Wednesday, August 7, 2013

a somewhat unconventional house purchase

One of the three biggest changes in my life this year was the house we bought in March. We had been fantasizing more and more about our own home; granted, it was a crazy desire when we had free housing, but the major cost of a mortgage started to feel more and more worth the peace, quiet, and privacy it would bring in comparison to living with teenagers for the past seven years. While I loved living on campus and having that kind of full immersion in my job, I think it was having a baby that finally made me ready to pursue an existence that would center on my own family, and not just during the summer months. I will miss having her grow up on campus and all the perks that can bring (built-in friends! a head start on socialization! free babysitting!), but I was ready to have my own life, even if it meant paying for it.

Though we now own a house, we are still in many ways completely naive about the process of purchasing a house. We saw several homes, many of which we loved, but we weren't ready to make a commitment until J casually went to look at a home owned by one of his co-worker's mothers. He texted me pictures that day, claiming it was "our new house," and I pretty much patted him on the head and ignored him. Somehow, though, I ended up agreeing to go have dinner with the owner and her son. When we left that night, I told him the house had moved to the favorite of those we had looked at, but I still didn't think it would ever happen. As it turns out, though, J works for a mortgage company, so investigating a loan and getting the house appraised were almost taken care of without us even asking. His boss paid to have the house assessed, and J and I agreed ahead of time that we would not pursue the house if the appraisal came back above a certain price. Improbably, it came back at about the price we hoped for, and after what we all agreed was the most backwards house negotiation ever (we kept offering more, and the homeowner kept countering with less), we signed a contract to buy the house. In the end, we didn't use a realtor, the loan was ready and waiting for us through J's office, we got far more information about the house than most buyers do (and we can still ask questions from the previous owner any time we want), and we didn't get it inspected (I regret that - more on that some other day). So really, we have no clue how to buy a house, even though we bought one.

We took everything slowly from there, wanting to focus on preparing for the baby, and so even though we signed the contract in November, we didn't close until March, and we didn't move until the school year was over in June. On the weekends in the spring, we came up and took advantage of our furniture-free house to get some painting and floor work done, and thankfully we were blessed with the most patient baby in the world, who seemed to find it interesting to watch all of our housework.

Though we didn't get nearly as much done to the house as we wanted before we moved in, we did rip out the old blue carpet in the hallways and on the stairs, and J and some friends sanded for what seemed like days on end in order to get the hardwood floors underneath ready for stain. I spent hours stripping wallpaper from just one wall in Tess's room, and spent more hours painting the trim in the living room and Tess's room. We had far too many friends jump at the chance to come up and help on the weekends, including a few who came almost every time we did, and three who came up without us just before move-in and finished the living room, dining room, and Tess's room for us. I cannot explain how grateful I am for their help.

We finally moved, again with the help of friends and both our families, on June 15 and have been settling in ever since. I continue to be amazed by the length of the to-do list and the things I could (and sometimes do) spend money on every day to make the house more like ours. There is so much left to do, but we have made visible progress, and the feeling of unfamiliarity is slowly wearing away.

Monday, August 5, 2013

starting over

Where to begin? I haven't posted since...April? This is also maybe the third time I've made an "I'm going to post more" entry, only to possibly post less than before. Between the baby and a new house, though, there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in my life, and I really would like to document it, if only to see the progress we're making as life inches forward one day at a time.

I'm in the process of making the very weird transition to stay-at-home mom. (I say process because even though I've been home with Tess for two months now, I would normally have the summers off anyway, so it doesn't quite feel like a change just yet. Come September, though...that will be an uneasy feeling). Having a job is something I'm used to; knowing exactly what my purpose is and what tasks lie ahead of me in a day and year make it easy to say what I "am." To now have my life, heretofore apparently a separate thing from my work, as my job is an odd feeling. What I used to do in my time off is now what fills all my days, both the weekday "working" hours and the weekends. I know what I'm supposed to do all day, and I know it's important, but I've been having trouble fighting the reflex to justify myself and somehow produce tangible evidence of my work. In short, I need to accept that work and life are more fluid concepts now, and more importantly, that that doesn't make my contributions less. Everyone tells me I have made the right choice to take some time off and be with Tess, and I am thankful for that support. I suppose it's just a matter of adjustment.

In any event, as I make that adjustment, taking care of a baby and making this house our home, it seems fitting to start this blog up again as a companion to it all. So, let's try this again!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

this time last year

I post so infrequently that I have finally given myself permission to just post whenever I feel like it and not feel guilty about going long stretches without any activity. Not many people read this thing, anyway, so all that matters is that it functions as a good place to sort out my thoughts when I feel like it.

I feel like it today.

Last year, on Monday, May 7, 2012, I was on my way to proctor the second half of an AP exam when the Dean of Students sprinted past me on the stairs, a grave look on his face. This is a man who is a master at maintaining decorum, and here he was, running, in the middle of campus. I felt a chill run through my body.

Ten minutes later, as I was supervising all of these quiet students working earnestly to prove what they had learned over the past year, I got a mass text on my phone saying that there would be a mandatory faculty meeting in fifteen minutes. Two minutes later, my boss texted me and told me that she was coming down to get me and that someone else would replace me as proctor. I think I may never have been so terrified in my life.

In the hallway outside the AP room, my boss revealed that two other faculty members had discovered one of our colleagues dead in his apartment that morning. This man, who ran six miles every morning and was in every way a paragon of health, was gone with no warning whatsoever. You know how newspapers and local news will announce stories like this always in a dramatic fashion, using words like "horror" and "tragedy"? I always cringed a little at the melodrama, as it seemed like sensationalizing a very personal, indescribable thing. The headline that ran everywhere for this story was that our school community was "reeling," and when I first saw that, I had the opposite of my usual reaction: I thought how very true that was. We were all knocked to the ground.

I have said before here that the boarding school life is a strange one for many reasons, not the least of which is that  our co-workers are not just our co-workers; they are also our neighbors, our company during the majority of our meals, the friends we see all day and everyday. We spend nearly all of our time together. The image of the boarding school "family" is not an exaggeration. We have so many very profound spheres of our lives overlapping, which makes not only day-to-day living very intense, but, as you can imagine, an incident such as this is almost unbearable.

As hard an experience as this has been, it has been much worse for many close to me. I cannot fathom how our two friends who found his body that morning were even able to finish the school year. I marvel that the students who considered this man one of the greatest influences in their lives have been able to carry on. I continue to be amazed that these teenagers, an age group that has a reputation for immaturity, have been the driving force behind so many beautiful tributes to him: They were the ones who designed a t-shirt to commemorate him, who took his mother out to lunch to tell her how much he meant to them, who organized a basketball tournament to be held tomorrow, on the anniversary of his death. It's true that they say that the difficult times can bring out the best in people, and this was no exception.

Our friend was the real deal, as we all recognized. He turned our floundering boys' basketball program around and brought the team to the championship. He recruited talented players and mentored them, never releasing himself from his responsibility for them. He loved the students but did not coddle them. He was famous for his straight talk; he was honest and did not beat around the bush and consequently was one of the most genuine people I have ever known. He was exactly the person our school needed.

J and I were saying the other day that we can't believe it has been a year since his death. It seems to have gone by quickly and yet somehow also seems to have happened decades ago. We cannot believe how different our lives are now, just one year later. J is now truly a lawyer. We own a house. We have a daughter, whose existence we discovered only a few weeks after that terrible day; I'll let you do the math and understand why I think of him so often when I look at her, our own little tribute to him, an accidental miracle when we had almost given up hope that we would ever have one.

We are leaving this place. It's another story for another time but one that nonetheless makes us feel like we are living in a different life than this time last year. Removed though we may be by time, we are no less mourning his absence.

Monday, January 28, 2013

39.5 weeks

Here's the thing. From everything I have seen and read of women nearing their due dates, I should be overwhelmed with excitement, counting down the hours, and wishing and hoping for time to pass quickly.

I am in the exact opposite position.

People at work, at J's work, and everywhere else, keep squealing in excitement. We are constantly offered theories on how to get things moving and "get that baby here, already!" All I ever want to respond with is "No thanks. I'd like a little more time."

There are several factors, I think, and I'm trying to sort through them. First is the obvious: this is about the biggest change any human can experience, and I've never been good with change. With the exception of getting married, every other change in my life has been one that, even if I have always wanted or looked forward to it, I have dreaded in the immediate lead-up. New jobs, moving, traveling (especially traveling!), all make me uneasy and anxious. So, of course, this particular event is a magnification of all of that.

There is anxiety about the process itself. There is no way to know, no matter how much I research or read, how it will go for me, and some of the possibilities are, quite frankly, terrifying. I'm a fairly optimistic person, in general, but I also have a terrible streak of superstition/OCD, where believing that something will go well means I am jinxing myself, so expecting the worst has become my default. I have no problem earnestly believing in the best outcome for others, but I cannot do it for myself without being afraid that it's some sort of hubris.

The time of year. It's no secret that I'm a major germaphobe, and the stories of the diseases going around right now are making me particularly nervous about having a baby around. Hospitals! Visitors! I live with teenagers! Our families were kind enough to get flu shots at our request, and we're planning to ask anyone who has been sick within a week of visiting to stay away, but it still feels like there is only so much we can do.

Lastly, and I hate to put too much emphasis on this because I don't want to play the blame game, but other people are making it so hard to feel happy or even remotely ready. We've all met them: the people who are desperate, for whatever reason, to tell you their horror stories about the very thing you are about to experience yourself. Motherhood seems a magnet for this type of behavior, and it's notorious for that. In part, it makes sense: people want to relay their stories and advice, and more often than not, the bad stuff is what is memorable and, inevitably, the most entertaining to talk about. I get it, and I've been guilty of it myself, but when you're already at a heightened level of anxiety, it's hard to be forgiving. Today at lunch, within the span of just a few minutes, one co-worker insisted on telling me about her post-partum emotional breakdowns (and when I asked her not to, she said, "Oh, but it will happen to you!" This same woman, at a friend's baby shower a few years ago, explained in front of the mother-to-be that she hadn't wanted a baby shower before her baby was born because she had had a friend whose baby had been stillborn, and "You never know what can happen.") and another chimed in with the now-cliche, vague warnings about unendurable exhaustion. There was no helpful advice hidden anywhere in there, just hyperbole and a sense that they had earned a badge of honor and had the battle scars to prove it. So my question is this: When did they forget what it feels like to be on the precipice of new motherhood? Presumably, they themselves were anxious and scared before their first children, so when did they lose their senses of empathy and compassion? Were they confident beyond disruption, or have they just let themselves forget that they were once naive and petrified? Why would they assume that stories like that aren't going to be what flashes through my mind when I can't sleep at night?

I can't control any of these factors, so I've been trying to focus on ways to get excited. The first step: after my frustrating lunch today, I took to Twitter and asked for people to tell me wonderful things about having a baby, and I got the sweetest responses that nearly turned the whole day around. Score one for social media! Happily, J and I are also having dinner tomorrow night with a couple on campus who have five kids and absolutely love being parents. They always tell us that if they were to win the lottery, they would have five more kids immediately, and they've been so excited for us and have been incredibly supportive. I think their optimism might just carry us through. We have wonderful friends and family, too, including my childhood best friend and my sister, who have been sending the nicest and most encouraging messages that make all the difference. My mom came down last weekend just to take care of me, which was exactly what I needed and just so incredible. And, of course, my husband. He is equally, if not more, terrified, but he always lets optimism win out. Plus, he rubs my horrendously swollen feet and lets me sleep as much as I want.

I have also been trying my darndest to find pictures and blog posts and articles that remind me of all the wonderful things there are to be excited about. I read this one a few minutes ago and it was incredibly uplifting.

The moral of the story here seems to be that I need to try to harder to focus on the positive (and when isn't that true?). This is maybe just a test, an exercise in learning to control all that outside influence and direct my own thoughts.

This was long, and I'm sorry, but thank you for hearing me out. Here we go.

Friday, October 26, 2012

things I didn't know

Yesterday was 26 weeks. I finally made an admission post on Facebook because I'm going to a party at my parents' house tomorrow, and apparently none of their friends know yet. I figured posting now was easier than the in-the-moment surprise and questions.

So, one weird symptom I had never heard of that is apparently a real thing: bad eyesight. I have always had better than 20/20 vision, and I'm weirdly proud of it. But now, everything is blurry! It's mostly the TV and the computer, so I think it has a lot to do with glare, but I have found that everything gets a little clearer when I squint a little. This goes away, I guess, so there's really nothing to do about it, but isn't that strange?

Also, the nausea is coming back! It's nowhere near as bad as it was in the beginning (at least, not yet) but it strikes in the afternoons and just generally feels crappy. I think I have to learn to be a morning person, now.

Other than that, it's just been a busy couple of weeks. J has been traveling a lot but is done now for awhile (hooray!), both cars have been in for repairs (one broken fuel pump, one unfortunate deer collision), and the first application deadline of the season is rapidly approaching, which means I will be sequestered and furiously writing letters of recommendation until the end of time (or Thursday). This weekend is Parents' Weekend, though, so after a very, very busy today and tomorrow, we have a few days of peace, and, most importantly, quiet.

I have to go work now, plus I just ate some oatmeal and my stomach hurts now.

P.S. I apologize for all the parenthetical references. I just can't seem to stop.

Friday, October 5, 2012

23 weeks

I'm getting better at this, because yesterday was 23 weeks and I actually took this picture yesterday!

Is there any difference? I feel like there isn't.

I promise I'm not wearing some sort of catsuit/bodysuit thing. It's a shirt and pants; I swear. I was wearing a cardigan all day, too, in a half-hearted attempt to somewhat follow our dress code rules (supposed to wear a blazer when I wear pants, but I could never find blazers that looked good on me before, let alone now).

I had my second try at the 20-week scan to confirm that the baby has things like the stomach and heart - you know, things that are nice to have. I think the next appointment is the glucose test, and I'm a little terrified.

I finally got my car back from the shop after a week and a half, and the timing could not have been better with tonight's pouring rain. I know I should walk to work in the mornings, but I've been getting a terrible stitch in my side every time I walk anywhere, so lugging my giant work bag up hill for half a mile probably is not ideal. Much better to take the dog for long walks, being a two birds/one stone type of situation.