The first time I met you

You remember these stories as well as I do, maybe better, but let’s revisit them in front of a bigger audience.  :)  Audience, imagine us as teenagers, which is something we once were.  The setting is a boarding high school.  Try to remember…

 

The first time I met you, it was after school in the evening or maybe in the day on a weekend, no it couldn’t have been a weekend.  I don’t recall exactly, but there weren’t many people around.  You were sitting alone in a “pit”– those mini-coliseums leftover from when our school building was an open school.  You were depressed.  I asked what was wrong.  You told me you’d asked a girl to a dance and she’d said no.  (Many years later she would come out as lesbian, which is the only possible reason I can think of that anyone would not be attracted to you, but then, I’m biased.)  I said generic that’s too bad you’ll find someone some day kinds of things and moved on with my life.  You moved on with yours.

Several months later, I want to say three because that’s a good number, I met you a second time.  Your roommate, for some reason I can’t remember, probably because I’m getting old, threw me a birthday party.  I think because my birthday is really close to your suitemate’s and that struck him as cause for celebration.  I was in a lot of classes with him and he was a fun guy in the way that precocious tweens are funny to real teenagers.  As his roommate, you were invited.  We talked some, though I don’t remember about what.

Every night between study hours and the time when they locked the dorms, a group of us, mostly from my science class, including your roommate, would roam around the campus in order to stave off cabin fever.  Sometime after my birthday you figured you had classes well enough under control and could start socializing more.  So you joined your roommate on these walks.  By the time your birthday rolled around, I knew you well enough to get you a present (though I don’t remember what it was… maybe Twizzlers?  Probably the only present I’ve gotten you that didn’t suck.)

Oddly, people started dropping out of the walking group and it ended up being just the two of us a few nights here and there.  You were so funny, talking about D&D and GURPs games as if they were real.  Almost a stereotype, except for not looking the part, with your tall, dark, handsomeness.  (Not that I dwelled on that back then.)

One weekend I decided to stay at school instead of going home.  It was the most fun I’d had that year.  We hung out, you and your roommate and some of your hall mates and I.  We ranged all along the off-campus area we were allowed to visit, and maybe a few places out of range.  We enjoyed the spring and being young enough to still roll down hills.  I broke up with my first boyfriend (from home) that weekend.  I still liked him as a friend, but I didn’t love him.

One night you kissed my hand saying good-bye on a walk.  One of those silly gallant things someone who loves living in fantasy worlds might do, meaning nothing by it.  And suddenly I realized I loved you.  I’d had no idea.  No idea.

I thought maybe you liked me too.  I was pretty sure.  I mean, who kisses someone’s hand without meaning something by it?  Turns out you do.  But I didn’t know that until ages later, when we were established enough that it was only minorly embarrassing to me.

Time passed, and we had more walks just the two of us.  And we had one of those conversations where I thought I was saying one thing, and you thought I was saying something else, and your response made sense in my context and in your context as well (another thing we discovered ages later)… and somehow we were dating.

I remember you seeing me off the first time when my mom picked me up, and she asked if we were dating and I said yes.

These memories used to be stronger, and they’re fading with time.  I feel like that song in Gigi, ah yes, I remember it well.  There’s so much life that’s happened since then.  We’ve spent well over half our lives together, and those baby and toddler years take a toll.

My love for you has not diminished.  I’m still that giddy 16 year old whenever we touch (especially when our progeny keep us physically apart for too long, or when I get to spend the week working from home while the kids are in school).  I still spend huge amounts of my day thinking about you.  But there’s so much more now, that there wasn’t then.  You’re still the most fascinating and attractive person I know, but you’re also a comfort and a support and a partner and a father to our children.  (And an accomplished cook!)  I can’t imagine life without you.

I love you so much.

Our child, the biter

If you recall, DC2’s wonderful daycare went out of business because they mismanaged a theft and couldn’t meet operating expenses.  As a stop-gap measure, we enrolled DC2 at DC1’s private school’s associated daycare until ze hit 18 months and could enroll at the next youngest Montessori preschool in town.  Doing this was nice because it was one stop shopping for both kids at drop-off and pick-up.

However, although the private school daycare was not a bad daycare, it was also not a great daycare.  The kids weren’t mistreated, rules were followed etc., but it didn’t follow the guidelines for high quality daycare.  It didn’t follow the minimum guidelines either, but instead of a 4/1 teacher ratio for kids DC2’s age, there was a 6/1 teacher ratio.  And instead of involving the kids in setting up and cleaning up like Montessori schools do, generally there was one teacher cleaning up or setting up and the other teacher interacting with 12 kids all at the same time (or with just 1 kid at a time while the remaining 11 were on their own).

On top of that, DC2 went from 4 teeth to 12 teeth during hir duration at that daycare.

The lack of supervision plus the teething plus DC2’s personality… not a good combination.  The main teacher often said it wasn’t a big deal and sometimes the other kid deserved it, which, of course, didn’t make us feel any better about the situation.  They introduced DC2 to pacifiers (ironically at an age that most parents try to remove the pacifier).  Eventually we got enough bite slips that we got called in for a parent-teacher conference with the preschool director and the school director.  Ze wasn’t malevolent, they said, ze just bit when ze was protecting hir stuff or someone crowded hir too much.

The solution we came up with was to offer to pay for a third teacher in the room for a month during DC2’s prime biting hours.  (DH graphed out the bites and discovered a pattern to the timing– mainly when the kids were least supervised.)  $581.31 brought the student-teacher ratio down to 4/1.  The head teacher for the room was ecstatic.  DC2 only bit twice during that time period, once when the third teacher was sick and didn’t show up, and once at a non-standard time when there was a fight over a toy.  DC2 was caught almost biting a few times in addition to that.

Having the third teacher there also made the room much more like a high quality daycare.  The kids became more animated and less likely to stare and crowd any parent who came in.  (Seriously creepy the way they did that, poor neglected kids.)  DC2 also stopped screaming bloody murder when dropped off. It was tempting to continue paying for the third teacher after the time was over (and DC2 did bite a couple more times after that), but at that point we’d already put in our month notice for the change in daycare.

There hasn’t been a single bite at the new daycare.  It is very much like the old daycare.  There’s two main teachers and plenty of floaters.  There are 10 kids and 2 teachers in the room and a third teacher (a floater) is usually there during the main hours.  Kids don’t fight.  When they disagree about toys, the person who has the toy has property rights and the other kid is reminded of that and redirected before a fight can occur.  It isn’t accepted as something that kids will do (and that sometimes results in biting) like at the private school’s daycare.  DC2 happily waves bye-bye when DH drops hir off in the morning, and for a week or so was having such fits when I picked hir up that I wouldn’t be surprised if the teachers thought I beat hir.  (Though part of that was that ze wanted mommy milk right away, but their parking lot isn’t really big enough for me to feel right taking a space during busy pick-up times so we can nurse, especially given that home is less than 5 min away.  DC2, if you weren’t fussing, we’d already be at home and you could be having as much mommy milk as you wanted!  We solved this problem by having me pick up DC1 instead.)

My thought, though this is certainly no randomized controlled experiment, is that good quality daycares have only limited biting because the kids are busy and conflicts are managed before they really become conflicts.  Some kids have greater propensity to bite than others, but it’s still really the daycare’s responsibility to take care of that.  But who knows!

In memorium

We got two amazing cats when we finally moved into an apartment that allowed them.  Little Kitty and Big Kitty.  We’d initially gone to get Little Kitty and decided she needed a companion.  Big Kitty was in her room at the shelter.  A big soft short-hair calico, mostly white with small black and ginger patches.  When we came in the room, she was sociable, gave us some love and pettings and then after a while went back to her little house area.  After checking out the other cats, we decided she was just right… loving and sociable but not too clingy.

Her sheet said she’d come from a house with too many cats and that she loved dogs and children.

The women at the animal shelter said she had a heart condition and they didn’t expect her to be adopted.  They hadn’t even listed her.  We’ll take her anyway, we said.

We gave her heart medication each day.  DH picked up her prescription refill today.

She was a beautifully behaved cat.  She didn’t go on counters (except when she thought we weren’t looking and then would jump down if seen), and never understood why we let Little Kitty jump on them.  She mainly just tolerated Little Kitty, but she also taught semi-feral Little Kitty how to do important cat things, like how to meow.

Big Kitty always wanted to be alpha cat, even though Little Kitty doesn’t understand social hierarchies.  Sometimes Little Kitty would accidentally become alpha, which was always funny because Little Kitty was about half the size of Big Kitty and really had no idea what was going on with the dominance games.

Big Kitty liked hard catfood a lot, and deferred to Little Kitty over who got first dibs on the soft food because that’s the one thing Little Kitty would defend, and it’s easier to keep your alpha status if you don’t have to fight for it.

Big Kitty’s short hair turned out to have a longer undercoat in the winter.  She was the softest kitty imaginable.  We had to make sure she had special catfood because she’d throw up most kinds of high quality food, but Little Kitty needed something high quality to keep her fur from getting dry.  We won’t have to buy Purina One Sensitive Systems anymore.  We also had to ration her food because otherwise she’d throw it up (and she’d get overweight).  After many experiments with water pistols and so on to try to keep her from waking us up wailing for food, we set up a catfood timer.  We’ll have to reset that for one cat, or just get rid of it since Little Kitty never overate anyway.  Or maybe Garage Cat will start sharing with Little Kitty now that Big Kitty is no longer keeping him in the guest bedroom.  I suppose we could move his stuff now.  These words seem so cold but my heart is breaking so hard every time I think about how things are going to change.

DH was her favorite.  Occasionally she’d try to take my side of the bed so she could be with him.  But she’d give it up grudgingly.

She was super cuddly with me when I got pregnant both times.  After DC1 was born and before we started cosleeping, we’d close the door because Big Kitty loved the Pack N Play and you don’t want to accidentally smother a baby.  Big Kitty would wail outside the door to be let in.  It was so much easier to sleep when we gave that up.

As advertised, she was great with children.  Wonderful with both babies.  She started swiping a bit at tail pulls and so on when DC1 got old enough to know better, but with DC2 she didn’t even mind those, especially since we’d give her hairball treats after each new indignity.

She was great at finding missing kittens when we misplaced them.  She’d guard and hiss, but was never actually mean to the four stray cats.  She used every one of the extra litter boxes.

She had her favorite spots in the house.  DC1’s bed, both on top and under.  The corner of my closet.  The armrest on the overstuffed chair.  She won’t be there anymore, even if traces of her soft white fur still remain.

At 4 something pm when DH was home, she started panting and meowing and her back legs didn’t work.  While I got the kids, DH called the vet and then another bigger vet and got her in the carrying case and took her to the hospital.  She’d had a stroke and was in a lot of pain.  A heparin shot would loosen that and she might survive, but given her heart condition, it was unlikely she would make it after her blood started flowing again and even if she did, she’d continue to have strokes.  DH had to make a decision and he couldn’t contact me because my phone was dead, so he called his mom.  Big Kitty was in pain and didn’t know what was going on and he petted her and said goodbye.  When I finally got home and called him I couldn’t understand what he was saying because he was crying so hard.

The vet has said many times that Big Kitty has lasted longer than any other cat she’s seen with this heart condition.  She wasn’t an old kitty, but she was middle aged.  Still spry, but not quite as much as she used to be.  Without the heart condition, she probably would have had many more years, but with the heart condition, we’re lucky we’ve had her this long.  They asked DH to donate her body to the state vet school because of it and DH decided to do that.  They’ll send us a cast of her paw in return.

It’s so hard to believe she won’t be around anymore.  She’s gone suddenly with only an hour or so of pain; she didn’t waste away.   If we didn’t have to change anything I could just pretend that she’s in a different hiding spot than where I’m looking.  I wouldn’t have to know that she’s gone.  She’s lived a good life and was a wonderful kitty.  We will miss her so much.

Good-bye, Big Kitty.  We will always love you.

Big Kitty's last photo

Big Kitty’s last photo

What do you call the grandparents?

Your own or what your children call them…

I called mine Grandma and Bonmama.  I didn’t have grandfathers (or rather, they died long before I was born).  My partner called his Grandma and Grandpa Firstnames and Grandma and Grandpa Lastname.

#2 goes with Grandmom and Grandpop Lastname.

Our children are lucky enough to have a full set of four grandparents.  They are:

Grandma and Bonpapa

and

Nana and Grandpa.

Grandma and Grandpa are the defaults (and there’s nothing the least bit French about Grandma).  Bonpapa just makes sense because he’s Bonmama’s son.  Nana didn’t want to be called Grandma firstname or Grandma Lastname and after much thinking about the topic decided she wanted to be Nana.  Her wishes are respected by all five grandkids.  So that’s why the names aren’t organized in a way that would make sense.  (I admit this bothers me a little bit.)

How about you and yours?

What are we getting for people?

Lessee…

MIL completely remodeled her kitchen and is removing the 1990s style country accents and replacing them with red things.  So we bought a whole lot of red things, including an ice cream scoop since theirs kept breaking on me last Christmas.

FIL dropped a hint that he wanted a specific expensive book by a hunter about bow hunting, so we did that.  (Not available on Amazon.)

BIL1 gets a game.  SIL1 gets colored pencils off her wish list.  Nephew1 gets sheet music to Mario Brothers.  Niece gets a box of books about a character who shares her first name.

SIL2 and BIL2 get a fancy crock-pot off their wishlist.  Nephew2 gets an assortment of books I would recommend for a 1-2 year old.  He also gets a contribution to his 529.  (Why none for the other sibs– It’s Nephew2’s first Christmas and we made the offer for BIL1’s kids, but BIL1 never got around to setting up an account, so we didn’t contribute.)

My sister requested a checked luggage.  So I got her that.

My mom I will get a B&N gift certificate, though I think I’ll up the amount from $50 to $60 this year.

My father we usually buy some hard liquor.  He tends to like high quality on-the-sweet-side stuff.  We’ve done fancy rum and fancy brandies the past few years.  Also some apple jack that I suspect he didn’t like as much.  I wonder if I can get Dumante delivered to their place…  No, scratch that.  This just in:  He doesn’t want any more alcohol and they’ve switched to a no-sugar diet.  Uh…

Are you getting anything fun for people on your list?

What do you call your pets (or children)?

Obviously your pets have names, but chances are that’s not what you always call them.

We have Big Cat and Little Cat.  Sometimes we call big cat, “butterball.”  Little cat can be, “baby kitty.”  We may occasionally say “snuggly wuzzikin,” or “kittikens.”  We have some nicknames based on their real names as well.

#2 :  Mine is baby.  fuzz-face.  goober.  fuzzball.  gooberkitty.  sweetie.  [name]-baby. kit-kit.

Children are “snuggle-bun” and “snuggers” and “baby” and  “precious” and “honey.”  Also “little/big guy/girl” as appropriate for age and expressed gender.  Occasionally a “cutie-patootie” will sneak in.

What do you call your pets (or children)?  If you have/had neither pets nor children, what were you called growing up?

Identity: Who are we, really, and do we care?

People talk from time to time about identity.

One big discussion on the mother blogs we read on occasion is the intersection of feminism and motherhood.  Who does that make them?

In terms of my identity of a feminist mother (for the one of us who has procreated)… I’ve never really thought about it. I have such a strong identity of me as me… and things like “midwesterner” or “economist” overshadow my identity as wife, mother, or even teacher. I have a hard time identifying myself using constructs based on my relationship to other people. I don’t really think of me as a mother or a wife, even though I am. I guess I think of my specific relationship– married to DH, not a wife… taking care of DCs, not a mother. These are things I do but not things I am.

Technically I’m a feminist, but I’m not trained in feminism and it seems like such a part of me that it’s not even an overlay like midwesternism. I don’t think about it. I don’t do things because I’m a feminist like I do things because I’m a midwesterner– I’m a feminist because I do things and think things that feminists do. A certain brand of feminist just happens to be right about things in my mind, and if that label didn’t exist I would still hold the same beliefs.

I’ve been getting away from an identity as “mathematician” but can still converse in that language. I might even be able to still pass. But the econ is now much stronger.

Scalzi recently talked about what makes a person a professional writer– he said you have to get paid.  Some folks in the comments mentioned that it was important to identify oneself as a professional writer as well, as many of us get paid for our writing, but consider ourselves to be things like professors or researchers etc.  But why is it important to have that identity?  It makes sense for professional organizations to have specific gate-keeping rules, but the label of professional writer is not so important to those of us with other labels already.  Professor.  Scholar.  Social scientist.

Who are you?  Are you what you do?  Are you what you think you are?  Is your identity important, and if so, how?

Ask the grumpies: Spouses with different wanderlust

scantee asks:

My husband and I are in our mid-30’s and live in a mid-sized Midwestern city. We’ve been together nine years, married for six of those, and have two children, ages three and five. We are done having children. My family is spread out over the country and the world so while we’re emotionally close I don’t get to see them frequently. Husband grew up in a small town about 1.5 hours south of here and most of his family still lives there. While they are close enough that it is an easy car ride to see them they are not close enough that they provide us (or us them) any day-to-day support; seeing them is still always a planned event.

I have been working as an education researcher for a non-profit organization for a little over a year now. Prior to my job switch, I did similar work for a Large Flagship State University (LFSU). I was never really happy or had many career plans when I was at LFSU but that has changed quite a bit with my current job which is both challenging and enjoyable and holds a lot of career promise for me.  Husband has worked in IT management for LFSU for almost ten years. He used to love his job but in the past year has grown more dissatisfied with it and with the work environment.

There was a lot of change in the early years of our relationship: we met and moved in together rather quickly, bought a house, got accidentally pregnant and had a child three years in, and had another child two years later. When my youngest child was around two, I started to really think about what our lives would be like during the up-coming life stage of being middle-aged and having two school-aged children. Most of our big milestones as a couple were behind us and I wanted to focus on making the most of the next decade and a half for us as a family.

It was around this time that I really started to think about moving away from our current city. It’s a nice city and I’m not unhappy here but I don’t want inertia and habit to be the main things keeping us here if there is a better place for us to be. When I thought of places where we might move that would be good for us individually and for our family unit, the Bay Area was the obvious choice (Portland and Seattle were the other two contenders). We’ve both spent considerable time there and really like the area. It is close to all sort of fun and interesting opportunities that we don’t have here. It’s not freezing cold seven months out of the year.

I had been processing our options for a few months when I was included on a work call where it was announced that they planned to open an office in the Bay Area. They encouraged anyone who wanted to move there prior to the opening of the office to do so and to work from home. I had already casually raised the idea of moving to my husband but this was the event that pushed me to have a more serious conversation with him about the idea. We talked about it and it was a big surprise to me that he was not into the idea at all.

I guess I had always pegged him as a go with the flow kind of guy, not necessarily pushing for change but not resisting it either. In the many conversations we’ve had since then (that initial conversation was not quite a year ago) it has become clear that he really feels fine living in the same city, in the same house, and keeping his current job indefinitely. Moving seems like a hassle to him and everything and everyone he knows is here, so, why change? I am pretty much the opposite; I love to try new things and if the opportunity presents itself, why not?

So it seems we are at a bit of a crossroads. My husband is still open to idea of moving (or says he is at least) but it seems all we do it talk about it and nothing ever happens. For this move to be possible he will need to do a serious job search which he has not done yet. My first question is: outside the specifics of our situation, would a move to the Bay Area be a smart move? The reaction I get from 99% of Midwesterners is “it’s soooooooo expensive!” but I just assume they’re being old fuddy-duddies. We are debt free, have substantial savings, and live frugally so financially I think we’ll be fine. It will be more expensive of course but we will still be able to live comfortably there.

My second question is: if we don’t move how do I stay happy/sane here? I love to travel and husband is supportive of me doing it alone but I fear that it is just not enough for me. I want to live somewhere else AND travel. Other than travel, what options are out there to scratch my wanderlust itch?

Well, the Bay area *is* more expensive.  Your taxes alone will be going up substantially.  But it’s not prohibitively expensive so long as you’re open to the idea of renting instead of buying for a while or even longer.  For that reason we encourage you to check out the salary differential they offer between the old and the new office.  You should get a hefty cost of living raise or it isn’t worth it monetarily.  Check out prices of housing and so on and compare them to what you’re paying now and get an estimate of how much more you’d have to make to live the lifestyle you want or at least are used to (or would be willing to drop to).  There are cost of living calculators all over the internet, but you know more about your lifestyle than they do.

Your DH should also check out what his options are– check out Glassdoor for published salary information and Craigslist and the uni webpages to see if places are hiring.  This, with info about your salary and estimates of your costs, should give you an idea about the monetary feasibility of the move.

The 30s are a good time to move– employers like hiring people in their late-20s to late 30s.  (They’re not supposed to care about age, but they do.)

As for the emotional questions:  that’s something you’ll have to work out with your spouse.  We’re totally sympathetic with wanting to live in the SF Bay area, and we’re also totally sympathetic with being homebodies and not wanting the hassle of moving.  (#1 loves sabbaticals because she loves going someplace new and living there for a year, and then returning to home base.)

re:  how to get excitement in your life:  Can you get travel in for your work?  Can you force the family to do a 2 week vacation every year?  What is it you like about travel?  Could you focus on that aspect in your area (for example, cooking if you like trying new foods)?

#2 chimes in:  There is nothing at all wrong with your current situation and if hubby doesn’t want to move, that’s hell on wheels.  Subscribe to the Travel Channel, go on Smithsonian tours of the world, etc.  Travel all you want…. moving just because you feel like it might have negative consequences.  I don’t see a reason to move in your letter other than “Bay area is Soooooo cool”, which, I admit, IT IS!, but that’s not a good reason to uproot your family, take your kids away from friends, etc.    Moving is expensive, time-consuming, and stress-producing.  Even the happiest of couples will argue during it.

If you stay where you are now, you’ll have much more money saved up to travel the world, with or without hubs & kids.  If you move to SF you won’t have as much travel budget [unless you get commensurate raises and don't buy a house, notes #1], and you’ll have to plan family cross-country flights to see the grandparents.  Both of us grew up in the Midwest and I guarantee you don’t have 7 months of winter per year [not even in Minnesota?].  Also, did you know it’s freezing cold in San Francisco in the SUMMER [#1 notes:  sweater weather is not the same as freezing, also if you go inland it's warmer]?

#1 has never argued with her partner during moving, and the kids thing argues for moving now before they have close friends.  (Daycare, though, is also more expensive in SF– we’re talking well over 1K/month for full-time care.)  The cross-country flight thing is also pretty expensive and a hassle, but when you live in an awesome place, often the parents will visit you rather than the other way around (I haven’t been in my hometown for at least 10 years, though my partner has a need to see his entire family, not just the parents, so we visit his hometown at least once a year).  But yes, additional hassle.

What do you call your own partner?

Previously we talked about what to call other people’s significant others.  But that was cold and impersonal.  What about the special someone (if any) in your own life?

#1:  He’s “my hero” and “snuggle bun” and “beautiful,” occasionally, “beautiful, wonderful.”  In the winter, I sometimes just call him, “warm.” He used to call me “sweet stuff,” but I think it’s been several years since he used that as a nickname.  Now I’m generally “precious.”  Also “wife” and “sexy wife.”

#2: Um.  We have nicknames for each other, but they are personal.

I call both him AND the cat sweetie.  I also call my partner love, baby, honey.  He calls me “love” sometimes.  Sometimes I call him ridiculous things like snooky-ookums, but not seriously.  And I call him “sweet one”.    Oh yeah, and cute-patootie.  But mostly we use the personal nicknames when we’re expressing affection.

If you’re partnered up, what do you call your own significant other, like to hir face?  What does ze call you?  How do you refer to hir to other people?

Money can’t buy me love

But it sure can make our lives easier!

Remember what, 13 years ago?

We were about to move to a new city (well, technically we were about to drive to Canada, but in a few weeks it would be a new city).  We had about 4K total to our name, much of it saved up from my work-study jobs in college.  When we got to the city, we slept on the floor of a friend from college at night and searched for housing during the day.  We ended up in a tiny 10×10 apartment.  We had to borrow money from my parents to put down a deposit.  We walked everywhere because we couldn’t afford the 70 cents to take the subway until school started and we got our subway passes along with our stipends.  We bought used kitchen equipment for $20 and a terrible desk for $10 from some people who were leaving, and a new futon for $120 and a paste-board dresser for $80.  As the pastor who married us suggested, we ate a lot of macaroni and cheese.

We bought an overpriced bed with that first stipend (after paying my parents back), and a Le Creuset pot.  I remember calling my dad before making the purchase because he’s the most skin-flinty person I know.  He argued that we spend more time on the mattress than any other place and it’s important to get a good night’s sleep.  Also Le Creuset pots last forever.  In retrospect, we should have tried to bargain the guy down on the mattresses, but it did last 10 years without problem (although the salesman swore it would be good for 15).  We had to put that purchase on three different credit cards because we didn’t have enough of a line of credit to put it on one.  The guys at the shop said they broke up purchases like that all the time.

We ate mostly vegetarian and lots of cheap starches.  We’d go to the open air market once a week and stock up on veggies, and then we’d rush home to process them before they went bad.  Soon after school started, we got an offer to move to student housing– a two room 10×30 apartment for the same price.  We jumped at the chance and broke our lease.  We didn’t lose all of our deposit though because our old place filled up very soon after we left.  After a year we had enough saved to pay for car insurance, and we retrieved my car from my sister, complete with shiny new dents.  (That a lot of random people in the city wanted us to know they could fix whenever they saw us in a parking lot.)

After two years there, we moved to be RAs.  Our apartment was still two rooms, but smaller, and we shared a kitchen with the students.  Saving 20K/year on rent, we were able to save quite a bit of money.  We bought a video projector which we still have.  I can’t believe we just had to get a new bulb for it.  We’re growing older, my beautiful love.

After two years of that, we realized we’d need more time to finish our dissertations, and left the students.  We had a hard time deciding between a smaller apartment and greater savings or a bigger apartment and finally having some space to ourselves, maybe getting a cat.  One of your labmates told us her apartment building had two openings, and we visited, and we picked a large apartment.  It was expensive and falling apart, but oh, in such a lovely neighborhood.  And the kitchen was tiny and awful, so we had a granite-top bureau made to extend the kitchen space to our dining room.  We also impulse-bought an expensive butcher block that we don’t need and has been a pain to move, and a lovely dining room table.  Our dining room here looks a lot like our dining room there, though we no longer use the butcher block except to hold our knives.  We traveled out to the suburbs and bought a living room set and felt a little bit like grown-ups.

Before we even moved in, we drove out to a no-kill shelter and got our kitties.  The baby who had had babies, so tiny and yellow who became my best friend when I gave her chicken and who cleaned up to a lovely lively white and black cutie within a few days of not being surrounded by scary big cats.  The big kitty who loved on you just the right amount at the shelter and has the same heart condition as your grandma.   They’re currently reminding you of their presence through generous gifts of cat-hair, just as they have every summer.

An increase in income and change in location meant we could upscale our food choices.  Whole foods, Trader Joe’s… but we still walked to the local grocery too.  The walk to WF was nicer.  Heck, our entire neighborhood was lovely.  What a change from our first 4 years.  The radiator may not always have worked correctly and might have been prone to flooding, and the water from the pipes might sometimes have been dangerous, but we still loved that apartment.

And then with one thing and another we got jobs and with the money we’d saved we had a housing down-payment equivalent to what we’d need if we were paying on mortgage what we’d paid on rent.  Silly us, we thought we’d need a house this big.  But it’s a lovely house.  And somehow right at the top of our price range… the most expensive place we looked at.

When we first got here, after the downpayment and expected and unexpected fees and emergency expenses, we couldn’t afford to buy a w/d, or rather, we could get cheap ones, but we wanted nice ones.  So you took our laundry to the local laundromat/pub.  (Why don’t more towns have that combination?)  We were about to get new furniture when our planned second car purchase got pushed up by an F150’s sudden stop.  And then suddenly we had a baby and money and no time to get more furniture.  But we didn’t need it– toys from your parents and children’s books from mine ended up filling every available space.

We finished furnishing the house right before going on sabbatical.  Pardon, Faculty Development Leave.  We don’t have sabbaticals.  People suggested putting pictures on the wall so the place didn’t seem so bare.  So we did, from one of those cheap home furnishings places.  I’m not sure if it helped.  We split that living room set across the two living rooms.  Eventually we rented the place out, even though it was furnished.

We’d saved a year’s spending to go on that faculty development leave, and we enjoyed it to the fullest extent.  I wonder if we’ll have another year like that again.  In the end, we still had money leftover and made a pretty big dent in our mortgage when we got back.  You tried out the self-employment lifestyle that year and liked it, even though your company didn’t bring in very much.  But we didn’t mind.  Your business partners though, their wives didn’t make quite as much as yours, and they didn’t like each other as much as they both liked you.  And so the experiment ended and we went home to our regular jobs.

Back at home you toyed with keeping your job, maybe going into administration.  But your heart wasn’t in it.  So we started thinking about what we could do to make you happy with your career.  And we unexpectedly needed to start DC1 in private school.  And DC2 came along.  And now you’ve been self-employed for a month or so.

And here we are today.  Still working things out.  Happy that we saved so much so that we can have the freedom to try new things.  That we can spend on what’s important.  That we can not worry so much about so many things that aren’t important when you have money but are terrifying when you don’t.

I love you so much.  I hope that we have decades and decades more of saving and spending and living and loving together.  Life without you would be nowhere near as rich.

Related:  A year ago today.

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