Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.
I’m sorry I couldn’t afford a gift for you this holiday.
There is kale in my fridge, though, and I will cook it and eat it in your honor.
I’ll call you later.
I am at Starbucks.
My boyfriend made me go, because he knew if I didn’t go I wouldn’t work on my paper and then I would be grumpy.
I am working on my paper.
It’s about one of my favorite books:
All I can hope is that I will be able to read it again without any negative, academia-related memories, someday.
I think I’ve read it five or six times now.
But it never made me cry, until this last time. While riding the red line, natch.
Did you know that this is my last week of class?
Did you know that on Friday, I am leaving town?
After a successful 2009 trip, I am returning to the District.
And then, on Monday, we head even further south for a little time in Myrtle Beach?
I cannot wait for this leg of the journey. Beach + Shopping + Family + iLovemyGranparents
And then. We’re driving back to DC and picking up a few passengers for our journey back to Boston, including my Favorite Friend Frank?
Oh my gosh.
Can you really blame me for not wanting to write this motherwa2i3jr[oaifir429048ing paper?
I love you Alaska,
but I’ve got summer on my mind…
Q: Hey, Jessica. How’s it going today?
A: Oh, not too bad I guess. A little bummed that the weekend is over. I am officially that person who wishes for the next weekend on Sunday night. That really, exceedingly old person.
Q: But it’s only 9:15… isn’t the evening still a bit young? Shouldn’t you at least wait for one weekend to end before pining for the next?
A: Well, you see, I go to bed at 10:00 p.m.
Q: Are you shitting me?
A: Um. No. I started going to bed at 10 last November so I could get up early and work on writing. I stopped getting up so early at some point, but I still go to bed at 10.
Q: Okay. So how was your weekend, you old crone?
A: It was good! Picked up my first CSA farmshare of the season. Cleaned the apartment. Read a book. Cooked up a frickin’ storm. Worked on a little homework. Oh, and I dyed my hair all by myself! And then Softscrubbed the bathroom sink, all by myself.
Q: Well aren’t you a busy little beaver. Do you feel a little less senile now that your gray roots are gone?
A: Hey now. Why are you always so dang judgmental, interior interviewer?
Q: Why do you think I’m so dang judgmental?
A: I don’t want to get all metaphysical right now. But you should try to be a little bit less of a jerkface if you’re going to take the time to interview me.
Q: Point taken. Okay, so how can you keep such a busy life organized? It must be very challenging.
A: Well, on Friday I spent about an hour making a couple of really cool spreadsheets. Do you want to see them?
Q: Oh, certainly.
See, there’s room for scheduling and short term goals long term goals and day to day stuff and meal plans and spending. It’s pretty much the ultimate brain organizing tool.
Q: So, you have one of these for every day of your life?
A: Yes, essentially.
Q: Two full-pages of organizing required for each of your 24 hours of life?
Q: Well, aren’t you industrious and organized and super-smart?
A: Why, thank you.
I’m rewatching Mad Men, just cuz, and lucky for me, January Jones decides to crash her car in a parking lot and her face is all over the online gossip rags. The ones I’m far too busy to read, of course.
But would you look at this lady?
I’m not usually one to prefer blondes… but yowza!
Even without the Betty Draper get-up, she’s gorrrrgeous.
In May, I had a lovely little thing called FINALS WEEK, where I had papers and projects and presentations due in every class. I retreated into FINALS WEEK SURVIVAL MODE, characterized by a significant shift in priorities.
1. Some things that are usually considered Required Activities become Earned Privileges, to be done only if you have completed whatever schoolwork is due the next day.
See: exercise. walking to work. eight hours of sleep. doing the dishes. reading for fun. reading for class. wearing clean clothes. showers. keeping the bathroom from growing mold.
2. The purse-strings loosen to accommodate a shifted schedule
See: take-out food when there’s no time to cook, food-on-the-go when there’s no time to pack lunch, coffee when there’s no time to wake up properly
3. Liberal application of pharmaceuticals and stimulants
See: Excedrin and caffeine
4. Foul mood
See: All of the above
So that was last semester. I survived, had a week off, and then, shockingly, found that Summer Semester is really like a long series of Finals Weeks! So I have reading. And papers. And presentations. And 6 hours of class a week. (and a job… and an internship… and a stress problem). Still popping Excedrins daily, having Lance drop me off at Starbucks when he leaves for work at 6:15 every other week or so, and feeling like crap.
That’s all backdrop though, for the torture that is my class.
I walked into my first day of class without a syllabus and without knowing what class I’d signed up for. I knew who my professors would be. I knew it was a joint Library Science and Children’s Lit class. I knew it would probably kick my ass a little. I knew it was called “Special Topics.”
I quickly found out that my class is really designed to make me and my classmates interrogate every assumption we’ve ever made, consciously or unconsciously, about books, publishing, authors, book awards, journals, adults, children, and basically everything about our careers we thought would be kind of exciting and important.
Adults who read childrens’ books are pedophiles. Publishers are money-grubbing exploiters. Parents are ruthless dictators of their children. Authors are arrogant, self-aggrandizing liars.
It’s all true, though, from an academic, highly critical standpoint. All of those things are true. However, it’s not particularly practical to run around believing all that stuff because then you’d have to basically take children’s lit and librarianship and parenthood and children and just walk away.
And that’s what’s so frustrating about this course – there is no right answer. In class, you figure out what your professor wants, what direction is the “right” direction to address the information at hand, and you imitate or at least try to see it their way. Not in this class. Not only do we have two professors from two different disciplines sitting in front of us, pushing and pulling us from either perspective, we can’t even please one of them because they’re admittedly complicit in committing all these “crimes” against childhood.
They’re wrong too. Everyone and everything and every book is problematic, troublesome, and wrong.
So I’m under-slept, over-junkfooded, over-caffeinated, busy-busy-busy, and then throw impossible philosophical questions at me for six hours a week?
God. You’d think they were teaching me how to think or something.
When I’m done with this class, and my life stabilizes somewhat, these books will hopefully be arriving for me at my local library:
1. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
2. Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller
3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
5. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
6. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady O’Dall
7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
9. Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
11. The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
12. Celine by Brock Cole
Some of which will be read on the beach.
I’m about to report for the second day of my internship.
Due to my excessive professional diligence (you may all laugh now), this will probably be the last you hear about my summer position:
Jessica’s Summer Internship:
Two Truths and a Lie Edition
On her first day as an Intern, Jessica….
Guess all you want, I will not reveal the truth.
Even though one is embarrassingly true.
Oh, I wonder what I will do TODAY!
I don’t want to talk about it.
When life and all of its infinite questions, conundrums, challenges, confusions and general uncertainties start to get me down, my subconscious likes to avoid thinking about those important life challenges and decisions I should be thinking about and focus on some kind of quantifiable worry instead.
Like my bank account!
I’m having some problems spending and saving money.
Problem #1: I never feel like I have enough
We live in the 8th Most Expensive City in America. Our rent for a 400 square foot one bedroom apartment is about three times what our friends back home in Michigan pay on their new mortgages. For Lance to drive to work and back, we pay 260 dollars for car insurance, 220 dollars in gas, and 80 dollars in tolls. Every month.
But we are getting by. Our bills are getting paid. We have cable, internet, and cell phones. We find 50 to 150 dollars in personal spending money in the budget every month or so. We have enough savings for most emergencies, and some investments.
However, I feel like we are on the brink of financial ruin every day.
We are living comfortably, but our savings is not enough to absorb substantial unexpected expenses. Like when the vet quotes you 600 dollars to get the cat spayed. Or if the car needs a major repair. Or if one of us loses our job.
We have an almost unbelievable amount of student loans.
Any spending we do is still extravagant in my mind. Any savings we do is insubstantial.
Problem #2: Lance’s car is 10 years old, has over 200,000 miles on it, and its body cannot sustain another traffic accident.
Lance tells me the thing will run forever.
I just can’t believe it. The car is not worth sinking too much money into at this point, and if we get into another car accident, even if we get rear-ended at a red light, the car will most likely be totaled.
We came to Boston with a crappy car because we knew we had another crappy car sitting at home in my parent’s driveway in Michigan, waiting for us when we needed it. However, a month ago my mother informed me that they took the car in for a weird noise and came home with a $2,700 estimate for repairs.
Right now, we’d have to liquidate investments to buy a cheap used car (under 5k, if those cars even exist), and with Lance working full time out of the city, we wouldn’t have much time to be choosy.
We are both unwilling to take on a car payment, but if anything happens at the wrong time, we might not have a choice.
This makes me panic on a near-daily basis, and makes me pick fights with Lance because he doesn’t seem to be as panicked as I am.
Problem #3: I spend too much money on things that give me little return on the investment
Lance and I run our budget from a joint checking account (any jaws dropping? that seems to be the common reaction when I mention this to anyone). Every paycheck, we subtract out whatever checks will need to go through on that pay period – groceries, electric, rent, internet, et cetera – and then we split what’s left between our savings, our Scottrade account, and our personal checking.
On a good month, we each get 150 dollars. On a bad month, we get 50, or nothing.
This is working fine. Sometimes I feel like 150 is too much, especially given all my anxieties about savings, but the 150 is not just Starbucks money. We buy our own clothing, our own non-grocery food, haircuts, shoes, plane tickets or gas money for trips home, sometimes textbooks for me, gifts for family and friends, home furnishings, and anything else that doesn’t fall under the strict guideline of We Must Pay For This Or Default On Our Bill, really.
But again, 150 is really fine. Except that we’ve just moved to a new climate, a new environment, started new jobs and moved to our own place. Our needs for things like dishes and wall-decorations and new sheets is higher than the average person (okay, MY needs for all these things, not Lance’s), our need for professional clothing for all weather, new sneakers for walking 4 miles a day to work and back.
Some months I resist the urge to buy much of anything. My money piles up. This makes me happy. I spend some money on something I need, the floodgates open: I go out for drinks with friends, I make poor decisions and buy clothes that don’t fit me, I start splurging on daily coffee, buying lunch at school, and ordering things online that fancy me. And then I’m back down to a low bank account, and realize that I don’t have enough money for a haircut and I haven’t had one since December, realize I don’t have enough money to go home and visit my family on my week off, realize that I have now got myself hooked on morning caffeine and feel miserable unless I drop 4 dollars on a damn iced mocha.
My hair needs cut. My jeans don’t fit. I said no to drinks with friends last night but spent over 5 dollars this morning at Starbucks. I’m wearing sneakers purchased in 2005. If my laptop bites it (it is almost three years old now), I will be computer-less because it would take me over a year of saving 100% of my spending money to buy a new one.
It all feels very out of my control.
Problem #4: We are still doing without in many areas
Things we do not budget for/do not have:
- a spayed cat
- a Massachusetts license plate
- a bedframe
- apartment furnishings (things for the walls, kitchen things, furniture, et cetera)
- a mop
- doctor’s visits
- car repairs/maitenance
- enough clothes hangers for all our clothing
- an iron
- school supplies, for both of us
- gym access for Lance
These are not all necessary things. In fact, we’ve done without for almost a year and emerged no worse for the wear. And this list was longer when we first moved.
But there’s something unsettling about not knowing when and if I will have these things. If coming up with an extra 50 bucks at the end of the month is still something worth celebrating, then you’re not working toward a “Finish Line,” at which point you will magically have money and irons and clothes hangers fall from the sky and into your hands.
Problem #5: Lance and I are not married
This is not a direct problem for our relationship or our finances at this time. And I’m sure many of the problems we have communicating about money would continue on if we were to get hitched.
However, for me, it just makes things that much more confusing.
Our money goes to the same place. Lance brings home a lot more money than I do. So when he decides to take more time out of his schedule and teach lessons after school and he keeps that money for his own spending, I get that.
But when Lance gets his hair cut, it costs 15 dollars. When I get my hair cut (and colored because I have enough gray hairs to make most 25-year-old women cry), my bill is at least 100. Or gifts – he has one brother and one mom. I have one mom, one dad, and three sisters. They all have birthdays and Christmas. He gets more spending money, I have more “personal expenses.”
This is fine, as well, but when it comes down to those things listed in Problem #4, I’m the one who can’t stand living without a sharp knife or a TV stand or a GPS, the one who bites the bullet and sacrifices her own spending money.
And what happens if something happens?
I’m just not enough of a modern woman to be truly comfortable with this financial division.
Although I’m aware that this problem could easily be renamed “My Boyfriend/Financial Partner Is Not The Same Person/Mind I Am And That Freaks Me Out”
I get it.
Problem #6: I don’t know whether to prioritize money or something else
Take an unpaid internship that might open career doors and look good on a resume? Or take a part-time job?
And what about a full-time job? Work full-time AND take classes? Or keep the part-time job and have more time for things like internships at Horn Book, writing academically, writing fiction?
I need help. And if anyone mentions the name Dave Ramsey, I’ll kick you clear to next Tuesday.