The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Piestewa Peak and the Juvenile Male: An Anthropological Study

Yesterday I hiked Squaw Peak (it’s Piestewa Peak now, right? Because ‘squaw’ is offensive?*)  with 5 male children aged 2-14. I feel like it should be documented for its anthropological relevance on the study of male adolescents and their development as they age. In the interest of science, this is what it’s like to hike with juvenile male humanoids:

Age 2

Though of seemingly sturdy build, and in possession of a hearty amount of caloric reserves that would appear to make him an ideal candidate for long-term survival in the wild, this specimen (we’ll call him “Gus”) was ill-equipped for the rocky terrain. His short limbs and the tall steps were a problematic combination, only exacerbated by his short temper. He was generally the most vocal member of the group and was often carried by elder members of the tribe. Despite his lack of exertion over the journey, he was often in need of ‘snacks’ to keep his strength up. Additionally, he refused to move without Lego Spiderman secure in his chubby fist, which he repeatedly dropped into tiny crevices, possibly on purpose, as a way to test his parents’ love and commitment to him.

squaw peak gus

Age 4

By age 4, the human male juvenile (“Colby”) has developed enough coordination and long enough legs and arms it appears he should be physically capable of completing the hike. His resistance to the activity, however, appeared to eclipse that of all members of the tribe, even his younger, less capable, sibling’s. He didn’t put up a vocal fight, so much as just a total shut out of anyone who tried to engage him and an utter refusal to put one foot in front of the other. He also required alternate transportation of the parental-sherpa variety, and a large quantity of snacks. It’s clear willful resistance depletes energy reserves at a greater rate than we ever could have imagined.

squaw peak colby

Age 7

The 7 year old specimen, “Jonas” appeared the most pleased with the requisite activity; often running ahead of the group and climbing rock outcroppings along the trail. Halfway through the hike he informed the group he was choosing a new spirit name and would from here on out only answer to ‘Ninja’ or ‘Hardcore Parkour’. Strangely enough, early in the hike, his arms developed a peculiar condition that made them too weak and exhausted to carry his own water bottle, but strong and dexterous enough to carry a large, dagger shaped rock and a second large rock, which he used for ‘sharpening’ his shank. He spent much of the hike verbally detailing what he would do and how he would survive if he was trapped out here in the wilderness on this hike overnight. First step in the survival process would be to kill something to eat. Anthropologically speaking, it’s possible he’s been watching too much Dude, You’re Screwed, Naked and Afraid, and Survivorman.

squaw peak jonas

Age 10

At 10, the male human (“Gray”) appears to be a more solitary creature. His hiking skills and abilities are in the high range (although he appeared more fair-skinned than the others and suffered a reaction to the heat commonly known as ‘tomato face’). He often ran ahead and was unseen for long periods of time, only to be found eventually, waiting, perched on a rock, sweaty and complaining of nausea.

squaw peak gray

Age 14

The pre-adult version of the human male, at 14, was possibly the most perplexing of the subjects. “Bennett”, although in possession of excellent physicality, with extremely long limbs that should make short work of the rocks that presented a challenge for the smaller children, was nearly as emotionally adverse to the activity as his 4 year old cousin. He vocally expressed unhappiness, and eventually, outrage, at being “forced” (his words) to attend the outing. He complained of physical ailments, and eventually, because he was too large to be carried, was left behind.

squaw peak bennett

In summation, it’s clear from the data of this field observation that the human male adolescent goes through a cycle of development, that peaks in energy, ability, and lack of bitching, in the 6-10 year old range, and eventually tapers off until he becomes a veritable child again by the time he’s a teenager. It’s unclear if he ever overcomes this in adulthood.

 

*I just Googled ‘why is squaw offensive’ because I’ve never understood whether it was a racial thing or a feminist thing. I always understood it to refer to a married Native American lady, which seems like it would be comparative to naming a mountain Wife Summit. That wouldn’t be offensive, right? (I’m white, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgender, and have brown eyes, so I am inherently kind of an asshole who doesn’t always know what is and is not offensive and why. But I am left-handed, so it’s not like my people have never been oppressed.) The articles I read mostly agreed the term ‘squaw’ refers to a female, either young or young and married. They made reference to the fact that ‘some people’ think the term refers to a vagina, and that’s why it’s thought to potentially be derogatory. But, I mean, at most that would be vulgar, not culturally demeaning, right? And none of the articles were even super sure that’s right. It’s only possibly offensive. Maybe. Who really knows. I’m so glad I just spent 10 minutes of my life researching that. Also, now I’m just going to call it The Vagina Hike.

How to Buy a House Without Getting a Divorce

Buying a house can put pressure on many things: your bank account, your sanity, your liver, and possibly your marriage. Like pretty much anything about sharing your day-in/day-out life with a single other flawed person, who has a unique make-up of opinions, quirks, bodily functions, pet peeves, and irritating habits, the biggest purchase of your life can make you want to throttle your spouse. And I mean literally wrap your fingers around his neck and squeeze until he passes out or he agrees to let you have a walk-in pantry in the kitchen, whichever comes first.

It’s a scenario I’ve seen time and time again. A happy couple hires me to find them a house. At the first meeting it’s all smiles, hope, and cocktails. By the time we’ve seen 30 houses it’s clear they are actually shopping for two separate and distinct houses. Their Venn diagram doesn’t overlap. After 75 houses and 6 months the husband is pantomiming a hanging noose when we pull up to every listing and if the wife could roll her eyes any harder they would fall out of her head. They aren’t holding hands anymore. Their posture is defeated. All hope has drained out of their faces. Cocktails are merely to dull the misery.

The point is, being hauled away to county lock-up for suspected murder, or filing for divorce while you’re in escrow, could potentially hamper your home-buying dreams. Additionally, if you successfully make it to the escrow finish line and receive your keys, but in the process come to loathe and resent everything about your spouse, it will make living in the house you worked so hard to buy sort of awkward. 

In order to avoid the awkwardness of murder and divorce in this complicated situation, I’ve put together a list of tips on how to navigate the difficulties of a real estate transaction while avoiding pitfalls that could lead to lots of nights on the couch watching Skinemax alone.

1. Keep carbs and sugar on hand.

Seeing 8 houses in one day is both mentally and physically exhausting, but sometimes necessary. Low blood sugar in addition to exhaustion is basically a recipe for hating everyone and everything you’ve ever loved. At 1pm, after 6 houses in July, if I haven’t had lunch, I could be married to Ryan Gosling and I’d want to knee him in the junk if he suggested I could maybe live without a gas stove because he really needs an RV gate. It’s not rocket science, people: Granola bars save marriages.

YES, RYAN, I REALLY REALLY DO. DO YOU REALLY NEED YOUR STUPID FACE I HATE YOU *sobs incoherently*

2. Carefully monitor your tone of voice.

Imagine saying, “You like that?” while looking at a beautiful flower. Now imagine saying, “You like that?” while looking at a terrifyingly large spider. Now imagine saying it the second way while looking at hardwood floors you’re not in love with, but it turns out your husband thinks are really cool. And now he’s never having a decor opinion again because you hurt his man-feelings. Don’t you feel like a jerk? Inflection matters, yo.

3. Try to see things from your partner’s perspective.

At some point, it’s pretty likely you’ll come to an impasse (whether it be small, or large) where everyone starts losing his and her collective shit. She is adamant on living in a particular area, and he is adamant the prices are too high in there. She’s starting to wonder how she never noticed he’s such a cheap, insensitive prick. He’s questioning when she turned into such a snotty, uncompromising bitch.

Woah, WOAH, guys. Take a deep breath and think about your spouse’s motives. Is she really just wanting to live the high life outside of your means? Is he seriously trying to control you by pulling the ‘I make more money’ card? Or is her long-ass commute killing her hour by hour, in long lines of creeping traffic while she gets an ulcer with worry it will be the day she doesn’t get to daycare on time to pick up the kids, and this other neighborhood would shorten her commute enough to make life worth living again? And is he feeling the stress of being the one who looks at your finances more often and down deep is utterly terrified of becoming house-poor and unable to pay the Total Wine credit card when it comes due?

In a household, everyone has different responsibilities. Sometimes it helps to remember the ones your spouse has been taking care of for you, and how it affects his or her life and needs… even if you’re pretty sure he’s kind of being a baby about it and needs to get over it.

4. Make a Pros and Cons list.

I feel strongly a Pros and Cons list can really help to distill why a house is going to work or not for your family. Here’s how I recommend going about it:

Step 1 – Go to your favorite happy hour spot (Joyride Taco works for me). Order a cocktail and appetizers. Do not move on to step 2 until the food and drinks have arrived.

Step 2 – Get out two pieces of paper. Each take one and separately, without sharing info, list the pros and cons of the house in question. Drink entire first cocktail.

Step 3 – Order another cocktail and while you’re waiting for it to come, go over your lists together. On a third piece of paper make a combined list of the pros and cons. Before you start the second cocktail (when math starts to get a little hairy), assign each of the items a number value based on how important they are. Like, a pro of, ‘in a cul-de-sac’ might be moderately important, so it gets a 4, but the pro ‘best yard we’ve seen’ could get an 11 because yard is something you’ve determined is high on your equal list of priorities.

Step 4 – Add up the column totals, have three more cocktails each and call an uber to take you home while it gradually becomes clear why you should or should not buy the house in question and that you still super love her because she’s such an adorable nerd when she’s drunk, and she totally still finds you super sexy.

5. Realize the process isn’t about beating the seller.

Contract negotiations are often competitive and can bring out the need to win in certain personality types. If you’re one of these, it’s good to remind yourself in 10 years no one will remember you got the seller to throw in the old ratty patio furniture he wanted to take, but your husband might never forgive you if you lose the house completely over shit you don’t really want anyway. Which brings us to #6…

6. Ask yourself if this particular house/feature/neighborhood is worth having your spouse hold it against you for the rest of your marriage.

You know there are things you’ve done your spouse will never forget. Things your spouse feels like crossed the line, and if you could go back and undo it, you ABSOLUTELY WOULD JUST TO SHUT HER UP ABOUT IT FOR CHRISSAKES, IT’S BEEN 11 YEARS. That time he refused to stand up to his mother for her… When she bought a car without even consulting him, shit like that.

At some point, you may feel like you are so desperate for a particular house or feature, and so convinced your spouse will eventually agree you were right to want it, you decide to use all of your spousal weight to wear him or her down, rather than making the decision mutually. I’m not saying this is never the right way to go. It’s possible you really do know your husband, and he just needed you to make that extra push in the right direction. But I’d caution, before doing this, to ask yourself if it’s worth it to have him hold it against you forever if he’s not happy. It’s one thing to make a bad decision together, it’s quite another to be left holding the bag alone when it goes wrong. It’s how the kind of resentment that will ruin a relationship is born.

7. Sit down and write out a budget. 

Like a Pros and Cons list, writing a budget together (probably over fewer cocktails because math) can help both clarify and relieve fears. Often one partner has a better idea, going in, of what the money situation looks like. Getting everyone on the same page, and agreeing together what concessions can be made as a household to allow for more expenses, is a great way to relieve tension, pressure, and resentment.

8. Have sex.

I always like to end all relationship advice with this one. It’s not particularly related to buying a house, but I’m pretty sure it cheers almost everyone up, and as your Realtor, I like cheerful clients.

So there you go! Go forth and happily buy houses!

 

New Years Resolutions 2015

I know it’s already January 8th, but I really want to be a better person this year, so I’ve been working hard on my list of resolutions and they were taking me a long time. Five is my lucky number, so 2015 is definitely when I’ll achieve all of my hopes and dreams… or maybe it should have already happened 10 years ago. Shit. Regardless, I’m totally committed to being stronger, smarter, cooler, nicer, thinner, curvier, more accomplished, more flexible, less messy, more engaged in the world around me, less worried about things I can’t control, prettier, younger, and a completely different person that I’ve always been. I’m sure if I just put my mind to it, I can do it.

This year, I resolve to:

  • Will my hair to stop growing grey.
  • Maintain an all-gluten diet.
  • Read less time-wasting crap on the internet.
  • Write more time-wasting crap for the internet.
  • Give back to the community by setting up a school to teach the mentally challenged quail in our neighborhood how to cross the street without being murdered.
  • Dye my hair purple to see if it looks cooler.
  • Write a book of erotic short stories, based on what I overhear on the microphone I will smuggle into my neighbor’s house.
  • Watch all 562 episodes of The Simpsons.
  • Start a cult.
  • Learn to touch my feet to my head in cobra.
  • Visit every Chipotle within 100 miles and rank their margarita making skills from Best to Worst on Yelp (also giving back to the community).
  • Write a How-to ebook called 18 Steps to the Perfect Eyebrows.
  • Learn how to do my eyebrows good.
  • Stop procrastinating. Unless there’s something really important on TV or I’m super tired or uninspired.
  • Only write in green ink.
  • Be happy all the time. Even when I’m not at all and it’s an inappropriate time to be happy because something really sad or unfair has happened.

Starting… right now! After I drive through Chick-fil-a one last time.

Do these eyebrows look normal? How does one tell if her eyebrows look right? Should I just start asking strangers? Also my hair is still growing in grey even though I've been meditating on it being brown, using essential oils and going to a life coach who specializes in brown hair. Maybe I should dye it one more time and see if it catches on?

Do these eyebrows look normal? How does one tell if her eyebrows look right? Should I just start asking strangers? Also my hair is still growing in grey even though I’ve been meditating on it being brown, using essential oils, and going to a life coach who specializes in brown hair. Maybe I should dye it one more time and see if it catches on?

The Great SF Midlife Crisis Circus Adventure – Things I Learned

It’s been three and a half weeks since I got back. My girlfriend who went with me, Rebekah, loved our trip so much she decided to sublet a place in San Francisco for a month and take as many classes as she can. She works from home and doesn’t have kids or a spouse, so she has the freedom to just pick up and go. She leaves in 5 days. I would tell you my insides aren’t boiling with envy, but it would be a filthy, unsustainable lie.

It’s ok, though. My kids went to Dallas to visit their Fairy Grandma Linda (she has a mansion stocked with nerf guns and video games and she lets them stay up until midnight… they never wanted to come home, either) over the holiday break and they were gone so long I actually missed their obnoxious faces. Sleeping in feels so lazy when there’s no one coming in every 10 minutes asking when you’re coming to come down and make breakfast. It’s practically boring when you can get through a work phone call without having to simultaneously mentally review the AZ RE contract, use sign language to communicate to a son that he CANNOT go to Joshua’s house because it’s dark outside, and make dinner. I would be lonely and unchallenged without all my worldly burdens.

Though I can’t abandon my Arizona existence and go back immediately, the lessons I learned on the SF trip continue to greatly affect my life. I returned home forever altered, enriched, and worldly. It would be impossible to package all of the epiphanies I experienced into one brief blog post, but I’ll do my best to summarize the most important, life changing and enriching discoveries I made on my travels:

1. They serve delicious canned wine on Frontier flights.

wine in a can

 

It’s adorable, a little bubbly, and perfect. Obviously I was aware quality wine can come in a box, but WHO KNEW it came in a can with pithy sayings? The world is just so big and amazing, right?

2. Hostels aren’t only for murders.

It turns out hostels can also be adorable and perfect. Sure, ours was in a moderately terrifying neighborhood, and you couldn’t stay in one with a family or anything, but for our purposes, it was completely excellent. It was $30/night for a bunkbed in a room with 4 beds, lockers and a bathroom. When I left for SF, Jonas asked me where I was staying and I explained the basic concept of the hostel. He made me promise I’d sleep on the top bunk for him. Luckily, Rebekah was worried she’d have to fight me for the bottom bunk, so we were happy bunkmates.

The room and facilities were clean and creatively decorated. The staff and all the patrons we encountered were polite (although it’s possible I was the oldest person there). They had a hairdryer I could check out in the morning by leaving my driver’s license at the front desk.  There was a tiny bar in the lobby that served cheap beer and wine until midnight. When I accidentally left my necklace on the high shelf next to my bunkbed and didn’t remember until we’d left for the day, it was gone when we got back that night. But I went down to the front desk figuring there was little to no chance someone had turned it in and there it was.

Our hostel experience was an A+ and I’d do it again.

3. Umbrellas are not just for wasting space in my glove compartment and my kids to invite bad luck into our house.

It turns out they’re legitimately useful when you’re stuck using public transportation in an apocalyptic rainstorm. There are also varying degrees of robustness in umbrella manufacture. Not all umbrellas are created equal. The ones sold in AZ are apparently only useful for one trip from your car to Target in a freak 10 minute downpour. Anything more aggressive than that will render them sad and lifeless.

umbrella

4. I cannot do the splits.

Sure, I can do this:

dancer split

 

But Elena, the tiny, Russian, badass circus teacher, disabused me of the notion this was a true split during the stretching portion of her conditioning class. It turns out it’s a cheaty dancer split, because my hips are not square at all.

Sadly, this is what my true split looks like:

true split

I’ve always thought I was generally naturally flexible. I’ve come to realize, however, that some parts of me are super flexible, while others are miserably tight. For instance, my hip joints are ridiculously loose, but my hip flexors are rigid like an old lady’s. Also I feel super flexible about cleaning schedules in our house, but I’m absolutely unwavering regarding the necessity of cocktails with dinner.

Now that I know I’ve always been a giant cheatery cheaterpants, I’ve put into place a stretching system so I can work toward getting my true splits. I also want to be able to touch my feet to my head:

feet to head Jan 4 - 2015

 

It’s going to be a long process.

5. I can totally hang.

SF handstand

 

I wasn’t one of the young ones. I can’t do the splits. I can’t do 10 handstand pushups. My butt is too soft. My umbrella can’t resist the weather. But… I could keep up. I was never the weakest. I have potential. My body is strong and resilient. My outfits are awesome. I fit in at circus school.

People I Met on The Great San Francisco Midlife Crisis Circus Adventure

So… I went to San Francisco, took 6 classes at the Circus Center in two days during the apocalyptic Storm of the Decade, had an amazing, life-affirming experience and decided to move there, quit real estate and never come home.

Well, except for the last part. I did, however, develop a serious love of both the city and the Circus Center, despite the uncooperative weather.

I’ve been mulling how to describe my experience here and I’ve decided the only way to really convey a sense of the awesomely weird, difficult and joyful of what I went through last week is to break it into two posts: People I Met, and Things I Learned. So without further ado, these are the people of note I met in the 63ish hours I ran away to the circus in San Francisco:

1. Kelli – Mid-late 20s? Works the front desk at the Circus Center. We exchanged approximately 23 emails with her preceding the trip in order to get prerequisites to take some of the upper-level classes. We expected her to hate us but she was super nice and helpful. When we told her we were staying at a hostel in the Tenderloin neighborhood, she told us to watch we don’t step in human feces on the sidewalk on our way home.

2. Elena – Late-40s-ish, immaculate, tiny blond Russian. Elena was a gold-medal winning aerialist in the 80s in Russia and revolutionized the swinging trapeze (not to be confused with the static or flying trapeze). She’s performed all over the world and has been teaching at SFCC for 10 years. We took Static Trapeze 1, Hoop 1 and Aerial Conditioning from her. In static trap, while I was hanging upside down by one knee, she took a long stick and poked my butt cheek not once, but several times while admonishing me, Too soft! in a thick Russian accent. In the spinning hoop class she was fond of shouting, Nipples to the ceiling! (pronounced “neepols”). An hour and a half into the two hour, torturous conditioning class, she demanded I attempt a straddle climb on the rope (legs held in a straddle position, you climb with only your arms). When I told her I couldn’t do that, that I’d never done it before, she said, You haven’t done it because no one has told you to do it before. You will do it now. I want to be her when I grow up.

sfcc 1

3. Kalani – 19, tall, gorgeous brunette from Hawaii. Moved to San Francisco a month ago to become a professional aerialist/circus performer. I took Hoop and Acro with her. She had just finished taking the One-Month Intensive deal at the center that allows you to take an unlimited amount of classes in 30 days for $990. She took 61 classes. I overheard her telling someone she’d tried an aerial straps class, but the instructor said she would never be really good at it because her butt is too big. I wish my butt was too big like her butt is too big.

4. Lizette – 50s?, small, thin, with white-blonde hair. Lizette was working on her spinning hoop routine for a student show they were having during our hoop class. Every inch of her looked 25 years old except her face. I think she might bathe in the blood of infants at night.

5. David – 40s, Kalani’s dad. He told us he was visiting her from Hawaii and she’d made him take a flying trapeze class with her. I’m doing it again tonight and I can’t wait, he said. It was the most fun thing I’ve ever done. 

6. Herdlyn – Mid-late 20s?, Jamaican, flying trapeze and trampoline instructor. He taught us trampoline basics like, The First Rule of Trampoline is not to fall off. Friday night we watched from the bleachers as he did a run-through of an amazing duo-trap act while wearing fantastic gold pants. He’s pretty.

sfcc 2

7. Adam – 30sish. Adam took trampoline with us. He said he’d been doing it for about 6 months and had started because his wife took aerial classes at the Circus Center. I’m kind of a circus unicorn, he told us. I’m the husband who got just as addicted to this stuff as my wife. If I knew him better I’d make him a shirt that said Circus Unicorn.

8. Marijuana guy – As far as we can tell, the same guy stands at Stanyan and Haight every day asking everyone who passes if they want to buy marijuana and making it known he has the best marijuana on Haight. He’s a hard worker. He didn’t even close up shop during the torrential downpour.

9. Leo – 50s? But for his greying goatee, Leo could have been 30. He took Aerial Conditioning with us Friday morning. He brought his dog to class and leashed her upstairs in the bleachers with her dog bed. He told us he was a retired SF Firefighter and training to be a professional aerialist performer. He did the straddle climb without bitching.

sfcc 3

10. Xiaohung – 49, super nice Chinese dude who taught Acrobatics 1. I only know how old Xiaohung is because he was telling stories about his 20-something year old son and I turned to the girl next to me and said, Did he have him when he was FIVE? She laughed and said, I know, right? He says he’s 49, but I’m pretty sure he’s ageless. He told us he trained as a gymnast in China in the 70s when there was no heat in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer. He had us hold handstands for what seemed like hours and do elevated handstand push-ups down past the negative point and all the way up. The middle portion of the class involved him stretching us until we cried (ok, I was the only one who actually cried), but then he gave us each an intense 5-minute back massage and I forgave him. During the final third of class he called me out on all of the cheating I usually do to get through my front and back walkovers. He just seemed so sure I could push a little harder when I was giving him every ounce of strength and flexibility I had in my body. I felt bad for letting him down.

11. Annie – 17, spunky teenage girl with a long ponytail and no makeup. Annie was in my acro class. When she walked in, she announced she’d just gotten into Georgetown and was so excited. She referred to me (and everyone else) as “Bro” or “Man”. As in, I like your hair, Bro. (All teenagers like my hair.) She told me she’s not interested in being a professional circus performer because she’s going to major in International Public Health and work for the CDC, but she intends to be the captain of the cheer squad at Georgetown. Both her parents are attorneys. She could do 10 handstand push-ups past negative almost totally unassisted. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to be just like Annie.

12. Dave – 60, seemingly normal grandpa-ish dude with white hair. Who could do 10 handstand push-ups. When he found out I’m a mom he told me I must be the ‘cool mom’ and that I was an inspiration. I told him he was confused about which of us was inspiring.

13. Klonopin guy – Looked weirdly normal. Tried to sell us Klonopin for $1 a pill as we walked from our hostel to the train on Saturday morning. Sounded like a deal?

14. Heather – 31, pretty brunette with great bangs (the flight attendant was obsessed with her bangs, to the point of coming over more than once and asking to touch them because she planned on duplicating them later that night). I sat next to Heather on the plane home. She’s a family and child therapist in the bay area. She recently broke up with her boyfriend of 6 years (who she was living with) because she decided she just wasn’t that into him, primarily because she’s actually interested in women. Shortly thereafter she met her current girlfriend. She’s trying to take it slow, but she’s also decided recently she wants to have children. She was fascinating.

I already miss them all.

Sometimes a Battle is Lost

Me: It’s going to be a good run today, I can tell. Let’s pick up the pace a little bit.

Also Me: Um, the music’s not working. What’s wrong with Pandora? Why isn’t the music playing?

Me: Verizon hasn’t figured out how to get a cell tower to reach out to the barren wilderness of NorthEast Mesa. It’s ok, we can run without music. We’ll just think about stuff.

Also Me: Like what?

Me: Like… Christmas. The cards might be delivered today. We could start stuffing them tonight.

Also Me: Oh the cards you had to reorder because you’re a dumbass and didn’t realized they’d be too small to fit the calendars you also send?

Me: Yes, it’s completely my fault.

Also Me: Hey, I wanted to skip cards altogether this year.

Me: Because you’re lazy. Let’s not think about cards.

Also Me: OK, do you want to think about the gifts you decided to make instead of buy this year, of which you’ve only completed HALF OF ONE and it took you most of last weekend?

Me: But the one I’ve made is so pretty!

Also Me: HALF of one. When do you plan to find the time to make six and a half more before Christmas?

Me: I don’t want to think about this anymore.

MapMyRunGirl: Distance, 1 mile. Time, 10 minutes, 11 seconds. Split pace, 10 minutes, 11 seconds.

Also Me: WHAT THE FUCK???! We’ve been running super hard and we’re going that fucking slow? This is bullshit. This hurts and there’s no music and I don’t want to talk to you anymore and we still have three more slow fucking miles left. I don’t want to do this today!

Me: You think I like talking to you? You’re the goddamn worst! You can’t even maintain a positive attitude for a 40 minute run that you know as well as I do we’ll just feel better about life and ourselves and everything after we complete! All you do is bitch and moan. Just put your head down and keep going, for chrissake.

Also Me: *silence*

Me: Oh now you’re not speaking to me? Good. Fuck you.

Pandora: *I love you like a love song, baby*

Me: The music is back! See, it’s going to be fine. We just need to keep going, even if it’s slow-

Also Me: AND NOW IT’S GONE AGAIN.

Me: God, it’s almost worse that it just came back for 30 seconds. What a fucking tease Pandora is.

Also Me: FUCK THIS. I can’t do it today. We’re walking. WE’RE WALKING.

Me: Seriously? After a mile and a half we’re walking? What?

Also Me: You’re not in charge today. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I refuse to run 4 miles today.

Me: This is pathetic. I hate you so much.

Also Me: I… I’m sorry. No really. I know this ruined your day, but I just, really really really didn’t want to.

Me: Like really, who even are we that we can’t get through four slow miles when it’s 61 degrees out? We’re worthless. This is so humiliating I’ll have to turn off the auto-post to Facebook on MapMyRun.

Also Me: You’re going to tell it not to post? Isn’t it kind of inauthentic to only post when you have a good run? Are you going to start pausing the app at stoplights, too?

Me: Oh now you have ethics?

Also Me: I’m just saying.

Also Me: We can do pull-ups when we get home if you want…

Me: Whatever. We’ll probably do two and you’ll start bitching about them too.

Also Me: Uh, well, I mean… if you don’t want to, we don’t have to. We can save our strength for San Francisco. Taking all those circus classes in just a few days is going to be extremely taxing. We should probably be tapering anyway.

Me: You’re ridiculous. I give up.

Also Me: You do? Because I really think we need new sunglasses for the trip. And also new star tights. They probably have them at that store over in Tempe. We could get a burger from Five Guys on the way.

Me: Why the fuck not?

Also Me: Can we eat marshmallows for breakfast and then take a bubble bath?

Me: Sounds good.

The Dream: An RV Circus Food Truck

Even though the rest of my life is kind of a mess, my plans for world domination via circus are steadily moving forward. Sure, I’m still a 36 year old lady in tie-dye tights and a leo, dying her hair blue to cover the grey, but now I’m that weirdo who can do stuff like this:

This was a class a few weeks ago where we took a silks performance we found online and, with the help of our instructor, broke it into pieces and learned the first half of it. My phone ran out of memory and cut off the last drop, but it was probably for the best because by that point I was exhausted and mostly just trying not to let go and accidentally hang myself.

Also, one of the circus schools I go to recently acquired a set of hand-balancing canes. I was surprised to learn I can do this:

Cool, right? Although that hand-balancing shit takes a certifiably insane amount of time, effort and strength to turn into any kind of a routine, so it’s possible my party trick in that arena will max out at 7 seconds.

Just this week I started taking a lyra class (the big metal hoop). It’s not something I’ve had much experience on over the last 15 months, but so far I’m entertained. Last night at class there was a lengthy discussion over whether it is socially insensitive to describe leg position as ‘swastika-ing’ and/or politically incorrect to name a move ‘The Spinning Budda’. I’m not sure a consensus was achieved, but there was learning, and that’s the most important thing.

Gray decided when I run away to join the circus he wants to come with. I told him he needs to have a skill he can perform, so this is what he’s been practicing (I apologize for the vertical video. It works way better for the silks and handstands, but then I get used to it and forget to use it properly in other situations):

So here’s what I’ve decided is the new plan of action:

Step 1: Teach Jonas to tame lions* and Ben to be a fire eater (shouldn’t be that hard, he’s a teenage boy, he’ll eat anything).

Step 2: Sell the house and all our stuff.

Step 3: Buy an RV that doubles as a food truck.

Step 4: Travel around the country performing while Jason sells gourmet tacos and coffee out of the back of our living quarters.

Shouldn’t be that hard.

Next week, I’m off on a random trip to the Circus Center of San Francisco with a circus friend. We’re flying in Wednesday evening, staying in a hostel, and taking classes for 3 days. Because life is short and my knees aren’t getting any younger. I’ll surely post all the details here eventually, but if you’d like to experience the adventure in real time, you’ll probably want to follow my Instagram, @ecnewlin. I’m gonna hashtag it #theSFcircusadventure.

After that I’ll totally start talking about real estate again. Probably.

This is aerialist Barbie. I stole her off pinterest.

This is aerialist Barbie. I stole her off pinterest. It’s what I felt like last weekend when I went to an Orange Theory class with Jason and had to lift weights while standing in front of a mirror. 

 

*By “teach Jonas to tame lions” I mean “rescue and rehabilitate injured domesticated species and allow them to perform only if they enjoy it and feel emotionally fulfilled by the experience,” obviously.

Back At It

I took some time off writing the blog to focus on working on a book I decided I want to write. The concept is a tell-all exposé about parenting and marriage, in which I expound upon some of my favorite metaphors (Having kids is like smelling your own farts) and generate some new ones (Getting a pedicure is like putting on your own oxygen mask first when the plane is crashing). Of course, in the last 3 weeks I’ve managed to put together 655 words, so I’ve mostly just felt guilty both about not writing the blog and not writing the book.

That said, if I wasn’t failing at large portions of my life at any given time, I wouldn’t recognize the surroundings and the shock would probably trigger a stroke. So… cheers to familiar territory.

Don’t worry, though. The fact that I’m updating the blog doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the book. It just means I’m conceding that the idea of “devoting time I would usually spend writing the blog, writing the book instead” was a failed experiment and my mental block against long form still exists. My efforts need redoubling. My pep needs a good talking-to. My motivation needs a goddamn slap on the mouth. I’m working on it.

In the meantime, here I am, back to telling you about the ridiculous things in my life twice a week while I try to overcome my own laziness and self-doubt on the side.

In other depressing news, I’ve gained all of my pneumonia-weight-loss back, though I’ve managed to maintain a nagging cough.

And since I’m clearly whining, I feel comfortable telling you: Real Estate is bumming me out. (Oh you thought I didn’t do that anymore because I hardly ever talk about it? Nope. I’m still deep in the trenches.) I spent most of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 so busy closing deals I got to the point where getting a new client who wanted to buy or sell a house just made me worry I would have to miss circus class. I became a complacent and ungrateful Realtor. I thought there was no way the flood of business would stop. I told myself I’d just reached the next level in my business and I wouldn’t need to worry about having months where I didn’t close a deal anymore. I thought my biggest future problem would be how much I should be setting aside for my stupidly large tax bill.

But the flow began to ebb, as it always does in this biz. Suddenly I’m nearly 10 years in real estate (February 2015 is my decadiversary) and at the tail end of a slump year. Which probably hasn’t been helped by my lack of blogging or discussing real estate at all in social media. I told people for years that even though it didn’t really look like it, blogging and social media were my marketing bread and butter. Sure, I made jokes, talked about my kids and used the f-word for the most part, but I made sure to pepper in enough real estate references to remind people it’s what I do and I do it well. But apparently I didn’t even believe my own spiel until now, after I’d all but quit marketing myself and am sitting next to a silent phone with a cleared calendar for the week.

Me: *SIGH*

Also Me: Waaaaaaa. Enough of the pity-party.

Me: Wallowing helps me process.

Also Me: Oh stop it. How many of your clients have you told recently real estate gets quiet between Thanksgiving and New Years?

Me: All of them.

Also Me: So why does it surprise you when it’s between Thanksgiving and New Years and all of a sudden your schedule opens up a little?

Me: Because even I don’t believe my own bullshit, obviously. Haven’t we already established that?

Also Me: You should probably work on that. And dude, you’ve written two new build contracts in the last week and have a listing closing this week. That’s not exactly a barren real estate landscape.

Me: I guess. It was just SO EASY last year.

Also Me: Oh cry everyone a river. You have to actually sell yourself again. Suck it up, sister.

Me: It’s my least favorite part of this job.

Also Me: Well you could always quit and go back to editing technical manuals in Northwest Phoenix.

Me: SUCKING IT UP. Right now. Sucking it up.

Also Me: Or you could actually write the book you’re always talking about writing but not actually writing.

Me: Now you’re bumming me out again.

Also Me: That’s life, lady. That’s life.

 

Smoke Detectors: A Government Conspiracy

So, guys… I’ve uncovered a US government conspiracy to systematically identify and eliminate the weaklings in our society in order to strengthen our position as a global super power.

No, I have! Really, just hear me out:

What’s the core value of being American? Like the one thing that really makes us who we are, and different from any other nation in the world? That’s right: The fervent and universally held opinion that we are THE BEST at everything important. We’re the strongest and the militariest and the coolest and the BBQiest and if not the smartest, well then certainly the craftiest and smuggest. And don’t you try to tell us differently.

Certain secret government agencies, in their quest to protect our national identity of WINNERS OF STUFF, have noticed some disturbing cultural trends that indicate we could be slipping:

  • Reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and Slednecks.
  • McRib sandwiches with meat pressed into the shape of pretend bones.
  • Formal sweatpants.

Just to name a few.

These government agencies eventually decided the indicators had reached a level of concern that needed to be addressed if we are going to maintain our status of Country Everyone Else Wishes They Were. Something needed to be done to cull the herd, to select out the individuals who weren’t up to par. So they hatched a plan to infiltrate American homes and secretly institute a barrage of physical, emotional and intelligence tests to filter out the weakest of us, cut the fat and keep us at our societal fighting weight.

I know what you’re wondering: What are these tests and how do I know about them?

Well I’ll tell you. Smoke Detectors. That’s how they do it. And I know, because this week my family was subjected to this brutal and barbaric round of testing. They thought they were smarter than us. They thought we wouldn’t figure it out. But I’m here to tell you right now that what we went through could only have been part of a government conspiracy to break us down, reveal our weaknesses and ultimately eliminate those who couldn’t handle it. There’s just no other explanation. Here’s how it goes:

Monday morning at 3:17, I was dreaming that Scott Folley showed up at my door with a bacon blue cheese burger and a bottle of Zinfandel. When he spoke, he sounded like Louis CK, and he told me he wanted to take me to a deserted island and help me write my novel. Just as he looked into my eyes and leaned forward (he smelled like beef and cheese), alarms started going off, Barack Obama and Portia DeRossi with her terrible hair burst in to take him away and I woke up, only to realize the alarms weren’t in my dream. They were all the smoke detectors in our house going off.

By the time we’d checked to make sure there wasn’t a fire (let’s be honest, I stayed in bed while Jason checked) and calmed the kids down, the alarms inexplicably stopped. Everyone went back to bed and laid awake trying to calm our heart rates while wondering if our house was haunted, and trying to remember if our alarms only detected smoke or if they were some kind of carbon monoxide thing, too, and sniffing to see if we could smell gas.

About 10 minutes after we’d all finally settled down and drifted back off to sleep, at 4:45, they all went off again. This time they stayed on for a good solid 10 minutes. The kids and cat huddled on our bed with me and their hands over their ears, while Jason stumbled around the house in the dark yelling profanities and our neighbors updated their list of Reasons to Evict The Newlins* to present at the next HOA meeting.

At 5:15 the alarms went off for the third time and continued to blare until Jason ripped them all off the ceiling one by one and removed the batteries.

This is Phase I of testing. It targets anyone emotionally unstable, depressed, or suicidal. Sleep deprivation plus non-stop ear-piercing alarms, combined with the terror of potentially seeing your family cooked to death is an extremely quick and effective way to whittle you down to your core where you’re just a bundle of raw nerves. Sometimes it even causes loved ones to turn on each other. I was actually a little surprised we survived this stage. When Jason broke down and began angrily berating the smoke detectors themselves while Jonas begged me to make it stop because it was hurting his ears and the cat shivered in my lap, I had a moment where I wondered if the sweet release of death wasn’t preferable.

After Jason and the kids shuffled blearily out the door to school and work, I was determined to figure out and solve WHATEVER THE FUCK was going on with the smoke detectors so that we could get a decent night’s sleep the next night. I began by calling the manufacturer of the smoke detectors. I was routed through a phone system and forced to leave a voicemail for a customer service rep.

Next, I turned to the internet. A quick Google revealed sometimes dust caused smoke detectors to malfunction. Vacuuming them out could remedy the problem. I came up with a plan to vacuum each out, replace the batteries (just in case) and put them up one by one. The first one seemed fine. The second seemed fine. The third croaked quietly when I tested the alarm, despite the new battery. The fourth also seemed not as loud as the first two. The fifth, as soon as I put the battery in the little motherfucker, caused all of the alarms in the house to immediately begin sounding. And, of course, when I tried to take the goddamn battery out, the little battery door was stuck and I had to run around the house like a lunatic trying to find a screwdriver to wrench it open while all of the alarms sounded for the fourth time that morning. I consider that one yet another victory for not throwing myself in front of a bus.

Clearly, I thought, I had three bad smoke detectors. Two sad ones with insufficient alarms, and one angry one causing all of the rest to go off. I took a sharpie and marked two of them with an “S” and one with an “A”, so I wouldn’t forget which were which, and headed to Home Depot to buy replacements.

At Home Depot, I was told by Wilford Brimley and Don Knotts that they don’t sell the brand of smoke detectors I have in my house, because they’re only sold to contractors and home builders.

Me: OK, so… I have to replace them ALL??

Wilford: No, you can buy this brand we have here. But see how yours have a yellow wire and these have a red wire?

Me: Yeah…

Wilford: You’re going to have to strip the wire and pigtail the red and the yellow together when you install them so they still talk to each other.

Me: Um… I think this might be above my pay grade.

Wilford: Oh I don’t doubt that, ma’am, but it’s not rocket science.

Don: Heh, heh. You just need to pigtail that sucker. But make sure you turn off the main breaker. It’s not that difficult.

Me: Pigtail. Main breaker. Ok.

When I got to my car with three new smoke detectors I would have to ‘pigtail’, I looked at my phone and realized that I didn’t have a missed called because the cell service is so spotty in Home Depot, but I did have a new voicemail. From the manufacturing company. That said, “Please call me back at this number”, and when I did, I got the same voicemail message I had before.

This was clearly Phase II of the testing. It was designed to evaluate intelligence. Someone not bright enough to find a solution and then immediately subjected to taunting by elderly hardware store employees would likely crack from frustration and humiliation, retrieve a semi-automatic weapon from their car and spray the inside of the Home Depot with bullets and body parts. I also nearly failed this round.

Phase III of the testing is the government’s crown glory achievement. It targets their biggest concern and the problem they’ve found is most prevalent in dragging America down off its pedestal of Awesome: laziness. Phase III is rather brilliant, I have to admit. In Phase III, all of the people who were thwarted by one or all of the roadblocks to fixing the smoke alarms:

  • Step ladder is too short to reach tall ceilings
  • No access to the correct brand
  • Lack of electrical knowledge
  • Unwillingness to pay an electrician $100/smoke alarm to replace them
  • Would rather watch bad reality TV

will give up and simply live without smoke detectors. Eventually, they’ll forget to unplug their straightening iron, light the ant traps in their bathroom on fire and burn their house down with them in it, thus, naturally selecting themselves from the planet.

Currently, there’s still a strong possibility we’ll fall victim to Phase III.

 

 

*They write their names on our property in permanent marker. They wander around asking to play in our yards. They accidentally murder indigenous creatures. They let their smoke alarms go off for no reason at all hours of the night.

How to Catch the Halloween Spirit

Halloween is a pain in the ass. Pumpkin carving is messy and time-consuming and mostly just reminds you you’re terrible at arts and crafts. Your kids really only want to dress up as whatever costume comes with the biggest and most dangerous looking weapon. A trip to the Spirit store makes you feel like you’ve just exposed your children to the most degenerate elements of humanity: stripper slut from Sons of Anarchy costume around one corner and realistic looking human organs covered in red slime around the next. Sure, this is where you go to get the TMNT costume your five year old has been begging for, but it’s right next to a chainsaw dripping with blood. Also, watch where you step. You don’t want to accidentally activate the enormous animatronic spider that will jump out and kick off a lifetime of arachnophobia in your 3 year old. Add to all that the fact that brainstorming a costume for yourself that’s fun, not offensive and doesn’t have the word ‘sexy’ in the name seems futile. Oh, and finding candy wrappers in the laundry for weeks after you thought you eradicated the candy supply makes you want to strangle someone.

Yep, Halloween is kind of the worst. Except: it’s also totally the best. Don’t worry, it’s ok if you’ve gotten bogged down in the minutia and lost the Halloween spirit. It happens to the best of us. I’m here to help.

Five steps to remembering why you LOVE Halloween:

Step 1: Buy your favorite Halloween candy JUST FOR YOU. 

Remember when you were a kid and you had to just hope someone in your neighborhood wasn’t a cheap ass and would be handing out full Butterfingers? Well now you’re an adult and you can buy your own goddamn Butterfingers! And this time of year it’s seasonally acceptable to just have a bag of your favorites in your drawer at work. You’re not a fatty, you’re in training for the big day.

Step 2: Dig out pictures from Halloweens past and post them on social media.

This year is a particularly special Halloween because it falls on a Friday (which I read in a Meme only happens once every 777 years). So not only do we not have to worry about being hungover at work the next day, but the day before is Throwback Thursday! We can spend all day posting pictures like this:

Halloween TBT slutty WWW

 

And remembering when it was age-appropriate to dress like a slutty Wicked Witch of the West.

Step 3: Bust out the weird gothy accessories you occasionally randomly purchase.

Spiderweb fishnets you have no idea where you got?

spiderweb fishnets

 

This is the week to wear them!

Awesome skull scarf you once considered wearing to a funeral but then decided you’d be the only one who would think it was funny?

skull scarf

 

It’s totally not weird the week of Halloween!

(Don’t wear them together, though. Then you just look like you put on your slutty pirate costume a day early:

slutty pirate

 

It’s not ok.)

Step 4: Watch a marathon of Roseanne Halloween episodes on the TVLand channel.

This is one of the more important steps to regaining the Halloween spirit and is not to be missed. If you can watch three episodes of Roseanne, Dan, Jackie and the kids dressing up fantastically and elaborately and being assholes to each other and everyone around them in sadistically hilarious ways without feeling moved by the Halloween spirit to share it with everyone around you… well then you’re dead inside (and not in the cool, zombie way) and I can’t help you.

Step 5: Last, but not least, read this entire thread of scary stories.

I read half of them yesterday and the other half today while I was home alone. I had to take breaks because it started to be terrifying to go into the garage or upstairs by myself. It seemed clear there were like 80 ghosts hiding in both of those places. Even though we’re the original owners of this house.

Some of the stories are lame and some are horrifying. I think it makes them all so much more fascinating that they’re all told by people who believe what they’re telling implicitly (but I’m also kind of a voyeur).

I’m a fairly firm skeptic, so I don’t really have any spooky stories, but I do have in my possession the Ouija Board we used when we were 16 to contact the spirits in my BFF’s house. It’s possible we got in touch with River Phoenix once, after he ODed. I swear it wasn’t me pushing the pointer thing, despite the fact everyone suspected me. I think it might have been Amanda, though. I also one time did Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board at the 9th grade cheer sleepover and I was the person being lifted. I had my eyes closed the whole time as they chanted and felt them lift me off the ground. After a few minutes of the feverishly whispered chanting, I peeked, saw the ceiling inches from my face, screamed bloody murder and they dropped me. But I think that was physics, not poltergeists.

Those are my only paranormal experiences. But if you have any good ones, feel free to leave them in the comments. Even though I’ll be sure there was a logical explanation, I assure you they’ll make me check behind the shower curtain in the bathroom before I pee.

That should do it: Go forth and spread the Halloween cheer!!