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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    Entries in Arizona (12)

    Wednesday
    Oct012014

    Tempe bike enthusiasts: just stick to your URL, please

    When I'm in a hurry, I usually tell people who aren't familiar with the Phoenix area that I live in Phoenix because it's just easier and faster than explaining that I live in the Phoenix metropolitan area but good GOD NO I do not live in Phoenix, UGH!

    Phoenix serves as adequate shorthand for a ton of satellite cities that all merge together in one giant sprawlopolis. But if I have time and/or am not lazy, I'll actually take the time to explain that I live just outside Phoenix in Tempe. It's an important distinction.

    Phoenix is enormous. It's more than 500 square miles big. Its growth has been made possible through nearly unchecked annexation of land since World War II and 20th century car-centered geography. Low-density housing developments seep farther and farther out from any urban center, leaving gaping holes in between - with all the residual effects. Basically, it might be the world's least sustainable city.

    Tempe, on the other hand, is much more compact. It is constrained on all sides by other cities, and so it leaned towards infill development and higher population density rather than sprawl. Something about it just feels more like a community than a giant city. It also just feels much more sustainably-minded than Phoenix. We have a solar water treatment plant, one of the city's golf courses is about to become a farm, and one of the big reasons we love living here instead of our giant sprawling neighbor is you can walk or bike just about anywhere you need to go yearround most of the whenever it is below 100 (so maybe 3 months a year). Now it's not just us that recognize the 165+ miles of bikeways- we just got named the 17th most bike friendly city in the US. We have this whole awesome bicycling community group here who's

    Oh Jesus their acronym is TBAG.

    I will now shut up about how hip my city is.

    Thursday
    Sep042014

    duct taping it all together

    Here it is just after Labor Day and I have no idea where summer went. Oh, wait, I live in PHX so for all intents & purposes, it's still here, sticking its ugly thumb in my eye until at least Halloween. But the "fall" semester descended upon us a couple of weeks ago, and it is the. last. fall. semester. ever.

    Or it was supposed to be.

    My Better Half™ was supposed to graduate in December. Now that's up in the air. His committee needs time to read the thousand pages he's written or some sh*t like that. Can't they just nod and go to their happy place like I do and sign something that says "yeah, whatever, sounds good, nice work!"? The point is that the patience that I had allocated to get me through one last semester of nonstop thinking anxiety about what the job market will hold for him and him stressing 24/7 about final edits and graphics and keeping up with all the department and graduation paperwork, and Oh yeah that whole what the F*CK to do after graduation needs to be spread out even more. Our idea that we would be able to reclaim more work-life balance and spend more time together as a family doing fun stuff has been pushed out to an even more distant horizon. 

    I've been doing my best to deal with that. Deep down I'm pissed. But deep, DEEP down, I'm still pissed but also part of me is the tiniest bit relieved that he won't graduate until May because 1) it will look less bad to not have a job a year from now when you've only been unemployed since May (on paper anyway) and 2) the job market BLOWS so who cares? What's the rush? The past couple of years, the academic job market has been great solidly not sucky in his field. If you're a bioarchaeologist. (He's not). This year it seems to be decent marginally not sucky if you're a cultural anthropologist. (He's not). But it doesn't stop my brain from leaping ahead and connecting the dots unnecessarily. When the job alerts that we're subscribed to come in, I find myself going "would I even entertain living THERE? what about our house, what about our kids, what about my job?" before I even get to "Desired Qualifications: Active research agenda in race and ethnicity, sociolinguistics, and award winning publications in the economic exchange systems of Sons of Anarchy." I mean, come ON! Now if it were just Game of Thrones Beheadings he'd stand a chance... But at least the piecing together consulting + adjuncting work here is the devil we know, the job market is a complete unknown. 

    What's made all that harder even still to deal with has been just a lot of adjustments in my personal life. This time around, I'm really feeling the isolating effects of having a baby. Part of it is I have very little energy left over after a long workday & two kiddos 3 and under, so I can't summon the energy to think about what there is to go do, nevermind go do it. I'm just tired. All. The. Time. Also, just the timing of where our kids are at socially. Baby is at the peak of separation anxiety and requires being held at all of the times. So it's just not all that fun to go out with them - I have to hold him. And when we do go out, Dawdler Toddler Preschooler stands frozen in place, clinging to my legs because she's around "strangers" (i.e., anyone she doesn't live with), so I can maybe get in 90 seconds of adult conversation at a time. And we almost never, EVER get to go out without them - it's just too much money for a sitter when you're only one full-time income and have 2 kids in daycare and no family nearby to dump the kids off with. I think we've been out once without the kids since Baby was born. Which will be a year ago in 3 weeks. (Or should I also count the time we used a sitter for us to have a date night the night I was IN THE HOSPITAL GIVING BIRTH? So twice then?)

    Part of it is just the rhythm of life with a baby (not just particular to our current financial & geographical circumstances). You find yourself housebound when the baby's asleep. In other words during the very same block of time you could be getting something done, you're stranded inside your home seeing as Child Protective Services doesn't look too kindly on leaving the little ones at home alone while you run errands. Thank God for the interwebz...but there's only so much shopping and reading and movie watching you can get done online. Amazon's not all that convenient when it's milk you need FOR YOUR COFFEE or library books to return. And when you can venture forth, you're got a little person (or in my case, two) attached at the hip, so heading to that new movie you're dying to see or out with friends for a beer is not in the cards. And even if you can get out every once in awhile, social things can just be such a pain in the ass when you have to lug around a diaper bag stuffed with diapers, changes of clothes, hats, sunscreen...I'm cranky just typing a list never mind hauling it all around. As a result, all my "free" time becomes the spare moments I have for errands + gym + fun. In other words: no time left for fun 99% of the time.

    And do I even need to mention life in Arizona during the summer? It might be fall where you are, but here it's still 109 out there. Or so I hear, since I am too scared to peek out through the blackout curtains. People hole up indoors and/or take a bunch of time off to get the hell away from the Death Star. It should go without saying that I've been avoiding Face-stagram all summer because I'm seething with jealousy at all my friends' trips to California, Hawaii, the beach, hikes in Flagstaff, and everywhere else that isn't 109. So between the isolation of being at home with Baby and being indoors while it seems like the ENTIRE rest of the world is out having a blast has taken its toll. I guess while much of the rest of you get seasonal affective disorder from gray wintry days, I get it here from all the sun. I like a nice sunny day here & there. But it's hard to appreciate when you're living on the surface of the sun. It is relentless - brandishing a hole in my retinas and a deep resentment in my skin expressed by eleventeen million new freckles every month. I need weather. I need seasons. I could more easily accommodate living here if I ever got to escape and experience weather that would make me more appreciative of what I'd be coming back to. But since we're still living the grad school life, there are no funds to get us out of here from time to time. Since I'm long winded today, I'll also save you the details of our car troubles, too. As in: much of the summer spent WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING in our one and only functioning vehicle. Bottom line: it's hard to get out of the house, which feels really isolating.

    You know what else feels isolating? Not being in sync with your friends. Our closest friends have all moved in the last 2 years. Every. Last. One. And now I'm struggling with knowing where to find our kind of peeps. We find ourselves gravitating more and more towards hanging out with the parents of our Dawdler Toddler Preschooler's friends because if nothing else, they get the whole kids thing. The whole there is a naptime and a bedtime, and it's tough to get out during those times and no, we can't wait til 11-ish on a Sunday at a hip restaurant for an hour to have breakfast because we'd all be dying from our kids' whining us to death from low blood sugar. I've been trying to make new friends at work. And, uh. Yeah, see? That's about the only place I go besides the gym. But, it's slow and hard, and y'know, just takes time even when you do make a work friend. Which I haven't really yet. 

    So I've been holding it all together. Trying to just make my way from work to the gym to daycare. Repeat. It's been going o-kaaayyyyy, I guess, but not great. I think that all of these things will get better soon. But I just don't know when "soon" is. 

    Friday
    Apr252014

    Yup, this one's about the weather

    Today is a nearly-May miracle. It's been only 72 and it's rainy-ish.

    Let me repeat that. Seventy two degrees.

    Look, I get how perfect that might sound to you, Dear Readers, who may still be mired in winter. In fact, some of our friends came in town this weekend *because* they couldn't stand yet another snowstorm and so decided at the last second to come here. They've invited us over to their hotel to hang by and in the pool all weekend. Here's how that conversation went:

    But it's freezing!

    "What are you talking about, it's 70 degrees today and supposed to be almost 90 tomorrow!"

    Like I said, freezing.

    Maybe unless you've lived in a climate like this, it's hard to relate to loving rainy, gray days as a byproduct of hating so much sunshine & warmth. But I do. (And I'm not alone.)

    So while they're hanging in shorts & swimsuits, I'll be inside, curled up on the couch under a blanket, sipping hot coffee, and watching a movie with the Dawdler.

    Thursday
    Sep272012

    So That's Where Summer's Been: Indoors with the Rest of Us

    As I mentioned a couple of days ago, every year I reach my breaking point. When I am just completely out of patience with the heat. By mid to late September every year I find myself thinking "Where in the HELL has summer gone?" as darkness falls earlier every day. But then I quickly realize "Oh wait. It was here." It's just that what I think of as summer - a season designed to spend as much time outdoors as possible - stopped by here way back in February or March. Then it just gets too hot to leave the air conditioning.

    But finally, things have turned. (Shhhh! I don't want the sun to hear me and plot its final revenge of the year). This week the highs are below 100 for the first time in months.

    Sh*t. I think it did hear me, because as I looked up the forecast to confirm that's still the case, the weekend highs are over 100, but just barely, so I'm still going to tentatively mark this one in the win column.

    Still. Last night, we went for the first of many nightly walks (now that it's not blisteringly hot), we found that EVERYONE has been going stircrazy with staying indoors. Normally, even once it gets dark, I'll see AT MOST 2 other people out & about at the park - usually walking their dog quickly before retreating back indoors. But last night, we saw no fewer than 38 people at our humble little neighborhood park. THIRTY EIGHT. A soccer game, a father teaching his son to throw a football, a family throwing a frisbee around, a family grilling some burgers, little ones playing on the playground equipment, and people just out having a nice night. In other words: all the activities I associate with summer, and always will, despite where I happen to live now, where the summer months are associated only with alternating between complaining about the heat and making a game of who can stay indoors more or log more hours floating around endlessly in a pool.

    So if you're looking for me, Baby & I will be in the park. Or out on a walk. Or off on a bike ride. Anything we can do to be outdoors until next summer arrives. Which, I expect to be around next February.

    Monday
    Apr232012

    Shaking My Fist Skyward

    So after this weekend of 105+, I take back pretty much everything I've ever said about "So what it's hot! It's hot everywhere because it's summer. Just adjust accordingly!" Fate, you cruel bitch. I surrender.

    I attempted to entertain Baby but she got bored (as did I). Here was our itinerary Saturday:

    Our afternoon walk around the hood? Too hot, so that's out. How about playing with your bear? Bored already? Here's your lamb! Ok, let's read a book...or 8. Still no good? Let's listen to music while you crawl around...what's that noise? Oh Jesus. She's trying to eat a diaper. Luckily it's a clean one. Wanna go swing in your...oh, no. it's too hot out there and your swing is in the sun. You wanna go to...um....hmmm...the mall, I guess? What do you mean people watching doesn't entertain you longer than 30 minutes? Sigh. Let's go...um...well....home, I guess.

    Remember your bear? Oh, right. You're bored with him. Well, try it for awhile while I google playgrounds. Oh, City of Tempe, why is your website so anti-informational?! I can see that you have playgrounds but no info about any of them - do they have baby swings or just big kid equipment? Are they shaded?  Let's just go drive around and see.

    Hmmm. No luck but at least you're down for a nap. Jesus. I'm starving. I could really go for a burrito. Hey! There's a burrito place on the other end of Kiwanis Park. OMG! It has a drive thru! "Phone pickup orders only?!" Fine. I will pull over, look up your website & phone in my order from 5' away. Oh, c'mon people. Your menu is a PDF that won't open on my phone - time for a redesign, seeing as it's 2012, guys. Forget it. 

    And that was just Saturday. I googled Saturday night looking for activities in preparation for Sunday. There are indoor playgrounds...at $9 a head and nowhere near me, so that's out. The children's museum online reviews say it's a madhouse on weekends and toddlers beware.

    Sunday, I decided to take her swimming. City of Tempe - WTF? The only pool you have open before May is the wave pool, and @ $7, kinda steep for a public pool. At least it's indoors. But the waves are bigger than I envisioned - way too 'scary' for her, when she's scared of the pool in the first place. Looking online, there is only other public pool open this weekend. Too bad it's practically in Queen Creek, but hey, we got no other ideas, why not? After a 25 minute drive, it's a 20 minute line to get in. Once we got in, it's a f*ckin free for all. Parents not watching their kids who were practically running over Baby and definitely splashing her in the face. Thanks, little Assholes. We left after 15 minutes of 'fun.'

    So, yeah. I surrender. I have no idea wtf to do w/ her this summer. From what I read online, you get the same sort of Lord of the Flies experience at baby splashpads, other pools, & indoor playgrounds. Baby storytime at the public library? Tuesday afternoons in Tempe, Tuesday mornings in Mesa, Tuesday mornings in Chandler, Tuesday mornings in Scottsdale (are we seeing a pattern?) Did you know that more than 73% of moms are working moms? Cuz apparently public libraries don't. (I realize that work isn't always M-F but, c'mon). 

    I give up. This summer is going to be like Groundhog day.