I’m open, but I’m not THAT open…

Thrice this past week, I’ve been asked how soon I plan to get pregnant after I get married. (Yup, how soon plan. Me. The fiancé gets no say, apparently.)

One, I’ll admit I kinda walked into. Cooing over photos of my cousin’s children and then admitting a craving for tuna (which I haven’t had in forever) does kind of create a natural segue. It really was a “Wow, you really like kids! Are you planning on being a mom soon?” sort of thing. Okay. I can handle that. (My no was followed by the second question of if I already was pregnant. Pro-tip: DON’T FREAKING DO THIS. Not okay.)

The other happened as I was cooing over other photos. I quote, “Oh, I see where this is going: that’s why you’re getting married!”

Look, I get that it’s teasing. I’m not looking to play the victim or cry injustice here. But the implication that kids will take (or worse, already have taken) precedence over other qualities in a spouse really rankles.

Yes, I unapologetically go to mush over babies, and I like working with kids. I’ve always known that I want to be a mom someday. Honestly, I think the fiancé will make a great dad when we’re (yes, “we”! The fiancé gets a say!) good and ready. But I’m not just biding my time by programming–it’s a passion and I want to keep doing it, even after kids, and I don’t love the fiancé just because he could be (as a friend rather aptly put it) a “baby-enabler”. He is so much more than that. He is my partner in crime, my sounding board; he understands and accepts me. He’s a good cook, has an infectious smile and laugh, and plays a mean game of Scrabble. He gives the best hugs and, being far more aesthetically inclined than I, occasionally helps me pick out what to wear. We first bonded over composting and origami, and only later found out that we were compatible in terms of life and family goals, and while kids are a pretty important part of compatibility (you can’t really have half a kid, or only the good parts of a kid), again, I’m marrying him for everything else, too, and quite possibly everything else, first.

Also again, I get that it’s good-natured teasing. I really do. I’m not about to report either coworker for harassment or anything–in this case, it would be counter-productive. However, I have resolved to speak up next time. Not harshly or anything; just “Hey, I don’t appreciate the implication/you asking me about something this personal”. I know they’re good guys and will take it just fine. We all make mistakes. This is just a reminder to me that some have a deeper effect than they seem.

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“It’s Their Job”

For some reason, “it’s their job” comments about teachers seem to follow me everywhere. Particularly the “it takes me hours to write a paper! It takes 5 minutes to read it!” variety. My response is as follows:

It’s not just reading, though. It’s taking the time to read and think carefully about what the paper is trying to say (Does it contradict itself? Does it even meet the rubric? If there’s no anti-plagiarism software that they can use, is it original work?) and correcting errant spelling and grammar and sometimes, that can be a huge struggle.

Hell, if a teacher collects a 80 papers and gives them back the next day, I am suspicious that they just scrawled a grade down (whether it benefits me or not).

I mean, really, do the math: Say a teacher takes 5 minutes per paper. Just 5! Not that long, right? Multiply that by 80. 400 minutes = 6 hours and 40 minutes. That’s 6 hours and 40 minutes spent outside of school (i.e. paid) hours grading because, at least at through high school, teachers don’t have time to grade during the day!

And after school? Meetings with other teachers. Mandatory training. Meetings with parents asking why little precious’s grade has dropped and not believing it’s because little precious doesn’t pay attention despite other teachers and the principal corroborating the story. Okay, home around 6 PM. 10 minutes for dinner. Onto grading. The teacher has young kids? They need to be fed and put to bed. But say the teacher’s spouse does that.

So, we’re still at 6:10 PM with 6 hours and 40 minutes (bare minimum) of grading to do on unpaid hours… and the teacher needs to be up at 5 again to repeat the process. (Are you doing the math? 4 hours of sleep, 1 AM to 5 AM. Maybe. If they don’t have lesson plans to write or other assignments to grade.)

If your boss told you that they consistently expected nearly 7 hours of unpaid work from you a day, would you be okay with it? I bet not. (If you are, hey, good on you. Most people I know aren’t, though.)

So yes, even though teachers sign up for this, and even though “it’s their job”, think about it: they just barely have time for the necessities of life during the school year (and it doesn’t stop there–workshops and curriculum re-shaping and “how do we deal with this terror-child and their terror-parents next year” all summer long. Again, unpaid.), and for those with a family, like my mom, that’s hard, to say the least. It’s her job and she does it, but goddammit, I am 24 and sometimes, I just want to spend some time with my mom, but often, I don’t get to. Because “that’s her job.”

Think about that the next time you don’t get your paper back the next day.

Looking backward, moving forward

Hindsight is 20/20, so they say.

I dunno–I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, and my glasses prescription sure as heck doesn’t get any less severe when I turn around.

Yup, I am the pinnacle of wit.

2014… where do I start?

I suppose January 1 would probably the obvious place. Time. Whatever.

But really, nothing too exciting then, other than celebrating 3 years with the boyfriend. (He was not the fiance at that point. That happened later.)

February, March, April, May… all those more or less passed without much need for remarks from me. Well, I could remark on it, but there’s a lot I won’t say here. Most people know it already, anyway.

June, the boyfriend (still not the fiance at this point, but we’re much closer!) graduated from school, which was pretty exciting. Job lined up and everything, though that wouldn’t start until September.

July–the moment you’ve all been waiting for–the boyfriend becomes the fiance!

We also moved to a new apartment, I celebrated my 1-year anniversary at my former place of work, and I wished for a corgi. I continued wishing for a corgi for the next–aw, heck, I’m still wishing for one. The fiance did get me corgi knee-highs for Christmas, though.

Preliminary wedding planning was most of August and September. I think I also started watching the BBC Merlin series in September, too. I could write a whole ‘nother post on that. Nobody in the cast (not even the secondary characters, really) escapes placement in one or more ‘ships. And I still hold that Gwaine and Lancelot should be drunken adventure buddies.

October… I was jobless. By choice, sort of. Not for lack of looking/applying/interviewing before I left my former job. It was nice. See, I’d never really had time off between graduating college and starting my job. Wisdom tooth surgery and moving kind of ate all that up. Anyway, I applied and interviewed for most of October, and lo and behold, I found a new job!

November, I started said new job. It’s been a blast. The only point of contention is that I work in the upper third of a tall office building. Heights and I don’t get along too well, but not for lack of trying. I’m probably getting better.

Probably.

Maybe.

Aaaaaaanyway, now, we’re here. December. The end of the year. Can’t say I have many regrets, and I don’t really want to focus on them, anyway. What I do want to focus on is what I’m going to do in the new year.

I’m going to get married. This one’s less a resolution and more just the way things have been planned thus far. But it’s happening!

I’m going to exercise more. (And eat healthier, though I’m definitely better on that score than the exercise one.)

I’m going to keep celebrating with friends and family.

I’m going to assert myself. I’m going to ask for what I need. I’m going to do my best not to be afraid of change.

I’m going to do my best, as I always do, to make it a year that I can look back on and feel proud of making my own.

And hopefully, we’ll get a corgi.

The Most Wond-elf-ful Time of the Year

When Christmastime rolls around, I get nostalgic. It’s not that my family doesn’t get together (oh boy, do we get together!) or that I miss the gifts I got as a child. I am quite happy with a stocking full of chocolate and various and sundry items, thanks very much.

What I miss is being an elf.

No, seriously.

I have been an elf (or more accurately “Santa’s Helper”) for the best—no the real Santa Claus and his excellent photographer. I didn’t have to wear the costumes, thank goodness—just a red and/or green top and jeans. And sometimes, a Santa hat.

You see, my uncle is Santa. Real beard and everything. He may be the reason I was never scared of Santa—I actually don’t know. But I’ve been to him as long as I can remember for my Santa pictures. (Sadly, I’ve missed the last couple years. I’m planning on changing that this year if I can.) Around 7th grade, I became an elf for service hours initially.

There’s really not much to it. I’d run rolls of film (yup, rolls of film. We were old school for a good long while) to the drug store, hand out slips with the number corresponding to the roll of film, hand out candy canes, and get small children and animals to look at the camera. That was more or less the official description of my duties, anyway.

The actual work was all that, sure, but there was more. I was the Starbucks runner, being the most mobile of the group (and usually the most senior). Not sure I ever got the amount of cream in the photographer’s coffee right, but y’know…

I also had to find wherever the extra candy canes were hidden, as well as the cd player. I bought a little stuffed animal every year to help distract kids. (A few years, I had to buy two, as little kids aren’t always so great about remembering to give them back after being distracted by them.) I’ve held coats and children, and have had my fair share of near-accidents, including one of a pair of three-month-old twins projectile vomiting inside our little hut. I’ve had to figure out how to display letters so that they didn’t get blown away with the door opening and closing. I took pictures with whatever device I was offered, usually not terribly well. My first year, I actually had to get security to go after a family who walked off with all the salvation army gifts from under the tree. (Yes, I said they were “for the less fortunate”, and this family probably belonged in that category… but there was a sign right there saying where the gifts were going!) I carted barrels of donated food between wherever Santa was and the security office.

On the slow days (usually the first weekend), I’d sit on the floor, close to the heater when there was one, talking with Santa and the photographer. I’d steal Santa’s chair when he got up to walk around, usually resulting in a goofy picture or two. I also got to take a couple pictures of the photographer and Santa. Professional equipment is heavy!

More than that, though, there was just this air of festivity, of joy and love. It was (for the most part) the holiday spirit personified. It’s not that I don’t get that now, but there was always something different about being in the middle of it. It’s amazing to see kids in their late teens and early twenties walk in without their parents to take a photo to surprise them with. It’s fun to see families who dress up. It’s wonderful to see familiar faces, whether they’re friends from school or long-time visitors of Santa. (Remember the twins I mentioned earlier? I saw them for the next six years.)

The one thing sure to ruin that, though?

Without fail, nearly every day I was there, someone would scold their child (usually one between a year and four years) for crying. You are putting your child in the lap of a very odd-looking stranger. It does not matter that you’ve described Santa Claus ad nauseum and read Christmas books every night for the last month—your child might freak out. It’s one thing if it’s a pouty face for the camera, but a screaming, wriggling toddler does not make for a good picture, especially when you add your own yelling into the mix. Instead, see if your child will sit in your lap, or in Santa’s chair, and have Santa sneak in while an elf distracts them.

Trust me; it works.

The whole point was to have fun, to spend time with loved ones, and to indulge in wishes.

My wish would be to live it again.

Cooking with Chickadoodle: Roasted Bell Peppers

So, like any normal, sane, and decent person, I love bell peppers.

Okay, like any person who likes bell peppers, I… like bell peppers.

I love ‘em in salad, on pizza, as an appetizer on a veggie tray, and most other normal ways they can be eaten. They don’t even have to be raw! I love them pickled, stir-fried, barbequed, and oven-roasted.

So, often enough, long about this time of the year, when the weather turns cold, I will get some bell peppers from the store and roast them.

I don’t really do anything special—it’s about a 45-minute process total, but dagnabbit, they turn out so tasty!

So, here’s my prep, complete with pictures.

First, I foil-line my pans, even the non-stick ones. Bell peppers stick. I also coat the foil with a thin layer of olive oil. Then, I cut the bell peppers into chunks and place them skin-down on the foil.

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After that, I pour a little more olive oil on the peppers, as well as some “Italian Street Fair” from the Spice & Tea Exchange. I stir the peppers to coat them.

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Next, I add some pepper, thyme, basil, and rosemary and stir some more, and put the peppers in at 425 F for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, I check and stir the peppers, then set the timer for another 20 minutes.

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Tasty!

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Who Kills the Spiders?

WARNING: This post contains emotions. Sappy emotions, mostly. I am not ashamed.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert at everyone’s relationship. Sometimes, I’m not even an expert at mine. But we’re getting married, so I’m pretty sure we’re doing at least something right… My point is that if you’re looking for advice on how to make your relationship work, it may be that some or all of the below won’t apply. Also, I’m not sure how you happened upon this if you’re looking for advice.

I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to be ready to spend the rest of my life with someone else. Which is, y’know, kind of a thing, given that the fiancé and I are going to be married next year. If we didn’t think we were ready, we wouldn’t be planning.

But how did I get here, I sometimes find myself wondering. I can’t pin down an exact day. What I do remember is this: It wasn’t a petulant “I don’t wanna live my life without him” or a desperately dramatic “I simply can’t go on without him”; it was something deeper and much more profound than that. But that was more or less when I really solidly knew. It was when a large chunk of the puzzle of life slid very soundly into place.

I mean, I’d had moments of that before, but nothing so sudden and so deep. I’d been pretty sure, but this was pushing me over into “I know I’m sure” territory.

All I mean to say is that while a lot of it came upon me at once, it has been and still is something of an ongoing realization. It’s not just the big things, as they say.

Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

It’s realizing that I can see myself doing things like voting and taxes and the census and getting a mortgage with him. It’s seeing myself doing even the more mundane things—things we already do, like going grocery shopping together or texting “I need x, y, and z… what else do we need from Safeway?”. It’s deciding what to make for dinner together, and then having a bit of an impromptu dance while waiting for the water to boil or the oven to come to the correct temperature. (We both turn up the music when we cook.) It’s knowing that these things are mundane and still managing to find the occasional way to treasure them.

It’s knowing that we can laugh and learn together. It’s poking gentle fun at each other. (“What do you mean, you’ve never ______? What kind of childhood did you have, anyway?”) It’s knowing when to back down and when to stand ground. It’s making the effort to stay calm even when upset, and knowing when to apologize.

It’s seeing the look in his eyes and not being able to put into words how it makes me feel. It’s cuddling on the sofa or the bed at night, and knowing where to find him when I have nightmares.

It’s having completely separate days sometimes, and still being able to come back at night to just be content with each other.

It’s feeling attractive whether in pajamas with floofy sleep-hair, or all dolled up for work or an outing.

It’s reminding about a shirt tuck-in or a hair combing. It’s asking him which scarf would go better with my top because he’s Mr. Visual Aesthetics and I’m… not.

It’s knowing that neither of us is perfect, and sometimes getting annoyed at the other’s quirks, but maintaining that we’d still have each other no other way.

It’s feeling totally safe and totally at ease and just plain at home. It’s trusting in our love.

It’s giving music I didn’t think I’d like a try, and giving my honest opinion when I don’t. It’s reading too much into media sometimes, and the conversations that come from that.

It’s that silent confirmation that yes, sometimes I do sound exactly like this or that relative.

It’s sometimes stepping back and going “What the hell are we doing?” and very swiftly answering that with “Enjoying life together.”

It’s finding out something new about him and going “How did I not know this before?”

It’s so very simple that it’s in everything. Some time ago, the fiancé’s younger brother said he had a relationship question for us.

“Who kills the spiders in your relationship?”

The answer we gave is that neither of us do (well, unless we were to find a poisonous one or something), but that whoever finds it traps it and sets it free. It’s what works for us. But it might not work for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t force the fiancé to trap and release spiders if he had a crippling fear of them. But, all things being equal on the fear front, whoever finds it deals with it.

And I guess that’s the biggest thing: this is an equal partnership. Maybe not an even one—maybe one of us does more of the cooking or cleaning, and maybe the other shops for groceries more or something. But we complement each other. I’d like to think that we’re each whole on our own, and that together, we’re something more than that.

What I do know is at the end of the day, we are two people making our way through this crazy, unpredictable, funny, scary world together (but not just on our own!), and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Panic attacks suck, and so does having them at concerts

I’ve written before about how panic attacks suck. Your fight-or-flight instinct goes into overdrive, resulting in major not-fun-ness. Like, seriously.

The fiancé’s mom, who is an absolutely wonderful lady, invited us out to an Elton John concert. I like Elton John. Elton John is awesome, and his music is awesome, and he’s awesome. So yeah, of course I wanted to go.

I just didn’t quite realize what I was in for.

I’ll take a moment here to note that, along with not being correctly balanced for long periods of time, my panic attacks are also set off by a combination of strobe lights and really, really loud noise (think packed-arena noise) that has nowhere to go and thus reverberates through an entire structure and the people in it. It’s super-disorienting to me, and I do not like that feeling. If I’m in an open-air sports arena, I’m usually okay because that has steadier light, and the noise… has a place to go. Fireworks are about the most strobe-y thing I can handle.

So, when my brain gets strobe and overwhelming noise signals, I think this is roughly how it goes:

Lizard brain: Oh God, we’re being attacked!
Human brain: No, this is an Elton John concert; calm down.
Lizard brain: I don’t know who Elton John is.
Human brain: Seriously the strobe lights-
Lizard brain: No!
Human brain: -and the sound-
Lizard brain: Eeeeeeeeeek!
Human brain: -are totally okay! There’s nothing to worry about!
Lizard brain: Flashing lights and really loud noise! We’re being attacked!
Human brain: Did you listen to anything I said?
Lizard brain: Yes! Strobe lights and really loud noise! You need to get out of here!
Human brain: I’m staying put–I’m FINE.
Lizard brain: Tell that to me the next time you put your hand on a hot stove*. Engage fight or flight mode!

It’s less funny when your heart feels like it’s beating out of your chest and you can’t breathe well. I’ll usually try to sit it out for a few more minutes, but at that concert, every strobe and every prolonged volume increase kept my brain pumping out the panic signals. And it really sucked, because this is Elton freaking John! You don’t get a chance to see him every day!

However, having a panic attack and/or passing out in the arena itself was about the worst option I had.

Long story short, it took about 15 minutes to calm down to the point where I could walk without wanting to throw up with every step. An arena employee offered to get paramedics. Thankfully, the fiancé and I talked her out of it. The last thing I needed after that was an ambulance ride. I understood and appreciated her concern, but I knew I was going to be fine eventually.

It’s upsetting that I can’t enjoy things like this. I’d really love to go see Trans Siberian Orchestra someday… but that won’t work as long as I get panic attacks. Even sports games in closed arenas are a bit dicey. Depending on the effects used, I sometimes find it hard to even get through plays. So, if I decline your offer to go see a concert or a movie, it’s not because I don’t want to see it; it’s because I don’t want to put you through the crappy situation of dealing with my panic attack.

*I have put my hand on a hot woodstove by accident before. Twice, and within like two weeks of each other. I was maybe six, and I didn’t remember that there was anything burning in it–we used it all of three weeks a year. The difference here is that I didn’t leave my hand on it for very long.