Monday, April 1, 2013

It's only been about 6 months since I posted here

OK, I completely stopped blogging here sometime during Leigh's third trimester. Things got busy, like really busy. I think the last time I posted something here I was unemployed, interviewing for jobs, waiting for my baby to be born (which happened, by the way, read all about her here), and generally living my life.

My life is about 60% different today than it was a mere 6 months ago. I'm someone's mom now, Leigh and I have a family that consists of more than our pets, my house is kind of a big mess, we are about to start traveling regularly with our infant child (yes, we are insane), oh and I have the job I've wanted for a very, very long time.

In general, things are great and I'm reminded every day how very lucky I am. And I don't just mean lucky to have been born in a western country, have a better than decent education and job and my health. I mean truly blessed to have my family, good friends, and spend my days doing work I enjoy.

The topic I was blogging about most before my recent absence was fixing up my house. Well, I got about halfway through a few projects before creating more projects and then starting a very demanding job. So, in short, our kitchen still needs to be replaced and our floor still has a big hole in it. Oh, and we've realized how very small our house really is and that we need to buy a new one sometime in the next few years.

First, I think we've decided to NOT replace the kitchen. Our plan is to keep our house as a rental when we buy a new one and our kitchen is perfectly functional. Instead we are going to look into refacing our kitchen cabinets to give it a less expensive facelift. I don't know much about this so we are thinking of taking a field trip to ask questions soon.

But the project we MUST complete this summer is replacing our laminate flooring in the downstairs and staircase. This is going to cost a pretty penny that we hadn't planned to spend at all, but it must be done. We can't live comfortably with a hole in our flooring and we certainly can't rent out our house as it is.

When I think about home improvements I like to look on websites like Apartment Therapy and Young House Love for inspiration. It's a fun form of escapism and, most of the time, I can imagine taking on a lot of the projects in my own home because they fall within reasonable price ranges and serve practical purposes. The only real down side to this is getting overwhelmed by the sheer consumerism and materialism that accompanies these blogs. I'm the first to admit that I enjoy shopping and having nice things, but I also take a great deal of joy out of making the most of what I have and not buying unnecessary things. In contrast, I feel a lot of shame when I realize I've indulged in things I don't need or can't justify or when I realize that my closet is more than full and almost half of it is stuff I don't even wear anymore.

Maybe it's living in Alaska or having a long history of thrifted clothes and Craigslist furnishings, but being constantly encouraged to buy new things, finance major purchases, and further complicate my life can get completely overwhelming and leave me feeling a little bit empty. It makes me stop and think "do I really want to finance my new flooring" but that thought is instantly drowned out by "do I really want my next dinner guests to notice the not-so-cleverly-covered-up hole in my flooring?"

In the end I will replace the floor because it adds value and increases my daily enjoyment of my home. But at the end of the day I really just want to simplify my life: a comfortable house, enough of the things we need to be comfortable and none of the things we don't that add clutter, less debt, more family time, more travel. Obviously these things don't always go hand in hand, at least not in the beginning, but hopefully with the right focus we can look forward to this kind of existence.

Or I could stop tearing down walls that leave holes in my floor.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Long Absence

Sorry for the several weeks of silence, but things have gotten so busy since I started my new job. I basically went from having 100% free time to having very little free time. The long and short of it is that I really like what I'm doing, the people I'm working with, and everything else associated with my job. Most days I have at least one moment where I can't believe things worked out the way they did.

We've been really busy at home too. First, we had to finish getting the baby's room ready. Leigh is 38 weeks pregnant now, so the baby could arrive at any time. It's amazing how hard it was to motivate ourselves to do all those last things like pre-washing all the clothes, tethering the furniture to the walls, etc. We still aren't 100% ready, but we are close enough that if the baby were born today we'd be OK for the first several weeks. We even took child birthing and lactation classes. We're still far from being experts, but at least we have an idea of what to expect.

In other news, now that I have a job (YAY!) and the baby is almost here (double yay!), Leigh and I can finally start planning ahead for trips and adventures both in Alaska and outside of Alaska. We have already made firm plans to go to Hawaii in March and Seattle in May. Plus we are brainstorming a Christmas trip to the Washington, DC/Virginia area, maybe a trip to New York to visit her brother and maybe even drop in on my cousins. Looking toward the next 3 years or so we're also talking about checking out a little surfing town near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, going to Europe or the UK, and taking an extended vacation in Southeast Asia.

Our overall goal is to incorporate our 9-5 jobs and family lives into the things we always talk about doing and have loved doing so far. Luckily we already live in an awesome place, so we can spend our weekends snowshoeing and hiking with our little ones. On long weekends and vacations we can check destinations and experiences off our bucket lists and share those moments with our kids. This may sound crazy with a baby, but we always said we would fit our family into the lives we've always dreamed of, rather than setting those dreams aside to live an ordinary family life. The bottom line is that we're not an ordinary family. We love to have unique experiences, travel interesting itineraries, and experience our lives rather than just living them.

OK, Baby Ruby, come on out. We are ready to start the next leg of our adventure! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Far We've Come

I start work on Monday. It's kind of a huge deal for me. I was unemployed for two full months and was really starting to panic. Then, about 5 weeks ago, things started to move slowly in a very good direction. About two weeks ago I made amazing progress and on Monday of this week I was made an offer by my first choice employer: a big law firm specializing in precisely the kind of work I want to do.

The process of getting this offer started in 2010, but more recently I sat for three separate interviews with a total of six professionals in Anchorage and the firm's headquarters back east. When studying for the interviews, I started by re-reading some of my own written work. The oldest piece was a paper I wrote after spending a semester studying the financial markets in New York City. The most recent is the article I wrote for the June 2012 issue of the Alaska Law Review. I'm proud of my work on both pieces, but the differences in style, precision, depth of topic, and even the level of confidence that comes across when reading each piece is starkly different. I've grown a lot in the past 3 1/2 years, not just by improving my writing. More that my growth as a young professional is visible in my writing and the types of projects I take on.

This realization caused one of my favorite memories to surface. It was August of 2010. Leigh and I were curled up in a tent somewhere outside of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, catching our breath on a long drive from Seattle to Anchorage. This moment emerged following our time together in France, followed by our time apart while I finished my teaching contract there, then a summer of manual labor working the Seattle farmers markets.

It was August, but it was chilly in Whitehorse, with mornings and evenings averaging in the 40s. Leigh and I were fully dressed in layers of socks and sweatshirts and huddled under our sleeping bags. Juneau Cat was snuggled between us, still an unhappy camper. We chatted about the rest of our drive and how we would spend the few days between our arrival in Anchorage and the start of my first judicial clerkship. My first real job after nearly seven years of higher education, internships, papers, academic competitions, and part-time jobs.

Leigh reached over and pressed the tip of her forefinger against the tip of my nose. "Look at you!" She said, "you're starting your first job in a few days. It's amazing how far we've come."

I love this memory, and not just because my favorite person was being so sweet to me and praising me for my biggest accomplishment so far. Instead, I love this memory because it's about both of us and how much our lives have changed since we met. Leigh watched me grow from a semi-abandoned 17-year old into an attorney with a nice list of personal and professional accomplishments. These accomplishments sometimes came at a price- time away from Leigh, financial burdens, and sometimes even failing to develop my domestic side. But Leigh developed in ways I did not. Not only did she emerge from adolescents as a college student and overcome a number of struggles to find her professional self, but she also became a caring and conscientious spouse. Today she is a valued employee at a job she loves and a loving mother to our furry daughters and our unborn human daughter.  Most of all, she is my best friend. I can honestly say that I could not have done so much in my professional life if I hadn't had her there to balance out my personal life.

Leigh's support of my endeavors has been so complete that her fate and mine are entirely intertwined. So the best part of this story is that when my dream came true, Leigh's did too. It feels surreal and completely humbling to be offered my first choice and to have it mean so much to my growing family. I can only hope to continue to be worthy of my new professional position as well as my position in our home.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Living Room Facelift: The Reveal!

Last week was almost entirely devoted to repainting my downstairs. The final result is pretty great, almost exactly as I envisioned it. There were only a few hiccups.

But before I start, please ignore the clutter on my dining table and the pizza box on the kitchen island, and other signs that point out the obvious: last week I was so busy painting that I barely even did the dishes, let alone keep my dining table clear of Target bags or take the pizza box out to the recycling. Tidy Emily returns tomorrow morning, but for now we'll just chat about the new color scheme. 

You'll recall that I planned to repaint the dining and kitchen area green, continue the green via "wainscoting" throughout the living area plus a splash of blue, and incorporate a saffron yellow accent wall. I almost succeeded in every respect, almost

What's missing here?

Yep, we decided against the blue. The "French Court Blue" that we loved by itself just refused to work with the other colors. When painted on the small wall between the living area and kitchen it clashed with the adjacent yellow wall. Then I painted a thin blue line on top of the green "wainscoting" to add a splash of coolness, but that just made the green look messy. So I ultimately took the "less is more" approach and repainted over the blue so the wall is just white and green.

Repainting the downstairs took all week to complete, not because painting itself is difficult but because I wanted my work to look professional and clean. The trick was carefully taping off the areas I did not want to paint (door frames, etc) and moving slowly to avoid accidents. 

The "wainscoting" in particular was very slow going. I used a measuring tape, level, and pencil to draw a straight line across the wall at roughly the height of an average dining chair (34 inches from the floor). Then I used painter's tape to delineate the green/blue line across the entire wall. To get a truly clean line, I brushed one layer of clear polyurethane on the edge of the painter's tape and onto the wall below it. Once that dried, I painted the area below the painter's tape with the green paint. After allowing the paint to dry completely, I carefully removed the painter's tape to reveal a clean, level line across the wall. 

Here's a close-up of the "wainscoting":

Cannelle photobomb

Anyway, here's the before (from the front door looking toward the back yard):

Here's the after:

The new colors are more inviting and warmer and the space has a much better flow. We also really like how the green compliments the colors in our art and colors we typically choose for furniture and fabrics (blues, yellows, reds, etc). Most importantly, that awkward blood red wall is now a soothing color that ties the space together. The next step in this process will installing new laminate because our current laminate needs to be repaired but isn't made anymore, so we either have to replace the whole floor or live with a hole in our dining area. We are planning to go darker and get a laminate with a "plank" effect. Farther down the line we also hope to replace our kitchen cabinets and update our furniture with "investment pieces," but both of those topics will have to wait for another day...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


As of Tuesday I have been unemployed for a full month, but this has been anything but a lazy, dull month. The first few weeks I applied for jobs in Alaska and DC like nobody's business. This did nothing to change my situation. Then I started following up on old job leads. This lead to some positive movement, but no concrete changes signaling an end to my status as part of Romney's 47% percent (in my defense, the money I currently receive from the State is unemployment insurance I paid out of each of my paychecks plus what was matched by my previous employers, so I'm not a total freeloader just yet!). 

In addition to taking positive steps toward finding work, I've been busying myself around the house. Last week I tore down our pony wall to create an open concept living/dining/kitchen space downstairs. This week I am repainting the downstairs to propel us toward a nice update. The overall concept for our downstairs is French/provencal colors with slightly industrial furnishings and details. During our most recent Home Depot run, I bullied convinced Leigh to go with a 3-tone pallet: saffron yellow, "French Court" blue, and a muted, basily green.

The wall below with doors leading to our pantry and utility closet was previously an orangey-yellow. We really loved that color contrasted with the black picture frames. It was the only non-white wall in our entire downstairs, except for a rather tragic blood-red accent wall we inherited from the previous owner. On Day 1 I repainted the orangey wall a Saffron yellow color. Then I painted the previously white wall to the left the "French Court" blue color.

There are two major problems with this picture: 1) the colors look great as part of a green-blue-yellow pallet, but next to one another on a wall without something breaking them up they just look weird. 2) Leigh says the blocked out way I painted these walls reminds her of her high school. I agree. It isn't working for me either. The really weird part is that I LOVE each color on its own and when I look at the walls from various angles they look great.... except for THIS particular angle, it just looks terrible. So back to the drawing board....

Before scrapping all my work so far I decided to put some of the green up to see how it looked. I love it. Leigh loves it. It's a winner. 

The next step is to extend this green into the kitchen (pretend you don't see all the clutter, thanks). In the long-run we plan to replace our cabinets (they're original to the house and Leigh can't stand the musty smell, plus I want something prettier and more functional). But for now pretty much all the white spaces in the kitchen will be green. 
Referring back to a variety of home decor websites, I got the idea to extend the green color throughout the living room as faux wainscoting. Apparently this is a typical use of color in provencal homes. So I will continue with the green color from the moulding to roughly the height of a dining chair.

This "wainscoting" will extend from the window near the [formerly] red wall, wall the way around to our stairs leading into the living area. The current "French Court" blue wall (not pictured, but to the right of the above image) will be repainted white with the green on the bottom too. I'm hoping this will make the space feel more open and allow the theme to feel continuous rather than choppy like it would with a bunch of accent walls.

But what about the beautiful blue color I love so much but just couldn't find a place for? Well, for now I'm planning to top the "wainscoting" green with a thin strip of the "French Court" blue all the way around the room. That way we can bring the color in via furniture and fabrics without it seeming to be "out of the blue" (har har). I'm also hoping that Leigh will permit me to repaint the cabinets on our currently black kitchen island to match... but I'll save that battle project for another day.

Even though I've been super busy every day (today I drove Leigh to work, primed and painted a few walls, did the dishes, bought an infant car seat, attended a lawyers luncheon, and chauffeured Leigh home from work), I indulge in some guilty pleasures. For instance, over the past two weeks I completely caught up on the last two seasons of Teen Mom on Hulu.

My TV time looks a lot like this:
 Ever heard of "personal space"?

Yep, I'm also a full time mom to Juneau Cat and Cannelle Dogger. These two are great pets and are self sufficient, provided that we stick to our routine of NOT being home all the time. My change in schedule has caused them to change their previous routine of sleeping all day and playing with us in the evenings to bugging the crap out of me all day. We are still establishing a yard time/play time routine, but I think the consensus is that I stink at being a stay at home mom to any creature.

Of course, they're awfully cute too. That white thing Cannelle is snuggling is a baby's onesie. This plain white onesie had some schmutz on it, so I set it aside thinking I would try washing it out. Cannelle snatched it up right away and started playing with it. Cannelle is known for destroying her toys by systematically ripping them apart, usually eating the cloth and rubber parts. But 4 days later this onesie is still completely intact and her new favorite snuggly toy to sleep with. If this is any indication I think Cannelle will be an excellent big sister!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Pony Wall: My Biggest DIY Attempt Yet!

When we first toured our house we both decided that this weird half wall (aka "pony wall") would have to go eventually. Our ground floor is pretty small, about 275 square feet, so the last thing we need is something taking up precious space and limiting our furniture arrangement options. 

Last weekend Leigh and I got to chatting about how we want our house to look in the long term and we started to get really excited about some big ideas: investing in furniture to last a lifetime, installing new kitchen cabinets, and similar big ticket items. One issue that kept coming up was how all of our plans revolved around getting rid of that ugly wall. That same weekend we replaced the lighting in our kitchen with new hardwired light fixtures. With this confidence boost I decided to use my ample time off to demolish the pony wall. How hard could it be?

The wall before: 

Not only was it awkward and ugly, but it blocked off our already small living space into two even smaller spaces and made it almost impossible to have a nice dining area.

The first day was pretty straight forward: I beat the crap out of the drywall with a hammer, a crow bar, and my boots. I tore off all the little pieces of drywall and removed any screws I could find and reach. 

Then I noticed this:

That's right folks, that is a freaking steel rod reinforcing this stupid, ugly pony wall. As you can see, it extends down into the floor through a hole. At this point I had no clue how far it went and where it ended. Most importantly, I had no idea how I'd remove it. I actually laid awake that night worrying if I could finish what I'd started.

The next morning I went into the crawl space to investigate and saw this:

steel rod coming through floor anchored by two 2x8 boards. 
I can only imagine this is to make the pony wall "earthquake proof."

At this point I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The good news was that all I had to do was unscrew the bolt and remove the anchor boards. Then the rod could be lifted up through the floor. The bad news was that I had to brace the boards with my neck and shoulder while unscrewing the bolt lest the boards fall on my hands/head. Guess what hurts like a SOB today? Yep, my neck and shoulder. I can't even turn my head fully to the right or left without tear jerking pain. Awesome.

That day a very kind former coworker lent me an electric hand saw and two sledge hammers. These items were life savers. I sawed big knotches into the sides of each vertical stud, then beat the crap out of them with the sledge until the broke free. I also detached the wall frame from the red wall and, very carefully, lifted the steel rod out through the floor. This was not easy. It was exhausting and at more than one point I wished I had another set of hands to help. But I just kept hitting the wall with the sledge and prying pieces loose with the crowbar until it looked like this:

No wall, just floor braces and a newly constructed outlet in the wall (fait par moi)

Then I did this little dance where I unscrewed any screws I could see, then hammered two crow bars between the floor braces at various points to pop the glue loose. Eventually each board came up to reveal bare plywood underneath....

Oh, shit. 

Yep, after all this work we have a bare strip of floor to deal with. So I pulled up a damaged piece and took it to Home Depot, where I learned that most laminate flooring has to be special ordered to Alaska and it takes 6-8 weeks. So I went to Lowes, thinking they might carry different colors or brands. There I learned that, not only do they not have the color I need in stock, but the laminate used in my 1981 house is no longer produced and newer laminates won't "lock in." Thus, the only way to make my house look non-trailer park is to get new flooring. Oh, and this laminate color is used on my stairs and a landing upstairs, plus two utility closets. This is already getting expensive....

So I did what I could by patching the damaged wall and spackling it. I even added a texture so the patch blends in with the wall around it. The next step is to prime the red wall white and take a chip of the white to Home Depot to get a matching white shade for the patched/primed parts.

The floor looks so lovely!

This is what our dining area looks like now. The idea is to invest in a nice dining set that is about 60"x36" and looks like it belongs in an adult's house and replace our bulky love seat with a comfy chair that takes up less space. 

 BUT, I did manage to tear down the wall and rewire the outlet AND our ground floor has a nice open concept feel. With new flooring the space will feel very nice and new. In the short term we will cover the bare patch with a rug....

Friday, September 21, 2012

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Holy crap, it has been raining a lot lately! We came home from Vegas to some rainy icky weather, then it was off and on for a few days. But the past week or so every day has been nonstop rain. I don't mean drizzles, though we get plenty of that, but actual stormy type rain. There's even emergency flooding in Seward, AK and standing water in the streets of Anchorage.

This crappy weather is hardly inspiring me to get out much, so I've barely spoken to anyone except for Leigh since my last week of work. Most days I complete one or two house projects, cook dinner, tidy up the kitchen, and stay in my sweatpants all day. For example, one day I refinished furniture for the baby's room and did some decorating. Today I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, walked the dog, went to the gym, and made homemade pita bread for the first time (it turned out AMAZING, by the way).

I've also gone to the gym pretty regularly too, sometimes just taking a class and sometimes jogging on the treadmill (by "jogging" I mean walking briskly with short running interludes). I should really be doing this every day, if for no other reasons than 1) I'm obviously really out of shape if I can't "jog" in the literal sense and 2) if I don't get out more I'm going to lose all my social skills, thus prolonging my unemployment.

Speaking of employment, I've applied for at least one job pretty much every day since my clerkship ended. Most of these are federal government jobs simply because there are more federal jobs than Alaska jobs. At any rate, I figure the more I put myself out there the more likely it is I'll get interviews and someone is bound to hire me eventually. On top of that, the irons I have in the fire from the past two years' of networking haven't completely cooled yet. Until then I'll believe it's possible I could be working within the next month or so. If none of those pan out it might be a bit longer. Not only does the latter thought bring up some financial anxiety, but I'm already worried about how long my sanity will hold out without regularly tackling difficult legal questions and generally being around other people.... 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Bread Line

Last Tuesday was my last working day. That's almost 2 full weeks of unemployment so far. I am really bad at being unemployed.

The first day was busy: a midwife's appointment and a job interview took up most of my day. The next several days, including the weekend, were also busy with a long "To Do" list around the house. I was exhausted at the end of each day and pleased to see so many little projects coming together at home.

Then yesterday I started to wind down. I woke up, saw that I didn't have as much to do and thus less motivation to do anything at all. I watched DVDs, cleaned a little bit, hung some pictures on the walls, and then met my friend for yoga in the evening. Today was about the same, but I also made some calls about jobs I interviewed for a few weeks ago. I'm still in the running, still theoretically employable and might find myself working in the near future. Maybe.

I've also started feeling really terrified today. Sure, I still have a half dozen things to get done around the house (install new light fixtures, reorganize the pantry, finish preping the baby's room, etc), but soon enough I will finish those tasks and be left only with daily cooking and cleaning, plus any personal hobbies I find to keep myself busy. For a lot of people this sounds great, and it might have sounded like a nice break to me too a few months ago. But the reality is that now I can see a few weeks into the future and then an abyss of aimless days.

Leigh says I should keep looking for work, but really try to enjoy this time off. I am trying and I am enjoying focusing on projects I didn't have time for before. But seriously, I'm tired of hanging around my house alone all day with nobody to talk to and no real challenges to overcome. Those things build my confidence and sharpen my professional skills. I am afraid of dulling those skills and thereby losing my confidence, which will only make it harder for me to sell myself to a potential employer. 

So it's already time to start Round 2. It's not enough to just fill my days, I have to have a plan, even if things don't work out according to plan. First order of business is to finish up some lengthy applications I had put off while wrapping up my clerkship. Then I need to find things to do outside the house, so I will look for volunteer opportunities or maybe try to sit on a planning board or something. Also, I really, really need to always be reading something. I used to read constantly, then I started clerking and was reading all day long so that the last thing I wanted to do at home was pick up a serious book. Well, that is no longer a problem. 

This was certainly not how I anticipated things working out for me post-clerking, but I am still confident that I will find something. Now I have to exercise what patience I have (not much) and focus the energy I would normally use on work onto other aspects of my life. At the end of the day this might turn out to be a great life lesson for me about patience, perseverance, and priorities. Let's hope my heart is open enough for me to hear those lessons and my mind is open enough to understand them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Las Vegas & Environs

Leigh and I went to Las Vegas the last week of August. This was Leigh's first vacation since Christmas and my first vacation since April (I know, I know...). Needless to say, Leigh really needed this time off. We chose Las Vegas because it has hot weather, cheap lodging, and lots of stuff to do. Plus we got to take a day trip to Utah, which was cool. We chose to go the week before my job ended because it was literally the only week we could both get away from our jobs and other plans here in Anchorage before Leigh became too pregnant to fly.

We stayed at the Flamingo Hotel & Casino for a whopping $40/night. The room was pretty nice: clean, comfy, air conditioned, etc. Our only complaints were the our neighbors seemed to think it was OK to smoke in the hall and they were pretty loud too. Oh well.

Vegas itself was pretty cool. We enjoyed exploring the casinos, window shopping, and basking in the desert heat. I especially enjoyed the Paris Las Vegas. It was so cheesy-faux-French. I thought I'd hate it for the same reason, but something about the way the designers took the most typical French/Parisian themes and added an American spin was kind of like being my head when I first arrived in France filled with anticipation, jet lag, and confusion.

Of course we spent an evening downtown on Freemont Street. Somehow it managed to escape me that Freemont Street used to be Vegas in all its glory. When we saw this cowboy guy I flashed back to being 5 years old and watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids and it all started to make sense. Freemont was pretty fun with music, lights, and drunk people falling down. 

A couple days into our trip we rented a car to drive to Zion National Park in Utah. What I did not realize before arriving was how very "Mormon" Zion National Park is. Every sight had a name out of the Book of Mormon and throughout the park are old Mormon settlements. 

 But seriously, don't feed the "wildlife." After 2 years in Alaska I think an animal needs to be large and potentially very dangerous to be "wildlife." At the very least it should be wild, and not prance up to you and politely ask for food, which the Zion squirrels did regularly. I politely denied them each time, mostly because they were incredibly fat.

 I had wanted to visit Zion for over a year when I first read about The Narrows hiking trail. It's one of those bucket list hikes that you just MUST do sometime. Obviously we couldn't do a 13 mile trail in wilderness while incubating a baby.

Leigh at 24 weeks pregnant.

 Instead we did a day hike from the end of the trail a few miles in. This hike is cool because you literally hike in the Virgin River, which winds between steep rock walls through the canyon. Very cool. The water regulates your body temperature in the heat and you can even wade or swim up to your knees or chest at time. It was beautiful and a lot of fun. Zion was about 3 hours from Vegas, so it was a long day but totally worth it. It was great to get out of the city too.

In all, we had a great time. We ate, we shopped, we went to the pool, saw a Cirque du Soleil Show (I HIGHLY recommend it!), and we ate A LOT. We are not Vegas people by any means, but it was a nice getaway. There was so much do to every day that we were actually exhausted at the end of the week and happy to go home to a 3-day weekend so we could sleep off our vacation. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

That Pesky Feeling That Something is Amiss

It's been a long time since I've faced blatant discrimination because I'm gay. High School was hardly a treat, but I suspect I would have been miserable if I were straight too. 

When I was 18 I worked at the Walmart Pharmacy in Farmville, VA. At one point that summer I worked 3 weeks without a day off. One day I had to pull a 12 hour shift when I was scheduled to only work 6 hours. Then my hours were cut to avoid paying me overtime. After a summer of this in addition to my (female) manager making incredibly inappropriate comments and asking me personal questions, I was fired when my supervisors figured out that Leigh wasn't just my roommate. 

That really sucked. I didn't sue Walmart because Virginia has never protected employees from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Plus I knew being part of a lawsuit would make it more difficult for me to get into law school. 

Over the past 10 years Leigh and I have faced some tough situations: being rejected by religious organizations (I was once told I was welcome to join a church if I changed my lifestyle and I was not allowed to work with the youth), receiving terrible service from waiters who are grossed out that we are on a date, being required to submit sheaths of documentation of our relationship in order to rent apartments or be recognized on one another's benefits, switching doctors because we find out our existing doctor is homophobic (this usually happens while you're naked, by the way), and working for people who can't know anything about your personal life because they believe 1) gay people are not legitimate individuals 2) we are all pedophiles and 3) they couldn't possibly know a nice, intelligent person who leads a deplorable lifestyle. 

We have personally experienced each of these forms of discrimination. Every one of the above experiences hurt a lot, but honestly we have it pretty good. Neither of us have ever been physically assaulted because we are homosexual. We have never been evicted. Our families still speak to us (well, mostly). But every day we are subjected to others' horrific commentary on our lives. Our most basic protections and freedoms are often used as political ammunition. Our leaders' or would-be leaders' words ignite hate and fear in members of our community. Once the election is over we have to live among these people. We must attempt to maintain our dignity and peaceful daily lives by always rising above. 

Last Friday I was offered a job interview at a small firm in Anchorage focused in business law. I was surprised to hear from them, but delighted to have an opportunity to explore this potential job. All I knew about the firm was on the website. They struck me as a little bit old fashioned, but they have an interesting client list and the job description was very interesting: business transactions, litigation, and probate. Most of all, I was excited to have another iron in the fire since my clerkship is basically over this Friday. 

The assistant who emailed me suggested I meet the shareholders next Monday. I am going to be out of town all next week, I said, so could we do it this week or after September 5th? No problem, the assistant says. So we set an appointment for September 5. This email exchange occurred just last Friday. Then last night around 7:00 pm I received this email from the same assistant:

"The shareholders have asked me to cancel this appointment.  I will let you know if we will need to reschedule after September 5.  Thank you for your interest."

No explanation. No apology for wasting my time. First, I have never, ever heard of a potential employer setting up an interview only to cancel it. If they do cancel the provide an explanation: the position is filled; we are suspending our recruiting process for the time being; the shareholders are unable to meet at that time. But this email was coldly brief without any excuse given. It left me to wonder.

Did the assistant just screw up? Maybe she meant "reschedule," not "cancel." Is it because they have a pending matter before my judge? No, that can't be it. I'm not working on that matter and, besides, it's my responsibility to clear interviews with my judge, not theirs. 

So I scanned the website again and I see it: the primary shareholder, the guy whose name is on the door, is a very active member of a very large and very homophobic church in this city. I check the church's website just to make sure. Yep, they support Exodus International, a conversion therapy group (of the "attach electrodes to your genitals and shock you while forcing you to watch porn" variety). They liken homosexual behavior with alcoholism and adultery. They believe that gays have a deliberate agenda to cause businesses to collapse, the general collapse of sexual morality, and encouraging young people to experiment.This church teaches that homosexual behavior includes indoctrinating children to promulgate the lifestyle. They teach other lessons too, each more ludicrous and hurtful than the next. 

Now I can't get it out of my head that they cancelled my interview because the shareholders learned that I'm gay. This is a small town, so it's very likely we know some of the same people. Or maybe the Googled me and saw that I "liked" Rachel Maddow and Tegan and Sara on my Facebook page. It doesn't really matter. The truth is that I'm happy that the general legal community knows that I'm gay. I'm perfectly comfortable with people talking about me to their friends and colleagues and my same-sex marriage being general knowledge. It saves me the trouble of coming out, or deciding whether to come out, to every person I meet. It allows me to just be myself without feeling like I'm taking a political stance every time I get to know someone a little bit. 

This is my life. It just is. I'm not asking you to celebrate it with me anymore than you ask me to celebrate your straight lifestyle with you. Now let's get back to work. 

But my comfort level with myself doesn't change the fact that I am so disappointed, hurt, and haunted by the very real possibility that I've lost a job interview based on my private life and, ultimately, rumors and innuendo. My first reaction was anger, then I felt worthless, then I felt like I was back in high school again. 

This morning, I'm a bit relieved. I don't have to waste my time interviewing with an organization that has nothing to offer me (the benefits wouldn't include my spouse, I wouldn't get time off when the baby is born, etc). So now, between bouts of anger and shock, I'm slowly coming to terms with this reality. Prop 5 failed in Anchorage. I have no recourse. I have no protection. All I can do is work harder to focus my energies on organizations that honor me as I am, no better or worse than anyone else, and block out organizations that can't see the truth: I'm just like you.

No, actually, I'm better than you. Not because I'm gay, but because I accept you for who you are and I don't use my religion as an excuse to exclude you from a happy and prosperous life. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Popsicle Stick Update

The Popsicle stick has been found, and luckily in a very clean and not gross way!

On Saturday I was cleaning and moving some items into our storage shed in the yard. On one of my trips back to the house I saw a half-chewed but almost 100% intact Popsicle stick laying on the grass. It was all by itself, no poop or anything else anywhere to be found. I can only imagine that Cannelle coughed it up one day this week and then went about her business.

Either way, we were so relieved that the Popsicle stick resurfaced and our doggie seems to be A-OK.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Popsicle Stick

Two days ago my dog swallowed a Popsicle stick. In fact, she ate the entire Popsicle. Whole. She doesn't chew. Ever.

Correction: Leigh fed her the stick.

Actually, what happened was that Leigh was craving chocolate. She found the last fudgesicle in the freezer, but after tasting it her pregnancy hormones told her it had gone bad (really?) so she didn't want it. I said "just give it to Cannelle, she's a big dog and it probably only has a teaspoon of cocoa powder in it." Don't worry, vets have told me bigger dogs can eat chocolate without it bothering them.

So Leigh holds out the Popsicle to Cannelle. Cannelle takes the whole thing, spits it out because it's cold. Leigh reaches for it to keep her from eating the stick, but too late. The stick is in her mouth. I grab her mouth  and open her jaws to pull it out but, again, too late. She's swallowed it. Nowhere to be seen.

Of course, my dog regularly eats eaten entire shoes. The laces, the sole, everything. Luckily she chews those into smaller bites before swallowing them.

We panic. We Google it. A shocking number of hits come up. Apparently this happens a lot. The good news is that most dogs can pass a Popsicle stick without event. The edges are round and the chemicals in it (ew) prevent it from digesting. This keep it from splintering and causing internal bleeding. Fun fact: Popsicle sticks are not visible on an X-Ray, so all you can do is watch out for lethargy, vomiting, and blood in the stool. That's when you know it's time for emergency surgery.

So now Cannelle is eating rice with her kibble to get things moving faster and we are having to inspect her poop for signs of Popsicle stick. Also, every time she sleeps too soundly or looks groggy (which she does a lot because she naps while we're at work) we get nervous. All we can do is wait and hope for the best.

For now she seems completely fine. Her tail wags just as violently, all the time, she barks just as excitedly and loudly when we throw the ball for her, she eats just as ravenously, and she's sleeping the same amount as before.

Clarification from above: Leigh feels really bad about not holding tighter to the Popsicle stick and I think we've both learned an important lesson here: always hold on tight to the non-edible objects near the edible objects.

Also worth noting: every time that dog gets into something or we suspect an injury my heart actually breaks a little bit. I love that mutt so stinkin' much. Now if only she'd stop eating non-edible objects, tearing her nails off by digging up parts of my yard (this would actually solve two problems), and playing in cottonwood flurries (which she's allergic to), then I could sleep soundly knowing she's OK.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Fun- Dipnetting on the Kenai Peninsula

It's summer in Alaska, which is generally magnificent. Leigh claims that this summer has royally sucked weather-wise. I disagree. Every summer everywhere has rainy days and, yes, we've had longer stretches of rainy or cloudy mess than I'd like, but we've also had some really impressive days too. Seeing as how I'm an active girl but not crazy active (I don't go running at 6am or pack multiple activities into a single evening, for example), being blessed with beautiful weather roughly half the time is enough to remind me that it's summer, it's Alaska, and there's fun stuff to do. 

Several weeks ago I learned about dipnetting. In short, if you are an Alaska resident with a fishing license, you can buy a big ass net and stand in the water until a salmon swims into it. Then you can haul that salmon onto the shore, smack its head, gut it, and take it home to eat it. 

The Rules: Head of household gets 25 fish per season, plus 10 additional fish for every other household member. So this year my limit was 35 fish. Next year my household limit will increase to 45 fish because we will have Baby Ruby. Every household member with a fishing license can fish, but every caught fish counts toward your household limit. 

When I learned that fellow Hollins Alum, former NYC roommate, and recent Alaska returnee Lorrie had learned to dipnet earlier this summer, I promptly invited myself on her next outing. Two Fridays ago we packed for an overnight camping trip in Kenai and headed south in Leigh's Jeep. After a beautiful 3 hour drive catching up with each other, we arrived in Kenai to gorgeous evening weather and lots of dipnetters enjoying high tide. 

Typical Dipnet Style:

On Friday evening we each caught three salmon. Not too shabby for two newbies. Around 8pm we admitted that we were both tired and hungry. So we went back to our campsite. Lorrie offered up one of her fillets for dinner. I provided black rice and mixed veggies. It was delicious and paired with malbec. Next thing we know it's 1 AM and we are drunk as skunks, so we collapse in the tent, intending to be up in time for the 7am high tide. 

My Catch.

That did NOT happen. I rolled over at 7:30 to another amazing, sunny, HOT day and a hellish hangover. We eventually made it back to the river mouth for some more fishing. But the wind was rough and the tide was coming in as actual waves. Controlling our nets was nearly impossible. At one time I'm minding my own business only to look up and see a wave crashing down on me. So I looked at Lorrie and said, "Wanna go find some breakfast?"

Saturday Morning Hangover Cure: Carbonated Sugar

We found a greasy spoon on our way out of town. Midway through a plate of caribou sausage, eggs, and hashbrowns, my headache and tummy ache really start to set in. Blah. So we got some hangover provisions (Extra Strength Tylenol and Sprite) before hitting the road. I got home in the early evening, filleted my catch, and basked in my successful attempt to bring home the protein. 

The next Friday I took the day off from work and drove to Kasilof on my own. I only caught three that day too, but I really enjoyed taking a break from my routine and discovering a new dipnetting area. So this season I brought home a total of 6 salmon, roughly 12-13 pounds of meat. I've already made some great meals (curry, salmon steaks, salmon cakes, BBQ salmon and rice) and am looking forward to having fish for most of the year. Hopefully I'll get better at filleting though.....

Dipnetting is definitely my new thing. Sadly, the season is short and I only discovered it in the last two weeks. Leigh promised to make a gift of my own dipnet gear for next season and we are already planning to spend a few weekends camping and dipnetting earlier in the season. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Half way there

Today I found out we are having a little girl.... !!!!!!!!

I'm beyond excited, and thrilled, and terrified. Mothering a girl is a special challenge in so many ways. The world is tough on girls, so I have to help make my little girl tough without losing the wonderful things about being a girl. I have to protect her from the scary things in the world and give her confidence to handle any situation. She has to be a little bit smarter, kinder, better, and a little bit more talented than if she were a boy.

But that's OK. She can do it. And the world is slowly changing for girls. Maybe when she's my age we really will rule the world. Or at least we'll just be that much closer to being on equal footing with men.

Now that we know she's a girl and we know her name (Ruby), we can really start planning her room and picking out the things we need for her. Watch out Anchorage, here come two moms-to-be with a long "to do" list!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Big Alaska Weekend

After several weekends in a row of being completely lame, I decided to shake things up a bit. Early last week I started to get fishing envy. A lot of people I knew to varying degrees had been fishing and dipnetting this summer. I love me some salmon and I love not having to pay for it even more! So I started trolling Facebook and my phone contacts looking for someone to take me with them.

Soon enough I had successfully invited myself on college buddy/former roommate Lorrie's overnight trip to Kenai for some dipnetting fun. I also managed to borrow all the necessary gear from other lawyer's and coworkers.   Then I got my fishing license ($24) and found a resident dipnet card (free, after trips to three different outlets!) and packed the Jeep for an overnight camping trip. My excitement was building all week. I even got Friday afternoon off from work. By 1:30 PM I was on the road with Lorrie, chatting away, enjoying a beautiful sunny day.* The drive down was uneventful and pleasant.

We arrived in town not knowing exactly where to go. So after staking out our campsite we drove around a bit looking for a good place to fish. Within about an hour we found ourselves at the mouth of the Kenai River. We parked ($15) and carried our gear to the water. Then we chilled out in the water for about 30 minutes before Lorrie landed her first red. I was so jealous, thinking there's no way a salmon is just going to swim into my stupid net. But soon enough I caught one too.* It was the best feeling! Lorrie coached me through the process of murdering and butchering the poor thing. Over the next 90 minutes we each caught 2 more, cleaned them, and then packed up to make dinner at camp.

The camping was great.* We grilled one of Lorrie's fillets, I made black rice and veggies, and we drank way too much wine. The next morning I woke up with a killer hangover, but we both rallied and tried to catch more fish. The weather wasn't in our favor though (hot and sunny but with too much wind) so we grabbed breakfast and hangover provisions before driving back to Anchorage. I dropped off Lorrie, unloaded the Jeep, and filleted my fish on the back porch (I'm hardly an expert, but I wound up with about 7 lbs of salmon meat!). Then I cooked up the loose meat I scraped off the fish's ribs into a panang curry with black rice for Leigh's and my dinner. Fabulous.

Sunday morning rolled around way too soon. Early last week Leigh and I committed to going packrafting with my work friend and her boyfriend. I was still exhausted from fishing, drinking, and driving a total of 7 hours in less than 24 hours, but not about to waste a chance to try something new (and not willing to flake out on someone who'd put a lot of effort into planning an outing for us). We met up with our friends around 11:30 and hit the water by 1:00 PM. The first half of the trip was technically challenging, just getting used to the boats. Then we ran into a serious construction area and decided to walk around it and put-in down river. While climbing out of the water to walk downstream both of our friends were attacked by hornets! Once that trauma passed, a young moose wandered into our area and we found bear scat all over the trail. So basically it was a stressful 45 minutes or so.

We worked our way past the construction area with our gear and put in about a 1/2 mile down river. After that the paddling was technical (dodging fallen trees and rocks) but much easier and a lot more fun.* After about 3 hours of constant exercise and stress, Leigh started to fade a bit at this point and said she was extremely cold (which was scary considering her pregnancy), but she rallied and we got safely to our car at the take-out. At the time I was pretty stressed out and worried about Leigh, but looking back I'm really glad I paddled Campbell Creek and tried out packrafting. It was great exercise and fun to spend time with our friends and nobody was [permanently] injured. Needless to say, I'm completely exhausted today.

In other news, we're having homemade, fresh caught salmon cakes for dinner!

* Sorry, no pictures. I am the genius who took my cell phone packrafting only to have it swim in a puddle in the floor of my boat all afternoon. Leigh's phone kept mine company, so we're both without phones. I'm so mad at myself!