Sunday, May 18, 2014

8 Good Things

1. What's it like to be a writer? Glamorous to say the least. With a generous helping of the f-word.

3. Making dishwashing detergent for the first time with this recipe without borax. I have yet to try it, but it seems legit. I'm also switching to a borax-free laundry detergent recipe. It's pretty painless to make these detergents. I appreciate the cost savings, and there's something fun about being like, "Well, we're low on detergent. Guess I'd better make some."  

4. Finishing my two-tone cotton cowl. I'm now in the process of making a monster cozy for my digital reader. Also, the woman in my knitting group who lives in Pebble Beach invited us to meet at her place again last week, which was a real treat anyway, but she also had tons of yarn to give away and sell, so no one left empty-handed (because more yarn is exactly what I need a couple months before I move). For a total of $25, I walked away with all the yarn in the photo above. 

5. Peaches! Oh, how I've missed peaches. I got to see my friend who works at the fruit stand, whom I haven't seen since October. I also went to a vegetable stand and saw heads of cauliflower that were probably bigger than a human head. On a related note, even though I don't really think of myself as a Californian (yet), I'm happy that my move won't take me out of the state. I was kind of sad thinking about leaving peach country. 

6. La Guelaguetza in Santa Cruz. It's a festival from Oaxaca, Mexico. I got to see the baile folkl√≥rico in person for the first time. It was a beautiful, but kind of hot, day (read: sunburn). I bought overpriced things, including the red shirt above (the woman in black behind me wanted to know where I got it). 

7. Cooking more and trying harder to use up what we already have. I made some asparagus soup from the Happy Herbivore meal plan (I signed up for a short time last year). Asparagus soup sounded bitter and gross, but it turned out pretty mild and tasty. I've also rediscovered how much I like spinach. 

8. Finding a book at the public library that I thought I was going to have to pay full price for to get on my reader. It's Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The only thing better than discounted books is free books!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Name Game: Couples Edition

Why did you keep your name when you got married?

The short answer I give is that I like my last name and I'm too lazy to deal with the hassle of changing my name. It's 2014. I think that answer should suffice, but I get the feeling it doesn't.

A friend in Georgia told me that everybody there loves monogramming things. It has to be the monogram with the last initial made big in the middle. She said her friends there short circuit when they find out she and her husband don't share a last initial. Whatever will we do if we can't monogram!

The bigger answer is this: All the reasons I could think of to change my name were about other people. Other people will assume I have my husband's last name. Other people will mistakenly call me by his last name. Other people will think I'm making a feminist statement. Other people will wonder what to call us (Mr. and Mrs. ____?). Other people will wonder how on earth they can monogram something for us. 

I'm the one who has to go to the DMV and Social Security office. I'm the one who has to change my name on my bank accounts and all my online accounts. I'm the one who has to inform my colleagues and students and to have my work email account changed. I'm the one who has to correct my resumes and my syllabi. I'm the one who has to update my W-2s for my various jobs. And I'm the one who has to change my name in my own head and think of myself differently. Since it's up to me to make the change, then it's also up to me to say no if I want to. 

I'm speaking from experience. I changed my name once before, and I always regretted it. I never felt like the name belonged to me, and I have no desire to repeat that experience. 

I do like my name, but mostly, it's that I'm used to it. It's how I think of myself. I haven't changed who I am just because I got married. 

At the start of one semester in an ESL class, I was taking attendance. As I read some of their names, they would say, "I go by Jessie," or, "You can call me Vincent." Students from other countries often change or shorten their names to make them easier for English speakers to pronounce. Not everyone changes their name, though. They are content to wrestle with the English alphabet and let English speakers deal with their names as best as they can. I got to one student who said, "And I go by Ji Young because I like my name," and shrugged her shoulders. So, what's better: changing your name or not changing your name? Neither. Both. It's not my question to answer. 

If a woman wants to change her name when she gets married because she likes the idea of sharing a name, great. It's none of my business. If someone wants to change their name to distance themselves from their family, because they've never felt confident about their name, or because their name is hard to pronounce, great. Again, it's not my name, so I don't get a say in this. 

Everybody should have a name they feel comfortable with. I hope people take some time to weigh their options, but other than that, I'll call you by whatever name you want me to and I won't think much about it.


How should people refer to our titles? Refer to us separately. Hint: We know we're together! Mr. ___ and Ms. ___. Or just forget the titles altogether. We're not living in Elizabethan England.  

What are we going to call our kids? We'll probably follow the Mexican tradition and give our kids one family name from each of us. Since we don't have kids, I'm not worrying about it, so neither should you.

What should people call our family? The ___ ___ family. In Spanish, la familia ___ ___ or los ___ ___.  I don't care which name you put first or if you hyphenate it. See how easy that was?

Was my husband okay with my decision? Before we were talking about marriage, I made it clear that I was happy with my name and intended to keep it if I ever got married again. If you're really asking if my husband allowed me to keep my name, picture me searching my neck for a collar and leash and finding none. 

What should you do or say if someone tells you s/he wants to keep/change their name? The correct response is, "I'll support whatever you decide." 

If you're still feeling dissatisfied with my explanation, it's probably because you already had a strong opinion on the matter and you weren't actually curious in the first place. In that case, check yourself. Otherwise, I hope this clears the air and empowers you to own your name, whatever you decide it's going to be. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One-Bedroom Living

Almost two years ago, my then-boyfriend/now-husband moved in with me, and we've been sharing a one-bedroom apartment ever since.  

A couple years ago, I was searching for a cheaper place, and I found a really cute apartment, but it was even smaller than our current place. I ended up telling an acquaintance about the cute place, and I mentioned it wasn't right for me because there would likely be two of us living there in the near future. She said, "Oh no, you can't live in a one-bedroom. You'll kill each other."

She misunderstood, of course, and didn't realize that we would in fact still be living in a one-bedroom--just one with a few more square feet. It got me thinking, though, Would we kill each other? 

I'm happy to report we're still alive, still together, and still in good spirits, so I guess not.

When we move in a couple months, we'll probably get a two-bedroom apartment because, well, we can, and I'm definitely looking forward to having a bit more space. Even though I don't think we have tons of stuff, we have enough that it's hard to keep everything neat, clean, and organized. 

However, even though our place isn't big enough for our stuff, I can't think of a time when I felt that our physical space was too small for our personalities. We have a living area, a dining area, and a bedroom. When we've had arguments, or even when one person just wants to watch TV while the other person wants to grade papers (ahem), we do have places we can go off to. And there's a whole world outside. I feel like we have plenty of time to do things on our own, and whenever I've felt like I wanted space, I've found it.  

I was thinking a townhouse would be nice, and certainly it's still a far cry from a McMansion, but it's a little odd when I imagine us both being home and not knowing what the other one's doing. As I write this from the living room, I can hear my husband moving around in bed as he takes a nap. I always know where the cat is. Even though I've always been someone who liked having a lot of alone time, I've gotten used to my life as it is, and I do think the physical closeness has made us a cooperative and forgiving couple.

There's no hiding. There's no retreating away from each other, and there's no disguising the unpleasant bits. 

I don't need to tell you that we could all probably live with a little less, and that includes square footage. Sharing this little apartment has probably been the most minimalist thing I've done in the past several years, and I don't even think twice about it anymore. It's just our home. Sometimes I wish it were a little different, but when you just commit to something, it's surprising how quickly you can redefine normal and do things you never imagined you could. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On Convenience Foods

Every couple of months or so, I say, "I gotta stop eating out so much!" The fact that I have to say it every couple of months or so should indicate just how seriously committed I am to it. 

As you know, I enjoy making stuff in the kitchen, and often times I'm even good at it, so it's not that I don't know how to cook. It's not even that I don't have time. It's more that I'm not so good at planning. I'm Suzy Homemaker when I make a list of meals for the week and get to the grocery store, but since I don't have a solid routine that includes grocery shopping, I often miss my opportunity to go and find that we have nothing in the house to make a complete meal right at the time that we're busy and need to eat. 

Occasionally, I buy instant soup from Trader Joe's. I bought their carrot-ginger soup recently in fact, and I found that in addition to being tasty, it helped elevate an otherwise unremarkable and unfulfilling lunch I had put together. Of course, it would have been great to make my own carrot-ginger soup, but I didn't make my own carrot-ginger soup, and I had to eat. 

Just last night, knowing we'd get home later than our regular dinner time, I decided that I'd just make spaghetti with our usual, store-bought sauce, but I made a big salad with lots of stuff in it (shame on you if you didn't get that reference) to go with it. It was a nutritious, filling meal, and I feel no guilt about that. 

I don't really get down on myself about such things, but I do have a false sense of what I'm really going to accomplish. I'll see instant soups or canned beans, and I think, "I can do that myself! Why would I pay for someone else to do it for me?" Then instead of buying it, I go home without it and wonder why I keep going to restaurants. Believing in "always DIY" causes me to spend more. 

I know other people do beat themselves up over convenience foods. Pinterest, anyone? There's a pressure to make everything from scratch--no preservatives, all-organic, gluten-free, kale, and the whole nine yards. I'm all for people making things on their own, but at some point, we have to look at our realities and prioritize. You probably have enough time to buy groceries and cook simple, nutritious meals most days, but you might not have enough time or energy to cook lavish, eye-pleasing, taste-bud-tantalizing masterpieces every day. 

With the exception of Kraft macaroni and cheese and any meat that doesn't need to be refrigerated (because gross), give yourself a break. For what it's worth, I give you all my blessing to buy convenience foods sometimes. 

In other words, sometimes you eat the beans and sometimes the beans eat you. And that's okay. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

8 Good Things

1. Not looking at job boards. I finally feel like I can do other things!

2. Amanda Palmer's TED Talk, "The Art of Asking." I showed it to my class a little while back when we were talking about the way getting paid for something influences creativity.

3. Continuing to soak up the beautiful scenery. Every time I go for a walk, I feel like I'm saying goodbye in a way. The birds are going crazy right now, so I've taken some shots of them.

5. Showing my class Whose Line Is It Anyway? to discuss the importance of writing style and how to distinguish between different styles. 

6. Getting glasses! I didn't realize what a big difference they'd make. I actually want to read things now. For example, I zoomed right through Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk last weekend. It makes me wonder if my lack of motivation to read has largely been about my eyesight. 

7. Spinach salad with strawberries and dried apricots. I can't imagine eating a salad without fruit in it anymore. Oddly enough, I've managed to misplace my snow peas twice in the past week. 

8. Another waffle-knit cowl on the needles with some pretty cotton yarn. The photo above doesn't do it justice. Also knitting related: Someone finally volunteered to take over the organizer responsibilities for my knitting group since I'll be leaving soon. That's a relief.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

You Control the Narrative

I follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Twitter (even though I absolutely have mixed feelings about her), and she recently said something that resonated with me:

"Keep buying into (and defending) your own garbage storyline, though, and the change can never come."

We tell ourselves all kinds of things, but they're never really the absolute truth; they're just the narrative we choose to tell about ourselves. It's unavoidable, but the real question is whether we're gaining anything from the narrative we're writing. 

For example, there are people who will always tell the story of being a victim. They're always innocent. Everyone screws them over. Of course there will be truth to that, but if they believe this narrative and tell the victim story to themselves over and over again, they'll only ever be the victim. They'll never take responsibility. 

What a lame protagonist, right? 

The point is that the narrative shapes our reality. When you say things like, "I'm not someone who ___," or "I always ___," are you filling in those blanks with a self-defeating characteristics? Are you labeling yourself in a way that limits your actions or goes against what you value? 

I'm not talking about "The Secret" where you're supposed to positive-think your way into the life you want. It doesn't work like that. Sometimes we just get lucky or unlucky. Life isn't fair after all. You shouldn't blame yourself or take credit for things you truly didn't have control over.

I'm talking about telling your story in a way that allows you recognize behavior patterns, admit mistakes, and acknowledge accomplishments, so that you can better decide your next step. 

For me, I have to reframe stories that deal with my ego. Oh, how I love an ego boost. But I can be tempted by the spotlight and lose focus on what's important. In other words, I get self-absorbed, and I can't see the bigger picture. In the end, it hurts me. I've done some dumb things just to gain and retain others' favor. While it's good to accept compliments of course, I try to turn that positivity into something productive. Instead of a story about how great I am, it's a story about what I've accomplished with hard work and help from others or what I've done to help others accomplish their goals. 

We can't go back in time, but we can change our past, present, and future by taking control of the narrative. Tell your story in a way that empowers you moving forward.