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    January 09, 2015

    In the tired place

    In about an hour and a half Phillip will get home from work and I will FLEEEEE this house. My real life friends and I have booked a fawncy hotel room right across the street from Bell Square (which is a fawncy mall in the fawncy Seattle suburb) for two nights and honestly, I don't care if I spend two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. Actually I think I would PREFER to spend the next two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. 

    I feel terrible because THIS IS JUST NORMAL LIFE, YOU KNOW, but Macaron Madness, Christmas, Winter Break, starting school again, helping my brother and sister-in-law with their move (baaaabysitting), taking Christmas down, getting life back on track - I kind of feel like I've got everyone's life back on track except mine. I am SO TIRED. I have been tired forever, but I feel like I'm reaching new heights of tired. So Christmas is put away, kids are settled back in routine, things are moving on the trip planning front, I earned some family brownie points, even the BAKERY is refocused, tightened up, strategized. But ME... I'm an overweight tired mess with straggly bottle blond hair and nails bitten to the quick and mountains of laundry following me around. 

    We booked this weekend a loooong time ago. One of us is super big on Friend Weekends Away and the other two of us are happy to make them happen. One of us is a super strong believer in taking breaks and resting and relaxing and taking care of yourself and the other two of us are grateful for her because otherwise we probably never would. We were supposed to go this summer and then I, uh, booked the bakery for the street fair. Oops. 

    The kitchen is cleaned and I stocked the fridge with fruit and cheese, the freezer with pizza, and the cupboard with bread and peanut butter. Phillip should be just fine. And there's a big football game tomorrow night and while I do enjoy a house full of people all excited about something and drinking adult beverages, I find this football stuff stressful and it'll be nice to be hidden away with friends who probably have no idea this football game exists. 

    I sort of hate the book I'm reading, so if you read this this evening and have a book rec, let me know. I'm finding I don't love a lot of the books Twitter loves, but I'm not sure why. I have this "no disturbing movie" policy that has now crept into what books I read. Except I still read heaps of war books? And fiction set during war? So I don't know what that's about. I kinda set you up to fail there, didn't I. Maybe don't recommend books to me. 

    I am just so tired. But even when I'm dead tired I still wake up during the night, so I'm bringing my trusty bottle of Target brand sleep aid. I'm not sure if I officially announced that my brain medicine is working. They told me "sometimes it takes up to 12 weeks". It got worse at 12 weeks. Like, a lot worse, and I was working myself into a place where I could go BACK to the brain doctor and say I have to try something else, do this whole thing ALL OVER AGAIN NOOOOOO, except things clicked into place around the 15 week mark. Which is crazy to me. When I went back on meds after Emma and they didn't work and I got on the massive hamster wheel of SSRI experimentation - I wonder if I'd just stayed on them a little longer, if it would have worked out like this one. Not that it matters NOW. Now I am feeling pretty un-anxious and just like myself. I have tons of weight I want to lose and I'm not sure I can - due to the medicine and my own lazy self. I want to cut my hair off, but I can't afford haircuts every 5 weeks AND bleach. I have a simple wardrobe of stretchy pants and slouchy tops that I attempt to improve with many scarves and expensive eyeshadow. I am close enough to the miserable anxiety place that I would not hesitate for a split second if I had to choose between Chubby and Anxious. So I feel thankful for that. And thankful I feel well. It took so long! and then I can't believe that it's gone! (For now.) (Always have to add that "for now".) 

    I should go pack. I should probably think of something other than pajamas to pack. Like I think I might be expected to go out to eat. Or shop. Or be in public. 

    I have such good friends. Here and in "real life". In the throes of planning another friend weekend (though that one's more the type to close down bars while wearing heels. So. I'm lucky to have both, aren't I.)

    P.S. I will tell you about the bakery next week. Please prepare your commenting fingers.

     

    January 06, 2015

    On budgeting, SAHMing, and Purpose In Life-ing

    Money talk is SO AWKWARD, isn't it?*

    Budgeting has not been a strong point in the Cheung Household (UNDERSTATEMENT), but we are giving it another go in 2015. For a long while Phillip paid all the bills and did all the money stuff and I was a proper 1950s housewife who knew nothing about nothing. Then he went back to school and taking over the money stuff was something I could help with - and shoot, I kept myself afloat through college, working and paying my own bills and whatnot, I'm not TOTALLY useless. And I developed my own "budgeting" system (mostly a very neurotic Excel spreadsheet and stacks of receipts), but I'd say that all of the budgeting we've ever done has been more of a "Oh, huh, look at all the categories we overspent in THIS month!" rather than a "Oh, huh, look at that category, we should probably not go out to dinner tonight." You know? I was SUPER GOOD at tracking what big spenders we were, basically. 

    Earlier this year when the bakery started taking over my life, Phillip went back to doing the money stuff. And he started using Mint, which I absolutely positively cannot stand. For unidentifiable reasons. I just do. Also Phillip's mode of budgeting was basically the same as mine (excellent tracking! not so much with the cutting!), except he added an element of OHHHH NOOOO and this is where everything went to pot. Many many MANY discussions this year re: our differing approaches to money, our differing views on what is enough money, our differing views on what to do with the money. I should say that we are in full agreement on the big questions; it's the small nitty gritty questions where we butt heads. 

    We had another of these painful conversations last night, and a lot of OTHER stuff plays into these conversations too, right? How you grew up, expectations, general levels of stress, how you cope, all sorts of really complicated things that you just have to accept and put aside and deal. We manage to do that by having a fight first, then having a productive conversation. Is there a better way to do this? Probably! We just haven't figured out how yet. 

    ANYWAY. For a multitude of reasons, not least because I never understood Mint, we downloaded the free trial of You Need A Budget and set the whole thing up. We are hopeful! I already understand the system better than I ever understood Mint, and Phillip appreciates having everything accessible and uploadable and not color coded in aqua and pink and yellow with circular reference errors all over the place (I didn't say I was GOOD at Excel). 

    But we did decide that we couldn't send EJ to preschool like I hoped. It's not a HUGE deal and we WILL find a way to make it work next year when she's four, but stuff like Europe Trips and house maintenance are the big deals currently. And preschool's expensive, even the cheap ones. I cut the housecleaner because they were honestly causing me more stress than helping, but I know that will be annoying as soon as it's time to clean a toilet. We made up good-sounding amounts for groceries and dining out and clothing, but have we ever adhered to those amounts before? This feels a bit like a new year's resolution to lose weight that's bound to crap out by February. I have a definite "oh, everything works out!" personality which drives my poor husband around the bend, so it's in the interest of our marriage that I stay engaged and concerned. And I plan to. I'd like to learn how to SAVE money and go to Europe AGAIN! (Phillip: hanging head)

    Any discussion of money, though, takes me into the Is It Okay That I'm A SAHM frets and I feel kinda insecure tonight. Especially reading everyone's tweets about their kick ass working moms today. I know Phillip would have preferred I stay working, though it wasn't a choice I made so much as my job sort of disappeared after I left it and I wasn't sure how to "go back" to work. And also we were making it work on one income. And I never liked my job. Or working in an office. And I really loved staying home. And yes, I have ALWAYS felt like someone was going to TELL ON ME or something, that's how much I loved (love) staying home. 

    I don't think I'm especially GOOD at it or anything. I am not SuperMom. I do as little housework and cooking as I can get away with. When they were babies I hung out with my friends with babies as much as humanly possible. I've done a lot of shopping and coffee drinking and napping. For a while I did a lot of exercising. My kids are clean and fed and taken care of, but am I teaching them to read or doing art projects or playing games? Um, SOMEtimes? Not REALLY? They know their families really well. They know about being kind. They are forced to eat vegetables every couple of days. ???

    I think one thing I feel confident about, but also mixed-feelings about, is that because I stayed home with the kids, Phillip has been able to pursue everything he's wanted to pursue. Grad school, business travel, switching jobs several times, without ever worrying about how to manage things at home. I have always taken care of that and I for sure don't know how he would have earned that Master's degree without me holding down the fort. (I suppose there's an argument to be made re: "but YOU'RE the one who wanted to have kids", but that's a dark mental pit that doesn't actually exist in the real world and I try to stay away from it.) 

    THAT SAID. I'm not sure what that gets me as a woman in the 21st century. I have family members and friends for whom it's VERY IMPORTANT to be able to earn your own living. And I... can't do that. Something happens to Phillip? Not sure what I'd do. I have nothing to fall back on. And I never found The Thing I Like Doing. Although... I think I HAVE, actually, but no one pays you to be a professional pray-er. (This is my problem, Phillip says. Everything I work hard at is not paid work. ALAS.)

    In that respect I feel failure-ish. It's all on my husband to support our family. Even if I WANTED to help, childcare would cost more than whatever I would take home. (At least now, while we still have one at home.) Perhaps I have let myself down? I have not been All I Could Be? Am not fabulous career woman, famous writer, rich business lady, cannot even buy my own lip gloss.

    But even THAT... I mean, I LIKE my life! I don't feel unfulfilled or unhappy. I DO feel guilty, sometimes, that I am not contributing financially. And that what I AM doing (bakery work, long weekends for churchy conferences) is somewhat hard on my husband without any financial gain for us. Most of the time I feel like I have plenty of time to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up, though I suspect it doesn't involve an office or more schooling or any sort of financial independence. Gah. Uh... life would be pretty DULL without me?! **

     

    *I have an Asian-American husband, Asian-American in-laws, and two Asian-American best friends and this means I talk about money in public a LOT. The cultural differences here, they are big time. 

    **I KNOOOOOOW. I KNOW I AM WORTHY AND VALUABLE EVEN IF I DON'T HAVE A PAYCHECK. I'm just saying, if I kept writing about that this blog post would be eons long. It's ALREADY eons long. I AM AMAZED YOU GOT THIS FAR. 

    December 30, 2014

    A retrospective, a looking forward, a commitment to unhealthy foods

    Everybody's all "resolutions!" and "goals!" and "no more sugar!" and I'm all WHEN ARE THE KIDS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. I hate to be that way, I really really do, but I'm having a hard time. It's not that the kids are home and driving me crazy so much as there is no routine and if anyone in this house needs routine it's the 35yo mom. I need Things On Which To Hang My Days, and when there's no school and everyone you know is traveling or sick or too far for the casual afternoon dumping-of-the-children-to-entertain-themselves-in-the-basement, life gets difficult. Plus it's the DARRRRK time of year and I HATE being stuck at home in the long dark afternoon. When Phillip got home tonight I nearly fled the house for the nearest movie theater (dark, but blissfully lacking in people asking for snacks). Instead he found some chocolate in a dresser drawer and I spent the next hour in the bath reading a post-WWII spy novel. THAT was lovely. 

    So yeah, no resolutions or goals for me. Yet. Maybe. Although I typically don't like to do resolutions - my biggest goal in life is to not fail at anything, so NOT making resolutions profoundly helps with that. 

    I think, at the end of 2014, I find myself in a place of looking back over the last couple of months and thinking, "Hmm. I could do THAT better." 

    Case in point: Christmas. Christmas was different this year. We did our own thing on Christmas Eve for the first time ever - the children's Mass (Jack and Molly were in the choir SO CUTE), then coming home, eating pizza and snacks, opening up our family presents. It was low key and easy, but I realized later I was annoyed that we didn't really have a PLAN. And even MORE later I realized that what I wanted was a TRADITION. As in, we ate the things we always eat on Christmas Eve. We opened the presents in the way we always open presents. Except we don't have those traditions. Yet. We have the way my family has always done things, but PHILLIP didn't grow up with that so he didn't KNOW, but then maybe we could mix it up a little ANYWAY... I just sort of wish we'd spent 10 minutes talking about how we wanted Christmas Eve to go. That said, it was lovely and the kids were super fun and it was really nice not having to rush around the next morning with church and getting ready for brunch with Phillip's side of the family. 

    But next year...

    I also want to find a way to make preparing for and celebrating Christmas more about JESUS. SIGH. This was doubly hard this year because of the bakery, aka Macaron Madness Month. I forgot and/or left out a lot of Christmas party things I always do and this was doubly true of Actual Christmas. We didn't even do the chocolate Advent calendar! The absolute laziest thing you can do for Advent! 

    I don't know if we'll still have a bakery next year (lots to discuss this month! STAY TUNED!), but even so, I've been reading a lot about the people who don't put up the tree until Christmas Eve and make the 12 Days of Christmas a THING. Part of this is appealing. We always leave up the decorations until the Epiphany and wouldn't it be nice if Christmas wasn't suddenly slam bam OVER on the 26th? What would it be like to turn our annual Christmas party into a TWELFTH NIGHT party?! (I am seriously digging this idea.) That said, this is a way of being counter-cultural that would be VERY DIFFICULT for all involved... Like, I just don't think I could wait until Christmas Eve to put up our tree. We do our big Christmas shindig ON Christmas Eve! I don't want to explain why it's not the Christmas season YET or get huffy about it in blog posts and you guys I LOVE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT THE MALL I JUST DO. And I don't think I could draw out the present opening for 12 days (although is this something everyone does or just the person whose blog post I was reading?) But TALKING about the 12 days of Christmas, maybe planning a thing to do on each day when there's so much more time to observe the season... I don't know. This is definitely something I want to talk to Phillip about in the car, when he's a captive audience. Anyone here do that or considering it? I think if I wasn't spending the week before Christmas planning a party and getting rid of the kids for the weekend and worried about how everything is decorated, I miiiiight have more time to talk about running for your lives and having a baby in a BARN. Etc.

    What else. Oh, I hate my house. It's like now that I'm not bakerying 24/7 I have time to be irritated with my house again. It also doesn't help that one of my friends is planning to put her own house on the market this spring and constantly texts me with Redfin links to new construction. I mean, I love it, but it doesn't help with the fact that I have a poorly designed bathroom and my kitchen countertops are embedded with 25 years of grease. And I SERIOUSLY can't do anything about it because any money we might be able to spend on the house in 2015 has gone towards lodging in London for a week OH DEAR GOD. I swear, London will be the reason my kids don't go to college. 

    BUT I LOVE YOU, LONDON. I have spent the better part of winter break on AirBnB and VRBO.com looking for the perfect vacation rental. (It does not exist.) I have read ninety-seven articles about London With Kids. I have calculated how much it will cost to see a musical (this will be the reason the kids have crooked teeth). I am super excited to go to Italy and I am somewhat excited about our few days of just-us time in Paris, but London OH. I really do love London. I think I can love Paris too - I've only been as a 17-year-old trying to lose the adults who were constantly on my case and as a 21-year-old with her college roommate (and trying to lose her too) (I have since grown as a person). Being there with my One True Love will surely make a difference. And Italy... well, I mean, it's just a GIVEN that Italy is my favorite and everything there will be as spectacular as it always is. London is just the place I always hope I get to go to and LOOK! I DO! WHEE!

    (Prague is my other favorite. And if all the stars aligned I would actually be on a Tour of Important Eastern European Locations In 20th Century History, but we all know no one wants to go on THAT trip with me, amirite?) (WARSAW! I want to go to Warsaw!)

    ANYWAY.

    Things. Needing them done differently.

    2015 may be the year I find a regular babysitter. In 2015 Emma will start going to preschool. I'm trying to find a place to start her in January, though her age (a very young 3) and the never-going-to-happen-potty-training situation are making this task difficult. Maybe this will be the year the business becomes, you know, real. Real-er. Or it becomes the year we decided to put it aside and I get all obsessed about my house again, who knows. We will travel lots. (I have $750 in Alaska Airlines vouchers from my disaster Colorado trip that I need to spend by June!) The Blathering is HERE! Partly in my HOUSE! My kids are getting older which is very much freaking me out. I'll turn 36 which is definitely on the downward slide to 40. Oh, I should probably lose some weight too. NOW we've got ourselves a proper resolutions post! 

    I could take care of my house better. I could be a better wife. I could read better books. I could learn to dress better. I could bite the bullet and do better at being a Good Parishioner instead of hiding in the back. I could definitely be a better keep-in-touch-er. 

    But I think the thing I most want to do is keep moving... I want my heart and brain to keep expanding, you know? New stuff. More people. Bigger world. So more of that, 2015. And if it means I have to let the clean floors and no chocolate vows slide, well, I'll power through. 

     

     

    December 20, 2014

    Christmas Party 2014 Post Mortem

    Except for year my sister got married in December and we did a St. Valentine's Day Massacre party instead, we've thrown a Christmas party every year we've been married. It's been a white elephant party and a collect-canned-food party and one time I tried to create a dance floor (FAIL), but it's always been a invite-pretty-much-every-single-person-we-know-and-eat-and-drink party. And I really love having it. 

    In the last few years - the first year we lived in this house, especially - I have tried to out-Pinterest Pinterest. Which is sad/funny since I'm not much for crafting. Buntings and hot chocolate bars and cute labels for everything. Our house has high ceilings and I would spend DAYS stringing lights and garlands and tinsel, carefully placing mason jars full of cranberries and tealights in the high window sills. I would fret about no one coming, then I would fret about too many people coming, then I would stress about food and make millions of to do lists. 

    The day OF the party, I would clean and decorate and prep food and slump onto the couch, usually about 4pm, and wonder why in the world I do this every year and GOD THIS IS THE WORST IDEA EVER. Then I would pick myself up, put on the dress (which would be the least bad dress out of all the dress options, sigh) and do my makeup and hair and put on tall shoes and THEN I'd find myself kicked into gear. A glass of wine while I'm putting out the last minute stuff, Phillip hunched over a laptop and the TV stuff, trying to get the music to work (WHY DOES THIS TAKE HIM SO LONG, EVERY YEAR, YOU THINK HE'D CREATE A MACRO, DO THEY STILL HAVE THOSE?) and I would start to fa-reak. out. about. everything not getting done and THEN! 

    People would show up. And I would have the best time. Seriously, so much more fun than LAST year. 

    Then: the half hearted late night clean up. An "eh, that's good enough" and passing out with your dress still on, on top of the covers. The next day: did people have fun? Really? Did they like the food? Did they think the people were cool? I'm sure they did, our friends are awesome, but I don't know, what about that one couple who didn't seem to talk to anyone else? Did I ignore them? Oh crap I forgot to put out that decoration! I meant to light those candles! I didn't put embarrassing party prep materials away! I forgot to hide the potty seat! OH NOOOOOOO WORST PARTY EVERRRRRRRR

    So. 

    This year was very much the same. The same Phillip working on a tertiary level of party prep vs. me frantically putting food out and hoping he will notice and HELP ME FTLOG, the same very old friends, the same mix of super new ones, the having of the best time, the same people staying late, the same stuffing of leftovers in the fridge and passing out, the same groggy wakeup and second guessing of every moment. 

    But certain things were different. I did not have TIME to Pinterest this party. In fact, I didn't manage to put up a large chunk of plain old boring stuff I ALWAYS put up. I did start decorating early and I thought I had time to do it all, but it turned out I sort of didn't care and also suspected other people wouldn't even notice. (They didn't.) 

    I did not make punch. No one came up to me and demanded to know where the punch was. No one has emailed me yet to say how disappointed they were I didn't have punch at the party. (Basically, I forgot about punch.)

    I forgot to light the candles. 

    I forgot to put on shoes. I got my shoes OUT. I just... didn't put them on. And when I realized my shoes were in the middle of the floor instead of on my feet, I chose to kick them under the table. I also left on the leggings I wore all day under my party dress. Eh. 

    I didn't make ANY FOOD. Like, for serious. There has not been ONE YEAR in all the party throwing years when I don't pore over appetizer recipes and STRESS and FRET and WORRY because I need the party food to be SPECIAL and FANCY. No. This year I went to Costco. I bought all the chips and bread and crackers. I bought all the dips. I bought all the fancy Italian meat. I bought all the cheese. I did roast some peppers and I did throw some meatballs (from Costco) in the oven. There was no itemized list of when to cook things in the oven this year AND IT WAS SERIOUSLY THE BEST THING EVER. Also, no one complained or has since called or emailed me to complain or be disappointed. The fact that I think this is a possibility may tell you a little something about me. I know it's weird to be afraid of disappointing people with store bought food when the food I MAKE is often VERY DISAPPOINTING, but no one has ever accused me of being rational.

    We still had the obscene table of booze and mixers (thank you, Duty Free Store!) but it wasn't decorated very nicely, I didn't have time to write up drink recipes in pretty handwriting, and I just sort of threw the bar equipment on the table and hoped for the best. I'm not aware of anyone being disappointed by the haphazard bar layout and/or lack of a second bottle of Maker's Mark. (I had one. Downstairs. Dudes, if I put out ALL the Makers Mark, they won't drink anything else!) 

    The biggest possible disappointment was the severe shrinkage of the dessert table. The morning of the party I made three ridiculously easy bar cookies and brownies, cut them up, threw them on platters, cut up some toblerone and threw some truffles in a dish. Done. I didn't THINK this would be a big deal, because I usually have ten tons of cookies left over after the party anyway, but it was disappointing to ME. There were no Thumbprints sweets on account of every macaron being worth their weight in gold around here, and people at Phillip's work had been asking if they'd get to sample Thumbprints stuff! No, they just got my lame bar cookies. But you know? I don't think people were for REAL disappointed by this either. 

    I didn't do anything new. I didn't try anything different. 

    But, as usual, the people made the party. We have the old friends who come every year. And because Phillip keeps changing jobs and because I'm conning all the school parents into being my friends, we had a lot of new folks too. And I know this sort of thing is not for everyone, but I REALLY REALLY STINKING LOVE gathering all my people. I love introducing them to each other. I love feeding them and plying them with drinks and getting dressed up and not having kids around and meeting peoples' spouses and learning what neat things people are doing and I JUST LOVE IT. I'm an established introvert and like everyone else, I hate small talk too. But you just start asking people about themselves and they have such interesting answers! It's also possible that I am just surrounded by super fabulous people YAY ME. 

    I suppose the one TRULY terrible thing that happened last night is that my blog - oh yes, THIS BLOG RIGHT HERE - was outed, and not even by a BLOG FRIEND. Yeah. HI, FELLOW SCHOOL PARENTS! WELCOME TO MY MANY NEUROSES! I UNDERSTAND IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HAVE THAT PLAYDATE ANYMORE.

    I guess... it was not my favorite party in that I didn't feel super spectacular about how everything LOOKED or TASTED, I would not have given myself an A+, no one is going to pin a picture of my beautiful tablescape. TORTURED SIGH. But you know, I am growing as a person, don't you think? Look at me all "Who cares if I wear shoes! Who cares if the candles aren't lit! Who cares if I just left this plastic tub of spinach dip on the table in the middle of everything after I dumped it into a bowl? C'EST LA VIE!"

     

    November 26, 2014

    It matters to me

    I'm going to say a few things about Ferguson on my blog. Even though I have a POLICY of not saying things about things like Ferguson on my blog. Even though, even beyond the POLICY, no one cares what things I have to say about Ferguson. I'm breaking the POLICY because while it's served me well, I think, in this one instance, it may be hurtful to someone I know, a black woman from St. Louis. 

    This whole time I've been thinking: what can *I* do? What *can* I do? 

    Everywhere I read, the call to white people is: speak up! But I want to say to them: have you met me? I... don't do that. I have a POLICY. 

    And also, I don't LIKE to speak up. I feel like there's a lot of people on the internet who are there ONLY to speak up. About everything. So many opinions and thoughts and stances about so many things. And I feel like there are lots of valid opinions and thoughts and stances about many things and I want to respect yours and I would like to LEARN about yours and maybe, one day, we can get to what I maybe think about things...

    But I am wondering if the only thing I can do is speak up. Not to... I don't know. ENGAGE people, necessarily. Heaven forbid I have to engage with anyone. And not to join a chorus or a conversation and certainly not to start a debate or change a mind. I have negative skills in those areas. Also, quite honestly, it appears that all of my people are on the same wavelength here. Is it even necessary for me to speak up? 

    I have been praying for God to show me what matters in this situation. I mean, what I can AFFECT in what matters, if that makes sense. I felt wrapped up in the rightness or wrongness of the grand jury decision, trying to figure out what I thought about all of that, but praying too, praying that God would take away the things that didn't matter and leave the things that did. Slowly, over the course of this one day, God rendered all of my thoughts about Ferguson unimportant except one: the fact that my black friend from St. Louis is hurting. 

    So I want to sit here, on Thanksgiving Eve, ruminating over my blessings and I want to speak up. I want to shout: ASHLEY! I SEE YOU! IT MATTERS TO ME THAT YOU ARE HURTING! IT MATTERS TO ME. It matters to me.

    I don't need to know how I feel and what I think before I grasp and abhor the fact that someone meaningful to me is hurting. I pray for the ability to sit in the tension, the humility to give up thinking I need what I think I need, the courage to walk alongside my sister in Christ, to pursue a Jesus-focused understanding. I think that's what I need to say out loud. That I'm here, Ashley, and I see you, I see this, I want to see it better.  

     

    November 18, 2014

    Macarons and fat pants

    Got an email today that made me panic for a second. It contained this sentence:

    You must complete the permit process prior to operating a cottage food operation. 

    But then I saw that it was addressed to a "Michael McKinsey" and it was from a guy purporting to be from the Fresno County Department of Public Health. So. I'm guessing it's kind of spammy? But still? Weird? There was an attachment that obvs I am not clicking on, but now I'm like even the spammers now how to give me anxiety attacks. Of course I am all ready to hit back with, "THIS IS WHY WE RENT SPACE IN A LICENSED KITCHEN, [INSERT FAMILY UNFRIENDLY TERM]", but I think I'll just ignore for now. Or furiously google the guy who supposedly sent it. 

    It did make me remember the cottage food process we DID undergo and how I was going to write a Sternly Worded Letter to send to allll my representatives.... yeah. I AM still frustrated and irritated and a tiny bit super angry defensive about that, but I don't have TIME to take that on. I AM VERY BUSY BLOGGING OKAY? And other things. 

    Tonight the "other things" began to take on a distinctively egg whitey glow... MACARONS. So Katie's husband is a manager for a catering company with a big time corporate client. And because 1) we have a connection and 2) Katie makes awesome treats, we ended up on the official Holiday Menu that all the corporate clients (who pay for things with corporate credit cards, ahem) see when they are choosing their Holiday Soirees. Or Holiday-Themed Meetings. Or what-have-you. Although it was kind of a bumpy start (FOOD BUSINESS PEOPLE. ALL NUTJOBS.) (DOES THIS NOW INCLUDE ME?) we already have 6 orders for December. Kind of a big deal for a teeny tiny upstart baking company who celebrates 6 orders in a month. Except, it's only mid-November. And these are for a Major Local Corporate Behemoth. And now we are freaked out about HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE ALL THE MACARONS OMGGGGGG. 

    (Do you like how I always say "we"? Like I have ANYTHING to do with making macarons? I WILL, for your information, be making a bunch of things for the "assorted cookie platters" which are also on the official menu, but macarons? HA HA HA NO.)

    On the other hand! WE MIGHT MAKE MONEY IN DECEMBER! THAT WOULD BE SO NOVEL! (No really, that would be... amazing.) 

    The only thing I don't like about this deal is that they aren't advertised as THUMBPRINTS macarons/assorted cookie platters, we're just contracted through BIL's Catering Company and so no single person is going to look us up later and order her own macarons. But whatever. I'm not COMPLAINING or anything. 

    I've also finished all the listings for our online store AND figured out the shipping questions. I'm not sure I answered those questions WELL, but I did my best, and we will see how it goes. IF anyone buys anything through our online store. Which I haven't put up yet. Because Katie still has to go through it and say things like, "Um, no, I'm not doing that." But soon! (I hope. All I really feel like doing is sleeping. But. Sigh.)

    The sleeping? I am just going to hope that this is because I have not been religiously taking my iron pills. Back in August when my mental health had gone seriously south and I was Distraught and Desperate and DONE, when I started the new SSRI I stopped taking all the [expensive] [gigantic] vitamins and supplements my naturopath had me taking. I mean, they obviously weren't HELPING, right? And no medical insurance was paying for THOSE pills [lots and lots and lots of them] so I just stopped. I WAS ANGRY, OKAY? But I also stopped taking the iron (I wasn't in the best head space, you understand) and now I'm wondering if the iron actually WAS helping me or I'm in an especially tired place right now or WHAT IS WRONG JEEZ. I wake up exhausted. I spend my whole day wondering when I can sit down and conk out for a minute. And Sunday morning at the retreat I went to last weekend I woke up with this super weird back pain thing and now I'm Fatigued AND Falling Apart. IT'S TERRIBLE. 

    And it's just making me aware (as opposed to deliberately choosing NOT to be aware) of how poorly I am treating my body these days. After not eating + nervous tummy during the Worst Week Ever (August 2014), I'd 1) lost quite a bit of weight (silver lining!) and then 2) began to SERIOUSLY make up for it. I mean, after that I was all, "You eat whatevvvvver you want, Body. You just do what feels good." And I did! I don't think I was eating my feelings so much as eating was something I COULD enjoy. So I was gonna ENJOY IT. Bring on the Nutella! 

    But now... hrrmmm. My fat pants are too tight. You see? And while I am in a much better headspace this year re: How I Look, I have enough sense to know that I am not taking care of myself. I am not eating ANYTHING that's good for me. I am not getting outside. I am not getting any exercise. I am sleeping terribly. And even though I KNOW that the longer I keep up this "lifestyle", the harder it is to change, I'm finding it hard to care. My anxiety stuff is not totally figured out. My work/parenting balance is not at all figured out. I sort of feel like... well not that I'm doing the best I can, but that any sort of check on what I eat or how much I move is alREADY setting myself up for failure. You all know how much I love to fail!

    When I mentioned how much I despair over pants, a good friend said, "I don't feel like you should be worrying about that right now." Which is so nice! But the rest of the world says, "If you don't start NOW, you never will!" I feel like the rest of the world is right, and also totally has me nailed. I'm waving at them while I eat another leftover toffee bar from the subscription boxes we sent this weekend. HEY THERE, WORLD!

    October 20, 2014

    Why don't you all come over and we'll eat our way through the bakery leftovers

    I thought the anxiety was getting better, and I think it WAS, for a while, but not so much anymore, and I don't really know what to do about it. I mean, eventually I will call my doctor and she will probably put me on something else because I'm at the max dose of this one, but I sort of dread making that call and it will take a few days for me to actually do it. That call means the thing I was most nervous about is the thing that happened - that the meds wouldn't work, that I would still be anxious months out, that I have to start over on something else, that maybe NOTHING works - and I haven't wrapped my brain around it yet. 

    In the meantime I am making lunches and going shopping and shipping cookies and writing emails and having friends for dinner. I can do my life. It's just in the quiet alone moments my body is on big time high alert and the rest of me is totally stymied as to why. As long as I don't think about it too much, it's only a massive drag. If I think about it too much, it becomes something a lot worse. 

    I feel like... well, if I'm going to feel like I'm about to go on stage at any moment or give a very important speech, I would like to, you know, ACTUALLY GO ON STAGE. Because 1. there would be a reason and 2. I've always wanted to be a Broadway star. 

    That said, anxiety has rarely stopped me from doing the stuff I want to do. There was that one time where I didn't quit a job I knew I should quit, because I needed that safe, predictable, known place to be every day. But that was a million years ago and now I just DO stuff because no way is anxiety going to shut me down. I mean, it might, maybe, but this is why I carry a bottle of Klonopin everywhere I go, right? HA. 

    So I am looking at invitations for the Christmas party we throw every year, even though 1. I will probably still be anxious come Christmas party time and 2. isn't the holiday season a manic time for bakery owners? I've heard this is the case! Perhaps I should not block out an entire week in December for decorating my house! But I think I would be tremendously SAD if we canceled the party this year, even if we just turned it into a, I don't know, an Ides of March party or whatever. This probably means that I will for SURE bust the party budget because dudes, we ARE going to be bakery busy and in order to pull off a party I must HIRE OUT. (Not that I have a REAL problem with this. It just looks bad on the Excel spreadsheet.) 

    And also I continue to book social occasions for myself, along with Asking Random People To Do Them With Me. The great testimony of my life, as I see it, is that once I was a desperately lonely and unhappy 15-year-old, crying in her closet from the shame of eating lunch by herself every day, praying for just one single friend, and now I am abundantly miraculously blessed with the most amazing friends I could ever hope to have. Ever. I swear it. Plural! MANY. And where it seems many women my age are despairing about making new friends with other adult women, I am supernaturally driven to seek out Potential Friends and pester them until they break down and hang out with me (out of exhaustion? perhaps.) I say "supernaturally" because OH MY am I NOT AT ALL "naturally" outgoing or extroverted or brave or confident in knowing other people want to get to know ME. I think better of myself than I used to - I suspect this is a product of getting older and I enthusiastically welcome it - but I am still wracked with insecurity when I meet someone new. ...it's just that I then invite them to a party. HEY. PARTIES ARE FUN.

    I say that I fake extroversion well? But really I just honestly do like KNOWING people and I very much enjoy GATHERING them, especially if wine and snacks are involved, and when it seems like someone should enjoy something I enjoy, I compulsively invite them along. Sometimes this doesn't have the desired results. See: my OB and my hairstylist are not my best friends. I've had to get over that, alas. And sometimes it does. See: I agonized over how to invite my kid's teacher to a thing and then I just finally DID it and she immediately and excitedly said yes and omg we are totally going to be besties. 

    ANYWAY. Sometimes the anxiety makes me MORE like that. Because the more time I spend with Other People, the less time I have to sit alone in my house and wonder why I am anxious, which then makes me more anxious. 

    Blargh. I just don't know what the next steps are. Try another med? What if that one doesn't work? I know it's bad news to start thinking too far out, but it's HAAAAAARD to keep yourself in check all the time. I am asking for help when I think I need help, I am seeing the appropriate professionals, I make sure I don't spend EVERY day at home with only children for company, I keep myself busy with household stuff and bakery stuff. But I don't feel like I'm getting better. I've always, eventually, felt better. But then I've always, eventually, felt anxious again. And at this point it just sounds EXHAUSTING. And I'm already exhausted. I'm being challenged to look at this as a chronic thing, accept it even, and I'm trying and finding that to be a better perspective than my usual Fight Fight Fight stance. That IS helpful. But I think right now I feel sad about it too. Maybe the other part of that testimony is that God knew what a rough time my brain chemistry was going to be and gave me the people I needed when I really needed them. And they include you guys, too. xo

     

     

    September 30, 2014

    Wishlist

    Phillip is making me dinner tonight. Phillip! is making dinner! It's 8pm and the kids are in bed which is how this can possibly happen, but YAY and ALSO! Let's look at what else is on my wishlist! 

    The Lorac Mega Pro Palette

    LMP

    Swoon. I forget when I bought the Urban Decay Naked 3 palette (earlier this year I guess). I was ashamed to spend that much money on MAKEUP, but YOU GUYS, I will never buy drug store eyeshadow again. For serious. And since eyeshadow is really the only kind of makeup I like to play with, and cool purples and golds are made for ME, I think I need this Lorac palette. @temerityjane, Queen of What To Buy At Sephora, highly recommends and yeah, I just think this should be mine. I am happy to work with one blush, two mascaras, a handful of drugstore lipglosses I almost never wear, a few different shades of foundation, and my trusty Maybelline dark circle concealer, but I NEEEEEEED nine dozen flavors of eyeshadow, yes? 

     

    Rain Boots

    Rainboots

    I've lived in Seattle how long? but only bought my first pair of rain boots last year. And guess what. They don't fit around my calves. I ordered them with points from Amazon and I was too embarrassed to send them back and maybe I would lose a few pounds and WHATEVER. I need rain boots that don't cut off my circulation when I stuff my legs into them and dash to school pick up. These LOOK like they'd be forgiving for the wider-calved ladies, but looks are deceiving and also they are seventy dollars NO. But cute! 

     

    New Countertops

    Countertops

    I know I should just be happy I have a house with a functional kitchen and it IS functional and it WORKS and except for the doll-sized oven all its issues are cosmentic but I HAAAAAAATE the tile countertops. Hate hate hate. I didn't hate them until I began to use the kitchen and who in the WORLD thought a countertop with a million little grooves in it was a good idea?! OR the oak trim at the edge and the oak trim "backsplash"? I'm not a germaphobe at all and I'm seriously grossed out thinking about how many years of crud have built up in the teeny gaps and grout lines. UGH. My kingdom for a solid slab of SOMETHING with an undermount sink. The above would do quite nicely. In fact that whole design and look would fit my house perfectly. Now to harvest my money garden! 

    A New Winter Coat

    Coat

    I love this coat. I stared it a good long time when Garnet Hill was doing 25% off women's fashion. I LURVE IT. But... not really sure how this would look on someone with boobs and no waist and ill-fitting rain boots. So I let it go - SIGH - but I actually really do need a winter coat. Last year when I was so angry and upset with myself for gaining weight, the only coats that fit me were the two puffer jackets my FIL of all people had brought home from two different trips to China. One was a knock off Prada! FAWNCY!And I wore the HECK out of those coats (the biggest size, because I am much bigger than Chinese ladies remember), so much so that I broke the zipper on the one I liked best and I can't wear it anymore. I NEED a new coat. And I am maybe five pounds under what I was last year, but! I am not (as) angry and upset and I FREAKING NEED A NEW COAT SO FIND ME ONE, INTERNET!

    All right, I could go on, but dinner (rice noodles! YUM!) awaits. What would YOU like to spend your imaginary money garden money on?!

    July 29, 2014

    My always forever answer for the "what's the best thing about blogging" question

    Long long ago I gave a toast at a wedding and it was awful. Awful. I'd stressed about it for weeks, was still writing it while having my hair done, and then when it was finally time to speak, no one understood what I was saying through all the CRYING. I have no memory of what I said, only the crying and the pausing to control the crying and the feeling like an utter FOOL. A few tears during a wedding toast is charming and sweet. Not being able to HEAR the wedding toast for all the SOBBING is just embarrassing. 

    But when Liz and Adam invited all their people to a farewell gathering a week or two ago I was determined, for the first time in my life, to try this toasting thing again. I even had notes, which I'd typed up on my phone for easy access. I had ten years on my previous toasting experience, which is ten years' worth of increased not-caring-what-people-think. Also this gathering would be in a bar, so I would have ample opportunity to liquor myself up. BONUS.

    The farewell gathering at the bar, however, was very loud and very crowded and I would have had to stand on top of the table and shout at the top of my lungs for my toast to be heard and, well, that required a kind of bravery even ten years older and liquid courage could not provide. So I had fun chats with the people sitting near me and then I went home, not even speaking to the host and hostess beyond "hello" and "goodbye". 

    You know where introverted awkward people end up giving thwarted toasts? 

    Ahem. 

    TO LIZ (and Adam, whom we so very much adore, but mostly) TO LIZ, without whom the last six years of my life would be shabbier, duller, and a lot more sober.

    As a blogger, one's dearest wish is to be taken seriously by your corner of the internet, to inspire, to lead, to say fresh and refreshing things, to speak truth, to be KNOWN as a speaker of truth, and ABOVE ALL to MONETIZE. I had hoped, as a blogger, my byline would one day be seen by all the mommies in all the internetland, and that my ad network would reel in for me many hundreds (dozens?) of dollars. I hoped the hope that any woman - frazzled and exhausted, with a baby and an internet connection and an English degree - hoped: to be PAID to WRITE. And for a few years, inexplicably and randomly, I was paid the grand sum of $20 per post for contributing to a Parenting.com blog. This, I felt sure, would propel me up the massive slope that was Internet Rockstardom. LOOK OUT, DOOCE!

    I go to Mass on Sunday mornings - a fact I've never managed to integrate smoothly into my scintillating online musings - and on one of these Sundays, as I was packing up the diaper bag for my one single baby and getting ready to leave, a bright and cheery woman accosted me. 

    "YOU'RE MIGHTY MAGGIE!" 

    "I am?" I said. "I am!" 

    "I READ YOUR BLOG!"

    "You do!" 

    "I RECOGNIZE YOU FROM YOUR PICTURE!"

    "Oh!"

    "I SAID TO MY HUSBAND, OH HERE HE IS, THIS IS ADAM, ADAM THIS IS MIGHTY MAGGIE, I TOLD HIM I THINK WE GO TO THE SAME CHURCH AS YOU AND I WAS RIGHT!"

    I had gathered myself enough to realize I should introduce her to my husband and my one child - "This is my husband -" 

    "OH, I ALREADY KNOW THEIR NAMES! HI JACKSON!"

    (Maybe I am not remembering this exchange accurately, but eh, details.)

    This was Liz. She became my friend. An Internet Friend, a real life friend, the Catholic friend I'd always hoped to have, the local stay at home mom friend I needed, the friend whose kids were the same age as mine, the friend who knew all my other friends, the friend I invited to my sister's wedding because my sister said, and it was true, "Oh sure Liz can come, she's practically family."

    My longtime best friends, the Asian-American ladies I've had since my college days, well, they LIKED Liz (see above: Liz knew all my other friends), but they referred to her as my "white best friend", usually with a tinge of sourness. Of course I delightedly told Liz this, knowing she would enjoy the moniker as much as I did. 

    I had a baby, then she had a baby, then I had a baby, then she had a baby. Then two more. We moved houses. Twice. We got involved in church stuff and regretted getting involved in church stuff. We did Blatherings together - can I just say how crazy special it is to have a Real Life Friend who speaks Internet? We enneagrammed ourselves. And our husbands. Oh, and when our HUSBANDS became friends? That was even better. 

    I had my amazing online community, I had my amazing real life community, and God saw fit to give me Liz as well. Liz really IS a testament to the goodness of God in my life. It was as if the relationships he'd already blessed me with were not enough, as if there were a gap, as if he said to himself one day, "Maggie appears to be lacking in the Wine-Drinking Friend With Whom To Bitch About Twitter And Church Committees Department, let me see what I can do about that!" And lo, Liz appeared after Mass, daring me to deny that was MY picture on Parenting.com.

    I fear I've been a shoddy friend this past year. I decided my small amount of free time would be best put towards opening a questionable business. My disinclination to drive anywhere grew, my aversion to playdates anywhere but your home or mine solidified. Our kids went to different schools. I started going to a different church. I was nowhere to be found these last few months as the this-move-is-actually-happening drama grew large and unwieldy. Had the situation been reversed Liz would have brought me dinner at least three times a week. I wish I had at least shoved a case of wine out of my van as we cruised by her house. 

    Growing up on military bases, your good friends move away every summer. And then when you graduate college, your good friends might leave for new cities and opportunities. But it's been a very long time since a good friend moved away from me and I am out of practice. I have not yet processed what this means. I have not really explained it to my kids. I have mostly decided not to think about it. 

    This is probably not a good plan. 

    TO LIZ. To the time we almost missed our flight to Sacramento. To being the awesome moms in the moms group, back when the moms group was fun. To Twoness. To being my plus one for nearly everything. To the post-committee meeting texts. To bringing dinner out of the blue. To the time we prayed over your bedroom, before Fritz was born, when everything was about to happen. 

    To Chicago, and husbands who are home more than they are away. So thankful. 

    To the best thing I ever got out of blogging. 

    At this point in the toast, know that I am gurgling all my words and no one understands me. It occurs to me that Liz's dad would have an appropriate inappropriate remark to lightheartedly cap things off, so I'll let him end it. He'll whisper it, and add something about an exciting and bright and joyful future that I would be too sad and selfish to add myself. 

    All the best in your new endeavors, Liz and Family. All of us love all of you. 

    March 04, 2014

    Lent is here AGAIN?

    Yesterday I went to World Market and came home with a wine rack. A serious wine rack, with room for 25 bottles and hanging glasses. A piece of FURNITURE. As soon as I brought it home it became apparent that I have no PLACE for a serious wine rack, no matter how industrial-chic and desperately needed I think it is. I'm going to return it this weekend, if I can force myself to do it. 

    And this is what happens, folks, when there is a Lull. I think I have identified the last week and probably the four or five upcoming weeks as a Lull and I HATE LULLS. Lulls are the worst. There's no big baking holiday to slightly push (slightly on account of being ILLEGAL, STILL) and I don't have enough pictures to update the website yet and we're having trouble finding the just right commercial kitchen space to rent. So the baking is sort of sitting right now. Annoying. 

    No vacations any time soon, no important weekends or birthdays. No big plans of any sort, no obligations, and I'm starting to get itchy about my house again. I'm eyeing the downstairs bathroom and telling myself I'll go ahead and paint the cabinets now, why not? I want to rearrange furniture and hang a light fixture above the bathtub and press BUY on the bed I've picked out online (which I can't do yet because we're potentially spending Bed Money on Getting Rid Of Bats In Our Eaves instead. WOE.) 

    I don't do well without purpose. I just sit and eat too much and refresh Twitter every five seconds. It's terrible. I also sit and stare blankly at the Typepad compose page. HMMMM, WHAT DO I SAY NEXT? 

    Lent starts tomorrow. OF COURSE IT DOES. I have to say, I was greatly cheered by my friend Dr. Maureen who recently confessed that she ALSO dislikes Lent and that she's stopped trying to get something OUT of Lent and is content to suffer through it instead. This was so helpful for me. Every year I think: I should try and have a productive Lent! A meaningful Lent! A purposeful Lent! But Lent, for me, always seems to be a depressing Lull. 

    I'll take Emma with me to the 9am Ash Wednesday service. We'll go to the church near my house and all the schoolkids will be there, which is good because that means the homily won't go over my head. And I will be thinking the whole time that I need to give something up and what should I give up (because we all know I won't be able to come up with anything BEFORE Lent) and I'll probably settle on doing something positive, knowing I'll crap out towards the end, or giving up something delicious, knowing that I'll most likely cheat. 

    Daily I will send up "God, Lent is just so... LENTY" prayers and feel guilty because GOD KNOWS, you know, HE WAS THERE. I will attempt bouts of grown up spirituality, perhaps some important reading here and there, a group discussion if I'm really proactive. But mostly I will sulk and count down the days until I get to eat Easter candy in public instead of hidden in my bedroom because IT'S STILL LENT, FTLOG.

    So! I wouldn't recommend this website for any great and holy Lenten insight these coming weeks! But if you're into complaining about Lulls and wondering if it's time to eat candy yet, I'm your gal. 

     

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