Thursday, January 4, 2018

Home for the Holidays

Going home for Christmas felt a bit like when I had winter break while I was still in school, only the commute back home was a tad longer.

I never want to travel in the holiday season again if I can help it. 

I flew home on December 22nd with a flight that landed around 10pm. This was probably one of the best parts of my entire holiday because I'd decided to surprise my brother Luke! I told him I was going to be flying home on the 24th into the 25th, that I would be there for Christmas morning but not beforehand, and he totally believed me. To make this happen I had to lie a lot, block him on Snapchat, and convince my entire family to keep it a secret.

It worked! 

He found out that I'd blocked him on Snapchat and texted me confused and kind of upset, he called my mom while I was in the car with her on the ride back from the airport, and he'd been texting me updates on the weather the entire time as I convinced him I was still in Oakland packing.

Unfortunately, the video I filmed is a bit dark, so you couldn't see his face when I arrived. But you could tell that he was happy. It was funny because he'd been using me as an excuse to not do things. 

"Jenn's not coming until Christmas so I don't have to clean my room until then."

"I don't think we should go to the Christmas Eve service - it wouldn't be the same without Jenn."

(He cleaned his room as I arrived and you bet your ass I made him come to the Christmas Eve service with me.)

Unfortunately, right before I left for Maryland, I developed a cold. Everyone in my office had come down with something and so had a few of my housemates, but I'd been spared until the last possible minute. Flying with a stuffy nose is awful, and then because I only had a few days to squeeze in everyone I wanted to see, I didn't even get a day of rest.

(It's January 4th and I'm still sick.)

So, I landed late on the 22nd. On the night of the 23rd I visited my long term friend Robyn and met her new cat Thomas Pierre (as well as his friend named Leo who I've been receiving Snapchats about for like, years, and never dreamed I would ever meet). We did typical things like drive to Burger King and watch lame Netflix movies (A Christmas Prince is amazing) and sit on our computers for hours without really talking. 

I stayed the night and on the afternoon of the 24th I got lunch (God bless Noodles & Company's Wisconsin mac and cheese) with my friend Nicki who I hadn't seen in a while. Afterwards I did some last minute Christmas shopping before driving home.

Christmas was Christmas, brilliant and lazy and full of love. I started at my dad's and then we drove to my mom's and I reiterate that the best part of Christmas is giving gifts. 

The 26th was my only real day off, but mostly I drove around with my mom listening to Hamilton (FOR THE NOTION OF A NATION WE NOW GET TO BUILD) and eating Chipotle. 

On the 27th I drove to Columbia to pick up Charlie so we could drive to Frederick. Staff reunion was from the 27th to the 28th and I got to see all of my favorite people. We stayed up until 4 am discussing Camp Politics and made numerous runs to Sheetz until we felt sick from all of the junk we'd been eating and we hiked to Shock Rock and it was great. I love camp. I will always love camp and the time I get to spend there. 

On the 28th I left my mountain home to pick up my wonderful best friend Casey, where we proceeded to reunite by getting sloshed from taking too many shots. We traded gifts and whined about the broken fire alarm that kept fucking beeping and we slept on an air mattress at my sister's apartment before saying goodbye. 

On the 29th after binge-watching most of Black Mirror I drove from Towson back to Frederick to visit more college friends this time (rather than visiting camp, which is also in Frederick). We went out in Downtown Frederick and... 

This is where I started being a bit of a downer.

Sorry everyone from home. I love you so so much, but holy shit was I tired. 

We went out to a bar which wasn't nearly as fun as our college hangout but getting to spend time with Sydney and Morgan and Melate is always good (missed you Ada!). It got to be around midnight and I just wasn't having it. I was so freaking tired. Who wants to go to a bar and rush to the bathroom so you can blow your nose? Ugh. Also, full disclosure, I was still kind of hungover from my night with Casey. I whined until everyone agreed to go home, and then we ordered/ate pizza while watching Parks and Rec, and honestly it was so much better than being in a loud bar where we couldn't even hear each other. 

I crashed on Morgan's couch and then, on the morning of the 30th after it had snowed(!!!), drove all the way back home so me and my dad could drive all the way to Pennsylvania for my family Christmas party. 

I was surprised at the amount of family members that are reading my blog. (Hi everyone!) People kept mentioning it which was pretty cool. It's also cool to know I can post about things here and then they'll know without me having to tell them. (It's a cop-out way to announce Being Bisexual but whatever, they ran with it. Also - special shout out to my Aunt Gail who was like, "We're setting you up with someone. It's a guy though. Is that okay?" The quiet validation is the best kind of validation.) (Also I messaged that guy on Facebook and he never responded, clearly true love isn't real.)

Anyway, I continued my habit of being Tired and Unengaged and found myself sitting upstairs a lot just soaking in the quiet. Again, still sick, still tired. It was so great to see all of my family and to answer the questions they had about my life but sleeping and laying around and being an introvert was winning over my desire to interact with ... anyone. 

We stayed the night and in the afternoon on the 31st me and my sister drove back to Maryland. (I got her to listen to Hamilton. The whole thing. She made me go to Burger King with her so we could finish listening to the last like, four songs. The whole thing!!! I win this round, losers.) 

From there I drove to Virginia, passing the Washington Monument on the way (she tells my stooorryy) where I was reunited with more camp people at Ginny's apartment for the celebration of the New Year.

Is it New Year? New Year's? New Years? All of them feel wrong. 

Either way, I absolutely love celebrating the New Year. It's my favorite holiday. You cover yourself in glitter and sparkles and get drunk with your friends and then there are fireworks. It's the best holiday in the world. How can people not like New Year's?

I also really love the New Year because, while some people think it's stupid to be like "New Year New Me!" there's something really comforting about being able to have that fresh start if you want it. I've dubbed 2018 the year of "live your truth" which mostly I've just been using as an excuse to buy a donut every morning on my walk to work, but whatever. 2018 is all about self growth and self love and learning to love ourselves. I'm embracing it. 

My other main goal for the year is to finish my book. It's been in the works for too long and I need to finish it! I can do it. Living my truth. Doing it. 

The New Year hilariously started a few times, seeing as our livestream didn't match up with the actual turning of the clock, so we celebrated more than once. After that we (and by we I mean me) put on various YouTube videos of paint mixing or tiny food or giant food or whatever it was to pass the time. I slept on the couch, snoring, as I was still sick, and woke up in the morning to say goodbye to all the camp humans who were there that had been leaving. Then I fell back asleep and woke up in the middle of Moana, which had apparently been on for some time. 

In the afternoon of the 1st I drove back home and slept for like, an hour in a house (my dad's) that didn't have any heat before my dad came home. We said goodbye, I drove to my mom's, and then I slept some more.

On the 2nd I woke up to say goodbye to my brother before climbing into my mom's car with her, heading off toward the airport that would bring me back home to Oakland. (My mom cried a lot. Love you mom!) Because it was the holiday season there were a million people and the luggage bag broke, which sent so many people into a crazy rage, which made no sense to me because it wasn't as though the airport employees weren't trying to fix it. I made sure to say a special thank you to the woman who eventually took my bag because rude people are the worst. From there I flew to New Mexico before a layover that would send me back to Oakland, and finally, finally, finally I was back in California. 

I returned home on the night of the 2nd (8:30 my time, 11:30 EST) to my roommates waiting with open arms for hugs and smiles that made the long day of travel worth it. Everyone was in rare form seeing as most of them had also been traveling (some already had been to work!) and we were sluggish and lazy and just happy to be back in our house. 

I made buttery pasta to sustain me after my long day of travel and sat on the couch with some of my roommates catching up before I stumbled into my room and fell asleep.

This is a pretty standard retelling of what happened. I'll never be able to squeeze in the joy of playing Star Fluxx on my stomach by the fire, or the shock on my family's face as I ate perogie casserole, or the way my eyes grew wet as my mom told me she was proud of me. I won't be able to accurately have you all understand how many times I was asked "so how's California?" only to answer with "well it's warmer than here." I can't express the sadness that grew at the sight of my dear old cat Tuesday, 16 years old now, frail and thin and bony but still nimble as ever. There were so many moments while being home that stay in my heart that will be special to me, but never special to you, dear reader.

Regardless. Those moments exist, and they're mine to keep.  

This is where I would make a comment on how nice it was to be back, blah blah, but then plot twist--this morning at 2:40 in the goddamn morning, a fucking earthquake hit.

A fucking earthquake!

Google tells me that it was a 4.4 but Twitter tells me it was a 4.7, all in Berkeley which is just a bop away from home, and shook our entire house awake. What a way to be welcomed back to California!

I sat up and literally said, "It's happening!" Because I thought it was the big one! If you didn't know, the Bay Area is WAY overdue for a pretty intense earthquake that's going to rock us. So I thought this was it! I yanked out my earplugs and sat up ready to face destruction head on and then--it was over.

Apparently the entire quake was only like, 10 seconds long. 

Other than being a little shaken up (ha ha ha puns) our house was unharmed. Everyone woke up to greet the rumble and then, after a quick Twitter check where I laughed at everyone in the Bay Area tweeting about how of course we were on Twitter to see if other people felt the earthquake, I went back to bed. 

One of my co-workers this morning said, "Oh, I thought that was a dream until I read about it on the news this morning." 

Amanda, who I ended up getting lunch with today had remarked, "It doesn't even feel like an earthquake hit last night."

Life just keeps moving forward, y'all. Whether you've been traveling for 13 hours or you have a cold or an earthquake wants you to start 2018 off with a heart attack, it keeps going.

I'm already back at work (I missed these people so much - it's been two days and I've already received two mugs) and I'm convinced that all the dust from all the paper is making me sneeze more. I keep sneezing. How is there still this much snot in my nose? But regardless, I'm happy to be back.

Unless some unexpected situation occurs, I don't think I'll be back home until July, so I'm really out here for now. Not that I wasn't really out here before, but after the Christmas hump it starts to feel a bit more real. I know that in the days to come I'll start to miss those people even more, because it's so easy to take advantage of the fact that someone is beside you before you're really gone from them, so the missing will be a bit intense. But for now, I'm back in the Bay ready to live my truth. 

Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year!

(live your truth!)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

California Christmas

Living in California has made me a bit of a wimp.

In the daytime, it’s around 60 degrees, and at night it drops to the 40s, and I am constantly cold. I come home from work and I turn the heat on in the house and I wrap myself in blankets as I settle on the couch and I whine about how cold it is. Danielle and I turn on the heater in our room every night and bundle up in pants and socks and continue to whine about the cold.

We’re both from the east coast. It’s snowing there. Snowing. And here were are, somewhere in the 50s, with the heater on.

If I’m cold now, I can’t even imagine how cold I’m going to be when I land at BWI. Someone should bring me a coat seeing as I don’t even need one of those here.

Still, I’m excited to go home. I darted home for a weekend in September (congrats to the Muhlbachs!) but that’s the extent of my travels since I arrived here in August. Honestly, I didn’t even think I’d be excited to go home, but I am. It feels a little bit like winter break at school again, where I take a week or so and just lay around the house with no responsibilities. It’ll be a little different, seeing as I’m not a student anymore and now I have the means to drive (I miss driving - what the heck?!) but it will still be good.

Busy, mostly, but good. I’ve had to start putting everything into my calendar so I don’t confuse all of the plans that I’ve made. My week or so home is very filled.

So, yeah, I’m excited that I can finally start singing I’ll Be Home For Christmas with it actually meaning something.

But also, Christmas in California is weird.

There’s no snow but there also isn’t any rain, and while it still gets dark early like the rest of the world the sunshine is different here. I miss the way the sky would change, indicating gloomy weather. I miss the wind burning off the tip of my nose. I miss the crunch of ice poorly cleaned off the sidewalks beneath my feet. You grow up one way, knowing how the seasons work, and moving somewhere else for a different kind of experience just leaves something feeling a little off balanced.

Regardless, we do what we can to make it feel like Christmas.

This year I did four gift exchanges. I really, really, really love Christmas. There’s something about giving gifts which makes me just feel really happy. I love watching people unwrap things, I love getting to know the person a little better to figure out what it is they’d like, I love gifts. It’s fun. I’m broke, but it’s fun.

The first was my department Secret Santa.

I wasn’t in the office when we drew names for Secret Santa. I think it was all the way back in October, honestly, and I had been on my retreat for LVC at the time, but everyone picked a name and they saved one for me. I found my name when I returned in a cup on my desk, wrapped up so tightly that it was hard to uncover, but the name written was clear.
My go-to for Secret Santa things is to always tell whoever asks me who I have, that I have them.


Maria: Who do you have for Secret Santa
Me: You
Maria: What

I didn’t have Maria though, I had Nick. I’m unsure if I’ve spoken about Nick at all really, but what an interesting fellow he is. He has a habit of calling me “kiddo” like I don’t have a degree and always invites everyone to the office to art shows and just kind of comes and goes as he pleases. At Happy Hour a few weeks ago I remember him sitting there arguing about the benefits of anarchy with his friend, and I literally had to excuse myself from the conversation.

I settled on getting him a book (which originally was going to be about communism or anarchy or something but ended up being about masculinity and men having feelings, because yes) and a candle for his altar and a mug personalized with something I thought he’d like.

The week before:

Me: who do you have for secret santa
Nick: I'm not telling you. who do you have?
Me: you
Nick: cool. really?
Me: yeah
Nick: no you don't

(I bought a mug for everyone in my department, each one different depending on who it was going to. Please do not ask me how much I spent. It was too much money. There was a sale, but whatever. It was too much. I just love mugs. And these people. I was weak, okay?!)

Our SS reveal was on Thursday at our weekly meeting, but Nick was leaving early for vacation or something (again comes and goes) so I gave him his present on Monday. As far as I can tell he liked it, but fast forward to Thursday, and hoo-buddy.

One of my favorite things about gift exchanges is trying to figure out who everyone has. I know that’s not the point, and blah blah blah I’m ruining the fun of it, but that’s part of the fun! It’s like a giant puzzle. It’s all about gathering clues and observing every day interactions and listening carefully to whatever it is that people are talking about. Slowly figuring out the circle (like figuring out who’s trying to kill you when you play Assassin) is the best.

Of course, I never figured out who had me.

That’s because no one had me.

When it came time for us to sit down at the table and everyone had their gifts, my whole department was struck with the realization that none of the gifts were for me.

Aha! you’re thinking. It must have been Nick! Seeing as he wasn’t there, of course it must be Nick who forgot to give me a gift!

Nope. I’d actually helped consult Nick on what to get for his person, and he’d arranged his present to be mailed to the office anyway.

Literally just no one had me.

There must’ve been some crossed wires somewhere, seeing as not everyone was in the office when we drew names, but my name had just never been given out. In fact, Nick’s name had been drawn twice. Now, again, I just really love Christmas, so the best part of our gift exchange was when I passed out the mugs I’d gotten for everyone and they all got to open them, but like, come on! Despite the disappointment that lingered, I was okay.

It happens, it wasn’t intentional, and I got the present that someone had brought in for Nick (seeing as he’d already received the one that I gave him). It was a pretty good present too! It was a beautiful aloe vera plant that is now sitting nice and pretty on my desk and a bottle of wine which I’ll be taking home for the holiday. So, it was okay. (There’s something about someone intentionally buying you a gift though, about the thoughtful process that goes behind selecting a present that makes the present more special, and I was missing it. It’s never really been about the present itself, but rather the fact that it was for me. And… this one wasn’t.)

Again! I’m okay with it. I’m saying I’m okay a lot but thankfully I like wine and I love plants so we’re doing pretty well. Besides, I was in three more gift exchanges so it was bound to be fine.

Side note: I’m feeling really greedy and weird talking about receiving presents, but whatever, this is my blog and sometimes feelings can’t be helped!

Now we’re onto gift exchange number two: the office wide Secret Snowflake. Not only did my department, my sweet lovely RADCo, have a gift exchange just for us, but I wanted to be in the office-wide one as well.

This was a little more fun because the point of it was to sneak the gifts onto the person’s desk without them noticing, and then at the end of the week we were all going to sit in a giant circle and guess. Hilariously, we used an online database (what’s up Elfster) to automatically assign people, so no one would go un-gotten! My name would be drawn, no matter what. But, because of this, I had drawn someone from RADCo again. Which was okay! I knew RADCo people pretty well and was going to get Virginia the best present ever.

(Maria had gotten me a small gift - a mug that says Coffee is Magic and a jewelry holder that says you inspire me trying to trick me that it was my SS, but she's too obvious and I figured it out right away. Maria's the best.)

This was also fun because people were on a hunt throughout the office trying to figure out who had who. It was joyful to watch Virginia guess person after person while knowing, the whole time, that it was me who had her. (She figured it out eventually, stupid handwriting, but I had her going for awhile!) I was doing great at connecting the circle as to who had who had who and had figured out much more of this one than I had of my own department exchange.

Again, still didn’t figure out who had me, but I wasn’t worried. I knew someone did.

But we needed to sneak our gifts by 4 o’clock on Friday to our person, and suddenly it was Friday at 3pm, and then 3:30, and then 3:45, and there was nothing. No hint of a clue, no message saying it would be late. Utter and complete radio silence.

People had been out of the office a lot during the week though because they were sick or family things had come up so I wasn’t going to hold life against anyone. It just… kind of sucked after I had received the runner-up gift of another person and everyone was running around so excited about what they’d gotten. It would’ve been alright if people weren’t asking me every ten minutes if I’d gotten anything yet, but they were and I was sad.

The Karmic Universe - 2
Jenn - 0

I still went to the gift reveal obviously because I wanted to tell Virginia that I had her, and I knew there were a few people who’d been out of the office that most likely had me. At the gathering it was revealed that my person had a Life Thing going on which prevented them from being in, but that my present was going to arrive at my house.

Knowing that something would be arriving was fun, but it still kind of disappointing I didn’t get something while everyone else was holding onto their presents.

Which brings me to gift exchange number 3: the internet friends.

Of course I signed up for one to do with my lovely internet friends. We used Elfster as well, and while my person knows that I had them (I put my name on the note when I sent it because I didn’t know it was supposed to be a secret until a big reveal day whoops) I won’t post here because all of those ladies are nosy and will try and piece together the circle. Still, I sent mine a while ago, and I have been led to believe that said human really enjoyed her present, so we’re all doing well.

Except, in the middle of all of this chaos of office presents, I received a pack of socks.

Let me just tell you right away, I love socks. They’re the best. I’m definitely one of those people who has grown up and is appreciative of the existence of socks and the fact that I can get them for gifts. You can never have too many! And these socks that I got in the mail, they’re super cute. They all have cats on the back that look like they’re peeking out over the heel.

But there wasn’t a name on it, so I assumed it was from my internet exchange, and I was… disappointed. There was a note that said something like “Merry Christmas Jenn! Miss and love you!” and I was like, internet human, of course, thank you. So I marked my gift as received and went on with my life. 

And listen, socks are a great present, and of course I’m grateful. But like I said earlier, there’s something about the intention behind a present and I was like, dang, okay.

But also, the socks are irrelevant to any gift exchange I’m part of.

I got a text from Steph that was something like this (not verbatim I’m too lazy to open my messages):

Steph: your secret santa wants to know what address to send your gift to
Me: what
Steph: well you’re going home for christmas right? so they want to make sure you get it
Me: didn’t they send me socks already?
Steph: ???? no
Steph: no socks
Me: then where did these socks come from?!
Steph: ??? idk santa???

This was followed up, the next day, by another conversation that was (again not verbatim) something like this:

Dani: hey so did you happen to get a pack of socks
Me: ??? yes?????
Dani: ok cool just wanted to make sure they weren’t stolen from your porch
Me: ????? you just sent me socks ????? for fun???
Dani: yeah! I got a lil something for everyone!!

SO long story short, Dani is the best, I’m ungrateful and lame, but socks are cool and I still have a mystery gift exchange human out there who probably feels the pressure now because I’m just being a brat about gifts in this post.

(dear secret santa, if you see this, please feel no pressure, as I already love you so much for simply existing and want to give you a nice smooch. I am a certified baby, and I know whatever it is that arrives on my doorstep in Maryland will be wonderful)

So now we are at our final gift exchange: the house swap.

A few weeks ago Carly decided it would be fun for our house to do a swap. We set a small budget, passed out names, and thought it would be nice for everyone to have something small to unwrap.

As if I don’t seen enough of Carly already (my commute queen, just in case I don’t say it enough I love you a lot) I also drew her name for our house swap. I immediately cut it up into little pieces using scissors so no one could read it.

Carly, watching as I cut up my name: you’re a sociopath
Me: now no one will know who I have


Carly: who do you have for secret santa
Me: you
Carly: shut up

But other than blatantly telling Carly I had her (which she didn’t know until the house had narrowed down) I kept her name a secret. I figured out who Carly had based on one lucky guess and Danielle told me who she had, but other than that I hadn’t really pieced the house circle together. I wasn’t too invested in that one though (no offense Ella Bakers!) because I knew we’d all get something small, and there was really really really no way for that one to go wrong.

Last night we all gathered around our hilariously small Christmas tree that we’d set out for our Holiday Party the night before (which, side note: we had a Holiday Party and while I love to party, I am not a hoster. It hit 5:00 and got dark outside and I was like I am Ready for these people to leave my house so I can go to bed right now. But that was fun! We worked together well as a house to make our space clean and all these people we know showed up and supported us and it was overall really lovely - another great addition to making CA feel Christmas-y). My gift for Carly, which I ordered on December 6th, had yet to arrive, so I wrapped up something small for her so she had something to open when it got to her. (I’d gotten her a mug that says Justice is a Woman with Lady Justice on it because Carly loves coffee and justice and I love her. It still hasn’t arrived, it’s in Kentucky??? But she’ll have it soon enough.)

We went around the circle, everyone gave out their gifts, and I got to see who my house secret santa was.
Honestly? I had no idea who my person was until earlier that evening I walked upstairs to Amanda’s room and she straight up panicked, throwing something behind her and shifting awkwardly in front of what I was assuming to be a present. So I figured out who I had at the very last minute, ruining the surprise two hours before our actual exchange. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew who.

I never would’ve been able to guess what it was.

Let me just remind you, dear readers, that Amanda is my introvert camp wife. We sing songs about Jesus and don’t judge each other when we order too many grilled cheeses for lunch and send each other vegetarian memes to pass the time. I love her a lot. She’s an incredibly supportive friend who honestly just radiates with love and never does anything half-assed.

Amanda had systematically been stalking my friends/family from home and having them write notes/affirmations to me. Amanda then printed them out and filled a book with them. On the pages that didn’t have these lovely affirmations, there were quotes to boost me up. Some of my favorite quotes, some quotes sent in by other friends, some chosen by her, all about being strong and wonderful and great.

At first I just thought it was a journal (as the cover is beautiful and I’ve been looking for a reason to start up again) but then she said, “This might take a bit of explaining.”

I opened it up, saw a familiar name, and closed it immediately. She told me she’d been reaching out to people I know to get these things and I was thrown. No offense, people I know in the world, but y’all aren’t slick. You just aren’t. I had a surprise birthday party thrown for me when I was 15 and someone texted me “SURPRISE!” an hour before I even got there. I literally had no freaking clue.

My siblings had written me notes. My grandparents. My camp friends. People from work. My friends from school.
“I had to go through your Facebook to find these people so I’m sure I missed some,” Amanda said.

Yeah, so, I waited until most of the room left so I could read it or else I was literally going to cry, and if I had started reading it right away I would’ve started to weep, but because I waited a bit I only teared up.

Exchange after exchange had me feeling weirdly uninvolved in my own life, like I’d been living in this body that was just a shell and not even really existing. And then this gift, where Amanda had taken all of these important people to me and had them write something kind? About how they love me? And how I’m a good person?
Dude, what the hell. I’m about to cry just writing about it.

A few people actually reached out to me after I posted about it online earlier and asked if they could write something too, so I don’t think Amanda will mind if I add some other notes I get into this book that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.

There are some gifts that there just aren’t words for, and I really don’t have any words for this one other than thank you.

My office Secret Snowflake finally came in the mail. The woman who had me, Luba from admin, drew me a Love Warrior to hang above my mirror. She also sent me a pair of earrings (I’m becoming an earring girl!) and a stone shaped like a rock along with a letter of affirmations as to how to start the day.

It starts with: Life is tough but there is a way to be free and love is the answer.

There are more things in the middle, but it ends with: Trust!

(It’ll all work out, Jenn. Have a little faith.)

In the end, it really isn’t about the gifts. It’s about the people in my life who make me feel loved whether or not there’s a physical present attached to it.

With my California Christmas nearly wrapped, my next stop is home to spend time with more of those very same people.

See you soon, Maryland. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, November 24, 2017

A California Thanksgiving

Tuesday night before most of our house was slated to leave for Thanksgiving, a circuit burst in our kitchen.
Tuesday night was full of many other things as well. Where many people, I assume, would’ve preferred packing and such, we gathered to celebrate a housemate’s birthday as well as for our monthly Spirituality night. Both of those things were great! I must stress again how lucky I am that my housemates are such good cooks, and listening to people share their stories is always something that makes me feel closer to them.
But yeah, the busted circuit.
The whole plan was that after our night of dinner and sharing, people would have time to pack. Most everyone was leaving in the morning, between the hours of 5 and 8, and due to the long day of work followed by the busy evening, that hadn’t really happened.
We loaded the dishwasher after our meal and realized it wasn’t turning on, but like, that was before spirituality night so we had to save that problem for later. Only, later, we realized that our garbage disposal was not working either, nor were some of the plugs by the sink, and so the conclusion was that a circuit has gone dark.
(Note me using various words to say that it was broken because I don’t know the actual circuit terminology. Off? Flipped? Blew? That one sounds right. It’s in my head somewhere but I’m too lazy to Google it.)
Exhausted both physically from our day and emotionally from the spirituality night, it was really not the best time for us to realize that not only was our garbage disposal not working, but our sink was clogged. Roughly six inches of standing water filled our sink, along with the dirty dishes that would not fit into the dishwasher, and oh my gosh did it smell bad.
As a house, we mobilized pretty quickly. We knew we couldn’t just let it sit all night. After gathering in the small hallway where we could all see one another, we came to the conclusion that we had to wash the dishes somehow. Three of us would go upstairs into the bathtub to wash some, and four  of us would stay downstairs to use the sink, while also figuring out how to clear the kitchen sink of it’s gunk.
I was part of the downstairs crew, doing most of the actual washing before handing the dishes off to be dried, before I swapped into the kitchen to see what was actually happening. Me and Danielle realized that the sink had been suctioned closed by the lid of a jar, and after moving the lid out of the way we assumed the water would go down. Which it did not.
At this point I was frustrated because I knew it was just a wonky circuit, so me and Christine went traversing down to the weird storage closet washing machine area of our land-ladies place, hoping to find a circuit in the dirt room that we could reset. Of course, we did not, and by the time we returned upstairs the sink was nearly empty. In our absence Danielle had been scooping the gross red/orange greasy water into bowls and dumping it elsewhere, hoping we could just get to the bottom of this.
“Do we have baking soda?” I asked, finally using the power of those Buzzfeed Life Hack videos that are always on my Facebook. “Because we could do a natural sink unclogging.”
Good news! We had baking soda!
I took the tongs that Danielle had been using (who was sick of all the gunk that was in our sink) and started digging down into the actual pipe, pulling out a variety of gross food chunks that on any other given day would have disgusted me quite a lot. The water was going down slowly but surely, and I just needed the actual pipe clear enough to pour down some boiling water from the kettle (which was the first step in the Natural Sink Unclogging we Googled later to make sure we were doing it right). All kinds of food remnants were coming up, but I was a woman on a mission, and promptly ignored the inner urge to dry heave.
Finally, clear enough, we poured down the boiling water, and then we dumped half a cup of baking soda into the drain before letting it sit. I washed my hands in a different sink while we waited because they were orange and covered in grease from the sink and I felt all kinds of disgusting after shoving a shot glass down between the flaps of the drain to try and get some extra water out. Then we mixed a concoction of vinegar and hot water before dumping that down the drain too.
Time for: Sink Vomit!
Danielle and I stood over the sink laughing hysterically as all the gunk that was way down in our drain popped back up. I used my trusted tongs to scoop the gunk out of the way (which included a full, bright green, peapod?) so we could wipe it out, but ohhhh my gosh it was gross.
“What now?” I asked as I pushed all the chunks to the side.
Danielle hurried to the computer to read the next step. “After dumping the vinegar down the drain, find a drain cover…” she trailed off.
“What?” I asked. She laughed. “What! Did we do something wrong?”
Turns out we were supposed to use a drain cover to keep the chemical reaction down in the sink, rather than capture all of the gunk.
So. Round two.
We repeated the process after finding a cup that was about the size of the drain that we could shove down in after pouring the vinegar down (which, now that I’m thinking about it, we should’ve just used the jar from earlier). Once we let the reaction settle for a bit, we poured some more boiling water down the drain, and, voila!
Our sink was finally clear and empty.
All of the dishes (except the ones we’d placed in the dishwasher) were clean and put away, and our sink no longer had standing water, and it was time for us to head to bed.
Time check: 12:30 am.
I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to leave for a flight at 5am, but I knew others had, so we altogether dismissed everyone and went on our way. Danielle and I stayed up for a bit pretending to pack (she was going home, I was/am staying at a co-worker’s house in the city watching her cat) before we finally went to sleep a little after 1am.
Wednesday was a very long day of work.
Thursday, I was convinced I wasn’t going to do anything for Thanksgiving. I’d been kind of bummed that I wasn’t going home/didn’t really have anything to do, but I’d accepted it. Thankfully a couple of weeks before the actual day, a co-worker said she’d heard I was going to be around for Thanksgiving and asked if I could cat-sit.
Perfect! Not only am I becoming known as the office cat-sitter, which is like my entire dream, I would get to spend Thanksgiving with a small furry creature that would let me pet her. I miss animals so much. I happily agreed, and slowly started to form my plan of Thanksgiving around the idea that I would be in the city with a cat.
Honestly, not a bad way to spend the holiday.
I was invited to many things. Carly, whose family was coming to SF instead of her flying home for the holiday, told me I could eat with them. Our spirituality mentor was having a friendsgiving of sorts where people like me, who didn’t have the means to travel home, were gathering to just be around one another. Nico, the JV who’s my counterpart at work, even offered for me to eat with his housemates.
They were all great offers, really, but I ended up doing none of them.
I did, however, go with Nico to a thanks-taking in the city for a few hours. Another co-worker of ours named Nick invited us to his organization’s get together, which was more of the same--people who didn’t really have a place to go but wanted to celebrate. The only reason I was swayed was because Nico didn’t want to go alone, so on Thursday morning I woke up, got dressed, and hopped on BART so we could meet up and head over.
All in all, I was only there for a couple of hours. I upheld my Vegetarian Contact that me and Amanda mentally signed (where we said only for Thanksgiving and Christmas would we cave!) and had a few pieces of turkey, but everything else was all vegetarian. Nick, also a vegetarian, had been tasked to carve the turkey, which was weird. There was a man there who kept trying to get us to sing songs for at least 30 seconds. The walls were decorated with cool art. A small dog refused to interact with anyone but kept winding it’s way around the table.
Nico and I ate, had a couple of beers, thanked Nick for inviting us and getting me out of the house, and then I went home.
We didn’t go around the table and share what we were thankful for, but we didn’t have to. The whole point of Thanksgiving and holidays like it are to be with other people.
Even Carly had texted me: “I also know you like your alone but didn’t want you to be alone today” “Even tho it’s a stupid holiday”
(It is a stupid holiday. The stupidest. But she was right.)
I bought a box of oatmeal cream pies at the Walgreens and then made my way back to the cat, where I binge-watched Netflix and played Animal Crossing on my phone well into the night. Not once did I vocally say, or even write out, what I was thankful for. But..
I’m thankful for the ability do to a year of service. Not everyone has the opportunity. I have learned so much about myself and the work that I want to do once this year is over in just a few months.
I’m thankful for my family, for my brother who FaceTimed me and walked me around to see all of my grandparents and the cats that were there.
I’m thankful for friends who push you to leave the house even though you’ve really resigned yourself to staying in and celebrating that introvert lifestyle.
I’m thankful for Kraft mac and cheese and small cats who curl up on your lap after long days.
I’m thankful for the internet (Net Neutrality forever!) and for all the friendships that I have build over it, the people who have encouraged me and helped me grow into the young adult I am today.
I’m thankful that I will have the chance to go home for Christmas.
But really, I’m especially thankful for a house full of people who will blast Hamilton well into the night, frustrated but still smiling, while we do science experiments on our sink the night before everyone goes their separate ways for the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Introvert Saturday

My house is pretty evenly divided in terms of introverts/extroverts.
I claim to be an ambivert most of the time (we exist!!! Stop the binary!!!) but if you look into the main difference between introverts and extroverts - it’s where they draw their energy. So, for the sake of this post, I’m embracing the full introvert title.
Quick recap of introverts/extroverts: introverts draw their energy from spending time alone, while extroverts draw their energy from spending time with other people. Forget everything about shyness or exhaustion or Type A vs Type B people, and just focus on that. The -troverts is all about where you’re getting the energy that can push you through the rest of your day.
For this, I am definitely an introvert. I like being around people, I really do, and I can be loud and excited and involved in crowds, but when it comes down to it I need time alone. I need to grab my laptop or a good book and just be by myself.
It’s vital to my existence. Having that space for me to be myself is vital to my existence. I feel strongly that introverts are wrongly represented in the world. They’re often seen as lazy and quiet and maybe a bit selfish because of their lack of desire to like, do things, but it’s not true. I love to do things. I just have to be at like, an 80% charge if it’s in a big crowd or super active. If I don’t have that time to sort out my thoughts and just decompress, I can get super anxious or super stressed. Sometimes our house dinners get so long that I feel the need to stand abruptly because I can’t do it anymore. It feels like sensory overload even though nothing’s really happening, but many people are talking. That’s just how I function.
It’s important for me to write all of this out because I know, for some people who don’t function this way, it can be super difficult to understand. It’s just not how they maneuver the world. Many extroverts can’t even fathom the idea of spending time by themselves, let alone enjoying not interacting with other people. I don’t know how many times I’ve explained this part of myself to people to hear, in response, “I just had no idea.”
Which is fine! Communication, explaining feelings, these all lead to good and functional societies that we live in. The more we educate about what introverts needs and how they feel and how they exist in the world, breaking down the stigma of being an introvert, the better. Hence my rambling.
Anyway, today was my second Introvert Saturday that I spent with my housemate Amanda, who is also an introvert.
A little background on Amanda: she also worked as a summer camp counselor. We know many of the same songs, but we know different tunes. We once sat on the couch for like an hour giving each other camp riddles to figure out. We both love Target more than we should admit.
A few weeks ago we had our first Introvert Saturday, which came after a rough couple of days. We boarded the train around 1 and spent most of the day in San Francisco. I hadn’t been to Fisherman’s Wharf so we walked around to see the seals, enjoying the nice weather. Our goal of going into the city was go to Patagonia and to buy some tea. We did a little more than that.
On our way to Patagonia, Applebee’s $1 margaritas distracted us, so we ended up sitting in the bar in Applebees for longer than intended. We only had one marg, but yes, they were only one dollar, and yes, they were very good. The two of us spent a very long time trying to get the Applebee’s workers to explain to us the catch, but there wasn’t one! Just, $1 margaritas! It was amazing.
From there we hiked over to Patagonia where we spent an absurdly long time deciding what to buy. Ginny had sent me a handy Friends and Family Discount so we weren’t paying full price for their cool gear, but we tried on a million different sweaters/jackets until deciding what we wanted to buy. We even befriended one of the workers.
It was his first day, and we asked him two questions. The first was - where are the rain jackets? He redirected us to them and told us all of the great features, mostly that they were waterproof, and then he left us alone. Then we found some cool sweaters and we found him again asking - does this shrink in the wash? To which he responded, no of course not.
“This is actually my first day and that’s, like, the only two things I know about Patagonia so far so I’m glad I could be of assistance.”
“Oh, we know,” Amanda said. “Your parents actually paid us to come here and make you feel good about getting a job.”
We modeled for the mirrors and joked about modeling for Patagonia to which our new friend told us they actually had open positions for Patagonia models, so keep an eye out for the latest Patagonia ads and you might see some familiar face!
Just kidding. Maybe. We won’t let the joke die, so who knows.
From Patagonia we took the bus all the way to the mall where we bought some tea and some pretzels, and then from there we went to Target where we both probably spent WAY too much money but like, Target is a place of dreams so who cares. (I care, oh my God it was too much money, I hadn’t been to Target in MONTHS and had so many things I needed.)
After that we came home and Amanda dyed my hair (if you noticed it’s been reddish in some photos lately, that’d be why!) while Carly sat by, joining us for the tail end of our evening, and we drank wine and we put on face masks, the perfect end to an Introvert Saturday.
Today was more of the same. We’re bad influences on each other. Money is rare in an LVC year and yet, we find ways to spend it. Today we ate at The Melt, which is just like, a grilled cheese place and was so freaking delicious, and then from there we went so I could buy a new pair of boots, and then after that we went bra shopping for way too long before ending the evening with Starbucks.
These are fairly detailed accounts of what we did on our Introvert Saturdays, but that’s not what makes them important. What makes them important is that, as we meandered through the city of San Francisco, is there was no rush or urgency. To be honest, there wasn’t even much of a plan. We could go this way if we wanted or that way, we could stop and listen to the man outside of the mall as he sung while his friend played the drums, we could do things without having any real expectations that the day would end up a certain way or not.
It feels like so much pressure these days is put on Getting Things Done, and Introvert Saturday is not that. There’s a vague notion of what we want to happen, but that isn’t the point. The point is to catch up on the week, to feel like a functioning member of society, and to mosey around without those feelings of needing to go-go-go! Introvert Saturday is about being yourself, an introvert, with another introvert who knows how you feel when there are too many people in line at the Starbucks.
I’m lucky to have a human who understands the needs of being an introvert and is willing to make a full day out of it, embracing the title rather than pretending we’re something that we’re not.

So, take care of your local introvert! The one-on-one bonding of a filled but relaxing day is the best way to have the best of both worlds. Make your walks through the city, spend too much money, and then don’t get too upset when your introvert disappears to their room immediately after. It’s not because their day with you was rough, it’s because their day with you was great and now they need to recharge for tomorrow.

Home for the Holidays

Going home for Christmas felt a bit like when I had winter break while I was still in school, only the commute back home was a tad longer. ...