Twenty One Years

It seems hard to come up with words of praise that I don’t already say every day, because you’re so easy to praise.

Right now you’re playing a one-person role-playing game about a vampire.  Part of that game mechanic is losing memories.  Over the years, I know that’s been happening too.  But here are some flashes.

We met in high school.  And I didn’t think much at first, given you were crushing on another person at the time.  But we kept coming into contact with each other, and eventually fell in love.  I had never been so attracted to anyone in my life and I wanted to be with you, to touch you, to talk with you, more than any other person I have ever met.  We would regularly get in trouble for PDA (public displays of affection), but I regret nothing!

You moping under a staircase.  You at your roommate’s birthday party.  You on a walk for the first time.  You alone with me walking talking about a Gurps game as if it were real.  Kissing my hand. You wanting to start slow. My mom asking if I’m dating that guy (yes).  Standing on a hillside at night looking out at the night with you holding me, suddenly realizing we’re late for check and sprinting (then not getting in trouble!)  Being miserable when we have to part.  Spending hours on the phone.  Calling you after seeing The Fantastiks and your dad being angry it was so late.

In college, we decided to take a break from exclusive dating because we’d seen how much stress the first two years put on relationships.  One of my high school roommates had even gone so far as accepting the same school as her boyfriend had gone to the year prior, only to find out he’d been cheating on her for months.  (She went, but eventually transferred elsewhere.)  I dated several losers who wanted a mother figure, because apparently that’s the kind of person I attract who isn’t you.

Visiting you.  Your tiny room.  Meeting your friends.  Your roommate wearing nothing but boxers all the time and watching 8 heads in a duffel bag.  Amazing summers. Cicadas. Your summer place in a lousy neighborhood. That weekend at your conference, almost missing an econ final because the train back was delayed (but I made it– walked straight from the station to the final and aced it).  You visiting me.  My friends loving your haircut but me hating it (I think I’d be ok if you changed it now, but 20+ years ago, less so!).  Talking to you on the phone, telling you I hate living without you, and maybe we should get married after college. 

We got married.

You smiled. I cried from happiness.  I cry when I’m overwhelmed.  Driving to Canada.  That garlic restaurant.  Niagara Falls looking so nice on one side and so… not… on the other. 

Graduate school was stressful.  But we got through it and grew stronger.

Our tiny first apartment– 10×10.  Buying cheap furniture. We had to close the futon to use the computers.  Moving to a bigger apartment (30×10).  You learning to cook.  Our first anniversary in the rain, coming back sopping wet and so happy.  The chocolate restaurant. Moving to undergraduate dorms.  The students and their craziness, their anxieties, their joys, their electronic explorations.  The Malaysian place. The full day trip complete with rose gardens and strawberry picking that you planned for me.  That BBQ place.  Moving to a bigger apartment. Tiny Little Kitty loved me best and friendly Big Kitty loved you best.  Buying slightly nicer furniture.  Walking to your lab.  Walking home from work through the shops then the flowers.

Infertility sucked, but we got through it.  We got jobs and bought a house, which had more unexpected expenses than we’d planned for.  We had DC1 who was a delight and went on leave to a Paradise while you tried a start-up for a year and took a fancy cooking class.  You became a better cook than I am.  Then we had DC2 and took another leave to another Paradise.

Pregnancy test strips. Driving across country in the middle of the night, trying to find a hotel that will take pets (eventually I got out my phone and called Holiday Inn and they directed us to one). Not being able to afford furniture or a w/d for a few months. You being so amazed at my growing stomach. Giving birth. You with our baby.  So proud of someone who can do so little.  Our children are amazing. 

The past five years have been a complete blur (I blame politics).  Our children are older.  DC1 will be going to college in no time.  You have a new job.  We seriously want to move to a blue state.

Bread.  Youtube videos.  Violin.  Piano.  Registering people to vote.  Protests.  Phone calls.  A year of sleeping in and doing curbside pickup.

No matter what happens in the future, I want to build new memories with you.  I love you so much.  You’re reading a poignant comic book right now that you’re pretty sure I wouldn’t like (you know I don’t like poignant), but in it there’s a weird older couple in their 90s who are still together.  (“How are we weird,” I asked.  “Well, we’re pretty co-dependent,” you said. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way,” you added.)  I want that.  (But I won’t control your olive consumption.)  Another half century with you would be amazing.

Happy anniversary!

 

DH is employed again!

He did a bunch of lengthy lengthy interview processes from job openings former colleagues sent him which all ended with the companies saying, “you are amazing but we cannot have you remote” (even though he was always upfront in the first interview that we cannot move for a couple of years) and then finally got a job offer at a start-up where many of the workers are already remote.  TWO of his professional friends work there and one of them is the former colleague who left when DH’s last company had to temporarily cut salaries (and then left the next place he went when *they* cut salaries because of covid and that cut didn’t turn out to be temporary).  It’s a pay increase from his last job and he will be making about 10K more than I do.  (The first offer was pretty much identical to my salary but then he negotiated!  In theory we will be at par again after I’m promoted, but we will see.)

I’m not sure what to say other than that.  I will probably have really obnoxious posts about being rich again and that adjustment.  Though this is a start-up so it may not last long so DH wants to put a lot towards savings, which is smart.  (And if we move to a coast, selling our paid-off house would only provide a 20% down payment for another house.)  So where do we park that savings?  I guess you’ll find out in obnoxious posts after I figure it out (Vanguard index funds?  probably.  But *which* Vanguard index funds?).

Right now what’s more in my mind is the loss of time.  It was really nice having a househusband, even if he was spending 20 hours/week doing unemployment stuff (he’s now a six sigma yellow belt and has some project management thing, thank you unemployment commission).  I could just put any Ottonlenghi (sponsored link) meal I wanted on the meal plan and it would magically happen even if it took hours to make without me doing any of the cooking.  And you saw all the gorgeous baking DH has been doing.  Now I’m like… we need to eat more spaghetti with jarred sauce.  And when was the last time we had macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas (aka stovetop tuna cheese casserole)?  Also he could be first stop for any questions from the kids.  And he was just taking care of things.  Now we’re going back to 50/50 and it’s an adjustment, though thankfully the school year is over so I have some time to adjust.

The kids have a week off, so I’m having them meal plan for a week and put the necessary groceries on the list.  I’ve given them a budget of $250 which is more than we usually spend, but I didn’t want them to feel like they had to trade-off expensive fruit in order to get ice cream.  They’ve so far only spent $80 after getting our regular necessities (we have a list of bread/eggs/milk/bananas etc. that I put on before they started) and ingredients for 7 dinners, which suggests that DH and I really spend an awful lot on fancy cheeses and organic produce.  DC1 thinks we should buy restaurant sushi with the rest, but DC2 is lobbying for one of each kind of oreos.  (In the end DH and I added some things like pecans and cat litter and the bill got up to $125, give or take.)

Our state unemployment office is not letting him request the first week of unemployment benefits that they withheld that’s supposed to come to him automatically after getting a job (they claim he already requested it, which he did not).  He’s going to have to play phone roulette again to get that reinstated, but, fun story, he’s not allowed to call them about this until he is actually on the job, and he has to call during working hours.  And last time it took an hour of hitting redial before he was able to get through.  Talk about an ordeal mechanism.  And how seriously unfair to lower income people who cannot spend an hour during working hours the first week of a new job to get the bridge money they need before their next paycheck.  He hasn’t decided whether or not to make that call, since of course, we can afford not to.  But our government is just going to use that money to hurt Trans people, immigrants, and women, so…

So, yay DH!  He was definitely ready to be working again.  And he LOVES working with at least two of his colleagues and they love working with their other colleagues, so it should be fun.  Plus the head of software is a woman and that is ALWAYS a good sign.  (Women are like canaries in the Tech Coalmine– if there aren’t any, and there aren’t any in management other than project management, it is probably a hostile environment.)

… I don’t have any questions.  Being selfish and just enjoying the change.  

Ask the grumpies: Advice for trailing spouses?

Jess asks:

Advice for trailing spouses? I am not an academic, but my boyfriend is about to start a PhD program. Assuming we stay together, which I would like to, reading your blog makes feel like I’m signing up for a lifetime of moving to wherever there is a job for him (in potentially not great places). He promises that he will not take a job in a place I’m not happy with, but it’s still easy to get stressed about my lack of control and options. I am confident that I can get a job in most places, but I am pretty career-focused and it is weird to think that each job I’m in has an externally defined end date for the foreseeable future (current job prior to PhD program, 5-6 years for PhD, then a few years for post-doc before hopefully getting a professor position). Would love any advice from Grumpy Nation :)

So first off, don’t let your career become completely secondary.  A lot can happen in 5-6 years.  Don’t lean back.  Just because someone starts a PhD program doesn’t mean they’ll finish.  Just because someone gets a PhD doesn’t mean they’ll go into academia.  Just because someone starts an academic position doesn’t mean they will stay in academia!  (See:  #2, #1’s DH, lots of people, particularly in fields where post-docs are common.)  You may end up being the leading spouse and he may end up being the trailing spouse!  In either case, having savings and being very good at your job will give you more flexibility in finding new jobs or being able to keep your job as a telecommuter.

While it seems like it for people on the academic track while they’re in graduate school or reaching for tenure, there is more to life than just getting tenure at an academic institution.  Academia is just a job.  It can be a very nice job, but it is still a job.  There will be trade-offs (unless he gets a tenured offer at Stanford or Columbia, depending on your joint geographical preferences).  Working for low pay and a high teaching load in a tiny town at a university without a lot of resources may not be worth it, especially if there aren’t good job options for you.  In places that are better, there are more likely to be options for you because they are more likely to be in cities or more likely to have industry surrounding the university.  (Not entirely– my DH currently doesn’t have options locally unless he wants to change careers or work as an adjunct/research assistant, but he’s also telecommuted since leaving his university position because he is very good at what he does.  Though he is currently unemployed, so we will see what happens.) As one gets older one starts to value quality of life options more.  Industry salaries tend to be higher too.

You will have to make decisions about whether you are willing to live apart from each other for short periods of time.  If he has a one-year position, will you move for that or stay where you are and rack up a lot of frequent-flyer miles?  Sometimes time apart allows couples to focus on work and end up being so good that they can more easily find a place together.

And remember that people outside of academia don’t stay at the same job forever.  Follow your career aspirations and look at potential forced job changes as opportunities.

Basically:  My best advice is that you cannot predict the future.  Take these changes as they come and figure out your choice sets at the time.  Then decide on the trade-offs for those choice sets, remembering that nothing needs to be a permanent decision. You don’t need to make decisions years before you know what your options are going to be.  Academia can create a lot of unnecessary anxiety because it seems so clear what the “right” choices are, but that’s really an illusion that seems ridiculous to people outside of the ivory tower.  Also, the more money you save up, the more options you will have at these choice points and the less stressful some of those choices will be.

Grumpy Nation, what advice do you have for trailing spouses?

I was going to write a different post today

The post I had in drafts was going to be a long story of our 26 years together and our 20 years of married life.

Like all our plans this summer, that’s changed.

The most salient thing this year is how much I love spending time with you.

If I ever wondered what it would be like being locked in a house with you 24/7, now I know.

It’s wonderful (not the being locked in a house part, but the constantly being with you part).  I love being with you.  I could never get tired of you.  Never get irritated with you.  You are amazing.

That’s not to say that I don’t wish we could go out and have culinary adventures.  That’s fun too.  But the part where I get to spend more time with you, that never gets old.

24/7 is not enough.  20 years is not enough.  26 years is not enough.  I want to spend the rest of two long lives together.

I love you so much.

Ask the grumpies: How does a Gay woman in her mid forties date?

Anoninmass asks:

How does a Gay woman in her mid forties date….when only a small part of her wants to date in the first place?

Great question.  We’re both introverted, and near our mid-forties.  But neither one of us is gay and neither one of us has dated for a long, looonnnnnng time.  None of our lesbian friends have dated in a loooong time either (and yay marriage for those who want it!).  Hetero people we know seem to mostly be using dating apps and going on lots of dates of various levels of fun vs. terrible (or have decided that they don’t want to date at all).

You might find some wisdom over at Captain Awkward.

Here’s a blog post that we did not write.  Everything else google is giving me is either about people realizing they’re gay in their 40s or webpages for dating apps.

Do any grumpy readers have better advice for Anoninmass?

What are your love languages?

I’ve been listening to the By the Book Podcast recently, and one of their books was the 5 love languages.  So DH and I took the 5 love languages quiz online (you have to put in an email, but you can totally put in a fake email– they will still give you your results at the end in addition to emailing them to you).

Here’s our results:

Me:

10 Acts of Service
7 Physical Touch
7 Quality Time
6 Words of Affirmation
0 Receiving Gifts

DH:

9 Physical Touch
8 Quality Time
8 Words of Affirmation
5 Acts of Service
0 Receiving Gifts

I think this works out very nicely for me because it means DH can show he cares by doing stuff for me.  I just have to provide the physical touch and quality time that I also value!  Total win for me!  And, of course, words of affirmation which are super easy when he’s doing stuff that I appreciate.  It’s a great exchange.  :)

What are your love languages?

Better than a Romance Hero

We did have a meet cute, though it wasn’t love at first sight, more a longer friends fall in love sequence.  Sometimes I play the montage in my mind.

But there are so many ways in which you are so much better than any romance hero.

You’re not a Brooding Duke with a Tragic Backstory with Breaks that only the Heroine can Heal.  You don’t need to be fixed because you’re not broken!

You don’t provide punishing kisses.  You’re all about Enthusiastic Consent, and you are very good at getting it!

You’re not a Reformed Rake.  But you are also not a misogynist!

I’m glad you’re not the villain in an earlier novel who has been put on the path to redemption by the Failed Abduction of that book’s heroine.   It’s also good that I’ve never felt the need to injure you to protect my honor.

I’m glad our story isn’t the kind that would have ended on the third page if we’d just talked to each other.  I’m glad our story is built on shared goals.  But also glad that it has been almost entirely free of human corpses.  Or espionage.

We’re more the couple from a previous novel who makes cameos in the current novel with kids in tow.  Who speak to each other with shared glances.  And sometimes disappear for a bit, returning a bit disheveled.  Perhaps we’re there to lend support to the stories of others.  Because we seem like we have things figured out.

And if we do have things figured out, it’s because of you.  You will always be my hero.  My strong, handsome (tall and dark, now with distinguished grey at the temples), respectful, responsible hero.  Who cooks and cleans and cares for the children and sees to my needs and puts up (even seems to appreciate) my quirks.  You couldn’t have been written better if you were in a Talia Hibbert book (especially since you’re free of tattoos and motorcycles and tragic backstory).

If any heroes are attractive to me, it is only because they remind me of you.

There’s not a single person real or fictional that I would change you for.

I love you with all my heart.  Every day I thank the powers that be that we’re together.

Here’s to showing up together in decades worth of future series.  (Preferably without murders to solve or spies to uncover.)

Happy anniversary!

Little Kitty

I fell for her beautiful blue eyes on the no-kill shelter page.  We were going to finally move into an apartment that allowed pets and I started cat shopping early.  She was still there the day we got the apartment.  We went to the shelter before we even moved our furniture because I was so anxious to get you.

When we got there, you were in one of the rooms with the big adult cats.  You were so tiny and yellow.  You wouldn’t eat or groom yourself because you were so scared of all the other animals.  While we were there a volunteer got her to eat some soft food by giving her her own dish away from everyone else.  She was really still a kitten– not even a year old.  But she’d had three little boys (adopted out) already.  That meant she’d never get very big.  And she was a great mamacat taking good care of them.  She’d been found in a box near a dumpster.  (She liked boxes.  The smaller the better. We called her box kitty sometimes.)

We took her home with the friendly Big Kitty we also picked out that day.  She hid for a while in a built-in cupboard.  At lunch I gave her some chicken and she became my best friend in the entire world.  By morning she’d cleaned herself up and her previously yellowed fur was bright white and she was so energetic.

She didn’t really know how to cat.  She learned a lot from Big Kitty, even though Big Kitty never particularly wanted to be friends.  (They had a nose touching en passant relationship, but no more.)  In the night we would hear these terrifying screeching sounds– it was usually silent Little Kitty practicing meowing.  She also liked to play ball in the night.  She escaped from the apartment once and led us on a not at all merry chase around the neighborhood.  She was very good at jumping fences.  Enormous height for such a little kitty.  We eventually got her on a halter.

She didn’t really like to be carried (though she allowed me to carry her so long as she’d get a treat right after), and she wasn’t crazy about people coming up to pet her.  One doesn’t pet the Little Kitty, the Little Kitty pets you.  Headbonks were her favorite, and we would have a nighttime routine in which she would visit us before we fell asleep for headbonks and pettings.  When it got really cold she might consent to be a lap kitty or to curl up on the same bed or couch as another cat (not touching).

Back when we had big computer monitors, her favorite spot was on top of mine.  When we moved to flat screen, she had to move in front, which she didn’t like as much.

She was the sweetest and most trusting of kitties.  Once she got into our chimney and was so trusting as we gave her a bath.  She’d look up to us as if to say she didn’t understand what was going on, but she trusted us to make it better (and to provide treats after any indignity).

She moved with us to our new job and loved the patio.  She loved our backyard (we still had to keep her on a halter because she was so good at jumping even the tallest of fences).

When we had a surplus of backyard cats she mostly stayed aloof and out of the fray.  She seemed to miss Big Kitty when Big Kitty passed and never really got into a nose sniffing relationship with Nice Kitty, the remaining backyard cat.

As she got older she got indigestion and then more recently ear infections that would go away and then come right back after treatment ended.  Then one morning she couldn’t walk straight and the vet found a tumor in her ear canal.  We drove to the closest vet school and determined it was inoperable and would not be a candidate for chemotherapy.  Radiation could be done, but there was no evidence that radiation without surgery worked at all in cats, and at most it would slow the tumor’s growth, not stop it or shrink it and she would have to go to the vet regularly which she hated.  So we prepared for hospice.

Cancer is not a pretty way to go.  But little kitty was so resilient as every new disability affected her.  She learned how to walk straight and deliberately with each new hit to her sense of balance.  She submitted calmly to baths and ear cleaning with minimal complaint.  She chomped down her medicine in pill pockets until she couldn’t chew and swallow anymore and then sort-of allowed us to dose her with the fruit-flavored and heavily sugared liquid versions of the pain killers and steroids that she hated.  We’d think it would be time and then she would figure out that she could get water from the faucet, or she’d figure out a new way to get treats to her throat and that would buy another week or so.  She would curl up on the patio or knead DH’s chest and purr, despite it all.  But each time she got better it wouldn’t be as good as it was before and each worse was a new low.  And finally, as the vet predicted, she couldn’t eat anymore, not even baby food, and we couldn’t let her starve to death or force her to submit to a feeding tube and she suddenly stopped getting joy out of her favorite things and we had to let her go.  Which is heartbreaking.

Death is hard, whether it is sudden and unexpected or following a slow deterioration.

Little kitty has brought so much joy.  Fifteen years was just not long enough for our sweet little girl.

Little kitty in better days

 

 

To the man who makes my heart flutter

When I see you, my heart still skips a beat.  You are the most handsome man I know, and I love the distinguished grey at your temples, the ever deepening crinkles around your eyes.

When we touch it still tingles just as much as it did when we were 17.  And it tingled a lot at 17.  One difference that time and proximity has brought is that cuddling close to you can provide more peace and calm than it ever did at age 16 or 17.  Being with you has always felt immeasurably right.  We are supposed to be together.  God is in His heaven and all is right with the world when you’re near.

I still have a hard time believing that I get to spend my life with you.  That I share your bed at night.  That we’re *supposed* to spend time alone together, completely unchaperoned.  Even though it’s been that way for 18 years.

Life with you is exciting and also warm and comfortable.  You provide every positive emotion for me, just by being who you are.  I am so lucky.  So very lucky.  You’re amazing and I never want to have to imagine life without you and your beautiful wonderfulness.

You’re mine.  I’m yours.

We fit well together.

I love you so much.  Today and every day.  I love you.

What are we reading: Romance edition.

#1 skipped large middle chunks of Patricia Bray then deleted on kindle.  Waste of a dollar.

I enjoyed Poetic Justice by Alicia Rasley enough to purchase it.  There’s no onscreen sex, if that’s important.  It’s a fun caper where the protagonists fall in love over books.  The end is a bit rushed, but there’s also no unnecessary angst.  (The best part though is a glimpse the love affair of the long-dead parents!)  The first in the series is free on Amazon but I haven’t read it yet (update: it was ok, but not worth paying for).  I also haven’t read the second in the series, but plan to…

I tried a couple of Patricia Rice regencies, but I don’t like how the heroes take away the heroine’s agency, even when having agency is a big deal for the heroine and it seems like the resolution should include the hero giving in on that.  We’re talking about things like, I dunno, secretly marrying the women against their will in Scotland where the marriage rules are different and not telling them they’ve been married until months later when circumstances have made it far too late for an annulment.  Or, you know, not stopping sex when the woman is in pain because of his “need”.  UGH.  Or forcing the heroine to have sex as a transaction in a situation where she doesn’t want to, but feels that she has to in order to save someone else.  Not cool.  Her Genius series is a modern set of romances… the amazon reviews complain about it having a liberal agenda, but there are too many uncomfortable racial and homosexual “jokes” for it to truly be liberal… or maybe it just shows how far we’ve come in the past 20-30 years in terms of what’s not cool to say about minorities.  I won’t purchase it, but I think I’ll try the second in the genius series, and later books seem to get higher reviews.  So I dunno… it felt like the books could be really good if they were just updated and the bad parts that used to be more common in this literature were removed.  It’s possible that, like Mary Balogh, her more recent books are less icky because the entire genre has moved away from icky.

Genuinely enjoyed The Heiress Companion, which is an old fashioned (and clean) regency novella by Madeline Robins.  It is no The Grand Sophy, but a pleasant read nonetheless.  Lady John and My Dear Jenny were also pretty good.  Spanish Marriage and Althea were both pretty awful, though in different ways.

Danse de la Folie by Sherwood Smith was also worth buying.  An old-fashioned style regency, if that makes sense.  (Not a bodice-ripper, older than that– more Austen-style.)  Not perfect, but soothing.

We both love love LOVED KJ Charles’ latest, Spectred Isle. The adopted son of Simon Feximal is in it!  SOOOOO GOOOOOOD.  Neither of us can wait for the next one.

In the modern world, #2 read and liked Attachments, which was Rainbow Rowell’s first book. Can you fall in love with someone via email? (Of course.) I think I’ve already mentioned Carry On somewhere on this blog.

Finally, we love books. I loved the little book, Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life. Writing letters to books is a neat idea and maybe I’ll try it sometime.

Get to reading, Grumpeteers! Tell us what’s good in romance.