highs and lows

Some days, I feel capable and able and like I have much to contribute, and I ride high on the thrill of putting together a strong cover letter. Other days, I feel heavy and small, and though qualified, unable to express what I know.

On the worst days, I feel both ends tugging at my brain, and I collapse under the weight of the process. My old frenemy, Perfectionism, cajoles me into finding job after job that hits the trifecta of interesting, challenging, and attainable; then, when I sit down to apply, she light-heartedly asks me why I thought I had a shot. “Leave me alone,” I say, “I have plenty of worthwhile skills.” “If you say so,” she says with a side-eye, turning the page with a perfectly manicured finger.

Submitting the application knocks the wind out of me, and as I recuperate in a darkened room, I’m feel the Sitting Ghost slinking in. He’s not here to stay, but wanted to make sure I know he’s around. “Go away,” I say, knowing fully that he would never listen, “I’m busy.” I know he knows I’m lying, but I say it anyway. “I mean it. I’m too busy for this.” He leaves, but we both know it’s not because of what I said.

I try again. The blow is less harsh this time, and though I don’t crumble, I still wobble. The Sitting Ghost is noisily shuffling in the closet, waiting for his signal.  Perfectionism is arching her meticulously shaped eyebrow, signaling her disapproval at my weakness. I ignore them, and make another cup of coffee.

just go for it

I had a dream last night: I was working at a grocery store, and my (female) boss wanted me to stay on for another full shift. I explained that I couldn’t do so at my current pay rate (which was $7.16 in the dream), but that I would be happy to work as many hours as needed if my hourly wage was doubled. My manager talked to the company, and came back with a letter stating that they would increase my wages by 10%. As often happens in dreams, my job nonsensically changed from cashier to being part of the advertising department. As I looked at the average wages for the ad dept. and realized that I was woefully underpaid, my manager asked me (inquisitively, not meanly) why I wouldn’t just accept the 10% raise.

This dream stuck with me. I first woke up from it at 5, but remembered it clearly when I woke up around 8. What struck me the most was the way I was implored to just take what I was offered, and not ask any questions, particularly in light of the changed duties and higher level of responsibility. How typical. Women often don’t ask for more money or negotiate their starting salary, and often, when they do, they’re penalized. (Versions 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) In the dream, I was confused that anyone would want me to work for so little, but second-guessed myself when my manager asked why I wouldn’t just take the raise as offered. I had a hard time explaining to her why an extra $700 a year* was not an acceptable trade for all the extra time I’d have to put in.

As I sit here on the cusp of applying for jobs, I have to continuously remind myself not to “settle,” and not to apply solely for jobs I feel I’m qualified for. I can’t tell you how many tabs I had open for jobs that required only an associate’s degree (and offered less than what daycare would cost). It’s not that I’m better than these jobs. It’s that I often don’t look beyond these jobs, and am at risk of getting such jobs and being bored and underpaid within 6 months. I imagine that many women put themselves in this position, and compound their mistake by going from one ‘comfortable’job to another.

When I left my most recent position, I was fed up with not being challengedI need to remember that frustration, and rethink my application strategy. As Sheryl Sandberg cautioned in Lean In, if I take a job I’m 90-100% qualified for, I’ll master the job quickly and won’t have much left to learn. In my last job, I was tapped as an “expert” contributor to a panel for process improvement when I had been in my position for slightly longer than a year. Comparatively, my husband has been in his position for 2.5 years, and still comes home to tell me about a new process he’s learning. Incidentally, he was only about 50% qualified for both of his most recent jobs. What’s more, I goaded him into applying for both, scoffing at his protests that he wasn’t qualified enough. I need to apply that same critical eye to my own reasons for “why not,” and just go for it.

Applying for worthwhile jobs is a tough gig. It takes a lot of time, patience, and internal pep talks (particularly when you don’t feel entirely qualified). But the alternative is to have no job at all, or worse: a job that neither challenges nor excites you.

 

*Yes, I’m aware that the math doesn’t add up. It was a dream. 

dear ejv

Dear EJV,

Happy father’s day! You should know that I would never have married you if I didn’t think that you’d be a good dad. But to say that you’ve exceeded my expectations is a laughable understatement. The love you have for our boy is palpable, and he clearly brings you more joy than anything else before him (even the Shadow!). He loves you more than anything… when you walk in the door after work, he can barely hold it together long enough for you to take your shoes off. To say you’re his favorite person is not quite enough: it’s more like he’s a tiny crackhead, and you’re his preferred drug.

Anyway. Thank you for being my baby daddy partner in crime. I’m truly enjoying this whole parenting thing with you (guess we must be doing it wrong). Thanks for your patience, your dedication to making us laugh, and dealing with the crap (ha!). If our kids end up being hilarious and a little bit weird, we have succeeded. Can’t wait to have a whole gaggle, I hope they like hippie shit.

Love,

H

banana bread

We’ve had very (very) ripe bananas on our counter for the last week, and I’ve been threatening (promising?) to make banana bread the entire time. So today, while the boy entertained himself for a while, I baked. And boy, did this banana bread deliver. It’s the best I’ve ever had. (Not that I’ve had banana breads from everywhere or am some sort of connoisseur, but it’s pretty damn delicious.)

Here’s the recipe– I used this one as a starter.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (microwaved to liquify)
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal (old-fashioned)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 medium bananas (very ripe, mashed with a fork)
  • 2/3 cup pecans (I buy them whole and break them into pieces)

Optional (for sugary crust)

  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/8 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat together the coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar. It should be frothy and thick when you’re done.
  3. Combine flour, oatmeal, baking soda, salt, chia seeds, flax seeds, and cinnamon in separate bowl.
  4. Add buttermilk to mashed bananas, stir.
  5. Add half of dry mixture and half of banana mixture to egg mixture. Mix well.
  6. Add remainder of dry mixture and banana mixture to batter. Mix very well.
  7. Fold in pecans.
  8. Pour batter into pan. (I used a round cake pan, but a boring old bread pan would work too.) :)
  9. (Optional: combine sugar, cinnamon, and pecans in small bowl. Sprinkle mixture across top of the batter: make sure to cover all corners/edges.)
  10. Bake for 50-60 mins.
  11. Let the bread cool for 15-20 mins.
  12. If you went rogue and baked it in a cake pan, cut into nice pie slices.
  13. Try not to eat half the loaf.

I’m not much of a baker– I greatly prefer to cook. When you bake, you can’t improvise (to the same degree as when you cook), and I like to taste and adjust as I go (something I’m obviously not going to do when baking). But ever since my dad introduced me to baked oatmeal, I’ve been playing around with other ways to bake with oats and various hippy things (chia seeds, flax seeds, alternatives to sugar (though nothing artificial), coconut oil, etc.). Thus far, it’s pretty damn delicious.

dear ned

Dear Dad,

Happy birthday! I know that you don’t care much for fanfare on your birthday, so I won’t embarrass you. But I’d love to take you out for a beer. Jason and I found the perfect place to celebrate with you — there’s a bar on the lake, and people can pull up on with their boats or jet skis or whatever they have, and have a beer or two. On the weekends, there’s live music on three or four different patios, and I’m sure you would appreciate that there’s a variety of cuisines to sample. The first time we went there, we commented several times on how much you would love it there. We can even introduce you to a few Texas brews, though between you and me, there’s no comparison between Wisconsin and Texas beers.

See? I’ve come a long way from the Berry Weiss days. (I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to your “don’t fruit the beer” rule at first.) I didn’t realize this for a long time, but you (and what you taught Jason) have greatly influenced my beer drinking ways. These days, Jason and I often split a beer (just like you taught us), and grade them on an A-F scale. Thankfully, we haven’t encountered too many Fs, but my discerning taste now labels many of them in the B-/C+ range (average, decently made, but nothing special). The Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout has been our favorite this year– we bought many of them at Costco over the winter, and even enjoyed some at the Beer and Chocolate tasting we went to in February. (It was hosted by Ginger Man, another place I think you would love.) You’re welcome to join us for one, though with the weather steadily getting warmer, maybe the Sam Adams Cold Snap would be more appropriate.

Rest assured, we do more than just drink beer these days. I don’t know if he told you, but Jason passed his most recent actuarial exam. I’m so proud of him– this was a tough one, but after some setbacks, he endeavored to persevere, and was rewarded for his hard work. I think he finally understands your life better: working hard in his career, while making sure the kid(s) have what they need, researching new restaurants, foods, and festivals for the weekends, and making sure that his family goes to church regularly. He’s not just a good provider for our family, but he’s a fantastic dad and a great husband. We can trace so much of his dedication, involvement, and humor back to you, and our kid is very, very lucky to have the two of you in his lineage.

Speaking of, your namesake is a treat these days. I wish you could meet him. I have a feeling he’s going to be the exact mix of smart, curious, and wildly energetic that makes some little boys so destructive. I’m sure that you could give us some advice on how to channel that appropriately. Maybe over a beer?

Until next time,

Harriet

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