Sunday, August 30, 2009

Endings and beginnings

I'm not going to apologize for the delay in updating this blog because it seems pointless. Life occurs, and we have to roll with it. Immediately after my last blog post I was laid off from my job; no I wasn't dooced. After the struggle to find a job the previous year, saying I was scared and depressed would almost be an understatement. I once again filed for unemployment, and started flooding the market with information and applications. Thankfully my period out of work was much shorter this time than last time. I'll post more about my job in another post some time, but this sort of transition is just another example of the endings and beginnings I've experienced.

Today my dog Topaz passed away. Topaz was 12 years old, and 120lbs. She lived at my parents house, and was, since I moved out, more their dog than mine, but having picked her out as a puppy when I was myself still a child, she has always had a special draw for me. She, along with my cat Lava, picked out Russ for me.

Topaz came into my life about halfway through my Freshman year of high school- the beginning of a very interesting and transitional period for me. I was awkward, at a new school with no friends, and changing greatly in my opinions, ideas, and attitudes as people are want to do during adolescence. As I grew older and began dating, Topaz met any and all of my serious boyfriends. She went with me on trips to the lake with different friends and suitors. It didn't take me long to realize she was my litmus test- if a person was kind and involved with my dog, they were more likely to be kind and good to me. Guys who didn't emulate my love and respect for animals didn't make the cut. But Russ was different. He would spend time with her, playing with her and taking time to pet and be kind to her. She would squeeze between us, and he would, without missing a beat, make room for both her and me within the circumference of his arms.

This loss seems to be, in some strange way, the true death of my childhood. At 26 this sounds ridiculous. I've been married almost three years, graduated from college, and bought a house. I haven't lived with my parents in almost 8 years, and I have been working for 10. Childhood for me ended quite some time ago. But in retrospect, the beginning of the end was two years ago when our other family dog, Tiberia, passed away at 16 and culminated with the loss of Topaz in the wee hours of this morning.

Thankfully she didn't suffer. I have to greatly respect and appreciate my parents' decision not to rush her to the vet when they discovered her in respiratory distress- she far surpassed her life expectancy, and had been terribly uncomfortable due to her arthritic hips and incontinence. Not only did she get to enjoy a last camping trip with my parents; running, fetching, and swimming in Tahoe, but she died on pillows with my parents petting and talking to her as she took her last breath.

Tonight I write about her on the eve of my journey to Burning Man and the Black Rock Desert for the first time. To say I expect the next 8 days to be life changing would be melodramatic, but to ignore the possibility that I have entered a new chapter in my life would be foolish. Who knows what the dusty playa may bring, or how tomorrow or even any day can effect the person I am or who I can become. Let's hope my life can be half as adventurous and full as my dog's was.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The family that geeks together.

I've heard my father described as having 'the gift of gab'. Well alright, there's no denying the man can talk. And so can my mom, and my sister, and myself too. Actually, I don't think anyone would be surprised to know that dinners with my family involve more talking and stories than actual eating- although not more than actual food, which we'll have to save for another day.

So, we're a family of people who love a good story, not just the ones we're telling ourselves either. I grew up in a house LOUSY with books (mind you, not lousy books), and was fortunate to have parents who not only encouraged me to read anything and everything I could get my hands on, but also themselves read for personal pleasure, and to my younger sister and me. My father would sit in the family recliner with us in his lap and read Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne, or various and sundry other stories to us, every night before bed. My parents always had books close at hand- my father particularly seemed to enjoy classic literature and science fiction while my mother's taste was much more broadly defined. She had popular fiction like King, Koontz, and Crichton along side a vast collection of romance novels, and Star Trek serials.

Books, movie, friends, and to a lesser extent, television were all great sources of entertainment and stimulation in my house. We were unashamed to be a family of nerds who enjoyed Star Trek and Star Wars equally with Murder She Wrote and The X Files. We saw the re-releases of the 'original' Star Wars movies in theaters together, we saw the Star Trek movies together, we even saw Star Wars: Episode One together. When I was in high school, the four of us sat around the table discussing the casting and news regarding one of my father's all-time favorite stories- The Lord of the Rings. On Christmas day 2001, we saw the Fellowship of the Ring together, and proceeded to see the subsequent two films together as a Christmas Tradition. In years since then, my sister and I have both moved to our own homes and established our own lives, but the movie tradition remains. We have occasional movie nights at my parents house, enjoying and analyzing movies like The Dark Knight or Ironman and reveling in the warmth of our collective nerdiness.

Tonight the newest Star Trek movie, a prequel of sorts by JJ Abrams, is released in theaters, and I was not surprised to see my parents prepurchased movie tickets stuck prominently to their fridge in anticipation. My own tickets are purchased as well, and my sisiter had plans to buy hers online when last I knew. Different schedules and different lives have taken their toll- we're not going to be seeing the movie together. Instead my parents, freed from the responsibilities of raising us, are going to an prerelease party with other people their age, and then seeing the movie in a big group. My sister and her boyfriend are catching an early show so they can get some sleep. And I will be seeing it with the same loving friends I've seen most major releases with in the last year. Even though we won't be together, this shared experience makes me so happy, and so grateful for my geeky family. I know I'll be thinking about my mom, dad, and sister when the credits roll, and that we will have some great stories to share at dinner next week.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Matters of Housewifery

Last year I was out of work for about 6 full months. It messed with my sense of self-worth, my sleep schedule, my bathing, everything. The novelty of being able to hang around with my friends wore off quickly; I was semi-trapped in our modest home with our flock of pets day in and day out. Saying I was going crazy as a housewife is a major understatement. Once I was able to find a job again- working part-time for 24 Hour Fitness and working for the Obama campaign for actual money- the first thing I did was find somebody else to pay to do some of my chores. A friend, Brieanna Robertson, is a published author and editor, but also pays her bills by running her own cleaning business. A person I could pay and trust to clean my house? I signed up in a heartbeat. Now, my house get's dusted, scrubbed and vacuumed twice a month, and IT IS HEAVEN.

Unfortunately, I couldn't outsource all of my responsibilities. While my hubband is the 'bread winner' and takes responsibility for the majority of our finances, I handle the utilities and coordinate the payments for these services. The economy is bad and businesses have many deals and incentives to hand out to get your business. I switched to a DISH Network promotion for our television and shaved $60/month off our bill for the next year, and $35/month from that point on. Television settled, I decided to tackle the phone- I was able to drop $15/month for additional services to our seldom used home phone. Then, there was the internet: 1.5meg service from AT&T for $30? Not anymore; Charter offered us 5meg for $40. The $10 increase was well worth the money, especially with the tech addiction the hubband and I share, and was certainly nullified by the approximately $70 in savings I'd managed.

I had written documentation of all prices, contracts, requirements, and appointments to protect myself, and be sure I got the deals I had worked for. My diligence paid off and the installs all went well- our services were changed over with relative ease, and have all worked beautifully. Unfortunately, when I checked our bills I noticed Charter had me down for $57/month, a rather large discrepancy, and my heart sank. I contacted them first by their internet chat feature, and the rep quickly told me he couldn't handle the issue. I was given the number for Level 2 support. I repeated my story and was told that even this second gentleman couldn't help me- he transferred me to Advanced Account Support. I was pretty concerned this was going to be a painful and frustrating process by this point. I once again explained the situation, being as concise and friendly as possible.

First the rep challenged me, but I informed him of the very thorough verification I had done before, and told him precisely what I had arranged originally with the first rep. Immediately he offered to correct the problem, adjusting the price for the 5meg internet to $40/month for a full year without a contract or same speed guaranteed at $30/month with a 2 year contract. Commitments can be an bottomless source of annoyance, but the price, infrequency with which we change our utilities, and the reasonable termination fee ($75 in first year, $50 in second) certainly piqued my interest. He then offered to increase to 10meg speed for $10 more, no additional commitment. I was sold.

All in all, the process took about an hour to set up all the swaps and switches, and a couple of afternoons at home while it was done. The billing debacle ended up getting me a better deal, and only took 15 minutes of my time. Well worth my efforts, and now we have better service and more features for less money. I encourage everyone to take a chance to review their utility expenses- you never know what sort of deals you can get.

Welcome to the show, please unwrap your candy now.

I've lost a fair amount of weight lately. Something in the range of 27lbs. This has caused a few people to notice, including my mother. My mother and I haven't always had the best relationship. Typical of Mothers and Daughters we often found ourselves in opposition over things. For me though, some other problems were present.

I have very early memories of my mother calling me fat. I mean very early- we're talking 4 years old. There was a girl that lived across the street named Heather who was so close to my age that our Birthdays are only two days apart. My mother would refer to Heather as "Skinny Minnie" and Feather because Heather's naturally thin build was, in my mother's eyes, an ideal that I simply failed to meet. In pictures she would always point out what a fat baby I was and how chubby I was, all the while contrasting with her own stories of how she was the thinnest, lightest girl in her cheer squad, or that she weighed under a hundred pounds before she got pregnant.

For a member of the Nintendo Generation, the media played very little part in the development of my body image issues. Realistically, I can't recall times where anonymous talking heads on the TV have ever had the power to make me feel bad about myself. My friends, although all thinner and taller, also never made me feel inadequate. Unfortunately all the positive outside influences were powerless to counteract my mother's mantra with regard to my appearance: "You'd be so pretty if you'd just lose some weight." She repeated this to me on a regular basis through all of high school and into college. The frequency of the comments decreased when I moved out, but they only stopped recently.

My mother and I get along well now. If you need examples of how extraordinary she is, you only need read the article I wrote about her for Reno Tahoe Tonight a couple of months ago. I am grateful to have her in my life, and hope to have many more years with her, but the past still lingers for me- I have to work very hard to graciously accept her compliments without snide references to the horrible things she's said in the past. For me, my weight loss now amounts to more than a victory over my horrible eating habits, or lax exercise routine, or even my negative body image. I'm using this transformation to overcome the lesser, petty parts of my nature. Some days it's hard, some days it's easy, but everyday it's worth it.