The Ghosts of a Job Past

When I first started this blog in the summer of 2009, I was preparing to move to DC and begin a new life. What I never really bothered to mention was what I was leaving, in particular a job that I absolutely despised.

Like most just-out-of-school jobs, mine was crappy for normal reasons: a long-commute, low pay, little creative freedom, and post-academia life confusion. But, on top of that I had the meanest, most manipulative, self-absorbed, deluded psycho of a boss, who seemed to really enjoy making my life miserable. About a month before my departure (and no other job lined up at the time), we had a major blow-up after she mocked something I'd worked hard on. I told her that I absolutely hated coming to work everyday.

Now, a few years later, I realize that it was in part my immaturity that made my job so miserable. But, since leaving that organization, I've seen how my former boss continues to alienate and manipulate her way through her professional life. She and I are on mostly pleasant terms, and she even invites me to participate in some events together. As it turns out, I'm becoming an important player in the field, and I work for a powerful organization. She keeps me in the loop because she needs to. I keep her at a safe, but friendly arm's length if you know what I mean. I feel I'm too early in my career to be burning bridges, even if they're with people I'd rather not cross over to see.

But now, I'm not so sure. I got a truly hysterical email from my old boss, claiming financial ruin and begging for money--and that it was, of course, someone else's fault. As it turns out, the someone else is a dear colleague, and I couldn't believe that this was the whole story. More details have come out since then, and I am finding myself more and more upset that she's throwing this person under the bus. I don't know what is true and what is a lie, but she has stooped to an all-time low to benefit herself.

It's tough to be looped into all of this, and be in the midst of the noise of it all. She's blowing up Twitter, Facebook, the Internet with this stuff, and I just want nothing to do with it. Eventually, I decided to write her a short "I'm sorry" email and let it go. But her requests for money kept coming in, and I started to feel badly for her staff whose jobs are on the line. Finally, I sent her a small donation this morning just to have some peace of mind. It's tax-deductible, and it's money I could afford to give.

I feel a little better now. But most of all, I'm saddened by this implosion in our community. There aren't many people doing what we're doing, and to feel it crumbling apart from the inside is truly a sad thing. I'm just thankful I got out of there, and that for now, I have peace in my job.

Weddomg: First Thoughts on a Budget

I just discovered while trying to type wedding that if you misplace your right hand on the keyboard by one row of keys to the right that you instead type "weddomg," which I find totally appropriate on many levels. "Weddomg" is a perfect description about how everyone, including myself, goes somewhat, if not entirely, batshit crazy at the mention of a wedding. So, I'm thinking that at least some of my wedding-related posts will be labeled "Weddomg," particularly those that relate to my own craziness or the craziness of others. Today I'll talk about wedding budget craziness, even before we have spent a single penny.

Carolina Man and I are now in the very preliminary stages of wedding planning, i.e. we're going to look at a venue, we're putting together a draft guest list, and we're generally thinking of what time of year we're going to plan for. Oh yeah, and we're piecing together a wedding budget. If you want to make yourself insane in a matter of minutes, start looking at how much weddings cost on average. You'll probably shit yourself and/or start crying.

Even as a newbie, I can say that there's a whole lot to putting together a wedding budget, and there's a helluva lot of unknowns when you haven't begun looking into all of the vendors you'll need. But, we do know approximately how much our venue will be per person, how much the ceremony will be, and for the rest of it, I just googled average costs of wedding shit and put the numbers into a spreadsheet. The amount I saw before my eyes was somewhat shocking. A preliminary estimation of our wedding was about $25K. *gulp*

And then I wasn't so shocked. Weddings are expensive, yo. We knew that going into this. It's about what we'd said we wanted to spend from the beginning, and it's an amount that we can afford to pay out of pocket, if we are able to save as we anticipate (and as he and I both have been saving since we first began our relationship).  Yes, it's an awful lot to spend on "one day," but let's be clear here. Celebrations of life and love are important. And I feel as long as we aren't going into debt, nor are we using all of our savings, then we can feel guilt-free in our spending on a day where we'll gather with loved ones to celebrate the new stage of our relationship.

But you got to prioritize. Here are some of the things we care about:
  • Beautiful, convenient location
  • Meaningful, personal ceremony
  • Looking good
  • Delicious food
  • Ease of use (i.e. having an all-inclusive package)
  • Awesome pictures 
  • Unique honeymoon
The things we care less about:
  • Having everyone we've ever known there (we're thinking 50-60 people)
  • Favors (probably won't have them)
  • Tradition
  • Having a huge bridal party (probably will have a Best Man and a Best Woman because I hate the phrase"Maid of Honor")
  • DJ
  • Flowers 
  • Having a theme
  • Invitations
  • Putting on a show for our guests 
So, if these priorities stay the same, we know we want to spend most of our energy and probably finances on the location, the clothing and rings, the food, the photographer, and the honeymoon. 

Yesterday I was still feeling nervous that our designated monthly savings wouldn't be enough to cover things. So, Carolina Man suggested we both commit to saving an extra $200 over what we said we would save each month. In a year, that gives us an extra $5K. And I don't think either of us will miss this as we both got raises this year.

I'm thankful for his calm attitude about all of this, and how on the same page we are about planning this event. And I feel good knowing that we're going to be able to afford the kind of wedding we both want.

Venue on the Menu

Carolina Man and I have taken a solid month to celebrate our engagement, including a lovely, pre-honeymoon getaway to Playa del Carmen. We've taken all the "OMG, engagement! What's the date?" inquiries in stride, and have mastered the vague "We're not sure yet!" response.

And now we're ready to move on to actually taking the first steps to planning our wedding. Exciting!

At the advice of many friends, both online and offline, I've been perusing the amazing blog, A Practical Wedding, and earlier this week I bought the book for my kindle. One of the first exercises it suggests that you and your partner do together is figure out how you want the wedding to feel. It may sound kind of silly to go through a whole list of adjectives together, but for us, it helped solidify that we're on the same page. Some adjectives we picked were elegant, intimate, meaningful, full of love, and fun. Some we didn't pick were glamorous, boozy, kid-friendly, traditional, and formal.

And, in my practical news, we have booked our first wedding venue site tour for next week! We'll be looking at the place where we got engaged, The Umstead in Cary. The appeals of the place? It's close, it's beautiful, and it's inclusive of a lot of things that we don't want to figure out in a piecemeal fashion.

What are some of the important questions we should ask when we visit?

Will you oblige me while I stand on my soapbox?

Are you someone who enjoys non-procreative, heterosexual sex? Are you someone who would like to one day partake in non-procreative, heterosexual sex? Do you think all people who enjoy non-procreative, heterosexual sex should have information about and access to contraception, regardless of where they are employed, so that they too may enjoy non-procreative, heterosexual sex and plan their families (if they want kids) for the time when works best for them?

Or, are you one of the 15% of women who use contraceptives for non-contraceptive reasons, like endometriosis? Do you think that women should be able to access contraceptives for these reasons, no matter where they are employed?

Then you should be fucking pissed off at the "religiously"-charged, political conversations going on right now about contraception. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION.

And go read Sandra Fluke's testimony from today.

I went out a limb on Facebook and wrote how much I have to pay out of pocket for my birth control pills ($300 a year for a generic), and I'm insured! I'm fortunate that this is nothing more than a nuisance and not a financial burden. More of us need to speak out.

Oh yeah, and I'd really like to hear more from men, too. Last time I checked women didn't have to worry about preventing unintended pregnancy if they weren't having sex with men. 

Tapping into Creativity

As Carolina Man and I were falling asleep last night, I said to him, "I feel like I need to do more with creativity." It's something I've been thinking about for awhile now. Ever since I graduated and became a "Non-Student,"* I've really been lacking in the creativity department. Most of the creative things I've been part of have been performative and/or community-oriented. But, given the crazy travel schedule I have, I'd really like to find something I can do on my own, on my own time and terms.

But, I really suck at the following:
  • Drawing straight lines
  • Painting (even the walls)
  • Cutting straight lines
  • Sketching anything
  • Basically anything artistic that has to do with hand-eye coordination 
I have to start thinking outside of the box. I used to have a knack for scrap-booking back in the day, which makes me think I might like doing some kind of collage work with found objects. I have no idea what that would look like, but I like the idea of layering things and piecing things together in interesting ways.

But, I kind of have a fear of the things I make sucking really badly. Then again, as Carolina Man reminded me last night, being creative doesn't have to be for anyone else but me. I can just do it for the sake of doing it, for having the outlet.

Hmm, an interesting concept for me. Not being judged on something I do? That would be a first.

How do you tap into your creativity? I'd especially love to hear from those of you who aren't "artists" in the traditional sense!

*I'm kind of getting tired of referring to myself this way.

Hola, Amigos!

Carolina Man and I are back, and what better way to be thrust back into reality than a little snow shower on a Sunday evening? I've never been surprised by snow before. Usually if there's even a hint of a possible snowstorm, it seems like the whole world knows about it. Maybe we were still out of touch because of post-vacation brains. But, we opened the door to take Lucy out, and the whole ground was covered!

Hasta luego, sunshine.

In short, we had a fantastic time in Mexico. It was sun, sand, and all-you-can-drink mojitos. Of course, we hit some bumps in the road that now seem really, really petty (i.e. getting bumped from first class on our way there and not being able to find towels by the pool). Even as I type them, I feel like a moron. Seriously, who gets upset about towels? I think it's hard to resist that sense of entitlement when you're paying a lot for a vacation. But, life is life, no matter where you are.

I'll give you a quick review of the Valentin Imperial Maya. Huge resort. Incredibly wonderful staff. Awful food. There you go. I could go on and on about why we didn't like the food, but I won't bore you. I think our lesson learned is that all-inclusives cut corners when it comes to what they're putting in front of you, and that we ended up going for quantity over quality most of the time. And we ate way more meat than we do at home. And drank about eight million times more cocktails.

For our honeymoon, I think we'll look for something smaller and with top-notch cuisine. 

All in all, though, we had a fantastic time. I loved that it only took us half a day to get there and back, which really maximized our time relaxing in the sun. And, we got to practice our espanol a good bit. Speaking of which, I'm thinking about taking some classes again. Anyone else feel like a complete dumbass because they can only speak English?

The best part about vacation? Coming home! Seriously, we were so excited to be back at our house and snuggle with our puppy. What a wonderful feeling to want to come home.

Oooooh, Mexico

Tomorrow Carolina Man and I are taking off for five nights to Playa del Carmen, Mexico! We're considering it a pre-honeymoon.

See you next week, hopefully slightly more tan than now!

A note to the fellow newly engaged and to-be-engaged folks

I had no idea how crazy people get over weddings. Wells, that's not quite true. I have been known to watch a marathon of Bridezillas, so I did get a sense of how some people get crazy over weddings.
What I did not know was how crazy the people in my own life would get over our wedding. One that Carolina Man and I haven't even begun planning because, oh yeah, we haven't even been engaged for two weeks yet. I'm still completely distracted by my ring. No one in that state of mind could be making decisions about a wedding. 

I guess I thought when I told people I got engaged that they'd A) want to see the ring and B) want to hear the proposal story. WRONG. Instead they want A and then skip a few steps to ask when I'm getting married. Literally hours after we were engaged, people wanted to know the date we were going to tie the knot.

I suppose it's a logical question to ask, but it's one that started to get old really, really fast. I've adjusted my responses over time. At first I'd smile and say, "I don't know!" And then after I got asked it about a hundred times, I tried to play the guilt card, "Everyone keeps asking me that, and we just got engaged." Kind of snippy, kind of downer way to respond. Plus, it didn't do any good. The next person would just ask me the same question. And now I just accept their curiosity and say, "Probably sometime next year." Vague, noncommittal, but satisfactory enough that they move on.

Did I mention that my boss is already asking if she can wear a silver dress to the wedding?

What I'm learning is that a lot of people want to live vicariously through my experience, and that means they've got a lot of opinions they want to share with me. What I have to remember is they mean well, but I don't have to take it all to heart.

I just hope that their curiosity doesn't wane too much because when we do actually begin planning, I'm sure I'll be looking for some eager ears to entertain my ideas.

Anyone else experience this kind of interrogation about wedding dates? How did you deal with it?

Worth the Risk

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a friend of mine in DC. She's not someone I know that well, but she reached out to me about her current situation: she's thinking about moving across the country to a place she's always wanted to move with a guy she met a few months ago. They wouldn't live together, just continue dating. And unsurprisingly, her friends are concerned and therefore not as supportive as she was hoping. She asked what I went through when I moved to NC and any advice I could give her.

This is what I wrote back:

I totally hear what you're saying about your friends not getting it. I think that's because we are all pretty rational about everyone else's lives, but not as much as our own. We consider our emotions and gut feelings when we make decisions about what we're going to do. And it sucks that other people can't feel or relate to those feelings--or even affirm that we have them at all.

I think it's good that friends are looking out for you, but ultimately they can't know what's best for you. Only you know that. The people who care about you in DC want you to stay put, I'm sure. No one is going to say, "Please move across the country!" They love you; they want you around. It's a good thing.

When I met Carolina Man, I knew almost immediately that I would marry him. Everyone thought I was crazy, except for my mom who backed me 100%. That ended up being enough confirmation for me to move forward with the move. I wanted other people to feel excited for me, but after many failed attempts to get that reaction,  I finally came to the conclusion that they just weren't going to get it, at least not as quickly as I wanted them to. Everyone thought I was crazy to move for a guy after two months. But, it's turned out to be the best decision I've made in a long time.

I say, go with your gut, and choose carefully whom you bring into your decision-making.  You are a beautiful, smart, talented woman, and what's the worst thing that could happen? You move there, hate it, and decide to move somewhere else. So, I'd say if you can handle that and it feels right, then go for it. I think love/adventure/excitement is always worth chasing after. Otherwise we're just living in fear of what we might lose.

I'm not sure what my friend will ultimately decide, but I hope that she makes a decision out of a place of both head and heart, and not out of fear alone.

Engagement Portraits by My Favorite Five-Year-Old

The day after our engagement, my mom returned home to Georgia. On her way she stopped by my brother's house because apparently my nephew does not understand that Nana sometimes is too tired to play. He overheard my brother and mom talking about our engagement, and he was inspired to draw the following portraits. 

This is me.
Please note the ring in the upper right corner.

This is Carolina Man.
He just learned to draw glasses, so he kind of forgot about the body.   

Why go to a professional when you have an artist like this in the family?

The Proposal: Part Six...The End

Did you all think the last post was the end of the engagement story? I can understand why. It did end with the actual proposal, but there's more to the story!

Carolina Man walked me back to our room--a gorgeous suite with a balcony overlooking the place where we'd just gotten engaged. To celebrate he'd scattered rose petals on the floor and had a bottle of Dom Perignon chilling in the fridge. (He later told me that the bottle wouldn't fit in the fridge that was in the room, so management had sent up a larger one. Now that's serious customer service!) As he popped the bottle, I said, "I've never had Dom Perignon before!" And he said, "Me either!"

In between delicious sips of champagne, we stopped to admire the ring. He'd actually had it since before Christmas, but decided not to really look at it until he'd given it to me. Now that is some serious restraint.

With a pleasant buzz, we made our way to the hotel's five-star restaurant. The service was impeccable. The food, however, was a little too fancy for our liking. You know food that's just completely overdressed? Like what they make on Top Chef? That's what it was like. So, we didn't eat much except for the delicious scones in the bread basket. There was a waiter walking around with more of them the whole night, and I think we ate about half a dozen each. And, of course we had more wine, which we ended up having to cork because we couldn't finish all of it.

Tipsy and happy, we made our way back to the room, and happily passed out from such a wonderful day. But, before we fell asleep, I had one more envelope to open.

I know you're wondering what else there might be on this PPD. Well, believe me, the apex of the day was about three hours ago. But assuming you said, "Yes," I have booked us a couple's massage at The Umstead Spa for 9 am tomorrow.

What better way to start off our lives as fiancée and fiancé?

I love you so much!
Carolina Man

The next morning we woke up with no hangover (an engagement miracle) and made our way down to the spa for a relaxing massage before heading home to show my mom the ring.

We had such a wonderful experience at The Umstead that we're thinking about having our wedding there! But for now, we're just enjoying the engagement.

Remembering the Girl

I don't often talk about my work on this blog, but in all the excitment about my engagement, I've been thinking about how this new stage of my life informs my work advocating for improved maternal health globally. At first glance, they don't seem all that related, but I'm beginning to see the connections more clealy.

I'm 28-years-old. I finished college, graduate school, and have been gainfully employed since graduation. I've been able to travel the country and parts of the world for work and pleasure. I've moved several times. I've been in several long-term relationships that haven't ended in marriage. In general, I've had freedom and opportunity to grow personally and professionally, and to decide when I was ready that I wanted to find a long-term partner to marry. And together we'll decide if and when we want children.

Nearly all of this has been possible because of where I was born.

When I talk about improving maternal health globally, I'm talking about women my age--and girls much younger. I'm talking about girls who aren'table to go to school after eighth grade because their families can't afford it. I'm talking about girls who get married before they're eighteen because their families need dowries to survive. They go on to have several children before they turn twenty because they aren't able to negotiate sex, and they don't have access to contraceptives. And 356,000 die every year giving birth.

I remember dancing with the women in Malawi after they'd graduated from tailoring school. Their husbands were so very proud, and their little ones were excitedly running around, proud to don the beautiful dresses and suits their mothers had made. When I asked them if they were excited to find work selling their creations, they told me with sadness that they couldn't afford their own sewing machines. So, they'd worked hard to learn these skills, but had no way to practice them.

All of this because of where they were born.

It's overwhelming, and easy to get caught up in the guilt of privilege and opportunity. But I won't stay there. This afternoon I'll be speaking to a group of fifty eager activitsts who want to learn how they can help. We'll be making maternal health kits and writing letters to Congress. And I'll be making a microloan on Kiva to support small local projects that can make a huge difference in people's lives. I encourage you to do the same. There are more than fifty opportunities to support sewing projects around the world.

The Proposal: Part Five

As I sat in the car, I felt tingly and nervous. Where were we going? What was going to happen next?

And then I remembered that I had another envelope!

Are you relaxed? Do you feel gorgeous? Well I'm sure you are whether you feel it or not.

Your next stop is the Umstead Hotel and Spa where we will be having dinner and staying the night. You can read more about the hotel, spa, and restaurant on the enclosed printout.

Make a quick stop at home to drop your Mom off (she's going to watch Lucy) and grab your bags. We have full access to the spa, so be sure you packed a swimsuit.

You should arrive at the hotel around 5 pm. Dinner is at 6:30.

See you soon, baby!

Carolina Man
  I'd heard of the Umstead before. It's one of maybe two five-star hotels in NC, and it's only about 20 minutes away from our house. Of course, as we were driving, 20 minutes seemed to go on forever and ever.
Finally, when we arrived, I said good-bye to our driver ("You look beautiful," he said) and walked into the hotel lobby.

Carolina Man walked in looking awesome in his sport coat. He said, "Why don't I show you the grounds?" We started walking toward the elevator when he said, "Oh, wait" and walked me back to the lobby. "This is the front desk," he said. To which I responded, "Seriously? I have on four inch heels!"

We took the elevator down one level and walked outside to this gorgeous green space with a fountain and trees all behind it. And that was when I noticed how weird CM was acting. I kind of knew this was going to be the moment I'd been waiting for.

He took my hands and told me how much he loves me and why--he loved how smart, articulate, and caring I am. He even said he loves how I am with Lucy! And then he said, "It is without hesitation" (*got down on one knee*) "that I ask if you'll marry me." (Or something like that. It's one of those moments that's so overwhelming it's hard to remember it perfectly.) Of course, I said yes, with tears in my eyes. And then my next comment was "That ring is beautiful!"

And it was. It is. I couldn't have picked out anything more beautiful.

After some tears and some kisses, we turned around and I saw that he'd had someone snapping photos the whole time! That's how we have this one.

Then it was time to celebrate!

The Proposal: Part Four

After a lovely lunch together, it was time for more pampering. I opened the next card.
Now that your belly is full, it's time to sit back, relax, and be pampered.
Your next stop is Beverly Nails. I'm not sure if it's owend by someone named Beverly or if they're trying to play off "Beverly Hills." You could ask when you get there.
Please used the enclosed gift certificate to get you and your mom deluxe manicures.
Carolina Man
My mom was really lucking out in this deal! Off we went to get our nails done. I got mine painted a fire engine red to match the dress (and I thought it would look good with a diamond ring, too. Not that I was being presumptuous or anything.)

We had a Legally Blonde-type bonding moment with the other women in the salon. We told them all about the day and how CM had planned surprise after surprise for me. There were lots of "oohs" and "ahhs" in the place.

After our nails were mostly set, we headed back to the house where CM gave me the next envelope.
Your last stop before dinner is the Hair and Face Lounge. But before that, your driver will take you to the house to get ready for tonight. Your mom will come along for the ride.
Your hair appointment (blowout and make-up) is at 3:30, so you should have about an hour to get ready.
Carolina Man
I was totally getting the royal treatment from head to toe! My stylist Ashley, whom I'd just seem the week before for a cut, was thrilled for me. She actually knew about the appointment that day when I'd come in last week. I'm so impressed she kept the secret! She put me in long, loose curls, and a smoky eye with a red lip. I felt gorgeous.

Mom and I headed back to the house where I slipped into my dress and heels as fast as I could, and headed out the door to meet Carolina Man at our next destination.

The Proposal: Part Three

Mom and I chatted and giggled the whole way to the mall. She and I hadn't been shopping for a fancy dress since my senior prom, and it's our absolute favorite thing to do. (Eee, I can't wait to go wedding dress shopping!)

Our driver Henderson could not have been more delightful. He insisted on opening our doors, which neither of us ever got used to, and dropped us off with a smile and a promise to return in two hours time.

Two hours to find the perfect dress? If anyone could do it, my mom and I could. We headed straight for our favorite department store. Usually when I shop, I find it nearly impossible to pick up anything that's not on sale. It just feels wrong to buy something full-price when I know everything goes on sale. But, I told myself that I was going to pick the dress I loved the most, no matter the cost. And that I wasn't going to get upset if my normal size didn't fit. (These are two major stressers for me when I shop.)

Mom and I split up to peruse the racks and came back with our favorite contenders: a sexy black dress with a plunging neckline, a high-neck metallic number, and this one.

There was no question that this was the one. I felt gorgeous in it. After a quick trip to the shoe department and Sephora, I had the shoes and lipstick to complete the look. And believe it or not, we still had 45 minutes to spare! That has to be some kind of record.

Time to open PPD Two!
Did we have a nice shopping spree? Did we find a nice evening dress? Well good for us!

All that shopping has undoubtedly made you hungry.

Come across the street and have lunch with me.

Carolina Man
And a few minutes later, Henderson was there with the car and Carolina Man, and off we were to lunch!