Sunday, July 22, 2012

Can I Dress For the Job I Want?

Some links I've found while trying to figure out if my appearance is preventing me from getting a job.

This post suggests setting aside at least $1000 to build a professional wardrobe from scratch. I'm grateful that there are posts out there that give fashion-clueless folks like me hints about how to go about presenting a professional appearance.

Meanwhile, this post neatly sums up a large part of my frustration when it says, "Women routinely have to spend more money, and more time, to make ourselves visually presentable and fit society’s basic expectations of grooming… and that’s more true the higher up you get in status and income." 

I want to play by the rules, but I haven't yet worked out how I can feasibly do so. Sometimes, it seems like the prerequisite to getting a job that pays money is to already have money.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Health, Identity, and Adulthood

I find myself posting recipes for stuff I've cooked. I also post regularly about my thoughts on sleep, as I'm trying out biphasic sleep.  I do this in part because I hope it's interesting or helpful, but under that, I do these things because I'm trying to exert control over my own life.

See, I can't force employers to post job openings, interview me, or give me a job. I can't lower the cost of living so that I can support a family on less money. I can't buy much of anything, as I'm hoarding the money I have so that I can afford to move to the location of job.

However, I can still try to create value. I can cook, I can craft, I can clean, and I can write*. I can work to improve myself by exercising and eating better.  I can hack my sleep schedule so that I have time to do all of these things and still work on applying for jobs.

Perhaps it's all a carefully-constructed method of distracting myself from feeling worthless because no one has found me worth paying (yet).**  If so, it's a relatively productive one. I have plenty of unhealthy coping mechanisms for this, so encouraging the healthy ones definitely appeals to me.

I think it's also part of my attempt to build an adult identity for myself, though. Now that I have more opportunity to make my own decisions about how I will live my life as an adult, I want to put some conscious thought into what I want to do with my life, in terms of both my career and personal life.

Over the past few weeks, I've been asking myself questions like these:
  • Am I willing to reduce my consumption of certain foods and increase my activity level to lose weight?
    (yes, but I'm not giving up cheese or dessert entirely, no matter what the literature says about dairy and sugar. I'd rather exercise more than feel hungry, but staying sedentary is not an option: I want children, and I need to be fit before I can have them.)
  • Am I willing to relocate to get a job? How far?
    (yes, but I want to be able to get home for Christmas, and it needs to be close enough to civilization so that K can find a job, too)
  • What do I like to do in my spare time?
    (it took me a while to remember that, hey, I actually really do still like crafting! because I had no free time during college: I wanted to learn as much as I could because I'd already paid outrageous sums. It feels really good to create things again.)
So, even if some of the things I do and write about don't relate to becoming an adult on the surface, I'm still in the process of building my identity, and the new activities are part of the new identity.

I'm sure it will all change again soon enough.
*An aside: it's a little bit irritating how this list contains skills that can be considered "women's work" (except, possibly, for the writing). When I was young, no one taught me how to fix cars or program computers or build things with power tools. Instead, my parents shipped me off to innumerable summer camps where I did lots of crafts, most usually in a class full of girls. I had fun, but did not learn much in the way of marketable skills.

**To me, this seems like a fair metric. When something is valuable, you pay for it in one way or another. No one seems to want to pay me enough money for me to survive (yet), so I am not (yet) worth much to anyone other than my parents.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Emotional Sleeping vs. Emotional Eating

I have a couple of unhealthy coping mechanisms. For example, I'm prone to emotional eating (along with a lot of people).  Similarly, when I feel upset and don't have a lot to do, I sleep for hours.  I don't know how common this is: people don't talk about their sleep patterns the same way they talk about their diets.

According to the CDC, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep. It goes on to provide troubleshooting for falling asleep, but never challenges the assumption that the sleep should happen in a single block at night. (Woe to the poor souls doing third-shift work, apparently.) There's no discussion of what sleep patterns work better, just adherence to "normal" sleep and advice for insomnia.

Perhaps this stems from a lack of knowledge about sleep. We know that light, stimulants, and physical exertion can play roles, but the roles these things play vary wildly from person to person. There are no sleep hygiene plans, no discussion about what sleep components best support healthy sleep, and no discussions about what sleep styles work for us. We don't even really know why we sleep-- we just know that it's miserable to go without it.

We know lots of things about the inputs to the nutrition process: macronutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals, level of processing, and so forth. We know that a weight loss program should involve burning more calories than consumed and, similarly, that a weight gain program involves consuming more calories than burned.  We know that some foods feel more "filling" than others.

Everyone has an opinion to share about food. For example, my brother will talk for hours about the benefits of his diet, and I tease him mercilessly about how various foods I find particularly delicious will, in his words, "kill him".*  In another case, my mother got into a heated argument with a woman at a church dinner about the merits of vegan diets and the acceptability of honey.  Still, with religion, sex, and politics off the table and so much social activity centered around mealtimes, food commonly enters discussions.

I've worked in two predominately-female workplaces, a preschool for developmentally-challenged three- and four-year-olds and a customer service department in a large company.  In these settings, food played an even larger role in discussion. We traded recipes and diet tips regularly. In some ways, I find it irksome that I regularly trade the conversations I'd like to have about rapid prototyping  and identity security for bland ones about buffalo chicken wing dip and pepper plants, but mostly, I like talking about food.  It provides a platform of commonality: I, too, cook and care about nutrition. Plus, as the experts can't agree on a set of recommendations, there's room for endless discussion: if at a loss for conversation, I can almost always safely discuss nutrition.

Maybe this leads us, as a society, to have a healthy dialogue about food. Whether or not we actually follow any healthy eating guidelines at all, we have a good idea of what constitutes health foods, and we usually respect other people's food choices.

Meanwhile, we don't have a very good dialogue about sleep. Even when sleeping monophasically, friends and family would interrupt my sleep rhythm-- "it's past my bedtime" rarely excuses me from a social obligation. Work and sleep schedules don't take sleep schedules into account: if you have to wake up early to get to a meeting or work late to finish a project, no one cares that it may cause sleep deprivation. It's often acceptable to bring a small snack, but it's almost never acceptable to bring a pillow and grab a quick nap.

Perhaps this further impedes discussion of how to handle emotional sleeping: sleeping that's unhealthy. If we can't discuss healthy sleep, how can we distinguish it from unhealthy sleep? In particular, if we consider sleep some sort of optional extra that only the lazy indulge in, how can we keep ourselves healthy and productive?
*I consider poking fun at my younger sibling my sworn duty as an older sibling.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spinach Sponge

Most store-bought sliced bread doesn't do a lot for me.  I can't eat it alone: the texture leaves me wishing I had something to chew, the flavor bores me, and it tends to include sugars I would rather get from eating fresh, whole fruit. I still eat it, primarily as a vehicle for other food, but I wanted to improve this solution.

I started looking up homemade bread recipes with the idea that I could make a bread over the weekend and use it during the week.  I decided to add spinach as well because I'm trying to add more vegetables to my diet.

I came up with something that hits most of the nutrition goals, some of the flavor goals, and completely lacks visual appeal. I started with this recipe for low-carb bread and made some modifications.

  • 1 cup flax seed meal
  • 1 cup oatmeal flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 cups egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • Spices to taste. I used, per the suggestion, onion powder, basil, and rosemary. I also used some salt.
bowl full of ingredients and spinach
Mixing in the spinach.
I mixed the dry ingredients together, followed by the wet ingredients, a bit a a time. Then, I mixed in the spinach and baked at 350°F for 25 minutes in a greased 9x13 pan.  It made 12 servings.

spinach sponge in 9x13 pan
When I brought one in to work, a co-worker wanted to know why I was eating a sponge.
You can pick up and eat the squares like a brownie, but they aren't stiff enough to use as a bread. The texture makes it clear that it contains whole grains and spinach, and it tastes overwhelmingly of rosemary (oops). Still, they're easy to transport and they contain a nice balance of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. 

I definitely like the concept, but they could use some improvement.  I meant to put in garlic, but I forgot, and I think it would have improved the flavor. I put in salt, and I shouldn't have: they came out a little too salty.   Serves me right for not researching the flavor of flax seed meal better, I suppose. I'd also like to try replacing the water with crushed tomatoes or tomato paste to create a lasagna-inspired flavor.

For a variation that might adhere better to the original purpose, I might cut the baking powder in half and divide the batter between two 9x13 pans to try for a more cracker-like baked good.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Biphasic Sleep: Day 29

Just a quick update after doing some thinking about sleep today.

  1. Staying up until 3:00AM on a work night still feels like irresponsible behavior.

    Even when I know I'll be able to get up on time and function at work with my 3:00 bedtime, around midnight, I start looking at the clock and thinking: I should start heading to bed soon. Of course, when I think that, I remember that I actually have another two or three hours until I need to start thinking about heading to bed, so I go and do things I want or need to do with the faint feeling I'm breaking the rules.

    Actually, I may be breaking the rules, if one considers the usual sleep dictates part of the rules.  If so, the rules have stopped making sense for me, and I don't mind breaking them (as I'm not hurting anyone, either).
  2. Many monophasic sleepers experience rough nights of sleep, too.

    Having a rough morning once in a while doesn't mean that my biphasic sleep experiment has failed, it just means that I had trouble sleeping or that an unexpected interruption has interfered with my sleep. For example, yesterday, I needed to get up at 6:00 to go to an event starting at 7:00*, so I moved my nap half an hour earlier. I had a terrible time staying asleep because I was excited about the event and nervous about waking up on time.  As I get more and more adapted to the routine,

    As another example of sleep impacts that cross sleep-pattern lines, K was ready to blame his persistent sleepiness on the biphasic sleep-- until he realized that his sleepiness correlated with the days he took allergy medicine!  He stopped taking it and felt better the next day.
  3. I don't know what I would do without the extra two hours in my day anymore.

    I feel like I'm getting so much more done. In part, this stems from having a part-time job with regular hours, but when I get home, I have time for job hunting, blogging, cooking experimental recipes, hanging out with friends online, playing video games, working on projects and exercising, and I don't have to resort to strict time management strategies to do it.  I just have to go to bed when I've scheduled my naps.

    I attribute part of this sensation of suddenly having time to the added structure as well as the extra hours.  Sleeping monphasically, I had an energy lull around the time I made into nap time, so I "lost" a block of time I never found particularly productive and traded it for time slots that I'm finding very useful.  In particular, the midnight-to-three pre-sleep period works well for writing and cooking, and I can take a walk with my mom or bicycle to the store as soon as I wake up at 6:30PM, activities that work well for me during those time periods.

    I don't think I could cram all the stuff I've been doing for the past week into a monophasic sleep schedule.
I gave a return to monophasic sleeping some thought today, but I think that even on a day where I feel sleepier, I wouldn't trade the extra productivity for a reduction in (a) weirdness and (b) occasional sleepy days. After all, monophasic sleepers have sleepy days, too.

*Yes, I know I'm still probably in an adjustment phase, but we picked biphasic sleep because it's resilient to this kind of thing.  I guess I'm a bad example of good adjustment technique, but if I end up at a point where I never feel sleepy, it will reflect well on the sleep schedule as a whole.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Purpose of Affirmations

About a month ago, I read an article about how written affirmations can help you achieve your fitness goals.  I figured, hey, it can't hurt, right? So I took five minutes and scribbled some things down, stuff like "I weigh 150 pounds" and "I have the energy to accomplish everything I want to do every day".

I taped it to the wall, so I glance at it every day. Theoretically, it works best if you recite them out loud to yourself in the mirror, but that feels too hokey to me.  I haven't gained any weight since (though the scale fluctuates too much for me to positively state that I've lost weight. The wedding road trip didn't help, either), so I know my no-harm judgement was correct.

Well, I figured out how to use them properly when I walked into a grocery store hungry after a Zumba class. Grocery shopping while hungry never works out well, and the first temptation appeared as soon as I walked through the door.

"Buy one box of chocolate chip cookies, get two free!" said a sign next to a display.  For this particular brand, two cookies are 140 calories, and there are approximately 14 servings per box. That adds up to 1,960 calories per box, which would be less of a problem if it weren't so easy to accidentally eat all the cookies once you open the box.  You can eat a cookie in about a bite and a half, so they just kind of disappear. They're soft, yummy, and the only store-bought cookie I want to eat-- and I shouldn't eat them, either.

"I weigh 150 pounds," I told the display.  "I can do a split on both sides. I have lots of energy."

The display looked at me, disbelieving: I weigh quite a bit more than 150 pounds at the moment.

"I weigh 150 pounds," I told the display again, more emphatically. Then, I walked away from the cookies and purchased egg whites, spinach, and unsweetened cocoa powder, all on my list.* I did not purchase any cookies, chips, or fish-shaped crackers.

I guess the affirmations work-- for some things-- after all.

*After which I went home and ate a healthy dinner, thereby preventing further hunger-inspired conversations with inanimate objects, at least for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unemployed, Two Months Out of School

Note: The dialogue in this post is not verbatim. For one thing, my memory isn't word-perfect. For another, it would delight me if people actually read this, and I like to think that my edited version of the conversation, which catches the key points, entertains better than a transcript version.

That could have gone better.

Today, I had my first interview since I graduated.  I took a few weeks off from job-hunting after graduation, as I was in the middle of travel and a move, and I had some difficulty ensuring that my body, a reliable method of real-time communication, and my computer would all be in the same place at a scheduled time. Once I finished moving and could guarantee my presence at a telephone or in-person interview, I started applying again. 

Finally, I thought, today marks the beginning of the next phase of my job search. I felt pretty optimistic right up until the phone rang.  Then, the nerves hit.

First, the interviewer expressed surprise when I clarified that my experience has been all part-time or short-term and that my title when I work at the preschool is "Teacher's Aide", not "Teacher".  I had thought that the dates on my resume made it clear that the work experience I've gained has been during periods of higher education.

"You've graduated now, right? What have you been doing since?"

"Mostly, I've been looking for a job," I said. 

"Is that it?" she asked.

"I'm also back working part-time and short-term at the preschool to keep myself busy while staying able to focus on my career development."

"How are you finding the job market?" the interviewer asked.

"It's a little bit rough," I told her, "but I was getting a pretty good response during my finals week, even though there was a lull in June."

When asked which engineering area I'd studied, I explained a little bit more about the interdisciplinary nature of my degree, which always make me feel awkward, like the employer thinks I've misrepresented myself.  I don't claim to be an engineer, I claim to have an interdisciplinary degree that includes the core engineering curriculum.

After about ten minutes on the phone, the interviewer explained that this concluded the initial phone screening, thanked me for my time, and told me I should hear about next steps in a week or so.  I smiled, said good-bye, and hung up with the distinct impression that she thought I had misrepresented myself on my resume and wondering what, other than looking for jobs, I was supposed to have been doing since my graduation (which was barely two months ago).

I have been trying very hard to do All The Right Things with my transition to a role in adult society.  (While college is part of the transition, it definitely doesn't count as part of adult society.) In this particular instance, I have spent time in crafting a resume that paints my experiences in the best possible light while still presenting a factually accurate picture of my talents. I don't think my resume overstates my accomplishments: in school, I have worked hard and achieved well; in the workplace, I have done good work and made at least some impact in at least three of the four places I've worked*.

K has pointed out that I may be reading too much into the interview because I'm nervous and because the job market is so frightening, and I hope he's right. However, his sensible response does not dispel my low-level urge to break down and beg interviewers to just tell me what more they want me to do before they hire me so that I can go out and do it.  It's hard for me to stay reasonable in an environment where I know people will consider me lazier and more inadequate the longer I am unemployed or underemployed.

Still, assuming that I do hear back when expected, I should know in about a week if my fears are unfounded.  Until then, I'm going to do my best put the worry away and keep looking.
*I tried to make an impact at the minimum-wage retail job, too, but my opportunities to do so there were limited.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake

I want cake more often than I should eat cake. So, when a blog with various single-serving mug cake recipes popped up on Pinterest, I got really excited.  Brilliant! I thought.  I can make a small single-serve cake, and I won't eat "accidental" second helpings or let the leftovers go bad!

Then, I entered some of the recipes into a calorie calculator. One serving of any of a couple varieties of mug cake, it turns out, totals on the order of 800 calories. (Oof.) Worse, the bulk of the ingredients were low-nutrition or high-calorie (or both): processed flour, granulated sugar, oil, peanut butter, and so forth. I decided that there had to be a better way, and so I teamed up with my brother* to create a less-awful recipe.

I started with this recipe for Nutella mug cake and made some modifications to the ingredients, using

  • 4 tablespoons raw oatmeal, blenderized until similar to flour
  • 1 cup applesauce to replace most of the sugar and some of the oil
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate peanut butter**
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

the steps I took to make the cakes
The eating is the best part.
I mixed everything up per the directions and divided the recipe between two mugs, which I had Ard spritz with cooking spray while I was measuring.  I popped them one at a time into the microwave, starting with a minute with the intention of adding time in thirty-second increments if needed.  My microwave didn't need the extra time, though, so they came out of the microwave gratifyingly quickly.

The texture came out well but I found the flavor lacking a bit: they were surprisingly bland. The peanut butter taste got lost under the chocolate taste, and it wasn't very sweet at all (kind of like dark chocolate, though, so this wasn't a huge problem).  Ard's immediate solution involved slathering his with peanut butter, as his nutrition plan doesn't involve a reduction in calories.  As my nutrition plan does involve a reduction in calories (at least until I reach a healthier weight), I think there should be a better way.

Ard and I brainstormed some solutions while we ate our cakes.

  1. Use sweeter mashed banana instead of less-sweet applesauce.
  2. Replace the rest of the oil with chocolate peanut butter.
  3. Add a little bit of extra salt, as the chocolate peanut butter apparently contains a sixth of the sodium of the non-chocolate variety of peanut butter we have.
Does anyone have any other suggestions for improvement?

*Ard had the very important job of eating the other mug cake, as I decided that instead of halving the recipe and needing to find weird measuring spoons, I'd just change the spec from "serves one" to "serves two".
**The first ingredient in Nutella (and its clones) is sugar.  The chocolate peanut butter I picked has "peanuts" as its first ingredient and omits hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Biphasic Sleep: Day 25

Now that I've been on a biphasic sleep schedule for a few weeks now (and have had some sleep mishaps and challenges), I have some additional thoughts about it.  The most annoying thing I found was that I could have controlled some of the dumb oversleeping things I did, particularly during my recent spree of traveling. It is entirely my own fault: I didn't want to get out of the comfortable bed, and neither did K, so we reinforced each other's bad behavior.  Since we're four hours apart again, I find it easier to get out of bed.  (More on my relationship with getting out of bed tomorrow, hopefully.)
  1. Nutrition plays a larger role in my energy level than I thought.

    I always knew I had more energy on days that I'd taken a multivitamin, but I didn't connect that to overall nutrition.  No one should be shocked to hear that fruits and veggies are good for them, but the extent to which eating fruits and veggies made me feel good surprised me. Cutting down on processed sugars and grains has also helped me feel more awake and energetic.

  2. I wish stuff wouldn't conflict with my nap.

    I don't have a lot going on right now, fortunately, so this doesn't impact me too heavily. However, my father rigidly prefers that dinner occur at 5:30-- shortly after he arrives home from work. He has good reason: he wants to get the clean-up done.  However, I nap from 5:00 to 6:30, which means I can't eat with my family. In some ways, because I rarely feel hungry at 5:30, I like having an excuse to eat later, but I still miss the structured time with my family.
  3. 90 minutes takes up a longer-than-expected block of the day.

    For one thing, it's FAR too long to slip away and sleep.  I can pull over and take a twenty-minute side-of-the-road safety nap (if there's a rest stop or place to pull over), but ninety minutes is out of the question.  Over the past few weeks, during my nap, I found myself falling asleep for twenty minutes, waking at 5:30, and then struggling to fall back asleep for another twenty minutes before waking again at 6:30.
  4. Afternoon sleep differs from night sleep.

    Perhaps this stems more from the heat and lack of air conditioning than the time of day or type of sleep, but I find that my nap requires a different configuration than my core sleep. I use a different blanket (that doesn't cover my feet) and I sleep in a different position.  Also, for my core sleep, I've been playing MP3s my brother got from his installation of Pzizz (as I can't figure out how to purchase the Android app, which supposedly exists. A Linux version would be fine too). They help delineate a cooling-down period at night, which means I fall asleep much more quickly, and Ard says they improve his sleep quality.  However, during the nap, I find that the same MP3s wake me up after twenty minutes.  (A theme emerges, perhaps.)
  5. When establishing a routine, I need to stick with it.

    While traveling with K for the wedding we recently attended, there were a couple of instances where we couldn't nap when we wanted to because we were driving or otherwise engaged and couldn't slip away.  This upset our sleep schedule-- but in much the same way that a couple of particularly late nights upset my sleep schedule while I had a healthy sleep routine.  To cope with it, we ended up sleeping a lot when we had the time, and now we're pretty much back to normal, starting to feel sleepy at around 4:00PM and 2:00AM.  (We're still adjusting a bit, and we really should have been more careful so close to the beginning of the adjustment period.)
Luckily, the disruptions haven't been too toxic to the routine, and we've gotten back on the schedule.  Still, the Everyman schedule gets more tempting every day: the naps are shorter, they have more flexibility when you get adjusted*, and you sleep for fewer total hours with shorter waking periods.

I don't want to change things up again before we've adjusted a bit more, though, and I haven't yet figured out how to make it work with our responsibilities. (I have a five- to six-hour block that requires sustained attention and alertness as I start a part-time temporary job at a preschool tomorrow, and K doesn't want to sleep in odd places if he can possibly avoid it.)

I won't worry about it, though: for now, the biphasic sleep works for us. (Note: it also works better if you don't miss naps, as we have.)
*Because there's only so far you can move a 90-minute nap without seriously disturbing your sleep or the event. If there's an event that starts near the beginning of it, you're stuck.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Don't Like Microwaved Spinach

I've been delinquent at posting.  Scold me if you must, but please note that I've been busy (and very excited about) starting up our wedding website! K tells me that my excitement is disproportionate but cute. I've never had a particularly good sense of proportion, so he has probably made a fair assessment*. But we have a pretty domain name and I made an image thing for it that reminds me a bit of Cinderella's pumpkin coach. No one shall dissuade me from my joy over this small triumph!

So, I've been busy over there.  I have also been trying to figure out how I'm going to sneak more vegetables into my diet, because they take work to prepare and eat and because, while they make me feel temporarily full, an hour later I'm ravenous again if I don't eat anything else.

Yesterday, I tried to make egg white muffins to sneak some vegetables in to my breakfast. It mostly worked, but took too long to make (20-30 minutes baking plus prep) and the muffins didn't come out of the ramekins I used for the test batch even remotely as well as I had hoped (so it was obnoxious to clean up).  So, today, I tried a variation, and this happened:
toast topped with spinach and egg white
Poor soggy spinach.
Basically, I took 1/2 cup of egg whites and poured it over roughly a cup of chopped spinach and then microwaved it for two minutes while the bread was toasting.

I've never been much of a fan of cooked spinach**, and while the baked spinach yesterday was fine in terms of taste, the microwaved spinach became unpleasantly soggy. Far from inedible, in my opinion, but also far from "something I'll make again".  As with yesterday's experiment, my opinion is still "better to just make an omelet".

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I could either fix the sad, soggy spinach or prevent the caked-on crumbles clean-up chore?
*For example, I heard an ice cream truck go by yesterday. We never had ice cream trucks in our neighborhood when I was small: apparently, an ice cream truck had hit a child a few years before we moved here, and the local government banned them in response.  I ran to the window to watch it go by. K, watching me through the miracle of webcam technology, remarked, "I thought you were going to run out of the room and chase it down." I promised him that, in the interest of avoiding unhealthy foods like ice cream, I only considered it for thirty seconds or so.
**Except in lasagna. Because lasagna.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Upcycled T-Shirt Coasters and Summer Heat

I've spent more time over the past week driving than I would like.  K and I had a wedding on Saturday, and this meant I needed to pick him up from his summer job (four hours away), bring him to the wedding (also four hours away), and back.  Strictly speaking, I could have asked him to take the bus, but this would have cost a lot of money and a lot of time.  Better, we decided, to save the money, drive and have a little more flexibility-- at the cost of a bit of aggravation on my part.

So, to contrast with the driving, I decided to do something fun: trying out a tutorial I found on Pinterest.  Here is what I did (in pictures, because travel tires me out).
red t-shirt
Step One: Identify old t-shirt.
ball of red t-shirt yarn
Step Two: Make t-shirt yarn.
crocheted red coaster
Step 3: Crochet coaster.
glass of ice water on crocheted red coaster
Step 4: Enjoy cold beverage.
In other news, the weather remains hot. It's almost like it's summer or something. I really wish I had someone who would go swimming with me (and, of course, a place to go swimming. State parks, maybe?).  After I hit a certain age, everyone who used to swim with me started courting melanoma laying out in the sun instead of actually spending time in the water and all the bathing suits commonly available for people my size stopped functioning as swimsuits and began functioning as teensy triangles of fabric that fall off if you try to move in them.  I fail to see the appeal of either of these new developments.

I guess growing up ruins summer all around.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Proof of Partner: Entering Adulthood Next to the Right Person

K and I woke up Saturday morning at 7:30, took down and packed up our tent, and were on the road by 8:00.  Nearly four hours later, we arrived at my parents' house with the goal of making ourselves presentable before we went to our friends' wedding.  We had a plan: we would spend the next two to three hours struggling into our unfamiliar formal clothes, drive the last hour, check into our hotel, and have time to take our nap early before six, when we would arrive at the wedding.

We took turns in the shower, and then we diverged. He trimmed his beard while I shaved my legs. I put on a bathrobe and glopped color onto my nails; K pulled out his netbook and his tie and spent forty-five minutes failing to tie a Windsor knot.  After waiting for what I hoped was a suitable interval, I tried to towel-dry my hair, and the towel scored deep grooves into my attempt at nail polish.  I took it off, finished drying my hair, and tried again.

From the bed, K looked up from his tie.  "Do you even like putting on nail polish?" he asked me.

"Not really," I said. "But I'm supposed to be a girl, and girls are supposed to be able to take care of their hands and do their own hair nicely and so on."

"I don't care if you can't do your nails or hair," he told me, watching the frustration bloom on my face. "I still love you."

I paused with the brush in mid-air. "I know," I told him.  "I still feel like I should be able to do these things."

I try to cultivate these skills: the ones that don't come naturally to me, but the ones that may allow me to fit in a little bit better.  Theoretically, employers evaluate your merit based solely on your work performance; in practice, I feel like I miss some interpersonal-interaction targets because I'm too different.  I use different words, think about different things, participate in different leisure time activities*.  When I'm at work, I prefer to focus on work, but the package of professionalism includes appearance and the ability to find enough non-work-related common ground with the people around you to build relationships and trust. It means cooing over baby pictures, carefully remaining neutral when the people around you discuss television shows you wouldn't watch even if you had cable, and participating in office celebrations-- all while attempting to demonstrate your value and your focus on the work at hand. I can do it, but it takes effort.

Struggling with my hair and my nails in preparation for a wedding seems like practice for a career in which I'll have to do things with my hair and my nails on a regular basis, so I didn't give up. Eventually, I managed to stuff myself into a thrifted dress and a pair of heels I can't walk in.  We cut our nap to twenty minutes and got to the wedding ten minutes before the ceremony began.
foot with painted toes and ribbons on a purple dress
Foreground: my foot (without the heels). Background: my dress.
It's the second wedding we've attended as a couple (out of only three I've attended as an adult.. The experience still feels new and a little bit weird: at the wedding, people treat us as a unit. The invitation arrived in a single envelope with two names, and the place card at the table shared the names, too. As neither of us plan to change names when we get married, we will see our names almost exactly as we saw them this weekend for the rest of our lives (barring disaster).

Perhaps attending weddings as an adult signals impending adulthood across other areas of my life.  The feeling resembles the one I had the first time I signed a brand new rental agreement-- K and I had elected to room together as a matter of convenience, and reading through the paperwork, placing a security deposit, and signing every page of a twenty-page document seemed like an adventure. (The semester I rented space with a couple of guys, filling the vacated room of a guy who had taken off to parts unknown on a journey of self-discovery, does not count.) It feels good, like I'm stepping into something approaching a permanent place in society (carving out bits to improve the fit whenever I feel I can get away with it).

In that case, the wedding contained another signal. I love to dance. I took dance classes every year except one from the age of five until I graduated from high school. When there's socially-sanctioned dancing, I dance.** The last time K and I went to a wedding, he amiably held my bag and watched me dance with a group of friends.

This time, he beat me onto the dance floor.  Apparently, he secretly spent some quality alone time with the Kinect and our copy of Dance Central and developed some dance moves. (He convinced me to leave it with him while I interned in Florida, claiming he couldn't resist the challenge of a new video game.) Now, it appears that he took time to learn how to do something that I love to do so he could do it with me, sore leg muscles and all. He may not be a polished professional, but he's mine, and I couldn't have picked a better partner.
*I love following baseball with K in part because it lets me have acceptably neutral conversations with people.  Apparently, it's OK to publicly disagree with Yankees fans, but publicly disagreeing with people who oppose marriage equality isn't-- even though both groups of people are clearly wrong.
** I also dance in situations when it's not socially sanctioned, such as in supermarket aisles, when I think no one's watching.