hump day of week off

August 20, 2008

Weeks off are a thing of beauty. Monday morning I biked to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum downtown to meet my friends and their respective children. I considered bringing my precocious nephew Carlos but thought I might be too out of breath from chasing him around for three hours to actually talk to my old friends. It was really fun to watch the kids interact though. Great museum too….

Monday afternoon I ran some errands and went to the beach. I don’t think I have ever been to Bradford Beach, or any Milwaukee beach for that matter. Lake Michigan is still polluted, and the water didn’t look (or smell) too appealing, but they’ve cleaned up the beach and it was quite pleasant to hang out there reading “A Civil Action” and banishing a tiny bit of the whiteness from my legs.

I’ve spent many hours reading “A Civil Action” which is required for my Civil Procedure class. It’s actually quite an interesting book, and I’m rather enjoying all this reading. It’s been a while since I had hours and hours to devote to a book. Usually I read my books slowly unless I am on vacation, when I will tear through several novels in a week.

Yesterday I started sanding those pesky stairs, which really didn’t take so long with my trusty sanding mouse.

Then I went to get primer for the stairs. Painting the front of the stairs is way more annoying than sanding. I estimate I will finish this job a day or two before classes start. Not so fun.I also played around in my garden. I have a lot of spotted leaves on two of my tomato plants, which makes me very sad, but I don’t have time to worry about it besides trying to remove all the spotted parts.

Today I slept too late, read some more of my book, signed up for university health insurance (shockingly quick and easy) went to get my hair cut and made chicken nachos for dinner. Today I was pretty lazy actually.

Tomorrow Fermin is taking off from work. Besides the day he threw out his back earlier this summer, he has not called in or missed a day. He just told me that he told his supervisor, “I have stuff to do tomorrow.” Hmm… normally, this might make me nervous, but I’ve heard that at least two other employees there have repeatedly no-call, no-showed for days at a time and still kept their jobs. At least he was honest and gave a day’s notice?

The whole idea of him taking a day off happened when we ate at our favorite Thai restaurant the other week and heard our favorite waitress mention their lunch buffet to someone. Our ears perked up, then we realized we have jobs and lives and can’t lunch together on the south side. Then I realized it was almost my week off, so I could indeed lunch. Then he decided he would take a day off during my off week. All in the name of lunch. The buffet at the Thai restaurant better be good. Well, it will be good to spend the day together too.

So, just wanted to check in. More news later this week.



August 14, 2008

Well, this is a pretty lame countdown because tomorrow is already my last day of work. It’s exciting and a little scary, mostly because I have worked, with a few traveling breaks, since I was 15. I am required to take 17 credits first semester, so no working.

In any case, I am really looking forward to next week off. I’ve already planned a day in Madison with my sister on Sunday, a trip to the museum with old friends and their kids Monday, salon and possibly beach day Wednesday (I’ve got to go see the renovation of Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach at least once this summer) and another day in Madison with my dear friend Sara on Friday.

In between, I’ll be packing, cleaning, sanding those pesky steps shown a few posts ago, and doing other annoying administrative tasks like signing up for classes, health insurance, law school deferment and maybe 401K transfers… super fun! I’ll also be attempting to sell more books on, get my 1L books as cheaply as possible and purchase a whole new set of personal items (make-up, shampoo, etc) for my apartment life in Madison. That will require a trip to Target, which will actually be fun.

Sometimes my thoughts trail to some random memory, and then suddenly I think, “Wow, I get to go to law school in Madison in a few weeks.” It’s so exciting and I still feel somewhat inadequate and unprepared. At the same time, I am confident that I am mature and determined enough to handle it all well. Once I start, I know I will figure out how to proceed with all the reading, note-taking, briefing and outlining. I hope the lack of brainpower utilized in my last few jobs have left plenty extra to manage law school.

So here I am. Halfway through my second last day. It will be sad to take down my Lonely Planet Adventures calendar, pack up my breakfast cereals and say my last goodbyes to the sales reps and customers I have met here during the last two+ years. But much sadder is knowing I will miss the fun banter among my department-mates, and the random antics of other people that work at this little company. I will miss our conversations and chats, but I also know we will keep in touch. I occasionally complain about this job, but overall it’s really been great. The actual work came somewhat naturally, and that has allowed me to think about what would really be a more suitable and challenging career.

it’s all happening so fast!

July 30, 2008

Just when I was feeling that my tenure at my job would never end, that the summer was crawling by, that I would never get to law school, it all snuck up on me. Last week I was busy planning a bridal shower for my dear friend Jen. I got my class schedule thursday night, which inspired a few not-so-productive hours of trying to find information about my professors on the internet. The weekend, with the shower and a family barbecue on a perfect Sunday, flew by.

Sunday night I decided I should do myself a favor and take a week off between finishing up at work and starting law school orientation. So August 15th will be my last day at the ‘Mart, and I’ll have a full week to get stuff done around the house, pack whatever I’ll need in Madison, and get somewhat settled in Mad-town. Suddenly, the the 15th seems alarmingly near. I have lots of things to do to transition out of my job, but chances are I will save most of them until next week and those last five days. My customers are in very good hands around here, so there’s no reason to worry. Not that I would worry… okay maybe I would. For a few weeks. It’s in my nature. The same way I wondered how my Qdoba was doing in sales for a few months after I quit.

The saddest part will be not spending eight hours a day sitting between my work buddies Jenni and Joel. I will especially miss participating in our ridiculous chats about work, life and vaccines. And also, most importantly, laughing silently but hysterically when we find the perfect random image to express ourselves from the internet:

Yes, that is an inside joke. No, I will not explain to you.

In other news, I’ve gotten a few bits of good news regarding my schedule. The first is that I received an e-mail from my 1L mentor (who knew such a thing existed?!), and she had the same Civil Procedure professor I will have. The report: “very unothodox” and “very fantastic.” Excellent. I’m also starting to adjust to the idea of afternoon and evening classes. My plan is to join a class at the SERF pretty early in the mornings, and once I get up and work out, I will be up for the day. I’m hoping this will help me fight the nature to start sleeping late again.

embracing frugality

April 18, 2008

Despite the fact that I dislike my 30-minute each-way commute (and the gas it requires), it does give me the chance to enjoy one of my favorite free things in life: NPR News. For the past few months though, NPR time has caused me to really think about my economic choices. Listening to Marketplace every evening has given me a deeper understanding of how rough our economy has become, and moreover strengthened my feelings that the mainstream American habit of spending ourselves into debt is not only personally foolish, but ruining our society.

Although I grew up in well-off Elm Grove, my parents were not extravagant spenders. I don’t think they ever worried about buying food or paying the bills, but we weren’t allowed to go to the mall and pick out anything we wanted either, far from it. We had everything we needed and more, but our vacations usually involved long car rides, cabins and lakes, not flying, three-star hotels and amusement parks. We didn’t eat dinner at “sit-down” restaurants on a very regular basis and we certainly didn’t shop at high-end boutiques or grocers. We enjoyed our life, but it wasn’t luxurious. We had it good, but we didn’t feel the need to have everything new at every moment.

Strangely, (when you consider my upbringing anyway), the minute I started making my own money I thought nothing of spending all of it on clothes, food, entertainment, going to the movies and gas to drive my girlfriends around. I remember one year, perhaps 1995 or 1996, I saw on my tax returns that I had actually made more than $12,000, working part-time, at McDonalds, as a teenage high-school student. That seemed like an enormous amount of money back then, but the funny thing was, I didn’t have a dime of it in savings. Not a dime. I had spent it all as it had come in. And frighteningly as I look back at it, I didn’t learn any lessons during that moment. In fact the habits I got into as a 15-year-old McDonald’s grunt have basically stayed with me until, well, until a few months ago, let’s hope.

I blame this as much on culture as I do on my own lack of personal responsibility. The fact that most people my age who come from similar backgrounds are simultaneously finding themselves in this predicament leads me to think there has to be at least some collective reason. For those of us who were raised by financially responsible parents, the sort that put things on layaway when they couldn’t afford it, who didn’t scoff at hand-me-downs and occasionally shopped at rummage sales, it amazes me that we all turned out so self-indulgent. How is it that there is so much credit card debt per person in this country? How do so many of us spend $3.50, or even $1.90 per day on coffee? How do we buy $200 jeans and $10 mixed drinks and $50 dinners?  My generation is used to instant gratification. Women in my demographic are marketed to like no one else. We have grown up taking in the indirect whispers of a thousand marketing specialists telling us that purchasing their product will somehow get us the style we see in Vogue or the domestic skills we see in Martha Stewart Living.

And the thing is… it’s not true. And that’s okay. That is my revelation for the day — The fact that I cannot remodel my kitchen this year: it’s okay. My kitchen works. It doesn’t have to look like something from Better Homes and Gardens. It doesn’t need stainless steel, granite or travertine to be okay. I make food in it. It serves its purpose. That’s just the most personal example I can think of, but this entire rant sprang from my morning reading of television critic Heather Havrilesky’s “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Recession.”

Please read the whole article; but if you refuse, it begins with Havrilesky describing a trip to the grocery store, which is similar to one I had a few weeks ago: I was at Pick ‘N Save, and I came to the bean area. I saw a bag of colorful mixed beans (15 varieties, one $1.99 bag!) and I got excited about them. (This is counter-culture for me). I read the recipe on the bag for Hillbilly Stew (oh yes I am serious) and I immediately tossed the bag in the cart. My first bag of dried beans. All I needed was a can of roasted tomatoes, some carrots and celery, and I was on my way to a nutritious, ridiculously cheap meal that could easily feed me for three days. Now, the best bargain shoppers really do know that I could have gotten these beans cheaper at the Mexican market El Rey, conveniently located two blocks from my house, but give me a break, I am still learning.

This may not seem remarkable to some of my already thrifty readers, but last year I actually started shopping somewhat regularly at the new Fresh Market location on Bluemound Road in Brookfield, home to all manner of very upscale groceries. I also shopped at Whole Paycheck Foods. It was just so cool to shop at these places. So cool I just loved it so much and tried not to wince every time I picked up a few items that would last me 3-4 days, and drop $60. I do believe in spending a little more money to get good, fresh food, but to be honest, I also enjoyed shopping in a fancy store with all manner of expensive olive oils, organic oranges and fines wines to choose from.

Back to Heather Havrilesky is in the bean aisle — she encounters a woman who complains that a $2.69 bag of mixed beans very similar to the ones I bought that day) were too expensive…

“For the rest of my shopping trip, I try to think like the woman who refused to pay too much for beans. Four dollars for half a gallon of milk? Isn’t that obscene? $2.99 a pound for pears? Maybe my kid should try to develop a taste for apples. I steer clear of the aged-cheese-and-cured-meat aisle completely, fearing temptation.

This picture might seem sort of droopy and pathetic to some of my friends, who would feel as deprived as Haitian boat people if they couldn’t afford their regular $70 bottles of Erno Lazlo moisturizer. But honestly, I’ve found my newfound role as recessionary coupon-clipper oddly soothing.”

Yes, you know, it is so soothing. I’ll leave you with my favorite line from the story:

“I like knowing that I can’t afford to move and I can’t afford to quit my job and I can’t afford to think about the boundless possibilities that the universe has to offer, I can only afford to clean my own stupid house and eat leftovers and lose weight so the shitty clothes I already have don’t look even worse on me than they would otherwise.”

am I privileged?

April 2, 2008

I found this interesting meme through Gabacha’s blog.

The premise is that you “bold” all the statements that are true. The more bold lines one has, the more privileged one’s formative years were.

Please note: The list is based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. The exercise developers ask that if you participate in this blog game, you acknowledge their copyright.

Father went to college

Father finished college

Mother went to college

Mother finished college

Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor

Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers – Social class? Maybe the same, definitely not higher

Had more than 50 books in your childhood home

Had more than 500 books in your childhood home

Were read children’s books by a parent

Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18

Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 – swim, trumpet, voice, I don’t know if soccer counts. Not a slew of lessons for sure; I would say less lessons than many kids have today.

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively

Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18

Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs

Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs

Went to a private high school

Went to summer camp

Had a private tutor before you turned 18

Family vacations involved staying at hotels – sometimes. More often cabins in northern Wisconsin though, so I’m not going to bold this one.

Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18

Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them

There was original art in your house when you were a childmy grandmother is a painter, so yes

Had a phone in your room before you turned 18

You and your family lived in a single family house

Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home – Maybe they had some mortgage left, but they were well on their way to having it paid off

Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course

Had your own TV in your room in High School

Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16

Went on a cruise with your family

Went on more than one cruise with your family

Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up – museums, definitely, art galleries, not quite so much

You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

Upon review, I’m not sure how much this particular meme really says about me. I didn’t actually bold that many of the lines, but I feel like I had a privileged childhood. Is having attended a lot of lessons really a sign of privilege, or overbearing parenting? Fermin wouldn’t be able to bold much on this list at all, and certainly he had far from a financially or materially privileged childhood, but he comes from a stable, loving family who did the best they could to make sure all their kids had what they needed.

“conventional wisdom” v. facts

February 29, 2008

Daily reading of the articles in Bender’s Immigration Bulletin is admittedly too depressing of an endeavor for me. I have an emotional and mental limit for reading what I consider ever-more-depressing news about the actions our nation is taking against immigrants. I don’t need to be reminded every day that deportations are tearing families apart, that we are building a great wall — which I am confident will become a great embarrassment before the end of my life — on our southern border, or that nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment is becoming mainstream as it does every few decades.

This week the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California released a study titled “Crime, Corrections and California: What does immigration have to do with it?” And guess what? Not a whole lot. Among other surprising (to some people) findings, people born outside of the United States (legal or undocumented immigrants included) make up a whopping 35 percent of California’s total population but just 17 percent of its prison population. Non-citizens men ages 18-40 born in Mexico, who are very likely to be undocumented according to the study, are more than 8 times less likely to be in a correctional setting than native-born U.S. citizen men of the same age group. The report also found lower rates of crime in California cities with higher number of recent immigrants. Overall the report shows that immigrants are far less likely to commit serious crimes in California and goes against all conventional wisdom that more immigrants mean more crime.

Despite the non-partisan nature and high ethical standards of the research, news articles covering the report’s findings, such as this one in the San Jose Mercury News, inspired dozens of nasty, bigoted comments such as this anonymous gem:

“Predictable left-wing lies. All one needs do is look at the list of prisoners’ names to see the South-of-the-Border heritage of incarcerated men in California. Further destroying the credibility of this report is the fact that so many illegals who commit additional crimes return to Mexico to hide out from authorities, and the left-wing idealogues that compiled this list of lies don’t refer to the skyrocketing number of Mexican rapists and murderers that Mexico declines to extradite.” I love when people argue against facts with myths, racist sentiment and political opinions. It’s awesome!

This is why I can’t stomach reading so many articles. On many newspapers’ websites, there are comments, and you can’t just ignore the comments, but when you read them, you are always sickened and sorry to have read them. Where do these people come from? I’ve been trying though, to read more again and write my own comments back. But it’s hard to argue with people who disregard intellect in favor of hatred and prejudice.

back in the land of huge potholes

February 19, 2008

Seriously, I have never seen potholes like this in my life! It snows, then it melts, then it snows a lot, then it drops well below zero, then it warms up, then it snows. Well, I actually missed most of that because I was in Mexico for two weeks. But the roads can’t take it anymore.

My husband and brother-in-law were joking on our ride home from O’Hare airport in Chicago the other night that it was like Tlacuela, referring to the VERY rural, hillside town where Fermin was born. They barely have electricity there, chickens and geese run free and people get milk from the family cow. It’s beautiful countryside, but modern in very few senses. And their roads look like ours right now. Ironic.

Well, I have so much to say about so many things right now that my posting will hopefully be quite regular over the next few days, weeks. Vacation does that. My inner writer is re-energized. Also I have news, but I will save it for a little later.