Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's a good thing I take better care of my family than I do this blog.  Truth is, it's been a weird couple of months, with a wonderfully happy ending(s).  I hope to start writing semi-regularly again now that we are settled.

The Husband finished his first year of graduate school with flying colors and so much stress.  However, things began to break down over the summer and it was ultimately decided that he would quit.  That certainly took awhile for me to process, but I did my best to be supportive.  I was, in some ways, quite disappointed, almost to the point of grieving - that PhD was the !thing! that was going to solve all of our problems.  (Wait - looking at it from this side, I can see that we don't really have that many problems).  So a job hunt began, and as the end of August, and the stipend, approached, I finally had a solution.  I wanted to go home.  Home being central Pennsylvania, mountains and all.

For a few days, I put it forth as our worst-case scenario.  The cost of living in central PA is such that one of our incomes (TH actually started working remotely for the same place I do again; he worked there first and they are always glad to have his help) would be sufficient for rent, a car, everything (if necessary).  Then TH had an interview for a job in Nevada, and I realized that Nevada sounded god-awful and that I was severely freaked out by the idea of going that far away from the East coast and all my family.

So, the decision was jointly made.  The more we talked about it the more we liked it.  We found a house and started packing (we had actually started earlier, because we knew one way or another we weren't staying in the cave).  We arranged our move-in for September 25.  On September 20, my grandmother died.  She had been living with my parents.  They tried to take their first non-camping vacation in years, and my mom's first real break from caretaking in at least 9 months.  They had a nurse/friend stay with her, and while sitting in a comfy chair, she had a heart attack and died almost immediately thereafter.  She was 93.  The nightmarish practical side of it was that the Bee and I had to rent a car on the 22nd to drive up here for the funeral, leaving poor sainted husband to finish packing himself.  My parents and I drove down to fetch him (and of course the moving truck!) on the 25th, then back to Williamsport the same day.

We've been in Williamsport for nearly a month.  My immediate family (parents, brother and his family) and a good chunk of my extended family (aunts, uncles, my bazillion cousins) are within 30 minutes of my house.  And it is wonderful.  The city has its charms, it's so close to beautiful outdoorsy adventures, and having family makes having a two-year old so much better.  I was so resistant to the idea of ever moving back to this state, and I feel like doing so and being able to successfully interact with my family on a regular basis was a real growing-up experience for me.  The house, while modest, has 3 bedrooms and an enclosed porch for laundry and playing, which is a real improvement over a 600 square foot English basement (and at half the expense!)  But best of all?  TH found what is quite nearly his dream job working for the county.  He starts next Monday.

Wait.  Maybe that's not best of all... I found out on September 12th that I am pregnant.  Not unexpected, and very welcome.  I've already found and met with an experienced CPM in the area.  She is wonderful and we're having this one at home!  I am nearly 10 weeks and doing well, already a little pouchy, I kid you not.  So, yay!  I am so looking forward to having actual support during the postpartum phase.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I am the Pope of the Church of Don't Get a Dog

And, yea verily, I will spread my church's gospel far and wide with the hope that I may save some souls.

I am not denying the fact that there are, at this moment, people who are very, very happy having a dog.  But if you are not one of those people, I advise you not to try and become one.  There is at least an even chance of you becoming someone who is either stuck with a difficult dog, or made very sad by the ordeal of placing a beloved pet into a new home (after dealing with increased stress leading up to that resolution).  I also do not wish to discount or dismiss anyone who currently has or recently had a dog that they love very much.  And I am definitely not trying to make you get rid of an existing pet.  All I want to do is stop you from getting into the relationship in the first place.  I do not think having a dog is a necessary stop on the road to fulfilling your full human potential.  I think they are a luxury.

My Dog Story
Full disclaimer:  I had a dog, from September 2007 through July 2010.  Her name was Abbey, and she was - is, I hope - a sweet, cute dog.  We did the "right" thing and got her from a rescue agency/foster home instead of a breeder.  We crate trained her very gently, didn't leave her alone for long stretches of time (we've had severely screwy, but flexible, schedules since 2007), took her for regular exercise, etc.  And yet, Abbey displayed ever-worsening separation anxiety.  In our first apartment, it wasn't too bad; the units were fairly soundproof, we weren't next to anyone, and she wasn't psychotic.  She would stay in her crate without too much destruction.  She did bark a lot while alone.  Next apartment, she began scratching at the door to the point that she made her paws bleed a few times.  Lots of barking.  Around this time we began leaving her alone less, without really saying that's what we were doing.  The experience of being spayed seemed to push her into greater fear and destruction; she chewed up the floor of her crate, so we stopped using it.  Her destruction between December 2008 and June 2010 was this: chewed through metal bars of crate in a hotel room; chewed/scratched her way through a screen door at the in-laws'; jumped through a window screen at a friend's house; chewed door frame at vacation rental; crashed through window at my parents' house, breaking jaw and requiring surgery and stitches; tore up carpet in workroom at new apartment (down to the tacking strip; it's a wonder she didn't seriously injure herself).  It was this last apartment that proved to be insurmountable.  There was just no safe way to contain her - it was entirely possible that she would break the glass at either the front or back door, or injure herself if shut into any other room.  We couldn't leave her alone without incurring significant damage to either the dog or the apartment.  We tried Xanax, exhausting exercise, behavioral training... nothing worked.  We were becoming stifled in our new city because we could NEVER do anything out of the apartment as a family, not even something as simple as walking to the grocery store.  And even if we could beat the problem of leaving her alone here, there was still the problem of being able to leave here someplace else (i.e. when visiting parents or friends).  So, with many tears (from me), I contacted the foster "mom," and returned our sweet pup to a home that could better absorb, and possibly remedy, her problems.  It turns out we were not the only adopters to return dogs from this litter, nor were we the only ones to experience problems.  That does not fully excuse our actions, but it does give them some context.  As it turns out, the woman who was working for the rescue agency was actually allowing some of her dogs to mate because puppy adoptions were the main source of income for the agency.  That is so far beyond unethical that I can still barely process it.

End Rambling Personal Anecdote

Not hard to tell that has been festering in my brain for some time.  Oh, you say, that's just your personal experience!  I could get a great dog!  Yes, you could.  My in-laws have a dog who is utterly problem free - he can be left anywhere, doesn't bark, all without any real effort on their part.  But you could also end up like the half-dozen people I know who didn't get a great dog.  It is not worth the risk, or the years of work, and even with an absolutely *perfect* dog, your life is still going to be complicated by several degrees.  Want to take a trip?  Either find a dog-friendly hotel, a kennel, or a dog-sitter.  Want to move abroad?  Have fun with those veterinary regulations and quite possibly a quarantine period for your dog, depending on where you go. Even if you want to do something as relatively routine as start a new job or go to school, your circumstances may change in such a way that you cannot keep your dog.  (Apartment-hunting is so much more difficult with a dog.) There's the constant possibility that a child (yours or otherwise) could provoke the dog into biting.  There are walkies, rain or shine or snow or dead of night in a sketchy neighborhood.  Dogs also get into everything, so expect at least mild gastrointestinal woes at some point.  Wait, I'm not sugar-coating this: expect a dog to crap liquid onto your floor and then possibly try to eat it.  Expect your dog to try to eat other dogs' poop, goose poop, horse poop, food garbage from the street, your garbage from the can, and anything else you can think of.  Then there are possible health woes like dysplasia, cancer, oral issues, disorders of every bodily system, many made more prevalent by inbreeding.  (Go human intervention!)  And no matter what, your dog - your sweet, sweet dog, who, believe me, you will love very much - is going to die within two decades.

And in the End...

That is my two cents - or possibly more like five dollars, I never have been into the whole brevity thing - on dog ownership.  I'm putting it out into the Internets in hope that it will do some good.  Before getting a dog, you need to pause, ask yourself very frankly if you would be willing to rearrange your life for this creature, and think about what that could mean.  A dog is not going to be a partner in any sort of life-rearranging; it's not going to cooperate (or resist, I guess, it's going to just be a dog about it); you will be doing all of the giving.

In the end, my anti-dog views come down to simplifying.  They aren't things, but they aren't people, and I've found that the fewer non-people items I have in my house and my life, the better things are.  I also believe in the power of demand, and putting your dollars where your mouth is, and I would love to see the market for dogs dwindle.

I won't dismiss the possibility that I am under cat mind control.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poor Blog

I just need to write.  Those long, rambling posts are forming a blockage.  So here's what's been shaking.


We've been bitten by the house bug.  Low- to moderate-income DC residents can get a no- or low-interest, 5-year deferred loan of around $40,000 (in our case) for down payment assistance (plus $4,000 for closing costs).  The rent, like the man says, is too damn high, so we might as well be spending that $24,000 a year on something that's an actual house and not just a half-cave.  We very much want to stay in the District; we're looking at the Capitol Hill neighborhood and thinking of next summer as when we will get really serious about it.  Does the thought of a $500,000 house scare me?  Yes.  But the thought of having something that is mine-all-mine is alluring.

I'm still getting used to the fact that I live in a very expensive city, where your $500,000 house will be in an "okay" neighborhood and have, maximum, 3 bedrooms and maybe 1,800 square feet, and $36,000/year is "very low income" for a single person.

This doesn't mean I don't still think homeownership is overrated.  You're just renting from the bank.


I made awesome cilatro pesto last night.  About 5 cups (unpacked, by weight 3 oz.) cilantro, two green chiles, 1/2 cup olive oil (it makes a lot, trust me, and the oil will keep it good in the fridge for around 2 weeks), and salt to taste.  It would be good on pretty much anything - we had it on flautas and I'm looking forward to having it on eggs.


The Bee had a fever the past two days.  I think it's molar-related; she had a fever when the bulk of the one on the bottom right came in.  It's a lot of tooth to have jammed through your gums.  She was a little clingy/cranky, but improved greatly today. 


The tornadoes missed us last night.  We're still under a tornado watch, until 3PM today.  Thunderstorms and lightning, very very awesome!  In the old-fashioned sense of the word.  At least we have a nice windowless, half-subterranean room to hide in if necessary.


We're going to the Nationals v. Giants game on Saturday.  Our first ballgame outing went so well - and that was a night game - that I am not even anxious.  This one is at 4:00, so it should be even better.


I ordered and received a bunch of clothes from REI and could not be more pleased.  I decided to bite the bullet and invest more in nicer, more ethically produced clothing that will last for years instead of months.  Hopefully.  That, and the CSA we joined, are perfect examples of how you can actually spend less once you actually have more money.  It's cheaper to be well-off than it is to be poor.  Not fair.  It's called the Boots Theory of Socioeconomics and apparently comes from a character in a sci-fi series.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Couch to 5K: A Review, Plus Random Intruding Thoughts on Fatness!

Well, at week 7, day 3* of the 9-week training program, I ran 5 kilometers.  Not "a" 5K - not an actual race -  but 5K nonetheless, and at the respectable speed of a just-under 10 minute mile.  So I suppose that I have technically completed the goal and now I'm just working from running for 25 minutes to running from 30 minutes over the next 2 weeks.

Wheeeeeee!!!  I'm really quite proud.  Running was such an ordeal from elementary school onward that it means a lot to me to be able to run 5K (around 3 miles) without it being some sort of gasping hour-long affair.  Lesson for parents:  if your kid is having problems with the yearly physical tests, maybe have them do that stuff all year long?  I easily could have started running way back in 6th grade and have saved myself years of shame, had someone merely suggested it to me.  Things like simple solutions to embarrassing problems rarely pop into juvenile brains without some well-placed adult assistance.

So how did I like the program?  For reference, it's here.  I liked it A LOT.  It's really more of a walking/jogging program than a running program, and it's very gradual.  That said, I didn't exactly start out completely on the couch - I have been walking at least 12 miles a week for some time, pretty much always with a (now 22-pound) baby strapped to my back, and often with two rather heavy bags of food.  Still, running for 60 seconds that first week was quite taxing.  I found it easier once I got to week 4 and instead of cycling walk X seconds/jog X seconds, it was just BAM BAM, do this repertoire and you're done.  (All workouts last 25-30 minutes). 

The equipment required to run is fairly minimal.  A good (ideally, a great) sports bra, comfy pants/shorts that won't ride up, and decent shoes.  I started running with ancient (though not completely dead) Adidas Supernovas.  I realized they were impeding my attempts to strike more with my mid- to fore-foot (which is a lot better for my knees, it seems), so I switched to Brooks Green Silence shoes around week 5.  Looove them.  Though they are on the minimalist side, the ever-improving nature of running shoe technology means that their support is better than what I was getting from my monstrously huge and heavy Supernovas that were manufactured in 2000, and the Green Silences are incredibly light.  (Technically, you should go to a running store and get fitted for shoes, but I was far too timid about being a novice runner to do so.)

You can't swing a cat (not that I would) in Georgetown without hitting two or three runners now that it's springtime.  It is such a yuppie endeavor.  I do understand that, from the $100 equipment investment to the required leisure time, along with living in a safe neighborhood and being physically able, I am privileged to get to do this thing that I now love to do.

I am a recent Fat Acceptance/HAES convert. So please believe me when I say I did not start running to lose weight.  Possibly just to ensure that I ignore the scale, the Bee broke it a few weeks back, and I don't think I'm going to replace it.  My clothes are a much better gauge of any changes in my body, especially with the growing muscle mass.  I have lost about 1.5 - 2.0 inches from my waist, hips, and chest, and my abdominal muscles - while still hiding underneath chub - are better defined than they have ever been (you just have to poke around a little to find them).  (The fact that my boobs do not fluctuate with the rest of my body is pretty mysterious, but I assure you it's true; I guess I just don't store excess fat there, so there's nothing to lose in spite of the fact that they are, erm, largish?)  Walking everywhere had already made my calves pretty impressive, but running has done the same thing in a shorter span of time for every muscle from my stomach to my heels.  I have also lost fat from my arms and face.  It's weird.

Am I thin?  Do I want to be?  I guess the answers are maybe and not necessarily.  It doesn't really change anything - the Bee doesn't say, oh, Mommy, your waist-to-hip ratio is better so now I'm going to sleep all night; no one at the bank gives me free money; I am still a shy homebody.  I do feel healthier than I have in years and have finally found an activity/hobby (for running geekery is rampant) that I enjoy and can see myself doing for a long, long time. I have also found that I am more genuinely and enthusiastically hungry, which, considering how much I already enjoyed cooking and eating, is really quite amazing.  I am not oblivious to the fact that I only hopped on the body-acceptance train after losing about 20% of my body weight (by doing nothing more than following the well-known weight loss plan "Get Pregnant and Have a Baby.")  I think I am a happier and kinder person for having jumped on Fat Acceptance, and it's certainly a better attitude to share with a child.  And who knows, I could be fat again, these things do fluctuate, and it will be nice to not have to deal with so much self-loathing.

Final verdict:  if you've always wanted to be a runner, but were terrified/embarrassed, give the C25K program a try.  One of my favorite things is seeing people with a wide variety of ages, shapes, and abilities who are just out running because they enjoy it.  Sounds cheesy, but it's totally true.
*I took a week off due to The Worst Cold Ever, and then re-ran all three days of week 6.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tales of an Apartment Dweller, Part II: The Practical

Having established where I live - a wee apartment with myself, the Husband, the Bee, and a cat - here are my tenets (ha!) of tenancy.

  • Practice good apartment-hunting.  The most valuable weapon you can have is time.  (I guess an unlimited budget would be even more valuable, but I'm being realistic).  We started looking at the apartment situation in Georgetown even before we knew we were moving here.  Was some of it just idle time-killing and wishful thinking?  Sure, but it also gave us a good idea of the typical rent, what amenities to expect, and how long apartments stayed on the listings.  Poring over apartment listings for months also enabled us to make only one epic trip from Rochester to DC to look at the "ideal" apartment we saw that was at the right location and in our price range, which is an important consideration if you're moving a considerable distance.  The other hunting rules are pretty basic - investigate your landlord, inspect the place before moving in, make sure you insist on any repairs you feel are necessary, get a lease, etc.  Getting an apartment that you actually like with a decent landlord goes a long way toward happiness, as do things like having a dishwasher and/or washer/dryer (if those are things you want).
  • Get unsentimental.  If you're going from big to small, you are going to have to get rid of some stuff.  No getting around it.  We sold our big couch and loveseat, my much-loved gigantic circa-1960 table, our large storage racks (I wasn't sentimentally attached to those), and our car (which is another post itself).  It's hard to just cut off so much stuff.  We also donated a lot of old clothes and some miscellaneous furniture.  Things we knew we wanted to keep but didn't need right now (baby swing, too-small baby clothes, outgrown toys) went to the grandparents, who have much more storage space.
  • Think in scale/less is more. Small, multi-function (when possible) pieces of furniture are the best.  Our living room furniture now consists of a sleeper sofa (the klick-klack kind), a small computer desk, and a television stand with as small of a footprint as we could manage.  Wall-mounting would have been my first choice for the television, but who wants to entrust their television to shoddy drywall?  I am probably going to pick up a couple of flat-topped storage ottomans in the near future.  Our dining table is a 2-seat bistro number where the chairs fit under the table when not in use (the Bee sits in her high chair on the exposed long side while the Husband and I sit at the ends).  Next to the table is a small 3-shelf wicker number for miscellaneous kitchen items that we use, but not constantly.  We had a small wine-rack on wheels that stores wine glasses, 9 bottles of booze (trust me, we never have more than that at once!), and miscellaneous bar equipment, but that has since been moved into the second "bedroom."  Which brings us to our next point.
  • Throw out room labels.  Bedroom?  Study?  Workroom?  Nursery?  Whatever.  They're just rooms.  Our living room is pretty standard (couch, TV/Wii/computer.  Our kitchen has a washer and dryer (the small, stacked kind but I love them just the same) right across from the refrigerator. Two of our three bookshelves are in our bedroom.  The weird room - or "The Workroom" as we call it - started out as a nursery.  We gave the crib to the in-laws, and the room now features one large adult dresser, a kid-sized dresser (which is also used as a changing/dressing table) a bookshelf, and a corner desk, along with a fair amount of miscellaneous items (baby bath, seasonally appropriate coats/jackets/shoes, and brewing equipment). The Husband keeps his laptop and science books in there and it is essentially his office.  Someday we'll probably put a futon in there for the Bee to sleep on, but I don't see her moving out of our bed in the near future.
  • Use those walls!  We try to keep the floor as uncluttered as possible - it really makes the rooms feel bigger.  No, we don't have those plastic sleeves that you vacuum your clothes into AS SEEN ON TV.  We do have 3 tall bookshelves, laundry bags that hang in the closet, hanging produce baskets, a shoe rack, and neatly Tetris-ed closets. Also lots of pictures because they're pretty - and at least with a small space you don't have to buy tons of wall art.
  • The whole city is your house.  Do you know why people put up with expensive, small or expensive and small houses/apartments in, we'll say, Boston, New York, Philly, DC, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver?  They are kick-ass cities.  So when the walls close in, we gear up and go somewhere!  Whether it's the "tot lot" (under-5 playground a block away) or something a bit more touristy, it's good to go see the amazing things that DC has.  Museums, people watching on the Mall, funky restaurants, general historic landmarks, the Canal that runs through Georgetown... it's all a lot bigger than our apartment, full of other people (yay!  I like people!), and pretty low cost (most things only involve the cost of bus or Metro fare).  I imagine the situation to be similar in the other cities on my "awesome" list.
  • One last thing:  childproof the bejeezus out of your tiny apartment so that little people can have the run of the place.  We do keep our bathrooms and the workroom shut, but the Bee can go from the living room through the kitchen into the  bedroom with no impediments, as of Saturday.  It is so nice to not have a baby gate!  It's even helping me get work (and blog posts!) done because she's happy to occupy herself for the most part now that she is free to check in periodically.  She is presently doing who-knows-what in the bedroom, and that's okay with me.  I think she's yelling at the patio.
Anyone else have awesome small space ideas that I missed?  I've got another four years to implement them.  Also... I would hate to give the idea that I am absolutely always happy with being in a cramped space; these are just the things I do to be mostly happy with it most of the time!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I've been reading a lot recently about fat acceptance and Health At Every Size.  I can't help but feel that fat-hating is right next to gay-bashing as one of the last socially accepted prejudices.  Life not turning out like you planned?  At least you can still look down at fat people.  It's okay to legislate against both groups (I'm surprised no one has tried to take away fat people's right to marry... because, you know, they might have fat kids) and to punish people for being either fat or gay (pity the poor soul who is both).  The reading actually kicked me into doing some hard thinking, because I was pretty guilty of buying into the OBESITY CRISIS! bullcrap.  Not that there isn't an OBESITY CRISIS! but... it's not so simple as saying, have a carrot and a jog and get skinny and you'll be healthy.  We could make do with a lot less shaming and a lot more acceptance.  Also, dieting is really, really bad for you, body and mind.

But, you say, we might end up telling people it's okay to be fat?  Well, guess what?  There are fat people, and they are still people.  They may stay fat whether we treat them with dignity or not, so I say we should err on the side of compassion and remember that they are people first.

Another important point is that in no way does skinny equal healthy.  You can quite easily have a skinny person who eats like a character in one of those awful Stig Larson books and a fat person who eats a balanced diet.  You can have a skinny person with truly terrible cholesterol.  Put them next to each other at a picnic, and only the fat person would be shamed for eating a cheeseburger.  I won't go as far as saying that obesity does not cause problems for the human body - joint issues and insulin resistance spring to mind - but it is important to realize that a person's weight is often the result of other health circumstances in the first place.  I also suspect that instead of addressing a person in a holistic manner that encompasses ability, diet, and genetics, a lot of doctors may just be saying "lose 100 pounds and come talk to me then."  I have had someone tell me that her doctor insisted she lose weight before he would address another problem.  How is that helpful?

For me, though, the most important thing I took away was this imperative:  honor your body.  Feed it wholesome food, use it to its full capability, and appreciate the wide (and yet ultimately narrow, since we are all humans) scope of forms of which you are a part.  I have come to realize that I should rejoice in my temporary able-ness.  (We are all surely temporarily abled just as much as we are temporarily alive.)  This body?  Except for an occasionally mutinous left knee and nearsightedness, it is in pretty good shape, and definitely capable of doing more than just walking to get groceries and back.  I should make it strong so that it will not atrophy.  I should have regular conversations with it.  With that in mind, I find myself four training sessions into the 27-session program of Couch Potato to 5K.  The weather is not ideal, nor are the sidewalks (the tracks are snowed over as of now, although that should change tomorrow with warmer weather and rain), but other people manage and so do I.  I am utterly amazed at how quickly my body is adapting and getting stronger in between sessions.  I am pretty amazed that I can run for 90 seconds straight without passing out.

So, let's stop hating ourselves and other people for not being thin and using that hate as an excuse to push a severely misinformed pseudo-scientific agenda that is making us less healthy than we would be otherwise.  If I hear one more person talk about the weight they "need" to lose, how they are watching what they eat, how they are "trying to be good" (what does that even mean?!), or anything similar, I may just have to say something ridiculous like "I think you're beautiful the way you are" until they get the message.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tales of an Apartment Dweller, Part I: The Ramble

I never thought I would have so many apartments under my belt, let alone a few comically small ones. I had always wanted to live in a big city, sure, but a teenager hardly thinks about square footage. My first two apartments in the Pennsylvania mountain town of Lock Haven were fairly spacious, especially the second one. It was across from a KFC and above a head shop (for the uninitiated, that's a store where they sell things with which to ostensibly smoke tobacco and other hippie accoutrement such as Bob Marley tapestries and hackey sacks).  So, full of weird smells, but amply sized.  The first one lacked a dining room, but as it was just me, the bar in the kitchen did quite nicely for dinner, even with guests.  The only real problem in my first apartment was the raging theological debates between my Lebanese, Muslim landlord and his American, faintly evangelical, wife, which I could hear through either the very thin walls or the oil heat registers. (They had the majority of the house; I had one third of the ground floor).  I'll go out on a limb and say a husband and wife should probably be on the same page, theologically speaking.  I digress.

We had an 18-month stint in a tiny apartment in Rochester.  700 very oddly shaped square feet, with a gigantic bathroom and a monster of a refrigerator.  We had to rearrange if we wanted to have more than two people sitting at the table.  Looking back, we did a crap job of tiny apartment management at that place.  For one thing, getting a dog - even a small dog, maybe especially a small dog, because they tend to be more energetic - definitely breaks some small apartment and life rules.  Then we moved to the Gigantor of apartments just a block away.  Pardon me while I swoon in remembrance.  *Sigh*  1500 square feet.  Gloriously weathered wooden floors.  14-foot ceilings.  Two storage lofts.  We bought big furniture, got a table that went to 90" long, and the Husband constructed some "rustic" bookshelves to go along one wall.  Last year we had a 13-foot Yule tree.  My swooning, unfortunately, is interrupted by the memories of paper-thin walls and jackass neighbors who ignored the no-smoking policy in many ways, the domestic disturbances, having to hear Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea being sung along to time after time, having to hear far more intimate activity than I wanted to... so many irritants.

And then.  Wham!  The Williamses move to Georgetown.  If you are unfamiliar with the Georgetown neighborhood of our nation's capital (in our case Georgetown/Burleith, but that's splitting hairs), it is charming, walkable, full of luxury SUV-driving twits, renting yuppies (that's us) and students (also us), but most of all, old, with rowhouses galore.  We live in a Georgetown special feature, the English basement.  What it is:  most rowhouses here have 3 stories.  The first is half-below street level, the second half-above, and the third, of course, just on top of the second.  Our front door is down half a flight of normal stairs, has a full-sized window and door out front (a bit of a rarity), and then the back (our bedroom) opens directly onto a nice fenced-in patio/garden area that is about as long as the apartment itself.  Other English basements have itty-bitty corkscrew steps going down; I don't know how people even move their stuff in.  The insides are largely the same, although, again, I think our two bedrooms and 1.5 (more like 1.25) bath may be somewhat rare.

But oh, how tiny it is.  I remember reading a comment (joking) about standing in a living room of a Georgetown house and being able to touch both sides of the front room at the same time.  It's not far off.  I would say the place is, at most, 1000 square feet.  Maybe less, and the ceilings are pretty short.  That's a living room, 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining nook, and 1.5 bathrooms in 1000 square feet.  I can plug the vacuum into an outlet in the front room and go all the way back to our bedroom at the other end.  And... it's okay.

So that's where we live - next up is how we live. We've gotten pretty creative in order to make our existence in this wee place more of a joy than a chore.

Ha!  Was I ever off on the square footage... turns out it was just over 600.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Le Sigh

I have the first post in a two-part series all ready to go.  It's about dealing with a tiny apartment.  It was fun to write and I enjoyed my little memory trip through my previous apartments.

But I feel it would be dishonest to not acknowledge that I am something of a mess right now.  Work has been rotten for the past month (that's right, from before the holidays and straight through until now).  The Bee is at a stage where she wants to tell us things but can't talk, and no amount of signing is going to completely relieve that.  There is also the fact that sometimes when we do know exactly what she wants, we have to tell her no.  No, we can't stand in the windowsill for half an hour.  No, we can't do nothing but watch videos of you.  No, you can't stand up on top of the changing table.  I try as much as possible to create an environment where I get to say "yes" more than "no," but unfortunately the world is full of things a toddler wants to do and can't, whether due to safety or ability reasons.  For the past few days there has been a lot of whining, and some crying, which is extremely stressful.  She has also been taking one nap a day because of what an ordeal helping her to sleep for two naps a day can be.  Plus, she will sometimes wake up possibly in a mood more foul than when she went to sleep.  We're adjusting to that, and between 3:00PM and 5:00PM she isn't the most pleasant of companions.


It's getting better, though.  The big audit by a certain pseudo-Federal mortgage agency will be over today - and hey, what's the worst that happens, I get fired and collect unemployment?  (I'm not saying I've done anything to deserve being fired.  I actually do my job pretty well, but I know that sometimes someone has to be blamed.)  The Bee has actually played by herself for decent stretches yesterday and today.  ("By herself" means on the other side of the gate while I work at the computer.)  She slept wonderfully last night, from about 7:30 until I went to bed at 11:00 (she only woke up then because I got into bed and dislodged her from her diagonal sprawl).  Little by little I am getting back to normal.

The real problem is that I need to find another job, where the stress level is a little bit more appropriate to the pay scale (currently, the stress level is much higher than is warranted by my meager earnings).  I am looking.  I do not, will not, leave the Bee (except with her father).  We have no family here and I cannot imagine leaving her with a stranger at this point.  I have long-term plans that are satisfying - going to get my MLS (Master's Degree in Library Science, unsure of the concentration), being crafty, having more kids - but this part right now is tough.

I need to sit down and work on achievable, short- and long-term action points that will Make It Better.  For now, though - I've got a clean apartment and a play date tomorrow, a sleeping baby who ran around naked before bath time much to the amusement of The Husband and myself, some chilled sake and a waiting Kindle, and that makes me happy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Feel You

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I'll say it:  I have spent most of my life with a less than fully developed sense of empathy.  This has resulted in me being - at my worst - morally inflexible, unforgiving, and prone to write off others' problems as being their own fault.  Things that didn't affect me - well, they really didn't affect me.

The Bee has changed that.  She has taught me empathy.  I think it's wonderful and terrible at the same time.  The first time she cried, my brain started racing all by itself:  is she hungry-cold-hot-wet-poopy-lonely-gassy?  Without much conscious decision, I would pick her up and try to ascertain the source of her unhappiness.  Sometimes holding her was enough, sometimes it was another culprit or it was just her being a crier.  Regardless, those wails made me physically feel her pain.  There is a chemical component to this (which can be affected by method of delivery).  It's hard-wired empathy that doesn't activate until you have a baby.  Now?  I still try my darnedest to make her stop crying, and I really can't stand hearing other babies cry either.  I want to fix it.  Whatever it may be.

At some point, I realized that this empathetic response was spreading into other areas and relationships in my life.  I was constantly playing devil's advocate by examining what factors could have caused a person to do what they had done.  I was responding better and more genuinely to other people's grief (and their joy!). Sometimes it still takes some effort, but more often than not it's nearly as automatic as my feeling for the Bee. 

Why is this important?  Why do I feel like this could be a world-changing phenomenon?  Why does this study about babying and bullying make so much sense?  Because you can't be cruel to someone if you feel their pain.  I think our general lack of empathy can be contributed in no small part to the unnatural way in which we've segregated ourselves into groups based on age and whether or not we have children.  We have decided that children should be neither seen nor heard, and it is no surprise that bullying has skyrocketed.  It's easy to push someone around when you can view them as a non-person without feelings.  It's also harder to do something simple like pat someone's arm or give them a hug after a hard day when you can't quite imagine how they are feeling.

It's not just school-scale bullying that results from a lack of empathy.  It's racism.  Homophobia.  Being frightened of someone with AIDS and telling yourself they probably got it from drugs or promiscuity.  Dismissing someone with a different - or no - faith.  All because they are a non-entity, pure other.  Once you acknowledge that everyone, no matter what, deserves your full consideration, life gets so much more complicated, but ultimately much better.

So, thank you, Bee.  I hope I can teach you empathy half as well as you have taught it to me.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)