Friday, April 24, 2015

Books!

As usual, I'm having a hard time narrowing down what books to pitch at book club (we pick 4 months of books at a time, everyone brings suggestions).  Here is my list...are there any that you would DEFINITELY stay away from?  Anything amazing you have read that I should consider?  Any books that are not really book club type books but that I should read anyway in my "spare" time?

The ones I'm considering are:
- The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
- Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

No spoilers please!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pusher

My new Man BFF is shaping up to be a real pain in the ass.  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy his company, but he is a pusher.  Not of the drug variety like Ms. Norbury, but of the Be All That You Can Be variety (minus the army context). 



Friending a pusher has it's pros and cons.  On the pro side, I am inherently lazy, and could certainly use a push from time to time.  God knows Justin won't do it, since it would inevitably result in the death stare and possibly a fatal stabbing.  Plus I haven't had a friend get all up in my business like that in years, so it's kind of refreshing to have someone give enough of a shit to ask the hard questions.  The cons are stressing me out though.  I had been sitting there all content with my life, and now my pusher Man BFF has me really questioning things.  Ugh.

The first area that we delved into was my career path.  As a reminder, I do regulatory work for a utility company.  It's not glamorous work, but I'm good at it, and I get to do a lot of reading, writing, and powerpointing, which are all things I enjoy.  In the 8+ years I've been here, I've worked my way to the equivalent of a staff business analyst, which is as high as you can get without being a manager or consultant (and consulting jobs are few and far between).  Justin and I make enough that we are financially comfortable - we have a smallish but nice house, we can go on a cheap family vacation every year plus plenty of fun weekend trips, everyone has enough food and clothes and money for hobbies/activities, I'm saving for retirement and two college funds (maybe not as much as I need to for the latter, but I'm not worried about it yet). 

As of right now, the girls are 3 and 5.  To me, balance is everything.  I am a high performer, but I do not have infinite time or energy.  To be amazing at work, I have to give up some home stuff.  To be amazing at home, my work suffers.  In order to "have it all" (2 Tina Fey references in 1 post!) some shit has to slide.  Maybe my house is too cluttered, maybe I have to do my makeup at my desk, maybe my kids eat ramen on the living room floor instead of real dinner some nights, maybe I can't come in early and stay late and work after the kids go to bed to get everything done and perfect.  I just can't be awesome at everything all of the time.  Which is hard, because I like being 100% awesome. 

My talent profile currently says that while the kids are little, I'm not interested in management.  This BLOWS MAN BFF'S MIND.  He is one of those people who is constantly climbing the ladder, always trying to make more money, have more power, be more influential.  Not necessarily in a bad way, he also plans to change the world and feels like constantly improving his situation is how he can best make that happen.  I just don't have that same drive right now.   I love that for the most part, I can kick butt at work from 8-5 and spend the rest of my time with my family without having anything hanging over my head.  There are times when I genuinely can't imagine taking on one more thing in my life.  I know I am a far better parent when I am not stressed out - there is basically a directly proportional relationship between my workload getting too heavy and how often I snap at my kids. If my current situation feels more or less balanced, why fuck with it?

That being said, this is likely a temporary situation.  The girls won't be little forever, and I feel like it's basically inevitable that I will eventually go into management, whether I have a large desire to or not.  I have zillions of dollars of student loans, and I'd like to retire at a reasonable age.  It's the next logical step in the game of life. 

I have been spending a considerable amount time defending this particular life choice to Man BFF and reiterating that I AM HAPPY and THIS IS TEMPORARY.  But that didn't really stop my stomach from dropping when I got an email from my boss saying it's time to update my talent profile.  My gut reaction was that maybe it's time, since the girls are going to school next year.  Pushers are the worst, uggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh.  Can't I just keep things exactly how they are for a while longer?

The second area which Man BFF has opinions about is Justin's career.  This is a bit of a touchy subject, since it's not really about me.  Basically, hubs didn't go to college and is therefore limited in how far he can progress up his respective ladder.  I tried to get him to go to school back when we first started dating, but then he found his current job (which is a great place for people without degrees to work) and then we got married and pregnant (not in that order) and all that jazz.  I know this is probably weird since we are married and all, but basically I don't feel like it's my business what Justin does with his career, as long as he pays his half of the bills.  As I said, we are comfortable.  This BLOWS MAN BFF'S MIND.  He thinks I am "frustratingly accepting" of both Justin's and my own situations.  As far as I'm concerned, as long as Justin is happy, I'm happy.  If he decides that he wants to advance in his career and realizes that the best way to do that is by getting his degree, I will support him.  But I'm not going to be his own personal Pusher.  I didn't marry a pet project, I married a grown ass man who is capable of making his own decisions. 

The only aspect of this particular topic that gives me pause is that maybe I'm being a bad wife by not at least raising the question from time to time.  Maybe if it was more clear that J going to college is something I'd support would make it more of a viable option in his mind.  It also makes me think that perhaps I have been selfish.  As I said, there are times when I can't imagine taking on one more thing.  Justin going to school would certainly mean tradeoffs on the home front, which would further upset the life balance I so desperately seek.  I feel like I'm the 50's husband oppressing my spouse.  But then again, I think Justin would read this and laugh and remind me that he, too, is perfectly happy with our situation.

The last topic of discussion is the hardest.  Man BFF is always trying to get me to identify areas of my life that aren't making me happy (despite my repeated assertions that I AM HAPPY) and then make a plan to bridge the gap between the actual and desired scenarios.  At one point I made a comment about how I fail to see what I get out of moving up in my career, as I am not particularly motivated by money or power...I work at an electric company, I'm not going to change the world by moving up the chain.  This then led to a discussion about how I did originally want to have a job where I could help people, but certain life choices led me here instead.  

This is as close as I get to admitting that I do have some regrets.  As you may know, electric utility regulatory work was not my original career path - I was in medical school and dropped out.  My reasons for this were very complex, but I have 10 years of hindsight now so I think I can boil it down.  If I'm being 100% real and honest, I was not the most mature or driven 25 year old.  I had an opportunity that isn't offered to most people, and I blew it.  I could have been a doctor, and I truly believe I would have been a great one, but ultimately I didn't want it enough to put in the work to become one.  Quitting was taking the easy route.  I think that if 35 year old me was in the same situation, I would have made different choices, because ultimately I do regret selling out and working for the man instead of sticking with my principles and trying to help people.  At the time though, sitting in a library all day felt oppressive when I could instead be out living my life.  I hated studying because it was the first time in my life I ever had to do it.  And I thought that because I wasn't trying harder, it must not be what I really wanted.  

What has always saved me from having too many regrets was the fact that quitting freed me up to be a mom.  Not that I couldn't have been both a mom and a doctor, but I certainly would have been an older mom, and with a different guy, and therefore I'd have different kids.  And you know what?  My two specific kids are awesome.  I can't imagine having any other kids.  Having children is the most freeing thing in the world because it instantly justifies any questionable past decisions...any other road taken, and they disappear from the family photo, Marty McFly style.  

I also find some comfort in the fact that while a lot of my friends didn't go the parenting route and are contributing to society in a meaningful way, SOMEONE has to pass the good DNA on.  May as well be me.  I'm not a doctor, but at least I'm contributing to the gene pool in a positive manner.  And maybe (hopefully) the girls will go on to do great things. 

I keep getting really frustrated during these discussion because ultimately, I really do think that everything has worked out.  Maybe not for the best, because I have NO FREAKING CLUE what my life would be like if I made different choices.  But I don't see the point of playing the woulda, coulda, shoulda game when I obviously didn't and it all turned out okay.  But that doesn't stop me from having a tiny little voice that says "wait, AM I happy?" every time I assert that I am.  I think I keep coming back to yes, but the fact that I even question it a little kind of pisses me off.  I guess that's what it's all about though...I may not be pushed into a different life path, but it's good to be pushed out of my comfort zone from time to time.       

Friday, April 10, 2015

Adult Friendships, Ugh

So, I know "adult friendships are the worst" isn't the most unique topic of all time, but it's something that has been on my mind lately.

Lady BFFs

I am always so insanely jealous of the people who have had their PERSON since they met at the arts and crafts table in camp in third grade.  I don't have that person.  In fact, the summer after 3rd grade my best friend of three years ditched me for a new best friend (she was new and a twin and therefore infinitely fascinating), and I pretty much either didn't have a best friend or had a different one every school year after that.  At the end of eighth grade, there was no one I was particularly close to, so I was quite happy to move on to high school.  (I went to Catholic school, so I was with the same 45 people from 1st - 8th grade). 

If you had asked me at the time, I would have said that I didn't click with my grade school female peers because I was just different.  I was the smartest girl in my class, and I always had my nose in a book.  They were almost all cheerleaders, I was the only one who didn't make the team (and preferred soccer, anyway).  They liked rap, I wouldn't figure out that I was a 90's grunge girl at heart for another few years.  They had big hair and wore makeup, I couldn't be bothered.  Most of them were pretty and popular, I stopped caring about popularity around 5-6th grade. 

But if you ask me now, I was also a smartass with a bit of a mean streak.  I was always one of those people who would rather attack than be attacked, which I suppose protected me from being bullied for being the giant nerd that I was, but also made me kind of a bully myself.  There is one girl in particular who my 7th grade best friend and I made fun of constantly, and adult me is horrified when I look back on it.  HORRIFIED.  Ugh.  Kids are the worst. 

I was less of a bitchface in high school, and I'm still close with my core group of friends from back in the day.  It helps that even though a lot of my friends moved away, their families are still in Akron, so they visit whenever they are in town.  These ladies are awesome because even if we don't talk for 6 months, we can sit down to dinner and gab like no time has passed at all.  I wasn't able to keep this kind of relationship with my college or grad school best friends, mostly because we are all from different places and FB wasn't a thing yet when we were in school.  A few years later and I think we would have kept in better touch.  My friendship strategy in my 20's was basically to make a group of friends at whatever school/job I was in, go to a different school/job, get entirely new group of friends, never speak to the old ones again.  This is so weird to me now, but that's more or less how it went. 

So now, on to adult friendships.  Making friends when a) you work in a place whose core demographic is old white dudes b) you live in a town that everyone leaves (so so true, David Giffels), c) you are married and d) you have small children is SO FREAKING HARD.  I guess I have always had friends as an adult, and usually I'm closer to one of those friends than anyone else, but I haven't had a true "best friend" since high school.  I wish someone had told me to do a better job of hanging on to relationships back when I was in school...that female friendships are far superior than anything I had going with whatever dude I was dating at the time...that it really sucks when you have no sisters and no clear frontrunner for your maid of honor...that if your best friend is the person you married, you have no one to bitch to ABOUT the person you married, especially when marriage is hard and shit gets real...that powerful women make the greatest friends.  This is a lesson I plan on DRILLING into my kids - to hold on to their friendships, and to always be kind.  If you don't shine, I don't shine (seriously, listen to Call Your Girlfriend...shine theory needs to be part of the fifth grade you're about to bleed everywhere class curriculum). 

I was really bumming about the lack of a BFF when the girls were smaller and I felt chained to the house and super isolated, right around the time a friendship I previously treasured turned awkward, but in general things are looking up now that I can actually have some semblance of a social life.  I think the most important thing in making new adult lady friends is to say yes when someone invites you, don't be flaky / back out, to not be afraid to be the initiator, to keep lines of communication going (even it it's just a few emojis letting them know you are thinking of them), and to support them no matter what.  While I still haven't found the magical formula to find a ride or die lady BFF (yet), this strategy has resulted in me getting closer to my book club ladies and lovely coworker lunch buddies (I still don't know how to make friends I don't read or work with, haha).  Annnnd now this is a good segue into the next section...

Man BFFs

...I am also in the process of making a new man BFF (at least that is my plan, anyway).  Which, I am quickly learning, is also just as difficult to navigate as an adult as lady relationships.  Well, at least if you are married.  It's not like I have never had close friendships with a guy before, it's just that my last two serious guy friendships were formed when Justin and I had been dating for maybe a year and therefore he was very aware that if he got weird about it I'd walk out the door. 

Historically, I have had TONS of guy friends.  I think that since I have two brothers and a ball buster smartass personality, it has always been easy for me to be just one of the guys (but I was also enough of a flirt to make it clear that I was NOT just one of the guys).  I wasn't one of those "girls are awful, I refuse to befriend them" people, but guy friendships were definitely easier for me.  And more fun.  Hmm, maybe this is why I consistently fail at lady BFFs, maybe I am just better suited to have a man BFF instead?

Making a man friend now is kind of awkward.  First there is that "What is this guy's deal? Why does he want to hang out?  Is his marriage okay?  Is he the cheating type?" stuff that needs to be sorted out.  Then there is the explaining to the husband that you are now hanging out with some other guy, but not OVER explaining because apparently that means you're cheating and not just overly sensitive to the perceptions created by having a man friend.  Then there is worrying about what the heck HIS wife must be thinking, and trying to figure out how to convey that I'm not a man-stealer.  Maybe I am just overthinking things, I don't know.  Are you the same way when making friends with a member of the opposite sex, or is it just me?  Should I continue to proceed with caution, or just shut up and go with it?  I haven't clicked with someone like this in a long time, it's nice.    

Couple BFFs

As complicated as the man BFF situation can be, I am on the path to finding one of those before Justin and I achieve the holy grail marriage scenario...finding a couple BFF.  I am beginning to think it's simply not possible.  Maybe it's because he and I are two completely different people, maybe it's because SO FREAKING FEW of our friends even bother to get married, and even fewer have kids, maybe we smell funny.  I don't know, but it seems like every time we meet a new couple, one or both of us can't stand one or both of them. 

I will say, however, that we do have some prospects.  There is a couple who sometimes host game nights, and we both REALLY liked them the one time they were both present.  I (shockingly) get along with the guy half and Justin gets along with the girl half, but we both like both of them.  And there are other couples that go to their game nights that also seem like our kind of people.  But the main couple we are trying to befriend is about to have a baby, and we have to find childcare whenever we go there, so it's still a tentative situation.

Justin's best friend also has a lady friend that seems really lovely, and he now has custody of his last lady friend's kids, who are conveniently two girls that are our girls' ages.  So if he hangs onto that relationship that is a strong candidate. 

Basically, I just wish life was like a movie and we had a ton of couple friends with kids and we could all, I don't know, go camping together and drink around the fire while our kids entertain each other and get muddy and go swimming and climb trees and stuff.  But realistically I will settle for ONE other couple with kids (because our girls need kid BFFs too) and a handful of other adult friends who all like us and like each other.    

ANYWAY, that was a lot of words about BFFs, or the lack thereof.  Do you guys find adult friendships to be as challenging as I do?  Why is this so harrrrrrrrrrrrdddddd?

(PS, I'm trying to write more during my lunch hour, when I'm not wining and dining a potential new friend, haha.)