Saturday, August 4, 2007

On the Cusp of Turning 40

I'm thinking about my upcoming birthday more often lately, as it's a big milestone birthday. Remembering how dismal my 30th birthday was (I had just moved to a new city and didn't know anyone, and was quite broke, and my car was still in my old city, so I not only had no money, I also had no transportation), I decided I should really celebrate this one properly. The trouble is, I seem to find myself in a somewhat similar situation: living somewhere still new to me, where I do know a few people but not very well yet, and we're on this annoying tight budget, etc.

So, I chucked the party idea out the window, and will probably go for a much calmer celebration, something good like maybe taking off for the day on my own, something I don't ever get to do anymore. I'll be needing a few minor additions to my rather sparse work wardrobe (one doesn't somehow acquire much in the way of professional clothing during grad school), so maybe I'll do a bit of discount shopping. And spend an hour or so browsing at the bookstore. We don't yet have a trusted babysitter, so I don't think we'll be going out for dinner, unless we go en famille. Gigi is pretty good in restaurants now, so it's not entirely unthinkable (unlike last year, when we really should have stayed at home; Gigi screamed and fussed through much of our dinner out that night and we ended up fighting over how to best handle the situation). Or we could just cook something great and eat and drink ourselves silly.

But this isn't what I meant to write about. I was just realizing lately that maybe, just maybe, I may be seeing signs of finally growing up. The evidence is in the smallest things. In this case, in my changing taste in inane television. Though I hesitate to admit this, the first hint came when I could no longer stomach The Real World, a show I had followed religiously for its first decade. I continued to watch out of habit for a few seasons more, but when I realized it was more painful than entertaining, I just let it go.

But now I can't watch even fairly good t.v. if it's about the angst of singles in their 20s or 30s. I tried the first two episodes of a certain new Lifetime show all about one 30-something woman's search for love and meaning; it was a show I once would have truly enjoyed, but I was completely disinterested.

Can you say, not in the target demographic anymore? (Actually, I haven't been in the major target demographic for quite a few years, but my taste in television was rather immature for my age for a very long time.) I'm beginning to understand why older people love crime shows so much.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

House Poor

That's what we are right now. And I know I shouldn't complain, because we are homeowners for the first time. But we bought at the very top end of what we could afford, and are just barely squeaking by as we come to the end of our first full summer here, having had to stretch my husband's 9 month academic salary to cover the summer months. Unfortunately adjunct teachers aren't paid very well in this area, so my paltry income won't do much more than allow us to sock away our cushion for next summer. In other words, we're going to be house poor for awhile, at least for the next year.

Oddly, we are having to live on a tighter budget now than we did in California as graduate students! We didn't have much, but we somehow had enough to cook great food and drink wine without fear of breaking the bank, and occasionally go out to a nice meal. Now we're counting every dollar, scrounging change, planning every meal down to the last ingredient. All things we really should have been doing as grad students, I now realize!

I'm just not very good at budgeting, or sticking to a budget. Kaza, my dear readers, was meant to be wealthy. I've never been wealthy, but I seem to have a fine knack for the lifestyle. For instance, I believe that a glass of nice champagne should be a daily right (and rite), not an occasional luxury. As should a beautifully creamy morning cappuccino, made by a barista trained in the true Italian art (which simply cannot be learned by reading a corporate manual, as anyone who has had a cappuccino made by an experienced hand, in Italy, will agree). I also believe that one's food should be made with the finest, freshest ingredients, and that one should be able to go out to eat at least once a week in a restaurant run by a chef who knows food and loves feeding. I could go on and on, but my little reverie is beginning to depress me, alas.

Returning to reality, the good news is that we're making it, and not adding more debt. And we have a house. Although, I have to tell you, this homeowning thing is not quite all that it's cracked up to be. But that's a topic for another post.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Muggy, Buggy, and HOT!

Ahh, summer in the South. We moved to the South last August, just about one year ago now. I was unprepared for the wave of moist heat that hit me when we walked out of the airport. It felt nearly like breathing hot liquid. We hardly left the cool of the apartment in those first two months, as we prayed for the heat to finally let up.

It did, somewhere around mid-October or so. Fall was brief, but beautiful. Winter was a bit longer than fall, with lots of bitter cold and a large dose of ice but only two light snows. Spring was as brief as fall. The long summer began in late April or early May, and by June we were well into the sticky mess of a Southern summer.

I can take hot. After all, California is mostly arid desert, and I had seen my share of heat, well into the 90s at the height of summer, climbing above 100 now and then. My family even sought out even greater heat each year when we would vacation in deep into the desert. In August. On purpose. But this wet sticky heat of summer in the South is a whole other entity.

Then there are the bugs. Where to begin with the bugs? Let's start with the flies. I have never seen so many in my life. And I have to say, these flies are DIFFERENT. I'm used to flies that buzz noisily at the windows in desperate searches for escape, or that try to eat your picnic food. But these Southern flies are nothing short of AGGRESSIVE. They actually dive-bomb us as we sit on the couch. For no apparent reason.

But at least I've SEEN flies before. Most of the other bugs around here are entirely new to me, and many of them are, quite simply, frightening. Because they are HUGE. Mosquitos the size of wasps, and wasps the size of, well, really big wasps. And something that looks like a giant moth but turns out to be a scary thing known as the cicada killer wasp, which nests in your yard and then breaks free to go kill cicadas in the trees. Now, the cicadas are so god-awful noisy that I don't mind the existence of a bug whose sole mission is to eat them. But I DO mind unnaturally large killer wasps nesting in the yard where my toddler runs around. And I DEFINITELY mind these wasps hanging out in the mosquito-netted gazebo we bought expressly to protect us from large bugs. Ahem.

Then there are the black widow spiders, which have taken a shine to nesting in the undersides of our patio chairs. Something made me turn my chair over before sitting down on it yesterday (perhaps it was the spider web so bright white and sticky that I could not rinse it from the chair leg?). It's good to listen to your instincts in the South, because there in the corner between the seat and the armrest was a gigantic black widow just hanging out.

There are countless other bugs, and then there's the infernal racket emitting from the bugs of the forest just outside our backyard fence, which I am quite sure is one of the soundtracks straight out of hell. Seriously, someone ought to record this shit for use in horror films. It is not to be believed.

Needless to say, we're planning on staying indoors for the next two months. Just as those in wintry climates spend much of January and February inside staying warm and dry, we'll be spending August and September inside staying cool (and dry!). Our neighbors, all of whom are Southerners by birth, think we're antisocial or crazy. They gather outside each evening, just a couple of hours after the hottest point of the day (an incomprehensible 3:00 here rather than the noon-ish peak I'm used to), and remain out until dark, giving the mosquitos plenty of fare for their nightly feeding frenzies. You'd think it was the best weather of the year, the way they're out soaking it up. But no, the best weather is about two weeks in late October and two weeks in late April, and that's it. Sigh.