Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chicago

The end of 2016 wasn't all terrible - we spent the last week in Chicago with both of our families, and were joined by my best friend for a Christmas Eve showing of Hamilton!
After obsessively listening to the soundtrack for a year I wasn't sure if the show could live up to my impossibly high expectations, but it exceeded them! It was so, so wonderful in every conceivable way. I cried a few times, especially at "include women in the sequel."

Outside of the theater, it was great to spend a day with my bestie, who drove down from Milwaukee to hang out with us and her future goddaughter.
A few days later, our families and some family friends surprised us with a Harry Potter baby shower! It was completely unexpected, and very fun. It was also immaculately decorated - I felt like we were in a pinterest board. There were HP candies:
Reese's cup "broomsticks" and Lindt truffle "snitches."
Every Flavor Beans and Chocolate Frogs - all homemade, including the packaging!
HP decorations:
Hand knit HP scarf, owl, books, and Ben's niece in HP glasses.
Ben's family and floating candles.
My mom knit Ben a sweet Dumbledore cap.
And a beautiful (and delicious!) cake:
The inside was layers of scarlet and gold for Gryffindor.
It was a great reminder that while the next four (and god forbid eight) years are going to be rough, there is still a lot to look forward to.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Goodbye 2016

I didn't write anything here for the last two months of the year because I was really depressed about the election. I was also in the early months of being pregnant, and while the pregnancy is great news, I was sick most of the time so wasn't really doing anything besides struggling through the workday, lying on the couch, trying not to throw up, and throwing up. The election and the pregnancy sort of swirled together into a seemingly endless stream of nausea and existential dread - we had been thrilled about the pregnancy on November 7, but then a switch flipped and both Ben and I really struggled with what it's going to mean to bring a child into a world that is much different, and much worse, than the one we had anticipated.

After a mourning period (no kidding - I wore a torn black ribbon for a week after the election to symbolically sit shiva), I owned up to the fact that as rich, well-educated, straight, cis, white people living in an extremely liberal area, we are going to be among the least harmed by the new administration. That means we need to step up to try and minimize the damage to the more vulnerable among us. So far we've done that by:
  • Increasing our recurring donations from 5% of our income to 10%, partly by increasing the amount to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, whose work is now more important than ever, and partly by adding a few new organizations that address the increasingly urgent issues of Islamophobia (Council on American-Islamic Relations), immigrant rights (National Immigration Law Center), voting rights (Brannan Center for Justice), and trans rights (TGI Justice Project).
  • I found out I get a bonus at my new job, which is great but financially unnecessary, so I gave it away. Some went to extra end of year giving for organizations we already support, most went to organizations working to support Syrian refugees given the current severity of that crisis.
  • The feminist book club I'm a part of decided to do more than just read together, and collectively we are sponsoring the local resettlement of a refugee family with the International Rescue Committee. Unfortunately the US doesn't let citizens sponsor the settlement of additional refugee families, so we can't increase the number of people receiving safety here, but the IRC works to support the settlement of already approved refugee families who don't have any local friends or family to support them. We should be matched with a family in the next few weeks, at which point we'll raise funds to support them financially, collect furniture and other items to furnish their new home, and mentor them in navigating the city, getting jobs, getting their kids enrolled in school, and all the other tasks that they'll need support in managing over the coming months.
  • I've been calling various elected representatives every morning on my walk to work to advocate for and against various bills, proposals, and appointments. I get my daily action list from a combination of We're His Problem Now, #FightTrump, and Wall of Us. At first I was reluctant to do this because I don't like talking to strangers on the phone, but it is actually really easy, and now it's just part of my morning routine. For the first few weeks I was calling while walking, I was still stopping behind what I nicknamed my "puke bush" midway through my walk for my daily morning throw up, and I was still able to make calls before and after - it really is that easy. One time Jason Chaffetz even answered his own phone, which I was totally unprepared for, but the lesson I took away was to keep calling and be prepared to talk to anyone.
  • This is a small thing, but we sent handwritten support letters to every mosque that received hatemail after the election. It felt nice to write uniformly positive and loving letters, in contrast to the often critical phone calls, and the unexpected - but completely lovely - result has been some incredibly wonderful letters back from people at the various mosques. So if you're ever visiting and wonder why we have holiday cards from random mosques across the country on our fridge, that's why.
  • Ben has been especially concerned about the potential environmental harm on the horizon, so he's been figuring out how to make us greener in various ways. For now he's mostly focused on reducing our water use and our trash output, and we've also agreed to only eat meat twice a week, fly less often, and do as much of our shopping locally as possible.
  • We're not going to go to the Women's March on Washington, as part of our new "minimize flying" policy, but we are going to go to the Bay Area solidarity march.
  • I re-read "Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice" with a group at work, and we're trying to figure out how we can collectively do something useful like my feminist book club is doing.
  • I also read "Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities" and found it really helpful for thinking about how to approach the coming years. In particular, I'm realizing the importance of picking only 1-2 issues and really focusing on them, rather than trying to do everything and doing it all poorly. The author also writes about the importance of centering your actions around the goals you are trying to achieve, and not developing an unhealthy obsession with "the enemy" standing in your way. In other words, I need to resist the temptation to waste mental energy despairing over how awful the human dumpster fire of the president elect is, and stay focused on loving and supporting the people I want to protect from him.
All told, I'm feeling okay about what we are doing so far (and I haven't stopped doing any of the things I've written about in previous posts). I'm having to resist the temptation to join more groups and sign up for more recurring actions, because I know I'll have limited capacity once the baby comes, and I don't want to start any work where me suddenly disappearing for several months would cause problems. I am feeling kind of icky about the fact that all of these actions we're taking would have still been important had the election gone the other way, but we probably wouldn't have been catalyzed into doing them. I'm hoping the unpleasantness of that personal realization will compel me to maintain this level of engagement even when there isn't a looming existential threat to our national freedom and security.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pez Museum

There's not a whole lot of stuff to do in the immediate area where we live, since most of the exciting museums and cultural landmarks are up in San Francisco, but we do live close to a Museum of Pez Memorabilia. We tried to go with friends once before, only to discover it was closed so its proprietors could attend the PEZcific convention of California Pez collectors. We tried again yesterday, and happily they were open this time.

The museum itself is a very unimposing storefront in downtown Burlingame - if we weren't watching the street numbers we would have gone right by it. Inside is a giant room full of every Pez dispenser ever made (over a thousand!), and a very enthusiastic curator who gives a really great guided tour. We learned a lot about Pez, including that it's actually an Austrian company, and "pez" is short for "pfefferminz" - German for "peppermint" - because that was the candy's original flavor. Also, the original dispensers didn't have heads, and just looked like cigarette lighters:
There are a lot of different heads:
They also used to make gun dispensers, but those have understandably been retired:
The gift shop had many current varieties of dispenser, including Harry Potter:
And US presidents:
In addition to Pez memorabilia, the museum also had a variety of other classic toys, like Potato Heads:
And ray guns:
They also had a variety of toys that are now banned - some for obvious reasons (i.e. they contained radioactive material):
And some for less obvious reasons (matador Barbie encouraged violence against animals, sky dancers could be used as projectile weapons - we actually had that toy and used it that way all the time, and the Mickey comic contains "adult behavior"):
We had a great time at the museum, and even got a picture with the world's largest Pez dispenser (although unfortunately it does not contain correspondingly giant Pez candies):

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Hampshire wedding

We went to our friends' wedding last weekend! They are both programmers, so this was the sampler I made them:
The wedding was in New Hampshire, and it was excellent to get a brief taste of New England fall, given that it's my favorite season and there is nothing that remotely resembles it out here in the Bay. All the leaves were gold and red, and the wedding was in the White Mountains so you had beautiful views every way you looked.
The wedding weekend involved hiking, arts and crafts, making s'mores around a campfire, and sleeping in bunk beds in a giant cabin-y lodge. It was just like Girl Scout camp, and it was awesome.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

East coast tour!

We had a friend's wedding over Labor Day weekend, so we decided to make a mini-vacation out of it and add on a visit to Philly and Baltimore over the following week. Since we were going to a wedding, I made a sampler:
The couple met, live, and got married in NYC, hence the skyline. Their favorite place to vacation is a cabin in Maine, where they like to hang out on the dock and eat lobsters. The groom in particular is obsessed with dorky charts, especially waterfall charts, and the apples are supposed to symbolize "the big apple" and also the fact that they both work in education.

My bestie was also at the wedding, and since we're both obsessed with Hamilton we visited his house while we were in town:
Re-enacted various songs and dances from the show:
And generally freaked out anytime we saw anything vaguely Hamilton-related:
LAFAYETTE!
After NYC, Ben and I continued on to Philly, where we ate at all our favorite restaurants and hung out with all our Philly friends (including our Littles, each of whom seem to have grown a foot since we last saw them - mine is starting 8th grade now!). We also did something we'd always meant to do when we lived there but never got around to - visited the top of City Hall. The view was pretty excellent.
Also, I knew that the William Penn statue at the top was really big, but I didn't really appreciate how big (40 feet tall + 27 tons) until standing right at its base.

We spent our last two East coast days in Baltimore, hanging out with my parents and seeing more friends. By then it was incredibly hot and humid so we mostly stayed indoors, but we ate lots of great food and played lots of Bananagrams.

Now we're back in the Bay, missing our East coast friends and hangout spots, but appreciating the cool weather and lack of humidity.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Stitch like I'm running out of time

Like anyone with two ears and a heart, I am completely in love with Hamilton. Ever since I first heard the soundtrack there has been a Hamilton song in my head every moment I am awake, and I've been studying the annotated lyrics like a Talmudic scholar. I've also been releasing my excessive Hamilton energy in cross stitch form, stitching friends' favorite lines for them while listening to the relevant song on repeat:
Wait For It
Cabinet Battle #2
I also gave money a while ago to The Hispanic Federation as part of a fundraiser Lin-Manuel Miranda ran for them. A few randomly selected donors got tickets to see the show - I wasn't one of them, but I did get this in the mail recently, which is still pretty dang cool:
Hamilton is coming to SF in March 2017, so hopefully I can exchange one of my kidneys for enough cash to buy a ticket by then.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Magic orchid paradise

Ben and I rented a car to go to a friend's engagement party way out in the East Bay yesterday, but the car rental place is closed on Sundays so we got to keep it today too. We decided to take advantage of it and drive over to Pacifica, which is a really pretty little town on the ocean that's not accessible by public transit, so we can't usually go there. At the outskirts of the town we noticed a sign for Shelldance Orchid Gardens, which we followed because it seemed interesting and we didn't really have anything else to do. It took us along a narrow, winding path up the side of a steep hill, and at the top there were what looked like a bunch of decrepit warehouses attached to each other. We were feeling pretty skeptical but followed signs to the entrance, and holy crap those ancient warehouses are actually 70 year old greenhouses housing a magical fairyland of orchids and many other exotic flowers.
Seriously, I felt like I was in the Hogwarts greenhouse.
They had orchids of all sizes:
As big as Ben's face!
Much smaller than Ben's face!
They had orchids of all shapes:
Only three petals!
Starfish wearing a bib!
Payot!
Cluster!
They had all kinds of plants that weren't even orchids:
Translucent petal cactus thing!
Flower with more flowers inside!
Giant leaves with intentional holes!
Flower playing the trumpet!
Purple spikes!
Upside-down Rapunzel cactus!
????
Pitcher Plant! (I actually knew this one!)
We ended up buying a cool little succulent that looks like boxes stacked on top of each other, because it was the only thing we thought there were somewhat decent odds we wouldn't kill:
Neither words nor pictures can convey how cool this place was. If you ever are anywhere near Pacifica, you have to go!

(Also, we did eventually leave the greenhouses and go over to the beach, although it ended up being more of an afterthought than the main show.)