Things that positively affect my mood

  • Waking up feeling rested.
  • Coffee.
  • Hillary Clinton getting the democratic nomination for president.
  • Good weather.
  • Productivity.
  • Things moving forward (including R&R and acceptances).
  • Chocolate.
  • Red meat.
  • A soothing novel.
  • Not being sick after being sick.
  • Happy music.
  • Vit. D
  • Hugs from DH.

What positively affects your mood?

What is culture for?

I am extremely cultured.  I know history and philosophy and I’ve read most of the classics (and can fake many of the ones I haven’t read).  I enjoy opera and theater (but not ballet or symphony, though my sister loves ballet) and old movies and classical music.  I can swim and play the piano and embroider and cook (though I was never able to get over my complete lack of artistic talent when it comes to drawing or painting or my complete boredom with ballet lessons).  #2 and I can trade Gilbert and Sullivan or PG Wodehouse jokes with ease.  I know which silverware to use at a fancy restaurant (pro-tip:  start with the outermost) and how to pretend I know what I’m talking about with wine.  Sadly I only speak two languages (English and Spanish), but I know enough French and Italian to get around as a tourist or to get most literary references without Google translate (ditto Latin).

I used to think that I had all this culture because my parents were sharing what they enjoyed, and culture was something to make it easier for me to entertain myself.  (And part of this is true– my father is a European immigrant who grew up in a fancy US coastal city, so his love of operetta patter songs is as real as his love for Jacques Brel or the Beatles.)

But a couple years ago I was rereading Penrod, by Booth Tarkington (free on Kindle).  In addition to being shocked by the casual racism and animal cruelty that I did not remember from my initial childhood reading (from my mother’s childhood hard copies), I was struck by a passage.  Penrod, who is established as having been from a middle- to lower-middle- class family, takes ballroom dancing and etiquette lessons.  A public school kid, this is the only time he rubs shoulders with the private school children of the town elite.  His mother wants to social climb.  His parents, I realized, are trying to help him advance.

Recent readers of the blog may also be aware of my current turn to regency romances.  In regencies (and in steampunk), women have “accomplishments”– somewhat useless entertainment skills such as embroidery or harp or watercolors that are class markers.  Wealthy tradespeople could send their daughters to finishing school so as to marry up into the aristocracy without embarrassing their impoverished future sons-in-law.

One of my mother’s refrains has always been, “to make you a more cultured person.”  And “to give you opportunities I didn’t have.”

I suspect that many of these skills and much of this knowledge that was poured into me may have been for the same reason we were pushed into math and science.  To improve our lot in life with the next generation.

But… Penrod was written in the 1910s.  By the time he was an adult, the parlor manners he resisted being taught along with the formal dancing would be archaic.  In Regency novels, the landed aristocracy of the early 19th century would be replaced with the age of industry and business would supplant tenant farming.  Eventually, stenography would be a more important skill for young ladies than the harp.

I always thought, growing up, that once I got to college I would meet people who were passionate about opera and history and so on.  (Note, this is one of the reasons that #2 and I hit it off right away in high school.)  But even though I went to a top small liberal arts college, that was not the case.  I would even occasionally have to explain literary references to professors in college and graduate school.  I did spread my various loves to my friends (especially those with cars!) and in return picked up passions for anime and Asian food.  High school also provided me with nerd culture in abundance adding, for example, the entire Monty Python library to my repertoire.

As an upper-middle class citizen approaching middle-age, I haven’t found my elitist skills to be particularly useful.  They still provide me joy, but to be honest, they are not shared by many people.  I don’t have much outlet for them away from the city.  When I am in a city partaking, I’m surrounded by professionally coiffed white hair.  These elite class markers are markers of a previous generation.

Times change.  Social class markers vary.  The approaching-middle-age elite who we rub shoulders with today are also first generation wealthy and formerly from the midwest.  They are not from East coast old money.  And so, my esoteric knowledge that my mother worked so hard to provide me with, those classics I was forced to read to “be a more cultured person,” were not as useful as the love of math and ambition that she also fostered.  In fact, I’m a bit out of place with them– elitist in many eyes.

But fortunately, even when it is lonely, cultural knowledge still provides personal entertainment.  It still makes jokes more funny and deepens appreciation of even modern media (since people in the film industry who direct and design are remarkably cultured themselves).  So maybe that itself is enough in this ever-changing world.

Things that negatively affect my mood

Lack of sleep

Lack of a feeling of control/feeling overwhelmed/being told I have to do stuff or that I’m not doing enough stuff

Having future deadlines but not being able to work on them even though I planned to work on them because other people have dropped the ball and there’s nothing I can work on in the meantime while I wait because I already did it all or I would have to get into the mindset for a completely different project and I just don’t have that mental load and I know everybody is going to get back to me at the same time too close to multiple deadlines and I’m going to be stressed out.

Eating sugar or refined carbohydrates and sugar-crashing

Low blood sugar more generally

Mild tummy aches/headaches

impatient drivers behind me who want me to risk my life making a left turn across traffic

Sometimes hormonal imbalances

Whining (other people’s not my own, and literal whining)

Mansplaining

Did I mention people flaking out on me?

Grumpy nation, what harshes your buzz?

Why DH is awesome even when he screws up

Also my sister is occasionally brilliant.

So…

DH and I made a list of all the stuff we needed to do before we got home from Paradise.  He put the list on his phone.

Item 3 was to set up the utilities.

DH was all, I’ll take care of it.  After all, he took off vacation days from work and I was rushing about to finish things before leaving.

Taking care of the internet was a huge pain in the rear because the internet provider wouldn’t let us set up until our tenant had closed out, but the tenant couldn’t close out until the people who owned the home they just bought closed out and it was a huge mess.

I kept asking, is there anything I can do on the moving list?  What should I do on the moving list?  “I’ll take care of it,” DH would say.  Or I’d say, “Well, how about I change our address for providers” and then I’d go do that.

Since I knew he’d finally gotten the internet scheduled, and he didn’t ever mention that we still needed to change all the other utilities, I assumed that he’d taken care of those without hassle.  Because of course, electricity and water are more important than internet.  Also they’re easier to set up appointments for.  And our tenant had specifically mentioned that we were good to go with setting up our utilities.

We got home in the afternoon on a Friday.  I cranked the a/c to bring the temp down to the high 70s.  We went to Target to pick up necessities like toilet paper and cat litter.  Thankfully we didn’t go to the grocery store.  Because at 5pm all of a sudden the power went out.

Turns out DH had *meant* to set up the other utilities, but what with one thing and another had kept putting it off and then just forgot to do it.

Turns out that having the power off is not an emergency if it’s your own fault and the emergency power guy can’t do anything until billing processes your credit history and ok’s you.  Even if you had an account at the same place a year ago.  Even if you beg and plead.  Even if there’s a woman hysterically sobbing in the background.  Even if it’s 100+ degrees in the shade and WE COULD DIE.

Billing, of course, can’t process your credit until Tuesday.  TUESDAY.

DH’s first suggestion was to go to a hotel.  But we’d been in hotels for a WEEK and I wanted to be home and to unpack and to wait for the Pod and get stuff ready for the kids’ daycare/camp on and on and on.

His second suggestion was to stay at my sister’s in a city that’s an hour and a half away.  She texted me (via cell, since we didn’t have internet yet) right as he suggested that so I took it as a sign and gave her a call.  She obviously invited us to visit, but had a pretty packed weekend with her best friend leaving for an important job in a bigger more paradise-like city and a first date and a bunch of other stuff.  She jokingly suggested a generator.

How much do generators cost?   I asked.  $1K? she guessed.   I want that!  I said, wiping sweat from my brow.  Where do I get one?  Home Depot?

Turns out Home Depot RENTS generators and so ~$500 later we had a generator rental ($250 for a week), a window unit air conditioner (~200), and gasoline.  Only enough to power the guest bedroom (which is one of two rooms in the house that allow for a window unit).  But we didn’t have to reschedule our internet connection (which DID happen on Saturday, as promised).  The Home Depot lady was very nice.

Thankfully our water and natural gas both stayed on, so we’ve even been able to take hot showers.  Flashlight lit.

So what does this have to do with the title?

Well, DH screwed up.  He could have yelled at me (particularly after the, “I hate you so much right now” comment after he got off the phone with the electricity guy).  He could have gotten upset.  He could have given up and told me to figure out what to do.  He definitely felt bad about things– he always takes it really hard when he makes a mistake like this.   But instead he worked on things until he was able to find a solution.  (Something I gave him full credit for, but not until after the room temperature dropped to bearable.  I am NOT a good person when my basic needs aren’t being met.)  He went to Home Depot and figured out our options, he got gasoline to power the generator and filled it, he bought an air conditioner, he dug our extension cords out of the shed.  He even offered to spend his allowance and leftover birthday money on the fiasco, so the family budget isn’t out that $500.

Basically, he’s a hero.  A hero bringing cool breezes and internet.   I am so lucky.

Next time the to-do list is going to go on paper like we usually do these things and if I’m not in charge of the list, I’m asking more questions.

I really do have an addictive personality: 1 week of coffee = 3 days of pain

I’ve talked about my addictive personality before in terms of why I don’t play video games and how it’s difficult for me to get off fora (until I’m kicked off or quit cold turkey).

I almost never drink coffee.  Usually this is because when I get a migraine, coffee + aspirin + sleep is the only way to make it go away, so I want to keep my tolerance low.  But occasionally after a bad night I’ll partake in some decaf or when things are really bad, a full cup of regular.  I almost never do this more than 2 days in a row.  And never after 11am if I want to get any sleep at night.

Recently I had some bad deadline times.  So I drank coffee for a full 7 days, starting with a cup of decaf and ending with 2 cups of regular by the time the week was over.  I started craving it and could feel it making my life better.

Then I turned in the thing and crashed hard.  The next day I had a major headache and had a cup of decaf to try to wean down.  It helped a little but not enough.  When the weekend came, I stopped drinking coffee and ended up in bed with a pounding headache.  I kept wanting coffee so badly.  A little sip of DH’s salted caramel mocha made angels sing in my head, but wasn’t enough to truly make things right.

I still want coffee.

Most people can drink caffeine for 7 days straight (some of them decaf or only half a cup!) and then go cold-turkey with maybe only a little bit of tiredness as an effect.  I can’t.

Most people take longer to become truly addicted to something.  Apparently not me.

I had Valium once prior to a surgery.  If it were available OTC, I would eventually never leave my bed.  I still want Valium.

So, this is why I don’t do drugs.  Because it doesn’t take me long to crave them and to crash when I don’t get them.  And it’s scary not being in control of my body.  Also, I don’t like withdrawal symptoms.

Do you have problems with addiction?  Do you ever wean yourself off caffeine?  How does that go?

Paradise puts me in charity with the world

We’re both living in our own paradises this year.  #1 has to go back in not so long from now.  #2 has no end date in sight.

But we’ve both noted that paradise seems to make us happier and more mellow.

Part of that I am sure is the weather.   It’s hard to be sad when the sun is shining and your toes are neither too hot nor too cold.  And #2’s Bad Place really did seem to be trying to kill her.  Like literally, with allergies and pneumonia and stuff.

And the food is always good.  And the libraries are awesome so there’s always something to read.  And there are lots of cool people around to socialize with if we want to socialize.  And nobody is talking about how awesome Donald Trump is.  It’s really easy to think that all is right with the world.

It’s not that bad stuff doesn’t happen.  Papers and grants still get rejected.  But that somehow doesn’t seem like such a big deal.*

#1 wishes there were a job for her in paradise.  But it isn’t like I was unhappy where we normally live.  It’s just so much easier to be happy here.  It’s like that nothing really matters feeling you get with middle age coming even faster.  It’s easier to focus on the important stuff– comes automatically instead of with effort.  I think we would live longer if we lived out here.

Does where you live affect how you view the world?  Are you happier living in different places?

*Personal tragedies are still just as tragic as they were when we were living elsewhere.  But the stuff that can be not sweated, well, why sweat?

How to avoid pointless parenting anxiety

Here we’re talking about whatever the current guilt-inducing fads are.  I would give examples of what they currently are, but the truth is, I don’t know!  But like 5 years ago they were things like:  not bringing store-bought baked goods places, using the right kind of sunscreen, avoiding BPA, etc.  I think there were a lot more, but that’s what I remember.  (Disclaimer, we still use the old-fashioned neurotic fad approved sunblock, because DC2 is allergic to conventional kinds.)

There are many other paths, but here’s one.   Most of this stuff is really easy to avoid if you don’t live in NYC or the ritzy suburbs of Los Angeles (or similar enclaves).  But if you do live in those places, you can still do the following:

  1. Don’t read anything about parenting (mothering) on NYTimes ever
  2. Stay away from parenting (mommy) forums
  3. If you read parenting books pick them carefully (read: evidence based) and remember that one size doesn’t fit all
  4. Send your kids to a (high quality, obvs) daycare that caters to working parents.
  5. Avoid anxiety-inducing blogs
  6. Avoid anxiety-inducing playgroups

And there ya go.  No more worrying about pointless parenting stuff.

Do you get swept up into ridiculous parenting anxieties?  The kinds that come with, “worried about other people judging me” attached?  If so, where do they come from?  If not, how do you avoid them?

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