All I Want for Christmas is You (to Help Whisker City!)

The holiday season is officially upon us, and arriving alongside it are the annual pop-ups of gift-giving guides. People came out in the usual masses to shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be thinking of our friends and family, trying to find that perfect gift to show our affections and make their faces light up.

This year, I am so incredibly grateful for everything in my life. I have a warm home, all of my needs are met,and I am surrounded by love. Sadly, there are many in my community who are not as fortunate as I am, including many homeless cats. These innocent kitties are looking for a home to call their own this holiday season, and as much as I wish I could, I cannot adopt each one myself.

Last year, I began supporting a local cat sanctuary in my community called Whisker City. They are a small rescue dedicated to protecting the lives and interests of unwanted cats, committed to rescuing and rehabilitating abused, neglected, and abandoned kitties. After my cat Angel passed away, I went to Whisker City to donate unused medical supplies that I had left over. I was happy to know that other kitties could benefit from the supplies I had once Angel no longer could, and the volunteers at Whisker City were compassionate toward me and my recent loss while also welcoming me and inviting me to take a tour of their facility and to meet their cats. I’ve been supporting them ever since with monthly donations and a sponsorship of Voodoo, a beautiful Siamese that probably would live at my house now if she particularly liked other cats.

I am not asking for gifts for myself this holiday season; as I’ve said, I have everything I need. What I am asking for, what would mean the most to me and make my face light up, is for my family and friends to please donate to Whisker City. Whether you donate once or sign up for monthly donations, whether you can spare five dollars or a hundred, every contribution helps to take care of these kitties and to keep them safe while they wait for their forever homes. I honestly cannot think of anything that would mean more to me this holiday season than to see a rush of support for this organization that is so important to me.

To donate to Whisker City, check out the fundraiser on my Facebook page, or follow this link: https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MzE5NTY=

Thank you and Happy Holidays! 

If It Doesn’t Scan, It Must Be Free

I think too many years in customer service scarred me in some ways.

Yesterday morning, I stood in the usual line to catch my usual bus to go to work, but when said bus arrived it took the driver a really long time to open the doors and let us all on. When he finally did open them, he stood in the doorway and announced to all of us that the meter thing that takes money wasn’t working, so we didn’t need to scan our cards or pay any money. “Just get on the bus”, he explained.

While I felt that his instructions were rather straightforward, this turn of events apparently stirred a deep need in many of my fellow riders to ask clarifying questions or make their glee at not having to pay bus fare known to the driver. “Are you sure I can’t pay you?” one woman asked. “What a nice gift for us!” a man in track pants enthusiastically said.

During these exchanges, I eye-rolled so hard it’s a miracle I didn’t hurt myself, all the while thinking just shut the hell up and get on the bus already, quit stopping in the doorway to act like your stupid joke is the funniest thing the driver has ever heard in his life, oh for the love of god people just freaking sit down already. Lady, he already SAID not to pay, so stop making such a show of searching for coins in your Louis Vuitton knockoff bag and SIT YOUR ASS DOWN ALREADY. My inner voice was getting decidedly shouty.

Naturally, the majority of the people who got on at the next two stops repeated the exact same stupid comments, because of course they did.

When I was but a starry-eyed teenage cashier back in high school, I quickly learned that any item that didn’t ring up would prompt the customer to say “I guess it must be free!” because, yeah, that’s exactly what happens now, Susan. Look at you, finding the hidden free stuff in the store, you clever clever girl! It was at that young age that I learned the valuable skill of pasting a smile on my face and forcing a “haha” while quickly calling for a price check. Another one I grew to know all too well was during my call center days, when customers would shout the very triumphant “Thanks for nothing!” right before hanging up on me when I couldn’t make whatever thing they wanted happen.

Lest I seem completely persnickety, let me pause to say that I really do enjoy funny people and witty comments. On more than one occasion, an angry customer would hit me with a one-liner so good that I would chuckle appreciatively before I could stop myself, and when they’d demand to know what was so funny I would reply honestly that their comment was clever and I appreciated their sense of humor even when they were mad. Those conversations would typically end pretty well, and I think that’s probably because witty people are usually smart too and they can appreciate reasonable explanations even for things they don’t like. The “thanks for nothing” crowd, on the other hand, seemed to feel that reasoning and logic was a lot less valuable than giving them whatever they were demanding.

Perhaps these experiences left me hopelessly jaded and unable to experience the joy that comes with telling the cashier, “Yes, and many things I wasn’t!” when asked if I found everything I was looking for. We all have our burdens, and I suppose this is mine.

Thanksgiving Shopping

Over the weekend, my husband and I decided that we wanted to start working out more than once or twice a week, and pledged to ourselves that we would work out both days of the weekend and at least two days of each week. We dutifully followed through and did Beachbody workouts in our living room both Saturday and Sunday morning, and on Saturday we even had salads for lunch from the salad bar at the fancy grocery store where we went to do our shopping for Thanksgiving, and we feel pretty good about our efforts. Today I wanted to keep the momentum up so I went for a walk at lunchtime with one of my new coworkers. We went to Bellevue Downtown Park and walked around the little trail three times, and I’m pretty sure casual passers-by probably thought that I had something slightly wrong with me because my legs are super sore from the squats I did over the weekend and so right now when I walk is sort of looks like a duck waddle, but not as waddle-y as the real duckies that were playing in the fountains so I guess there’s that. But I also ate cookies and bagel pizza bites and drank some nice scotch over the weekend, because I don’t want to get too healthy too fast, after all. Balance and such.

Anyway, back to Saturday. I haven’t done a proper Thanksgiving shopping in, well, probably ever in my life, because I’ve only ever hosted for the holiday once before, and that was eleven years ago and if I was along for the shopping portion of planning I have zero memory of it whatsoever. I think I’ll remember Saturday’s experience though, namely because it was one of the few times in the last few years that I can recall going grocery shopping without feeling at least a little bit anxious about being in a crowded store. Normally I hate grocery shopping unless it’s during one of those rare times when the store is nearly empty and there isn’t really anyone around me. I’m not a fan of being in crowded stores – I don’t like it when there are too many people in an aisle and I’m not able to walk through it, and I’m constantly feeling as if I’m in the way. But Saturday was actually pretty fun.

We went to Central Market, one of my very favorite grocery stores. I had a huge list of the things we needed to buy, and I was actually able to enjoy browsing shelves and looking at all the different spices and vegetables and available meats at the meat counter. Normally I have a short list of the things we need for meals for the week and try to rush to grab the things we need as quickly as humanly possible, causing myself to somewhat resemble a human tornado. This time, though, I was able to slow down, and thought more about which ingredients would best enhance the flavor of the things I wanted to make, not really giving a damn if I was in some dude’s way while I read each label.

About two hours after entering the store and sitting down with our salads, Husband and I emerged victorious with two shopping carts that we triumphantly pushed through the parking lot. We loaded up the car with what was probably more food than I’ve ever purchased in one trip, feeling pleased with ourselves and very accomplished. I’m super excited for Thursday, when I get to make all the dishes I’ve planned for people I love.

Answering the Call

Remember blogging?

I do. I remember writing my very first blog post back in 2004. That was before I knew what WordPress was, when the platform I used was the little blogging section of my MySpace account (ah yes, I remember MySpace too, and fiercely maintain that in its heyday it was far better than Facebook has ever been). My audience consisted of my friends, because I seriously doubted that anyone else cared about my little MySpace account.

Blogging got more popular and more platforms became available. I switched over to a Blogger account in the mid-2000’s and started writing Angry, Young and Poor. It was fitting at a time where I was coming into my own and finding myself increasingly irritated with the state of everything around me from my boring call center job to the wars that then-president George Bush charged the US into after September 11th. On my blog I could talk about anything from a stupid driver in traffic on my way home from work to how helpless I felt as I watched the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfolding on my TV every night, with no resources to personally help the victims. It was an outlet. It helped me figure out what I wanted.

V in the Northwest was born in 2010, when I made the move from Southern California to the Seattle area. I had no idea what I was in for, but I knew that I wanted to write about what I was experiencing. Now this little blog has seen eight and a half years of my life unfold; it’s seen me go through some of the best and some of the hardest times of my life, it’s connected me with other amazing bloggers that I never would have known otherwise (shout-out to you, Jill!). It’s a living history of how I got from who I was then to who I am now.

We bloggers don’t really write as much as we used to. A lot of us have slowed down and don’t post as often as we used to, if at all. Some lucky bloggers are published authors now, and tell their stories in their books. People tend to use Instagram stories and YouTube rather than traditional blogging to share their lives and their stories. But what about our blogging community? What about the connections we built and the good that we’ve done?

Today Jenny Lawson, writer of the Bloggess, posted a call to all bloggers to celebrate our community and to reach out to each other. She encouraged us to write, and that encouragement was just what I needed to start working on this post. I thought of all the blogs I love, of all the writers in the blogging community that I love. Some have gone silent, and I miss reading their posts. Others are still here, sharing their lives with any who want to read what they have to say. So here I am, inspired to start writing more, just in case some of you missed me too.

The Payoff

Last year, I wrote a blog post revealing that I had enrolled in college at Western Governors University (WGU) and was recommitting to finally achieving my dream of earning a Bachelor’s degree. I had wanted it for so long, and I was hopeful that I had found a college with a program that would work with my busy schedule and that I could do it this time. And now, that dream has finally come true – I submitted my application for graduation on Monday, after submitting and receiving a passing grade on my final project.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ve done it. I’ve been told by colleagues that have recently graduated that it may not fully sink in until I attend commencement next spring, that for them at least it was walking across the stage and receiving their degree that cemented the accomplishment for them. I can definitely see how that would be the case!

I did everything out of order, getting a job and dropping out of college after one semester, and working through my twenties while my friends attended universities, graduated, and began their own careers. Now, at 34, I have an established career and I finally have the degree to go with it. Being able to check that last box will afford me opportunities that I may not have been considered for without it, and I am so very glad that I did it and so very proud of myself. Earning a degree later in life is no less an accomplishment than it would have been if I’d done it directly out of high school; in some ways, I think it’s more of an accomplishment, because I had to work harder to do it. I’m also relieved to graduate without having to worry about a pile of student loans, because I was able to take advantage of tuition assistance programs at work that paid the majority of my way through school.

I don’t think I could’ve done this without the support and love I received from my husband along the way. He knew how important finishing college was to me and he was very encouraging when I enrolled in school. He always made sure that I had time to study, and was more than happy to take on much more than his share of laundry and other household chores so that I could focus. Each time I had to take a test, he kissed me good luck and then celebrated with me when I passed. When I cried tears of frustration over hard classes, he comforted me and assured me that I was smart and that I could do it. He believed in me every step of the way, even when I doubted myself.

Now I am left with a sense of accomplishment and a whole lot more free time than I’ve had over the last year. I’m excited to read books for fun again, instead of using all my reading time for studying. I’m excited to get back to writing blog posts now that I no longer need to write papers. I’ve been promoted at work and am excited to start my new job on Monday, knowing that I can focus completely on what I’m learning at the office and that I don’t have any homework waiting for me at the end of the work day. I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, and now all that hard work is paying off and I’m enjoying every second of the life I have because of it.

Appreciating the Bumps in the Road

Yesterday was my first day returning to work after a wonderful trip to visit friends in Denver. I felt refreshed and ready to take on the stack of emails and meetings I knew were waiting for me, and was even ready to leave the house earlier than normal. I kissed Husband goodbye and made my way downstairs to our parking garage, where despite repeatedly pressing the Unlock button on my key fob I couldn’t get my car to unlock. Unfazed, I returned to our condo and got the spare set of keys, certain that the battery in my regular fob had died and I’d soon be on my way.

Back in the garage, the second set of keys wouldn’t unlock the door automatically either. For some reason, putting the key directly into the door lock tends to set off the panic alarm, so I hate doing it, but I was out of other options. The good news is that when I manually unlocked my door, no alarms went off to deafen all of my neighbors at7am, but the bad news was that I quickly realized it was my battery and not my key fob that was dead. And we’re talking REAL dead here, probably the deadest dead battery I’ve ever encountered in all the years I’ve been driving cars.

Husband tried to jump-start my car for a good half hour, but the battery was just too far gone. Eventually, I assured him that he should get on the road and go to work, and that I’d work from home while waiting for AAA to show up and revive my car. He reluctantly agreed, hesitant to potentially strand me despite my promising that I would be fine.

Upstairs, I got to work, quickly sending a note to my boss about the situation and promising to be in the office just as soon as I was able to be. AAA showed up about an hour and a half later, and got the car running in no time.

Having a dead car battery is definitely annoying, but this morning left me feeling far more grateful than irritated. For one thing, I realize how lucky I am that I can afford a reliable car that I honestly just assume will always start and function properly. I recognize that there are many people who get anxiety every time they turn the key in their ignition because they have no guarantee that their car will actually start on any given day. I’m also super fortunate to have my husband, who loves me and tries without complaint to start my car after I’ve killed my battery by leaving my dome light on for five days straight while we were out of town. He never once grumbled about the situation or got even the slightest bit cranky at me, even though it was all my own fault for being careless and I am well aware of that. Had I asked him, he would have even gone completely out of his way to take me to work and then retrieved me at the end of the day, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. And that leads me to another thing I’m grateful for – I didn’t have to scramble around in a panic and figure out how to get to the office, potentially inconveniencing other people. My company is so flexible and my boss is understanding and kind, and it’s so nice to work in an environment where it’s understood that things do come up. I’ve had jobs before where being late would have resulted in potential discipline, no matter what my reasons.

Life may not always go completely smoothly and there will inevitably be bumps along the road, but I believe that we can focus on the bad things or we can find good in them and move on. Today reminded me that even the things that do go wrong in my life are so minor and so easy to overcome, and I am so very lucky. Things are the best they’ve ever been for me and I know what it’s like to struggle, and I also know that things can change and that there’s no guarantee that I’ll always be this fortunate. I know this, and think of it daily, and I am so appreciative of all that I have.

International Childfree Day 2018

Happy International Childfree Day, everyone!

Last year, shortly after returning from my honeymoon, I wrote a post about the decision my husband and I have made not to have children. I can admit now that I was very nervous to hit that Publish button and to openly proclaim that we were choosing not to have kids – a lifestyle that for some reason is still upsetting to some. I was afraid of the criticism, the rebukes that I’ll change my mind, that not having kids is selfish, that I’ll never know true love until I have a child. You know, all the usual things people say when a woman declares herself childfree, all the things people have said to me in my life. The things that make me feel pressured to change my course in life just to please others.

Happily, the responses I received were supportive and positive, and in the year since I wrote that post I’ve become a lot more comfortable owning my childfree status. Writing openly about choosing a life without children led to such a remarkable change in my thinking. I no longer worry that I’m going to offend people with kids when I say I don’t want kids myself. I don’t feel bad because my path in life is different from theirs or because I want different things out of life. Why should I? We humans are inordinately different by nature and so of course our dreams for ourselves and our choices in life are going to be vastly different as well. I don’t question for a second anyone else’s choosing to have kids; it’s just what they want for themselves and their lives.

In honor of International Childfree Day, here are some childfree facts about me. Feel free to add your own childfree facts in the comments!

• Even as a child, I never thought of myself as growing up to be a mother. I chose playing with My Little Ponies over baby dolls; I much preferred to imagine the grand adventures the ponies would have and didn’t enjoy pretending to care for a baby.

• I don’t dislike kids – I actually have several children in my life whom I love with all my heart and spending time with them makes me happy.

• I didn’t choose a career over parenting. While I do work full time, I don’t feel such a strong dedication to my job that I’d sacrifice things I want in my personal life for it. I am fortunate to work for a company that highly promotes work-life balance and while I do enjoy working hard, I’m not the person consistently leaving work the latest and I am happy to take my vacation days.

• I believe it’s important to really think about why I do things in life. My husband recently told me about reading an article discussing people’s motivations to do things and summarizing that we either do things out of obligation or out of genuine desire. I try to live my life so that the obligations are few and far outweighed by the things I want to be doing. Thinking this way was a big part of my ultimate decision not to have kids – I don’t crave parenting, and I think it’s something you should only do if you are craving that life.

• My heart aches for people who do crave parenthood and can’t have kids. One of the major drivers for my decision to break my silence and be more outspokenly childfree was not so much my own experience with negativity around my decision, but frustration at the questions I was regularly asked about when I would be having kids. I imagine how terrible it would be to be asked those same questions if I did want a baby while being unable to have one, and I want to lead the charge in helping to educate people about the harm they do when they ask such things.

• I love my childfree life and I want other childfree people to love theirs, too. There isn’t anything wrong with choosing not to be a parent!

What I Don’t Want for My Birthday

This Saturday is my birthday. I will be 34.

I think there are people who look at their upcoming birthday and the year ahead and have ideas for what things they would like to do and how they would like to improve their lives and themselves as they embark upon a new trip around the sun. Maybe I’m lazy (okay, the ‘maybe’ part is probably a stretch), because I don’t have any grand plans for things I’m resolving to do as I officially turn one year older. I like myself and my life, for the most part anyway, and I’m quite content to just let it continue to be the way that it is.

Now, there are some things I would like to NOT do in my 34th year, to be sure. I do hope to continue to not have any grey hairs, because keeping up my roots when my hair is this blonde is already a pain and I don’t need to add any other shades to the mix.

My current hair

I would also like to not go on any diets because I love food and I also love alcohol and I think anything that prohibits me from having things I enjoy is stupid. Furthermore, I would like to not put any pressure on myself to be good-looking or busy at all times or to do too many things that I don’t like doing just because someone else feels I should be doing those things. I honestly don’t know how many birthdays I’ll get to have in life, and when you don’t know how much time you’re going to get, it’s just silly to waste the time you DO have doing or thinking about unpleasant things. And if I do happen to be lucky enough to advance into old age, and I certainly hope I do get that lucky, I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that I could’ve had a lot more fun if I’d concerned myself more with what I like to do than with what everyone else thinks of me and my life. I already primarily spoilt my high school experience by trying to live up to other people’s expectations and it seems crazy to waste my adulthood in a similar fashion. And, doing too many things I don’t like or listening too much to what other people think of my life makes me enjoy being alive a lot less, and since being alive is a temporary condition I don’t have time for people and things that lead me to stop appreciating life fully.

Also, I don’t want to do any running because I hate it. There are so many things that I love to do that are healthy and active things, like dancing and riding my bike and taking walks. I like doing things that make me feel good and running is not one of those things.

I think that pretty well sums up the things I don’t want for my 34th year of life. I do always want cookies though, if someone so desires to bring me some.

Time to Breathe

Over the weekend the battery in my Garmin Vivofit died and I had no way to count my steps, which made me realize that I am in fact quite dependent on the positive reinforcement that is the hitting of a 10k step goal in a day. I could have simply replaced the battery but it turns out it takes some sort of strange battery with a name beginning with C and all the batteries I have at home have names with a row of A’s in them and to boot you have to take off the face of the Garmin with a teeny tiny screwdriver to get at the dead battery in the first place. Seriously, these screws are so small that I would need a screwdriver that would fit nicely in Barbie’s hand (and yes, it fits in Barbie’s hand and NOT Ken’s because Barbie has her shit together and in addition to being unafraid to start down new career paths she also knows her way around a toolbox. Unlike me, obviously.) to remove them.

Having no mysterious C batteries or any Barbie screwdrivers, I did the only rational thing a girl could do in this situation and marched myself to the mall to buy an Apple Watch.

Okay, I would be lying if I said I bought the thing on a whim – the price point for Apple Watches is far over my self-imposed spending limit for impulse purchases. I had wanted one for awhile but always found ways to talk myself out of getting one, but the death of my Garmin’s battery sealed the deal for me and I indulged myself.

Today I am wearing the Apple Watch and it just buzzed at me and when I looked at it, it was reminding me to breathe. At first this made me indignant because I CAN actually remember to perform such a basic life-sustaining function sans reminder, thanks Apple, but then I realized that maybe I was feeling a bit riled at myself for being so lazy that I went out and bought a new watch rather than simply changing a damn battery and perhaps I did in fact need to take some deep breaths and mellow myself.

Well played, Apple Watch, you delightful bit of modern technology. Well played. Also, this helps me feel that I needed this device in my life to look out for me.

Gratitude

Standing at the sink in the kitchen of our new home, I can gaze out across the living room as I wash dishes. One weekend morning not long ago I did so as usual, cleaning up the dishes after enjoying the breakfast my sweet husband cooked for us. As I began cleaning up he had moved to the couch and the sight of him relaxing on a sunny weekend morning made me smile.

As I looked out at our living room, my husband on the couch and my cats stretched out in patches of morning sun, I felt so much gratitude for everything I was seeing. Life is short and ever-changing; my view from the kitchen won’t always look this way. The cats are getting older – hell, Bill and I are getting older – and with growing older I understand so much more that every moment is one to be cherished because it won’t be like this forever.

I don’t say this to be ominous. Life is the best it’s ever been and I am so incredibly grateful for these quiet and happy moments. I’ve had so many of them, especially since moving into our new home in April. We are both so in love with our new place and we spend more time at home now than we ever did when we lived in our rental. Our old apartment didn’t have a place for a table, so we never owned one, and the living room was only big enough for a love seat and an armchair. The apartment complex was on a major street, so it was nearly always loud when we ventured onto our back patio. Now, in our new home, we can do things that we couldn’t  before. We enjoy meals together sitting at the dining room table, we relax on our back deck on nice days, and we stretch out together on our giant, cozy new couch and watch movies together.

The happiness we feel doesn’t come from just the possession of the house itself, but from what it represents: an accomplishment we achieved together and can now enjoy together. Bill and I have shared so many adventures over the last four years, and home ownership is the newest but by no means the last one we’ll have together. There is no single item I have ever owned in my life that has given me the kind of peace and happiness that this life together brings me.

I admit that at times I lose sight of that feeling of gratitude and fall into the rut of just going through the motions of everyday life. Even though I generally can find joy in most things, there are definitely moments when I can’t find my shoes and leave late for work, or spill my coffee all over my car, and I catch myself getting way too riled up by these annoyances. Of course once that moment of self-awareness hits and I see how silly I’m being, then I regret allowing such small problems to make me fall short of being the person I want to be. Usually the things that frustrate me the most are the ones that I feel are rooted in my own shortcomings: running late makes me worry that I am not truly dependable, spilling things shows that I’m disorganized and klutzy.

In those moments where I’m falling short of my own standards, I’m learning to take a step back and imagine myself standing at the kitchen sink, looking out at my beautiful living room at my wonderful family. This image in my mind is soothing and grounding; it puts it in perspective to me how truly rich I am in this life and reminds me that small frustrations are such small and insignificant parts of such a great existence.