier. Drank coffee. SCL read; I shopped at Target for groceries ($22 for the week! Score.) Got cranky having to deal with Labor Day crowd at the store. Failed attempt to buy coffee at Costco, which was closed. Got caught in rain storm. Watched more Dexter.

Basically, a weekend full of glorious TV watching, rest, and being boring for a change. Not a bad weekend at all.

Confessions of a (Not So) Clean Freak

For the first few weeks of living together, SCL and I were naturally on our best behavior--putting our stuff away, cleaning up the hair in the shower (mostly me; I shed like you wouldn't believe), and generally trying to avoid our bad behaviors when it came to keeping a clean place. Of course that didn't last too terribly long. We are human after all and no amount of willing would keep our bad habits at bay forever. Hence, exhibit A-->

This is a pile o' stuff next to my side of the bed that no matter how I try to keep under control always seems to recreate itself anew each day. I took this pic a few days ago. Looks like that days pile was made up of a t-shirt, pajama pants, umbrella, tote bag, open ELLE magazine, iPod, hair clip, sunglasses, and of course, Rosemary Ruether's classic Sexism and God-Talk. When I sheepishly admitted to my ever-growing pile o' stuff, SCL said, "Yeah, I'm always afraid I'm going to step on your phone in the morning." As it were my phone was in another spot on the floor, which I blame on me not shoving it off the bed along with all the other crap before getting under the covers. It probably went flying the first time one of us tossed or turned.

This pile is pretty much the only chaos I allow in my home life. I am generally clean (not an innate quality but one I have developed over time, which I think makes me even more controlling about it.) But this pile I just can't seem to rid myself of. Doesn't help that I'm getting home later and later most evenings and just don't give a damn about putting my stuff away. I guess letting my hair down is a good thing, but it's hard to let another person see all your crap, literally or figuratively speaking.

But mess or no mess, I have a partner who loves me just the same--and who will try his best not to step on it.

First (and Second) Jobs are for Experimenting

The first part of my Metro ride book time this week was spent finishing Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a Smartmouth Goddess. It's a sassy, down-to-earth, at times overly simplistic feminist how-to manual for young women. Some of it I skimmed, some wasn't relevant (i.e. blind dates), but the part about work I read over and over again.

Her basic point: your 20s suck. Hallelujah, thank you for finally saying it! I always thought my 20s were supposed to be fantastic, but in all honesty they are scary as hell. I'm constantly doing things for the first time, wondering if I'm doing them correctly and what the ramifications will be if do or don't do them well this time around. This applies to investing in retirement, communicating with SCL, networking, but I want to focus on the main one that's bugging me at the moment--figuring out my work style and goals.

When I first started my current job, I was frustrated with the lack of work I'd been assigned. I wanted to be seen as a helpful team player, an initiator, an agreeable employee. So, I began offering my time to everyone in my office. Still that wasn't enough. So I finally sat down with my supervisor and said "I need more to do. Bring it on." And boy did she. And so did everyone else, leaving me with a shitload of work to do this week. I've been staying well past 5:00 everyday, sometimes over an hour after everyone else is gone. What a pickle I've gotten myself into. Technically I was supposed to leave work an hour ago (the last week of our summer hours), but here I sit, taking a blog and coffee break before finishing up some other projects. SCL is in class until 6:00, so I'm not missing time together, which is dwindling now that I'm jam packing my evenings and he's got class.

What to do, what to do. I have busted my hump trying to get all the tasks assigned to me done before the end of the week because I want to prove that I can do it. But at the same time, I don't want to set a precedent for staying late every day because I'm a firm believer in practicing balance.

Any words of wisdom out there? How do you balance a drive to succeed and flourish with a desire to be balanced (i.e. not overworked and gulping coffee after work hours on a Friday?)

Real Furniture: One of the (few) Pleasures of Growing Up and Having a Job

This is the day I've been waiting for since July 11th. Our couch I ordered from Macy's has finally arrived! Look at how cute she is! I think I'm going to name her Rosie 1) because of her beautiful red color and I'm sure you've all noticed how white the rest of the place is and 2) to honor my very first doll, a Cabbage Patch preemie whom I, just under two years old, called affectionately "Wozee." You might say it's silly to name a couch, but I've been waiting for this for what feels like forever and we haven't had a place for us both to sit since we moved in. See that twin bed off behind Rosie? That has been our makeshift couch, which made me feel like we were living in a dorm. It was comfortable for one, but not so much for two, and most nights I didn't really feel like moving from the little bed to the big bed.

Rosie is the first real furniture I've ever bought that wasn't secondhand. Don't get me wrong, I love secondhand furniture. In fact, everything in our apartment, save a few small Ikea pieces, are all from friends, loved ones, and random Craigslisters. We tried to find a used couch, but they were all smelly, stained, or (ew!) bug-infested. I decided that for this, I could be a grown up and buy myself a real piece of furniture, damn it!

Let me tell you something: finding Rosie was not easy. The day before move-in day my lovely aunt and I went out on an adventure, GPS in hand, to find me a couch. I figured hey, people are desperate to sell things like furniture, so this should be a snap. WRONG.

First stop: Jennifer Convertibles. Saw a couch I liked. Salesman belittled/patronized me after ignoring me for 20 minutes. Said "bye bye, asshole" and walked out.

Second stop: Jennifer Convertibles #2. Saw couch I liked. Idiot salesman knows nothing about delivering to my area, calling other stores closer to my area, or how to tie his own shoes.

Third stop: Foolishly relying on GPS, we drove out of our way to an independent store, figuring the chain stores were a racket. Pulled up to a store with neon signs flashing "Mattresses!," light up Mary figurines, and bars on the window. Despite feeling desperate, I decided it was just too sketchy.

Fourth stop: Bassett furniture. Beautiful pieces, stick in the mud salespeople. Refuse to make me a deal. Piss me off. Bye bye.

Fifth stop: JC Penny. Pleather pull out sofas. Enough said.

Sixth stop: Pottery Barn. All I could afford was a throw pillow.

Seventh stop: Macy's. Aunt says, "If you can afford anything in this store, I will eat a hat." And there stood my Rosie, a beautiful red (what I wanted) at a reasonable price, which I negotiated down another hundred bucks. Life is perfect until I am informed that it is on back order until late August. Call SCL who is understandably not thrilled about the wait. But I'm in love. I can wait, and SCL agrees. I say, "I'll take her."And now my aunt must eat a hat.

And now she's here. Tonight after work and meetings I hope to have a mini-couch party, complete with a glass of wine, TV watching, and lots o' snuggling to celebrate our first night together. Welcome home, Rosie!

We Ain't Nothin' But Mammals

Look at this awesome picture I took at the National Zoo! Seriously, it was like the animals were coming out to pose just for us. Sadly a lot of my pictures turned out quite blurry (I blame the oldness of the camera and my inability to keep my hands still), but this one is quite a beauty. I do love the big cats--and this big guy turned his head just at the right moment for me to capture his gorgeous face. I know if I got close he'd want to rip me limb from limb, but he looks so nice and snuggly from a distance.

SCL and I were running low on the "fun" funds for August, so instead of our usual dinner or movie out this weekend, we decided to head over to the zoo for some outside (and free!) fun. I hadn't been there since 6th grade, and he couldn't remember if he'd ever been. So, after lunch, we were off.

If you haven't been to the National Zoo, it's incredible. They have species I'd never seenin person before, like the red panda, which was beautiful to look at, but the poor critter had a touch of neuroses and paced constantly. And, there were certainly some humorous moments, too. SCL wanted to see the gorillas, but the indoor exhibit smelled so bad that I could not inhale through my nose and decided to wait outside. A few minutes later, he came out with a big grin on his face. "Two orangutans are having sex!" Ok, I had to see this, and sure enough, they were and everyone in the building was watching. It was pretty funny at first, but I felt badly for the female who afterward found a sheet and covered her head. Poor thing, she was embarrassed!

It was fun being a kid with SCL. Afterward we headed to 7-Eleven and had a big Coca-Cola Slurpee which we drank (slurped?) while sitting on the sidewalk outside. All in all, a perfect afternoon together.

Total cost of date: Metro fare, and a buck plus change for the Slurpee.

Bills, Bills, Bills: How well did we do our first month of joint budgeting?

While August is not officially over, I want to go ahead and take a look at our spending for the month to see how it matched up with our guesstimates.

First of all, can I get a what, what for us not going over budget in any of our areas? In fact, we were under a little in gas, laundry, household, groceries, and fun (i.e. going out on dates--although we have about $10 to spend over the weekend. Looks like an ice cream/candy date will be it for us this weekend!) We were way under in utilities, but that's mostly because our building is weird and we haven't quite figured out how they charge us.

I give us an A for the month. Seeing as how neither of us had budgeted as a couple, I think we did a damn fine job of creating a budget and sticking to it. I can't speak for us both, but personally I don't feel like we had to scrimp on much of anything. Yes, we were careful, but we also found cheaper ways of doing things we love, like using to get discounts on dinner, bringing our own candy to the movies, and choosing matinees over evening show times.

SCL and I have talked briefly, and what he suggested (and makes most sense to me) is sticking to pretty much the same budget for September to see how it compares to August. We may make some minor modifications by shifting a little bit from one category to another, but we'll probably be starting with about the same base amount for this month.

Happy weekend!

Office Lunches: A necessary evil or a big waste of time and money?

It's Restaurant Week in DC, which I had heard about but wasn't planning on enjoying much. Going out for dinner is a treat when you're on a tight budget and frankly, going out to lunch is a big waste of cash in my mind when I know I can make a perfectly yummy meal at home for pennies basically. But a co-worker suggested a "fun" office lunch at Ten Penh, a fusion Asian restaurant close to our office. She was psyched because it was *only* $20 for three course meal. First of all, only $20? That sounds like a shitload to someone watching her spending. Second of all, who eats three courses at lunch, especially when serious work is expected of you afterward?

Unfortunately, there was little room for protestation from this brown bag diva. By the time I joined in the ridiculous string of internal e-mail conversations in which everyone seemingly jumped at the chance for a delicious meal, I begrudgingly agreed, not wanting to be the odd one out. I am still the newest member of the crew and want to show that I'm a team player, even if it means dropping cash on lunch. (After conversation with another co-worker, I realized I wasn't the only one feeling it was a bit pricey for a meal.)

Here's what I will say. The restaurant was superb. My meal, although way too much, was absolutely delicious: ginger limeade, fancy spring rolls, crabcakes with tempura beans and cold peanut noodle salad, and finished it up with a chocolate mousse cake. Yum.

If only I had been able to enjoy the whole experience more. Here's why. Office lunches are awkward, at least with my co-workers. There are enough socially awkward people who work here that it is absolutely impossible to have normal, fun, or even just polite conversation. The big boss lady arrived late--and I will say that up until that point things had been lighthearted and even close to comfortable. But as soon as she arrived, you could hear crickets. She then proceeded to fill the awkward silence with shop talk for the rest of the time, excluding half of us, and boring me to tears. Is there a professional development course on small talk and making your employees feel comfortable? I will sign her up.

To make matters more awkward, another coworker who could have a doctorate in TMI decided that dessert is the proper time to tell everyone about the time she went to a nice restaurant and enjoyed a nice piece of tuna.... and then proceeded to have very bad gas and diarrhea for the next day. I am not even close to kidding. Seriously, I'm begging for these people to take Social Skills 101...or even Table Talk Do's and Don'ts. Or even Manners for Five Year-Olds. Even that would cover not using potty talk at the freakin' table!

When the bill came, our supposed $20 meal ended up being $31 per person. Frankly, I'm pissed that I paid $31 dollars for an hour and a half of awkwardness. Needless to say, my personal spending budget for the month has been maxed, so it's going to be a frugal weekend for me. As long as it's free of talk concerning bowels or work, that will be just fine with me.

So, lovely readers, what have your experiences with work lunches been? Friend or foe? Worthwhile or worth skipping?

I'm not so in love today

It was bound to happen--the end of the honeymoon phase. No, I'm not talking about living with SCL, which is still awesome (even though math camp means math I'm talking about my relationship with D.C. Here are some annoying things that have happened in the last day or so that have really made me question whether or not my relationship with the city is going to work out.

First, the Metro. Yesterday SCL and I were riding in together (so fun!). I kissed him good-bye at the Foggy Bottom station, took a seat, a pulled out Jimmy Carter's book to read for the next five minutes until arriving at my stop. That was until I heard the annoying message that a train ahead had broken down and we would be moving "momentarily." They proceeded to announce this repeatedly over the next 20 minutes. Finally we move again and get to the next station...where we proceed to stall for another 15 minutes. By the time I got to work, it was close to 9:30 and I was not so happy. (Also, this is one among many issues I've had with the Metro this summer.)

Second, the dynamics of my job. My boss today, I kid you not, emailed me to print out some spreadsheets for her. WTF? In the time it took her to email me about it, she could've done it herself at least 3 times! What, did she want me to deliver the sheets on a gold platter? I took the annoyance of having to go to her office as an opportunity to ask about some logistics for an upcoming event, which she had requested I research. When I came back with details, she proceeded to act terribly annoyed that I had bothered her with all of this cumbersome information because she was so busy--and for me to go over it with someone else in the office. Grrrr.

Third, the awkward networking. I went to an event tonight that was free (!) and supposed to be a networking opportunity with other health non-profits. Upon arriving, I realized I was the only newbie and everyone was speaking in those horrible acronyms that make absolutely no sense to me at all because--hello! this is DC, land of the non-profits. There are scads of them, all of which think they're the shit and think everyone should know what their stupid letters stand for. Needless to say, I drank my drink (non-alcoholic, trying to cut back), ate my overly priced appetizers (which were free--perk!), and scooted out of there before I could hear one more person defend Sarah Palin. No, I am not joking.

True, I am being emotional, and I'm not giving my beloved city much chance to tell its side of the story. But right now all I want to do is crawl into bed, finish my Julie Andrews memoir, and hope to wake up with a better attitude tomorrow. DC, let's give it another try, shall we?

Commenting Trouble

Friends, I've heard from several of you that the word verification on the comments was messing up, so I have removed it and switched to comment moderation instead. I can't even believe that there are those of you reading AND wanting to comment. Wahoo! You all are the best and encouraging me so much.

Off to eat the delicious homemade pizza that SCL baked!

(Is it feminist to talk about coupons?) Or, How I Got a Week's Worth of Groceries for $38

While many of our expenses are fixed (rent, parking, Metro, Internet), our monthly grocery bill is something we can have a bit more control over. This is our first month budgeting together, but we gave our best estimation and designated $250 for groceries this month (approx. $55 per week). Up until last night we'd done a bulk of our grocery shopping at Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, a relatively low-priced store just a mile from our house. Each week we sit down to make a meal plan and write a list. Generally speaking, we follow it almost exactly with the exception of an occasional impulse ice cream or candy purchase. (Before entering the store, I'll scrawl "candy" on the list and claim that we must get it since it's written on the list.) Each week we spend approximately the same amount of money on groceries, generally between $50 and $60, no matter how much or how little we buy. While reasonable for two people and even well below most of my friends' grocery bills, I still thought we could do better.

A few weeks ago I got something in the mail that our local Target was opening a fresh food section in their grocery department. Although I'm quite the Target lover, ours had been cramped and understocked, most likely due to the redesign, but last night we decided we'd try it and compare some prices, figuring we could get anything we didn't find there at the grocery store in the same shopping center.

As it turns out, everything on our list we found at Target. Note: we didn't need a ton of fresh stuff this week as we had leftover fruit and veggies, so that made shopping there a breeze. Here's what we got for $38.
Strawberries (on sale for $1.79)
Target brand half-and-half
Lunch meat
Garlic Bread (coupon for 50 cents off)
Cottage Cheese
Tomato Puree
Two boxes of whole-wheat pasta ($1 coupon)
Newman's Own Pasta Sauce (75 cents coupon)
Graham Crackers
Marshmallow Fluff (in oatmeal--seriously, try it)
Granola Bars ($1 coupon)
5-lb bag of flour (for pizza dough!)
Dove chocolates ($1 coupon)

Now, you may be thinking, "Gross, what could you possibly eat?" Before heading to the grocery store, we made an inventory of stuff we already had and what we could make by supplementing a few things. Generally, we never buy for a dish that requires us to buy all new ingredients. We incorporate what we already have and supplement each week. We buy things we use all the time at Costco (for a later post) and shop at the grocery store to fill out with extras in order to make meals.

Our cuisine isn't sophisticated, but we do eat relatively healthy dishes and don't find our evenings too chaotic with trying to make elaborate dinners. All in all, it works for us, and we're saving a lot of money in the process.

But, this post brings up a point about financial blogs and gender norms that my friend L and I were discussing. This is something I'd like to explore, but I wonder if others have thoughts on this. Our sense was that women generally talk household expenses and men talk investment, retirement, etc. Is this true? And if not, can someone lead me in the direction of a feminist financial blog? I used to follow Feminist Finance but she's taken a hiatus for quite some time.

Math Camp Commences! (It's sad that this is more exciting than my own life.)

For the first time since moving to DC, SCL and I left our apartment at the same time this morning to hop on the blue line--he to GWU and I to work. Same direction, same line, pretty awesome. It was fun having a buddy, although it's harder to find two open seats together than one and I didn't get a chance to do my daily Metro reading (current book: We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land by Jimmy Carter). Today was the first day of Math Camp (which I will clarify here that all incoming PhD students in his department must take, not just those who didn't have stats in college.) So it begins.

To be honest, I didn't even have the slightest bit of first day school envy, although I did try to convince him that he/we really, really needed to go school supply shopping and that he really, really did need a pack of colored pencils, a protractor, and a Hello Kitty backpack. I guess I've just had so much new happening in my own life that I am kind of sick of things feeling foreign or unfamiliar. I appreciate that I have a routine now, that I know how long it takes to get from our apartment to my office, that I have a decorated cubicle full of feminist paraphernalia--the best being a new button I scored at NARAL Pro-Choice VA's happy hour event last week that reads"I heart Pro Choice Boys." Love it. You can get one for yourself here.

But, this is a big day. It's the real beginning of our journey as student and non-student for the next five years or so. One day down, (approx.) one thousand eight hundred twenty-four to go...

Bonding with Your Partner, Homemade Pizza Style

Over the last year, SCL and I have become what you might call pizza purists. It's not that we don't enjoy on the occasion a slice of Domino's, Pap John's, or other commercially-prepared pies. It's just that we think we do it a LOT better, healthier, cheaper, and delicious-er. You should try it, too!

The elements of the perfect pizza

1) The crust. This took a lot of hard work, attempting many different recipes, until we discovered the right one for our tastes. The recipe is from and is called Jay's Signature Pizza Crust. Seriously, trust me on this; it is the perfect balance of crispy and chewy. Each recipes makes two thin or one ridiculously thick crust. We usually double the recipe, split up the dough, and freeze each ball separately. One tip: the pizza dough will be a bit sticky if you follow the recipe exactly, so feel free to add up more flour until you get the right consistency.

2) The sauce. (I'll stick to tomato sauce for now.) I do not purchase jarred pizza sauce because it is so easy and cheaper to make your own at home. We buy a big can of tomato puree and I mix in garlic powder, oregano, basil, and black pepper. You could add a bit of tomato paste if you want it thicker. Also, I do not recommend using canned tomato sauce as its too watery. Trust me, tomato puree is the way to go.

3) The cheese. Do not buy shredded cheese! This is a big no-no. Shredded cheese has some kind of added preservative that makes it rubbery and gross when it melts. Buy some low-moisture mozzarella and grate it yourself. We buy ours at Costco because we can get a 5 lb. block for what it would cost for 1-2 lbs at the grocery store. It freezes just fine if you are careful to wrap it in plastic wrap, and some even suggest shredding the cheese when it's a little frozen because it's easier to grate. Tip: use the smaller grate as you'll need less cheese if it's more finely grated.

4) The toppings. This is the time to play! Some of our favorites are:
Mashed Potato and Bacon (Use the potato as a sauce. Believe me, it's delicious)
Sausage, Pepper, and Onion
BBQ Chicken and Red Onion
Pepperoni, Feta, and Sundried Tomato (If the tomatoes aren't in a jar, add them towards the end of cooking or they'll get charred!)

5) The baking. We figured out that it's best to cook the crust for a few minutes before adding the sauce, cheese, and other toppings. If you put it all in together, the crust might be underdone. Underdone crust = yuck. Ours cook at around 425, but you may need to adjust for your oven. If you like your cheese a bit browner, you can broil it for a few minutes (but be careful or your toppings might burn.)

6) The eating. Self-explanatory. We usually can polish off a whole one in one meal because the crust is so thin. It's perfect for two people with healthy appetites.

Happy Pizza Making!

TV Will Bring Us Together

One of the great things of having a computer genius/nerd as a boyfriend is that I benefit from all of the crazy computer skills (Napoleon Dynamite was right about that one), my favorite being the DVR-like computer he built for recording TV shows. The program is called MythTV, and to me it is a god.

This comes in handy for many reasons, but in particular for me because I'm lame and like to go to sleep around 10:00 (I get up at 6:30 to go to the gym and need all the sleep I can get), I don't get to watch some of my favorite shows while they air, such as Chelsea Lately and Mad Men. So, our little MythTV is my friend and stays up to record my shows. It's so smart--it can even search for later showings of the show if there's a scheduling conflict, so that I don't have to choose between Project Runway and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Whew!

Now, you might be wondering, why is this better than my DVR/TiVo/etc.? I'll tell you why. First, the program is free to use (right, SCL?). Second, the subscription to get TV listings is $20--for a whole year. Third, and best of all, it flags commercials. You read that right; it automatically detects commericals and skips them for you as you watch. Brilliant! This means no having to skip forward manually and risk losing a few riveting seconds of More to Love.

Strangely enough, I have found recording TV actually results in less overall TV viewing for me, mostly because I know it's there waiting for me whenever I want. There's no more urgency. Sometimes I'll binge on a whole week's worth of Bravo reality TV on Saturday, but seriously, there are worse things I could be doing with my time.

Big props to SCL for being such a good cable provider.

When "Ice Cream" means "Stop"

Sara over at 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding (yes, I read wedding blogs--sue me) wrote this great piece about what to do when tensions are high, and you and your partner fall into less than ideal communication patterns.

Her steps are:
  1. Decide how either of you can initiate a time-out. It may be a signal or a word. Matt and I opted for the word "ice cream" because it has so many positive associations for us and it seems like it has the potential to lift the mood just a little.
  2. Decide what each of you needs to do during the time-out to help you cool down. For me, I need to go do some yoga breaths and stretches.
  3. Decide what you can say to yourself to help ground you. I need to say things like, "We're on the same team; we're building a life together."
  4. Commit to coming back to resolve the issue with a conversation after both parties have calmed down and can talk rationally about the situation.
Amen, sister. I love how they've got a code word for "stop" but is actually a lot nicer sounding than "stop." Basically, it's all about giving yourself space to reflect on something bigger than just the current annoyances. It's not about denying the fact that no matter how much we love another person, we're going to get pissed off sometimes. Trying to work through being pissed off is not a good use of energy, especially when all it may take is a few minutes to cool off and resume the conversation.

SCL and I hit a rough patch a few weeks ago when we (re)discovered that our communication patterns are very different. Our conversations were just frustrating both of us, and I was left feeling hurt--and SCL felt misunderstood. So, we talked it over and decided in the future that we will:

1) Speak up when a conversation is not helpful (maybe we need a code word!).
2) Agree to drop it for the time being.
3) Decide a specific time to resume the conversation and honor it.

Any communication tips during stressful times that you find helpful?

Where the f--- did summer go?

It hit me this week when my friend said she was heading back to grad school in a few days. Is it really mid-August? This has been a crazy summer with moving, new job, new apartment, etc. and I guess I haven't noticed how ridiculously quickly the summer has gone. Before the move, life had come to a screeching halt, but it quickly made up for lost time when I got to D.C. Work has picked up speed a lot this week, too, contributing to the whole "where the f--- did summer go?" phenomenon.

I'm having trouble making time for this blog. Like a lot of blogger wannabes, I started with good intentions and thought that a lot of people would benefit from my writing (pretty narcissistic of me). But, since I'm doing my best to protect my privacy, I haven't told many people I'm writing this, and I'm not sure how best to go about promoting myself--so, my readership is fairly non-existent. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm writing only to myself right now (and possibly SCL since he added me to his google reader. Hi love!)

But, with math camp (!) starting in just over a week and real school starting after that, I know that things are going to shift soon, and that I'll start learning just what it means to be in a relationship with a PhD student--and if it's really that big of a change. This summer has been great, at least for me, since SCL has been working from home and we get a lot of time to spend together once I'm off work. He's been awesome about starting dinner and not complaining about the days I go out with co-workers to happy hour. I wonder how our time together will change once we throw class and homework into the mix.

We'll see how things go. So far we've been able to talk through most everything that's been hard about living together, and I hope the same is true for our upcoming adjustments to student/work life.

The Weekend: Friends, Food, and Clinic Escort Training

I used to volunteer at my Planned Parenthood in CT as a clinic assistant and pastoral counselor. When I started my job after school, I didn't have the flexibility to come into the clinic as often, but I knew that when I moved to DC, I wanted to have more direct contact with patients again--to be doing advocacy on a more grassroots level. This is important because 1) the need is great and 2) it helps keep me grounded in the cause of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice.

When I found out some friends were doing a training with the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force this weekend, I asked if I could join. I'd heard of the group before but didn't know they had a training coming up. The greatest thing is I can just show up without reserving a space. I'm excited to meet others who feel strongly about the cause and about protecting women.

SCL and I were chatting today about weekend plans, and he asked about the training. Then, to my surprise and delight, he asked if he could join! I was speechless. Of course he's supportive, but I just never knew he was interested in taking part in activism. So, tomorrow we will go together to learn how to support women. I can already picture us getting up early some Saturday morning, walking hand in hand to be shields, to be supporters, to be comforters to the women in DC.

I feel blessed to have found someone who is my partner in so many different ways.

Statistically Nerdy

When I got back from my early morning workout, I came in to find SCL sitting at his desk (not unusual) with a big, boring book in hand along with a pencil (definitely unusual.) "Is that your stats book?" I asked. (Note: since he didn't take stats in college, he has to go to a week-long crash course in August which we've adoringly nicknamed "Math Camp." I can just picture a sea of pale, glasses-wearing, pocket protector-bearing kids ready to go with their TI-89s...though they probably don't even use those anymore. Shows how long it's been since I've been sitting in a math class.)

Let me say that stats camp doesn't begin until the last week of August. I asked him, "Do you have to do any reading before you go?" He said no, but that there's no way they could get through the entire book in a week--to which I responded, maybe that isn't the point. "But this will make it so much easier when I get there!" he responded, slightly defensively. I don't blame him. I was making fun of his nerdiness and warned him that he could quickly become "that kid."

When I went into the kitchen to get my coffee and oatmeal, I was expecting SCL to stay at his desk, reading his book, and I'd decided that I wouldn't say anything about it, figuring I'd probably be nervous about starting a doctoral proram and would like to feel prepared in some way, even if it seemed a little silly from the outside. But as soon as I put my coffee cup down, SCL turned off his desk lamp and joined me at our little kitchen table.

That's why I love him.