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a little bit more about me

My name is Beth and I accidentally have found myself living in Arizona but I'm originally from Tennessee. My education is in history and anthropology, which means that I know a little about a lot of things and can hold my own at a cocktail party in mixed company. I work in museums, doing all sorts of things ranging from researching and writing exhibits to cataloguing absolute wickety wak. I love comedy, baking, photography, my daughter, dogs, and above all else, napping.*

* 2013 edit: Oh yeah, and my new son too.

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    Saturday
    May052018

    did I meet a murderer?

    I went to a friend's house for dinner tonight, and one woman was explaining why she decided to reconnect the cord and sign back up for cable (namely because it was a bundled deal that would make internet + cable TV cheaper than internet + streaming services).

    A man then went on to explain he would refuse to ever do that because of a long-standing beef against the cable company, in which he was slapped with an $800 debt that belonged not to him, but to a different man with the same name in the same apartment complex. His name is uncommon enough that it would be seem that would be incredibly unlucky for him - his last name isn't as common as Smith or Jones - but not so unique that you'd be completely able to dismiss that as completely impossible. So he moved in only to find the cable company had mailed him a notice that the $800 debt had been handed over to a collections agency, it ended up on his credit report, and was a huge pain in the ass.

    But here's the thing. After all of that, it turns out that's not even close to the worst case of mistaken identity he's been through. 

    A few years later, it turns out that the police called upon him to come in for questioning. He had no idea what that could be about, but it turns out that there is another man with the exact same name wanted for murder. He explained how insane it was that there were these (very unfortunate) coincidences. His name, year of birth, and even where he lived in California before Arizona, all the same. He was able to explain it all away and obviously the police have given up on him being a murderer, but how many (ahem, white) people does this happen to?? 

    I turned to My Better Half and whispered: "Alternate theory: the guy sitting next to us, he is the murderer guy they're looking for."

    Sunday
    Apr222018

    Balancing my current work with my future work goals

    A few days ago, I told my child's teacher after I completely spaced the parent-teacher conference we had scheduled, "I used to have my shit together, and then I became a parent. But I guess 6 years in to this parenting run, I suppose I can no longer claim my new normal is temporary." She didn't know me in my pre-parenting days, when I really was on time to things, and even occasionally organized. A time when I could string thoughts coherently, er, string coherent thoughts togetherly. 

    While I don't think I can get back to being on time or organized, I intend to regain my identity as a blogger. No, not some bullshit microblogger or #sponsored content provider or mouthpiece for a giant brand. After all, how is blogging for someone else any different from what I do now: writing web content for my employer?  My blogging goal was always to gain just enough independence that I could at the very least downsize from my full-time gig, carving out a bit more space for my creative work, whether that brought me income or not. (The answer is most definitively not, if you were wondering). When that didn't happen - and life happened simultaneously - it became necessary for me to reallocate how I used my time.

    I've had an autoimmune disease for 11 years. Or maybe I've had it for a lot longer, but I got diagnosed when I was 30. For awhile - like, say, in my adult years prior to having children, I could manage my depleting energy levels by taking a nap on the weekend or even catching a nap before dinner on weeknights. But over time, I guess as I get older, between working 40* hours a week and parenting, there's very little time for me to ever feel "caught up" on my energy. And being tired all. of. the. goddamned. time. means that I have so little ability to clear the brain fog, nevermind the energy once the brain fog may have cleared to do anything. 

    * Now let's talk about that 40 hours a week thing. I used to work 40 hours a week. Then I kept getting much more interesting work, and I was actually legitimately one of those gross people who claim to like their jobs (because I did). So losing sight of my personal goals didn't blip much on my radar at that time a couple of years ago because I was engaged and fulfilled at work with intellectual and writery challenges. But during the past two years, my good work means that I've been promoted a time or two...and tasked with larger projects...that take up more mental energy...with less actual *time* during the workweek to tackle those projects. So full-time work became more, like, well, let's just say more than 40 hours a week (and in academia, so without the pay to reflect that).

    So working more left even less time to devote to my stuff. Yes, some of the bleed-over of work hours into *my* time is my own fault. But I'll also point the majority of the blame right back on the higher ed industry, an industry that relies on churn-and-burn, hardly-paid adjuncts like My Better Half. It seems like a dicey endeavor to disengage when you are the sole source of income in your household for a family of 4. And/or have a complicated auto-immune disease that insurers know better as a pre-existing condition in this era in which it is unclear whether insurers will cover your care. To sum it up: I found myself with almost no energy, nor much mental clarity, but tethered to a job that had begun to eat up any of my free time.

    I'm working on that last one, though. For the past few weeks, I've put strict boundaries on my work hours and will truly only commit to 8 hours a day, walking out the door at 8 hours and 1 minute. Which has begun to give me a little breathing room for places like my new work blog and here. (And, to be honest, the capacity to start looking for other, higher-paying work, as putting job applications together takes energy, mental clarity, and time. With more money could come more freedom...)

    Wednesday
    Mar212018

    reset

    Well hello there, old friend.

    It's been awhile, hasn't it? 

    Rather than bore you with all the nitty-gritty of what has (and has not) transpired over the past 2 years, let me just summarize with: I've been dealing with stuff. And things. Losses, deaths, work, parenting, beaches, music, and whatnot. 

    There, you're all caught up. Don't you feel better? I know I do!

    I won't get all gross on you and go into my goal for this particular year or talk about how life is so much better now that I've abandoned all news cycles, diving headfirst into only the most friviolous podcasts. Or how I have been contemplating whether you can go on long-term disability for being out of give-a-sh*ts about work. Or how my parenting has evolved from attentive to "eh, they're playing quietly in their room with the door closed, who cares what they're doing as long as they're leaving us alone."

    But in the past couple of years, a lot has changed, and yet, a lot has stayed exactly the same. My two tinies are now less tiny, 6 and 4, to be exact. My house has changed; we moved to a bigger place, narrowly avoiding the murder-suicide combination that can result from cramming 4 people into 800 square feet. And yet, I still have to go to work every weekday, we still struggle against the bullsh*t that is adjuncting, we are still madly in love with our tiny familial unit, and we curse exactly the same amount about it all.

    So it's hard to neatly wrap up all that has transpired over the past 2 years, but here I am, with my reset. Time to get serious about this whole blogging thing so I can cash in on the wave and monetize my influence share my rants and raves. 

    Saturday
    Jan022016

    A Bad Dream

    "Mommy, did you have a bad dream?"

    I don't really know how to answer since she's only 4, and my crying woke her up. To her, a bad dream is the only explanation. So I tell her yes, and it's just a dream and to go back to sleep. What's funny, like funny in the odd sense and not the ha-ha sense, is that in a way, she's exactly right. I am struggling with my dreams. As in how to make them happen. 

    I always struggle at New Years. For some reason I find myself standing at the starting line for each new year wondering why even when given another year, all the things I was unable to make happen, rather than looking fondly over the memories that were made. It is just in my genetic makeup that every January 1, I am staring down another year not with hope and optimism but with resignation at thinking that this shiny brand new year is also equally unlikely to end with me having come any closer to fulfilling my lifelong dreams of wanderlust and travel, food and writing, leaving my cubicle life behind for good. 

    As my oldest gets older, I find it harder and harder to quiet my growing cynicism that maybe it's really a lie, that maybe we can't do anything we dream. Ever since I was tiny, I dreamt of how I would go places, see things, experience ways of life in far flung places. And yet, I haven't. I've never had the money. In fact, it remains a complete mystery to me how anyone ever does find the money or the time off, and my current financial situation certainly makes those dreams an ever more distant memory by the day. I want so badly to champion the notion that my children will be able to do anything their hearts desire, and wish I could lead by example. But today I stare at our monthly bills and see nothing that can be cut, nothing that can make room for travel, or even more humbly, for time off for us to just be, to find our footing, to at least plan for a life and future that are lived by choice rather than financial necessity and make space for travel...someday. So to lead by example, to call in a resignation from my job is also to demonstrate an irresponsible choice, to choose myself at the expense of the immediate and long-term needs of my family. 

    I spent the morning collecting and analyzing our bills and recent purchases in an attempt to see what can be trimmed to make room for saving. I didn't come up with anything. We are barely scraping by as it is. Examining our families' choices provides no useful data to help make an informed decision. At one end of the spectrum, dreams for retirement so long gone that I honestly have no idea what they ever could have been. No matter, whatever they once were, they were first derailed by paying for their children's colleges and since then, obscured to the point of having been overwritten by the enormous but inescapable costs of health problems associated with aging. In other words, the takeaway message there appears to be: once you have children, surrender your own hopes & dreams as the practical needs will always prevail. I'm not convinced you can't make room for both, but the only other familial model available to us appears to be: don't help your kids with college to make room for your own goals while you stand by watching your kids struggle for long after college thanks to the enormous burden of student loans. Again I think there has to be some middle ground here. I want to show my kids that we (their parents) matter too but you have to balance your goals against the needs of the family and I have no idea how to do that. Mostly I came away from the family conversations about money realizing that it's a flawed exercise to try to follow in the footsteps of your elders. Their choices and decisions were made in different eras, surrounded by different economic conditions, and influenced by their own expectations and experiences. You really are on your own with this stuff. 

    So I have no plans yet. No solutions. Can we afford to consider a bigger house or cutting back on my work this year in the interest of my sanity, and which of those to choose anyway since those two are at odds? Or do we double down on our efforts to live frugally because we're committed to playing the long game? And are those our only choices anyway? For today I'm going back to sleep and dreaming that tomorrow or the next day, we will figure out how to get to a plan that lets us have it all- our own goals and dreams matter but so do those of our kids. 

    Tuesday
    Jun302015

    Still blaming mommy brain 

    Do I get to still blame mommy brain for the following, even though my youngest is about to turn 2? Here is my morning:

    1. Ahhh. It’s amazing I have free time. I am SO organized and can just sit here and enjoy my coffee.
    2. Oh. Right. I haven’t made the kids’ lunches yet. Or mine.
    3. Ah. Wow. Even after throwing together lunches, I’m still doing fine on time! And I did the dishes!
    4. Dawdler Toddler, sit down at the table to eat or you will OMG YOU ARE DRIPPING SMOOTHIE ALL OVER EVERYTHING. Let’s go change you!
    5. Got him changed after a 10 minute wrestling battle. Whew! I’ve got to clean the table, too.
    6. Okay, let’s go to the truck. Still doing uh, okay, I guess on time.
    7. Why are you crying? You need a blanket? Fine. Sigh.
    8. Oh, it’s good Preschooler asked for a blanket, forcing me to return to the house so I could discover I was about to drive off WITH THE FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE WIDE OPEN.
    9. Okay, good. Blankets & cuddlies & lunches all packed & loaded in the truck, let’s GO.
    10. Oh. I need gas.
    11. Finally. At school. Should only take 20 minutes to walk both of them in since they’re soooooooo slow.
    12. Ah. I finally get to go to work.
    13. OMG. I never got myself dressed. I’m still in sweats. Back home.
    14. Oh! Good thing I came back. There’s my coffee I never got to drink. That might help.

    I hope.