Quick takes

I’m traveling for work this week, staying at lakeside resort that is rustic and lovely, but heavier on the rustic. I’m at a conference for higher education administrators and there are 300 of us here, all trying to check email and stay obsessively connected to our offices. The wifi, designed to support a resort filled with families actually going outside and enjoying nature, keeps buckling under the strain of iPhones and laptops, so I’ll keep this shortish so I don’t cause the next crash.

I’ve been working on some writing in some other places, so wanted to share a few quick links:

Writing here about being a parent and a grad student: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/father-knows-best

Writing here about being a second wife: http://www.pgeveryday.com/health-wellbeing/love-relationships/article/how-i-learned-to-love-his-ex

Writing here about the kids you find on every playground: http://www.pgeveryday.com/family-life/parenting/article/the-7-kids-you-find-on-every-playground

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On an unrelated subject, since the I seem to have three whole bars of connection at the moment, I think I am turning into a white girl stereotype. Although I do not love pumpkin spice lattes, I do feel sort of obsessed with how much I am loving fall this year. It has been a mild and warmer than usual autumn and the leaves are gorgeous and the weather is crisp and perfect and I just want to stroll around outside with leggings and boots on with a nice chunky scarf around my next. I am basically turning into a non-skinny version of this:

pumpkin-spice-girl

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And finally, a question: what is the going rate for the tooth fairy in your neck of the woods? My kiddo is on the verge of losing his first tooth (which is good because his adult tooth is already up so he has a shark tooth situation going on right now) and I suspect the shiny quarter I used to get back in the day probably doesn’t cut it anymore.

Things I Miss

I was at a work function the other day and was being introduced to people from several community agencies. I mentioned that I was new to the area and, when asked where I came from, mentioned that my most recent home was Iowa. An older man in the group said “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!” and when “Pardon?” he responded with “Well, don’t you know that Iowa stands for I Owe the World an Apology?”. This was the start of a very short but very weird rant on his part on how lousy Iowa is (it is, in his view, a place filled with racist rubes whose sole form of entertainment is watching corn grow). It was exceedingly awkward, as conversations go, and I found myself feeling rather defensive about my previous state.

Although Iowa wasn’t meant to be the forever home of the Monkey family, there are things about it that I miss, including:

1. My best buddy E. and her sweet family. I lived across the street from my best friend. How lucky was I? I miss them every day.

2. My neighborhood: New neighborhood seems great so far, but old neighborhood will be hard to beat in terms of friendliness and neighbors who were kind and caring and welcoming.

3. The restaurant within the grocery store phenomenon. Perhaps there are grocery stores here that have the same thing, but the I liked the Hy-Vee, where I could do some homework, eat some totally acceptable pancakes and then go pick up some milk on my way home. All the grocery store down the street here does is, well, sell groceries. Where do all the old people go to drink coffee and chat?

4. My son’s old school. I am ambivalent about his current school so I miss the school around the corner he used to go to school.

5. Parts of Iowa are quite pretty, especially this time of year. I wish I had taken one more hike around Lake Ahquabi before I left. Or done a bike ride on one of the great rails to trails routes in town.

6. The traffic, or lack thereof. It took me close to 45 minutes to get to work the other day and my work is about 6 miles away. It was a worse than usual day but still: Suuuuuuuucks. Rush hour in Iowa? A minor slow down most of the time. Easy peasy.

So, in conclusion, dear vehement Iowa hater: Chill. Take a road trip to Des Moines, drink a boozy milkshake at Zombie Burger and maybe not air out your geography hatred quite so openly during work meetings. Weirdo.

House tour continued: The Nook

Out house is an older house with a converted attic space as the upstairs master bedroom. We are lucky in that the folks who lived here before us did a great job with the updates and renovations they made and this space is no exception. In a relatively small house, it is probably the biggest room in the house and has enough room for Mr. Monkey to have an office space and for me to have my favorite space in the house: a reading nook.

It is hard to get a great shot of this space with the layout of the upstairs, but just assume you’ve walked up a relatively steep staircase and on your right hand side is this space:

BeFunky_nook 1.jpg

A cozy orange chair, a little lamp and my ever growing stack of books to be read. I think I might like to add an ottoman or a foot rest of some sort, but it is nearly perfect as a little space of my own.

We are still putting the finishing touches on the rest of the room, which currently looks like so:

BeFunky_bedroom.jpg

Even with the desk and the bed and the dresser there is still a lot of floor space in here. A part of me wishes I could steal a bit and make a coat closet for the lower level (a house in Minnesota with no coat closet? I’m not sure I understand the logic) but alas I am not a home improvement genie.

The house is really starting to feel like home now.

On an unrelated note, I’ve decided my son is on a mission to embarrass me with his lack of social limits. The first weekend we were here he decided he wanted to meet the kid who lived in the house behind us (our yards are separated by an alley and they don’t have a back fence…yet) so he wandered over and walked DIRECTLY INTO THEIR HOUSE. I hustled across the street to apologize and Miles was like “what? I just wanted to say hi”.

Today he went over to our next door neighbors to see if he could play at their house with their daughter…wearing only his underwear. Aside from the fact that it was only 60 degrees, this is problematic on several levels. One is that he was inviting himself over and two: WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS CHILD?

(I feel I should note that I was up in my nook at the time, so didn’t see him begin the nudie march to next door)

I guess I should just be glad he at least knocked over there and that they sent him back home with the words “XX will play with you…once you are wearing clothes.”

Sigh. The joys of parenting the highly social, totally oblivious six year old boy.

Choose Your Own Adventure

I am feeling very aware these days of having a deep sense of well-being. My family is, aside from the everyday annoyances and bickering between siblings, doing well and has made the transition into living in a new place look easy. I enjoy my new job. I love my new house. I don’t have a real friend in the new city yet, but I have good pocket friends (I’m @wendyrmonkey if you aren’t already my friend on Twitter) and my best buddies are all just an email away. Things are good and I am trying to enjoy the feeling of being comfortable in my own life.

Given my level of contentment with my current situation, it may sound odd for me to confess that I’ve been thinking lately about some of the roads I didn’t take in my past, the opportunities I didn’t say yes to, the risks I didn’t take. I wish I could freeze my current life for a little bit and have some alternate version of myself say yes to some of these experiences:

- When I was newly graduated from college, I got offered a position to be a live-in nanny for an NBA player and his wife. I’d care for their toddler twins and travel with them. I got this job offer the same week I got offered my first “real” job in my field and so I took the real job. It was the better choice professionally but I always kind of wonder what it would have been like to live in a fancy house and travel with that family.

- I did a brief study abroad stint in college but now I wish I had done at least one more. Traveling that way is so much easier than it is as an adult with real responsibilities.

- Sometimes I wish had gone to a different (cheaper) college. I’m still paying off my student loans and I have mixed feelings about my alma mater. I wonder what it would have been like to go to a bigger school with more diversity.

- I quit competitive swimming in college and I often wish I hadn’t. I think it would have kept me a bit more sane in college to have had that outlet.

- A friend of mine moved to a big city right after college. She lived in a shoebox that cost a fortune to rent and worked at a funky ad agency. I was *thisclose* to moving there with her and didn’t. It might have been fiscally stupid, but sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be young, single, and living somewhere cool and busy and crowded.

- I lived in South Korea for a while but didn’t travel from there to other closer countries while I was there. I passed up a trip to Thailand and one to Vietnam and now I wish I had gone.

I like to believe I’ll get the chance to make up for some of the trips I didn’t take. Maybe once the kids are grown and we are more financially solid (let’s hope I don’t have student loans forever, right?).

Forgive the whole ending a post with a question move, but what adventures do you sometimes wish you had taken?

House Tour: Living/Dining Room

While I think we’ll be doing most of our hanging out in the basement, we also have a living area on the first level. There are a few places in the house that feel a little small to me and the dining room is one of them.

dining room

One the right side you can see the entrance into the kitchen and on the left is the door that leads up to the master bedroom. We currently only have two chairs for the table but we’ll need relatively narrow ones to fit the space. On the wall is a painting a friend made for me. I asked for something that would convey the feeling of being underwater, which I think it does. It makes me feel peaceful. We’ve never had it on the wall before so it feels nice to finally be able to put it up.

The dining room leads into the living room below.

living room

I love the floors in here and the beams on the ceiling. We’re also able to fit six of our nine bookshelves (we…might have a book problem) in here, which is excellent. The door leads out to our three season porch, which I adore. At some point I think I might like us to paint this room a bit more of a vibrant color (my heart longs for orange, but that might be overwhelming for the space) but the very pale yellow/off white works fine for right now.

All of the furniture in this room is from the old house, so this was a cheap and easy room to put together. The only big change was that we took the padded child proofing safety covers off the corners of the coffee table. So, watch yourself, kids. It is open season on head injuries if you keep failing to use walking feet, damn it.

I think I’d like to hang one or two more pictures, but this space is basically done.

New House Tour: The Basement

We’ve been in our new house for just over a week now and I am pleased to say that we are at least 80% of the way done with unpacking. We were fortunate to move into a house that was basically turnkey so we didn’t even need to do any painting. Given that we are not people who would take any joy out of buying a fixer upper, this is a very good thing.

In terms of the house, I suspect the basement will be the room we hang out in the most. After getting strep throat last week and not doing any unpacking for several days (Mr. Monkey was an Ikea furniture assembly rock star during this time), I was itching to get the basement done so I stayed up FAR too late on Saturday getting it done. I am so glad I did though because the room is cozy and comfortable and perfect for us.

When you come down the stairs off the kitchen this is the view into the basement:
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The blue table is on wheels so the kids can move it around for Lego building or trains or whatever. To the right is a bathroom and to the left is my office space:

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This is a smaller space than in the house we were renting but I think it will work fine for me. This is hopefully is where some dissertation magic will happen this spring.

On the wall is not some elaborately planned out display of art. Nope. Just pictures and prints that make me feel happy.

photo

The other part of the basement that makes me feel happy is this cheerful little nook for the kids to read and play:

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I love the orange couch in the middle of the room (and the bonus six-year-old hiding from the camera on it) (please note toys on the floor for bonus realism. I tend to prefer a more substantial couch but the stairway to the basement is very narrow and has a low overhang so our old orange couch (apparently I have kind of a thing for orange furniture) couldn’t fit down so we had to go for a more minimal line.

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The basement also has our laundry room and an unfinished storage space, which is crucial in a house that isn’t quite 1500 square feet.

I think this room is going to be perfect for cold winter days. It feels like home.

The Shape of Things

I’ve been in my new job for just over three weeks now. I feel like I am starting to get a handle on what the shape of my days will look like, which is a comforting feeling. I find the first few weeks of a new job so uncomfortable, the knowing that I don’t really know what to do, that I don’t have any email to check, that I am here but not yet able to be helpful or useful or productive.

It has been interesting learning the culture of my new workplace. It is, in many ways, the opposite of where I came from. People here (new place= NP) close their office doors to work something that, unless you were on a private call or disciplining an employee, was totally frowned on at old place (OP). At OP, I supervised 35 staff members and much of my day was spent with a steady stream of traffic in through my (open) door. At NP I don’t have any direct reports and I can go hours at a stretch without talking to anyone while I do the research component of the job. NP may, in fact, be the quietest place I’ve ever worked.

My boss here at NP is the polar opposite of my boss at OP. NP boss is new too so we are figuring out together how we’ll best share our work and how this place operates. She has already dropped an F-bomb in front of me, so I’ll take that as a good sign that she feels like we are connecting well.

The best part of being not quite a month in the job here at NP is that I haven’t had, even for a moment, a minute of regret about taking the job. I miss some of the people at OP but I don’t miss the job. I realize I am still deeply in the honeymoon phase of NP but I feel good about this job being what I hoped it would be.

Now, I just need it to hurry up and get to the end of the month so we can move into our new house and I can begin settling more fully into life in our new city. The official hunt for a friend outside of work starts then.

(Please be my friend, some nice and funny person in my neighborhood! We can go to Target and complain about the winter here. It will be great.)