05 January, 2018

Someone Else's Life

I don't have kids.
Never wanted kids.

I do have two step-kids, sort of. 
"Sort of," because I married their dad when they were already out of the house.

I had absolutely nothing to do with their upbringing. There is nothing for me to "be proud of" when they do well.

But right now, I am very proud of my step-daughter. Like many kids after reaching their majority, she floundered a bit, trying to figure out what to do with her life. 

She tried college, but never having loved school before, and not having a job in mind, college wasn't a good choice. 

She worked fast food, but unless you are driven for management, fast food is not a long-term choice for most people.

She worked a couple retail jobs - sometimes seasonal - and there just weren't enough hours.

Finally, she moved out of her mom's house and to a different town. This was a good move for her.
She found a job - part-time retail. 
She had a roommate, then moved out. Couch-surfed for a while until an affordable room came available.

During all of this, knowing that now rent and food were dependent on her own paycheck, she picked up all the extra shifts of her co-workers, stayed late, did whatever she could at work, and got noticed.

Last week she was promoted to Assistant Manager, and I'M SO PROUD!
I have no right to be proud, but I've worked in retail, and retail management, and I know it is easy for kids to slack off in that environment.
I also know that a lot of companies don't promote much from within. (I don't know her company, though.)

She has shown drive. She has apparently found something she is good at - this retail job includes commissions, which frankly, I was never brave enough to try. And she is on her way to being a successful adult.
If she likes this company, and is coach-able, she could really go places.

It's a crazy pride for someone I have no direct impact on. 
What about you? Ever take pride in someone else's accomplishment, just because it seemed so long coming?

17 December, 2017

Spread Wars II: This Time It's Personal

Five-odd years ago, a couple of Aussie bloggers I followed at the time started an online debate about which spread was better: peanut butter or Nutella. I joined in the fray (and links to both of the original blogs are in that post, although both are inactive now).

You do not need to read that post to understand this post.

We now live in China, and when we first found peanut butter, I noticed they only offer small jars. Small, and tiny. I have since found creamy in larger jars, but I now realize that the big jars of chunky that I used to purchase in the States are simply an element of The American Dream.

Peanut butter is not cheap here. When we first moved here, we had nothing, so we certainly didn't spend on peanut butter. When we decided to splurge - mostly because of my peanut-buttered apple addiction, I spread the peanut butter very thinly. I was the primary user of the peanut butter, and I was frugal with my expensive decadence. 

Now that we are more settled and have reliable income, there is always peanut butter in the house. (It's not cheap, but it's not *that* expensive.) 

However, we are at an impasse. Brett has this habit of dipping a licked utensil into the jar of peanut butter. And he ALWAYS wipes down the insides of the jar with his finger. His logic, "You let me put my tongue in your mouth..." like that makes any kind of sense. So when we had a backup jar - because we must never run completely out - I claimed it as mine, hid it, and told him the current jar was his to ruin.

Now, I considered hiding the peanut butter in my underwear drawer, or among feminine products, or other places he NEVER would consider. I am good at hiding! But Brett is a typical man: unobservant. He is always asking where something is which I quickly find by moving one thing. So I didn't put a lot of effort into hiding it: 
He never opens the cabinet under the cook-top.
I didn't dream he'd actually move the saucepans like this!

Brett: Well, I'll buy more peanut butter today. You can get yours out from under the stove.
Me: What? You found it?
Brett: I've been without peanut butter for two days!
Me: I thought I was safe, because you never open that cabinet.
Brett: I didn't find it by accident. I knew you hid it somewhere. I was making a big show of bringing in my chocolate bars smeared with peanut butter - I thought surely you'd ask!
Me: I saw your almost empty jar on the counter, and almost threw it out, but there was enough for at least one more of your chocolate bars, so I decided to leave it there so you wouldn't search for mine.
Brett: I kept waiting for you to notice yours was going down.
Me: I wasn't using it, because I didn't want you to see me eating peanut butter and remember we had another jar in the apartment!

Today he is buying his own peanut butter. He'd been digging into mine secretly - allegedly not using his fingers - for the last 2 days. He kept expecting me to notice, but I didn't because I was intentionally avoiding using peanut butter, thinking he forgot we had another jar, and would try to take it from me!

So we were both deceiving each other over the same thing. Except apparently he was trying to get caught, while I just assumed his small jar was lasting and lasting, like a Hannukah miracle.

This is the real Spread Wars, people: keeping your spouse out of your spread!

UPDATE: He still hasn't bought more peanut butter, 2 days later.

14 December, 2017

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Facebook keeps reminding of what I was doing this time in past years - prepping and baking fruitcakes, shoveling out my car, gift-wrapping, setting up nativities, writing letters - these are my ghosts of Christmas Past, but also, of Christmas Future.

We haven't had an oven since moving here, which means no baking for last Christmas or this Christmas, but if we're still here next year, we will be in a better apartment, and I *will* have an oven! And maybe some surface space that isn't in active use, where I can place my one nativity that I brought back from storage in August. And maybe I'll find actual Christmas cards, now that we've figured out the postal system. Here's to Christmas Future!

Last year I saw Christmas decorations for sale in a couple places, so I thought I'd put a string of lights in our enclosed balcony, but when I shopped for them, they weren't around yet, and I haven't been back, so it's a no go. Just as well, because we have a lead on a good apartment that we might be moving into early in the new year - who wants to take down decorations in addition to a move?! But next year I'll do some lights.

Today I am home with a fever. I don't know why. I got excessively cold two days ago, and my body hasn't figured out how to regulate my temperature since then. Whatever. It'll sort itself out.

Before I opened my computer to start work this morning, I reached out to my sister with a message, and to my best friend back home, just saying hi and wishing well. I guess it's a kind of Christmas spirit homesickness. I'm not sad, but just needed the contact. Weird, huh.

My ghosts are messing with me. 

{I wanted to drop some pictures in here, but trying to find the right past Christmas pics is tiring. I need a rest!}

18 November, 2017

Time Travel is Real

For years, I've crossed distances to "do coffee" or "do lunch" or "take a walk with" friends by phone. It's a habit that I figured could help me cross time as well as distance.

Friend: Hey! I want to hear more about that thing you posted. How about we "do coffee", 9am my time tomorrow morning? I'll have coffee, you can have wine!
Me: That's perfect! Since your time changed, I think I'm 13 hours ahead, so that's... 8pm for me. Easy enough. See you then!

The next morning, on waking up:

10pm previous night...
*missed call"

Friend: Okay, I've tried calling, so I'm going sit by my computer and work on some stuff, and you just call me when you're ready.

Me: OH CRAP! When you said "tomorrow" I didn't think of the fact that your "tomorrow" is my "today"! I realized after we set the time, that it would be 10pm my time, not 8pm, and I was so happy that I realized it, that I forgot to think about the date! When can we reschedule coffee?

Friend: LOL. I get it. How about MY Friday morning. I'll be driving, so I can focus on our conversation.

*I check my planner* 

Me: Oh good grief. Friday is the day I had marked for our call, even though I was planning for Thursday and it should have been Wednesday! Apparently I can't figure out time. Talk to you Friday morning, your time! Friday NIGHT, my time, LOL.
Friend: Perfect.

*After putting it in my phone calendar*

Me: I'm such a mess! I had the first time in my phone set for the correct night, but 8pm, which was my first - WRONG - guess about the time! I think I'm finally set for YOUR Friday morning. I really can't wait to give you all the details.

*Friday morning*

Me: It's my Friday morning, which means your Thursday night, right? So we'll talk when you wake up! I'm on it!
Friend: Bad news. Crisis at work, so I won't be free to call, and actually have a meeting at 7am tomorrow morning. Sorry!
Me: I'm SO SAD that I messed up our first scheduled time! Please let me know as soon as you have an idea when you can talk. 

Conclusion: I suck at time travel.

29 October, 2017

How I Lost my Resting Bi*** Face

For the sake of not wearing out my asterisk key, I will refer to  "Resting Bi*** Face"  as "RBF". We all on the same page? Good.

Like many others, I seem to have a natural RBF. No one has ever called me out on it, and it wasn't an issue I really noticed when we lived in the States. ...Well, there was that one time, when I was getting a new drivers license, and thought I would thwart the DMV's "No smile" rule by just lifting the corners of my mouth a little. I could feel the slight smile on my face. When I got the license? No smile. At all. It felt like I was gently smiling, but the smile didn't show.

I have an RBF.

When we moved to Beijing, I started using public transportation with tens of thousands of others each day. (I would estimate that I see at least 50,000 individuals daily, simply through taking the subway.) I was struck by how downtrodden everyone looked! No smiles, unless two people were actively engaged in an amusing conversation. everyone looked sad, mad, or just beaten down by life! 
This is MY personal photo - not stock photo from online!

Perhaps they are just reserved. I have noticed that my Chinese friends are less emotional. Less "demonstrably" emotional, at least. But it's daunting, and can get into your head to be surrounded by a perceived negativity.

At any rate, I made a decision to smile when I am out in public. Just to look friendly - especially since I am already head and shoulders taller than most, and an RBF could make me even more intimidating. I want people to feel okay to answer if I ask a question, or to just smile back! 

I try to make sure the smile gets into my eyes, if I make eye contact. Might as well be friendly!

Occasionally it works and I get a smile in return. Most often from kids - they are a great ice-breaker, aren't they? But at the very least, ensuring that I have a smile on my face helps me to observe the world through a more positive lens. 

18 October, 2017

Life Can be Confusing. So Can Death.

So apparently my dad is of the impression that he was told by his urologist to "get his affairs in order" by November. 

I heard that from my sister, who quickly followed it with, "but then Mom said, 'no - he said we need to do any traveling before November'." When Dad was hospitalized for a prostate issue a year or so ago, they found out that his kidneys were a bigger problem.

My dad is of the mind that medication and extreme treatment are not the way he wants to live his life. After having a stroke in 2012 - which led to my move back to the Midwest to be nearby - the only medication he condescended to accept was a daily aspirin regimen. He has already stated that he doesn't want dialysis. No wait, according to Mom, he said he "won't do" dialysis. 

I'm guessing that the "travel before November" guideline was the doctor's way of telling my parents that Dad should expect to require dialysis at that point. Which means Mom has that long to try to convince him that it isn't "a waste of time".

My sister believes he should start dialysis, because it affects more people than just him. True. Dad's life and death does affect more people than just his-own-self. But if that's not the kind of life he wants, shouldn't we honor that? To take a half a day, 3 times a week (or so) to go sit in some medical facility hooked up to a machine is a "waste of time" for him.

My first thought is that, typically he spends at least half his day sitting/sleeping in his recliner, or writing and playing on his computer, so what's the difference? I bet he could  take his computer with him. But then, it won't be as comfy as doing those things at home. So...

I bet he is - secretly or with Mom's knowledge - getting his affairs in order. Which means I am doing some mental preparations. He will be 78 in December. If you need dialysis and don't get it, how long does it take until your kidneys kill you? We just spent a pile on a trip to the US. I don't know how soon I can afford to go back.

17 October, 2017

Not to Be a Diva, But...

Remember when I said I have a pretty sweet gig doing English kids' videos?
I saw part of the first video, and let's just say I'm glad it's a world away from everyone who knows me!

I don't want to say too much, but frankly, it's kind of amateur hour. 

Things I like:
  • It's cool that we recorded against a blank background, and there are magically cartoon-y flowers and images around me.
  • The graphics that pop up are nice. Like showing the folds in the origami bit, or the key words floating onto the screen.

What kind of bugs me:
  • They chose pink for the background, and in the full shots I practically blend into it. Seriously, I'm that fair. 
  • Because it was action-based, and I hadn't done the crafts before (my assistant did), my banter is a bit stilted. (Not to mention, we did 24 videos in 8 hours, so I wouldn't have remembered every bit line even if I had them written out.)

What truly, deeply, bothers me:
The sound is all echo-y. You can tell we are in a big, blank room. The cameraman / producer actually rented a professional studio, but - maybe because he's a cameraman in his day job, and not a sound tech - didn't connect the mic in such a way to reduce the echo. 

I worked at my college TV studio, so I know a little bit about this stuff, although of course it's all different since those days.

I had to say everything so very slowly, that I was boring myself just watching it. BUT... I can't speak faster, since this is going out to little kids who are just learning English. So slow is necessary. I am pleased that I used my "speaking to kids" voice, and it's warm and inviting and not so deep and bossy as I feel I usually sound. 

I'm only saying this here, because as I said, it's a pretty sweet gig, and I'm not going to blow it. In another year or so, I'll look too old to relate to kids, so they'll be looking for someone else. I'll take advantage while I can!