Milestone Miscalculation: Age vs. Expectations

I tend to stress more over non-monumental birthdays than over the traditional milestones. Twenty-one wasn’t that big of a deal in my mind. But twenty-two? It gave me that ohmygosh-I-am-so-old-that-21-is-no-big-deal feeling.

I turn 27 next week. I’ve been thinking about 27 a lot over the past few months. I’m pretty sure 27 means that I am in my late-20s. I’m really comfortable being in my mid-20s. I am also really comfortable with the idea of being 30. I can imagine my 30-year-old self. She’s mature. She’s fabulous–she’s maybe had a baby but you couldn’t tell by the hot bod she’s sporting. She’s wise, strong in her walk with Jesus, comfortable with who she is faults and all.

However, I think that near-perfect 30-year-old in my mind might be the problem. When I think 27, I don’t smile and think to myself, What a lovely woman I’m becoming! No, I think, Great, three more years until I face the disappointment I will be to myself at 30. Pressure’s on.

It’s like when I turned 16 and I thought I would be so much cooler–with the confidence and cup-size of all the 29-year-olds that play heavily-scripted 16-year-olds on TV. At 16, I noted the difference, felt like I’d been duped into having high expectations, and moved on. I imagine I’ll do the same at 30, but that’s not doing much to alleviate my 27-year-old performance anxiety.

The reaction older people often give to twenty-somethings when we talk about aging is, “You’re not old. Just wait until you see what old is. Relish your youth, your supple skin, your strong bones, and your iron stomach!” And then they look longingly at your fistful of curly-fries and pop a few Tums.

But the thing is, twenty-seven is the oldest I’ll ever have been. Compared to all the other ages I’ve been, twenty-seven is old. I am totally aware that 27 is younger than 40 and 93, and I’m not at all upset about getting older. I’m not mourning the slow and painful loss of my youth. I am wondering how to navigate the murky waters of becoming someone other than the person you thought you’d become.

Have you ever felt pressure to be awesome by a certain age? What did you do when the day of disillusionment came?


Little Things

“You’ll have so much time to blog now that it’s summer!”

This is what my loving, supportive friends say, now that school is out. I agree. I have plenty of time to blog. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what to talk to you about.

I don’t have a strong agenda to communicate–how you should eat less meat or no meat or more leafy green veggies. I could tell you about my thoughts, but a post every day that essentially says, “God, what on earth do you want us to do with this life?” might start to feel repetitive. I could post new recipes, but we’re eating pretty simply around here.

I want to start this conversation again, so I’ll begin with little things, and see where they take us.

Little things, like my sleepy companion who acted like he wanted to snuggle but then took up all the room on the chair.

Little things, like my wrinkle-headed friend who has claimed the ottoman as his bed.

And little things, like how the crop feature in photoshop can take a picture of the recycling, the water dish, the dog toy, and the slobber towel…

…and turn it into a simple breakfast.

A Quiet Return to Blogging

Hello, friends.

Life has been full since my last post, which was nearly 6 months ago. So full, in fact, that there was no room in it for blogging. To be honest, for quite some time, I didn’t miss blogging. After experiencing my fifteen minutes of blog fame (twice!) I thought I should, you know, try to “become someone” in the blog world. But my fifteen minutes wore me out. I was wrong when I assumed my introversion was restricted to face-to-face interactions.

I’m back, not trying to become anyone, but trying to be myself–something I’m working on in real life, not just online. I want to write for me. If you’re reading, I want to write for you, too. But this introvert won’t wear herself out trying to write for the whole world just yet.

While you’re here, visit my 30 Before 30 page to see my newly revised list of goals. How does it compare to your life to-dos?

Top Ten Surprising Things After a Fire

Almost three weeks ago, our house caught on fire. Before the fire, I had never given any thought to how I might feel if our home caught on fire. I assumed it would never happen. But it did, and we’ve experienced a surprising range of emotions and experiences. Here are a few things that have surprised us about the experience.

  1. I am so thankful. Once we found out that everyone, including the firefighters, were safe, I didn’t even care about our home or the relatively few belongings that we lost. God protected us from so much. I’m so glad the situation is totally under His control–from the first spark to the small details of rebuilding our house.
  2. I was so thirsty. Maybe it was exposure to smoke, shock, or that I just hadn’t drank enough water the day before the fire, but I couldn’t stop downing water for the next day or two. When our insurance agent brought us a bag of food and toiletries, the first thing I went for was the bottled water.
  3. Smoke smells are everywhere. When I walked out of our neighbors’ house the night of the fire, I thought, “Wow, it smells like someone is grilling.” Then I realized that it was the smell of my house burning. Since then, we’ve smelled smoke everywhere. Sometimes it was in our hair or on our clothes, but it’s also from the projector in my classroom getting hot or walking past a restaurant.
  4. Fishing out damaged items was surprisingly unemotional. I imagine this would have been different if more of our things had been damaged. However, cataloging the damaged-beyond-repair items took a lot of time and felt more like business than a personal experience.
  5. I was exhausted, but could somehow keep going. We got about 2 hours of sleep, broken up into segments by our dog throwing up and me having to run into school, the night of the fire. Somehow, we made calls, wash and folded all of our clothes, talked to friends, and rode to Des Moines the next day. We spent the day packing and inventorying our things on Monday, and we were back at work on Tuesday. The adrenaline wore off that first day of work.
  6. Everything sparks memories of the fire. We now know exactly where the fire extinguisher aisle is at Target. I was at a conference today and had to answer a question about what had effected my life lately.
  7. We have too much stuff. I first realized this during our marathon clothes washing session the day after the fire. I really thought I might die if I folded another piece of clothing. After we sorted through our clothes at the hotel, we got a decent-sized pile ready to take to Goodwill. When your house catches on fire and you feel like you have too much stuff, you are blessed.
  8. We know a lot of awesome people. We had so many people leave comments on facebook, send emails, and even leave comments on this blog that I didn’t respond to. If that was you, thank you! Your words meant a lot to us. Our exhaustion and not knowing exactly how to deal with we felt about the fire kept us away from social media except to communicate that things were okay.
  9. Eating out eventually becomes a chore. Before the fire, I would have told you that I would LOVE to eat out every day for the next month. However, just deciding where to eat seems like more of a hassle than cooking and cleaning up after dinner. Restaurants are also not full of choices if you’re narrowing things down to what’s vegetarian or even relatively cruelty-free.
  10. We are not alone. So many people we’ve talked to know someone who has had a fire. There have been three other fires in our community since August. One was fatal, one destroyed an entire apartment building and more, and one was just down the street from us.

Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that not only do we feel thankful for everyone’s safety, thankfulness has been the pervasive feeling throughout the past few weeks. I’m thankful for the firefighters who came and saved our home, the Red Cross who took care of us and our neighbors, and the good friends who watched our dogs and offered us a room in our house for the night and indefinitely. I’m thankful for parents who came ready to do whatever needed to be done–from hugs, to taking us out to eat, and to helping us empty our house if need be. I’m thankful for my husband–for being able to hug him and hold his hand when we couldn’t go home. I’m thankful for a lot more people who have listened to us, and offered to help.

Visit OhAmanda for more Top Ten Tuesday.

A Fire and the Aftermath

I’m lying in a king-sized bed in a hotel, watching cable. I’ve eaten out for every meal the last two days. I won’t be charged for any of it. It feels like I’m on vacation, but if it were up to me, I’d still be at home, in my queen-sized bed, watching Netflix on the computer. This is the story of why that’s not a choice anymore.

Thursday night, while I was at a Bible study with a friend and my sister, Dexter began noticing some electrical problems. First, all of the ceiling lights controlled with a light switch stopped working. After I got home, the ceiling fan lights went out. Then, the upstairs outlets stopped working.

We tried going to sleep, but Dexter was concerned that some light switches he had replaced had caused the problem. After discovering that the light switches weren’t the problem, Dexter couldn’t stop worrying about the problems upstairs. He went upstairs to see if our roommates had any overloaded outlets that could be causing the problem. He noticed a funny smell in one room, but assumed it was from a space heater that had turned off. Since we had shut off all the fuses for the upstairs, we decided that we would call an electrician in the morning.

We texted our roommate, we’ll call him Arnold, who was still out, telling him we’d left him a flashlight on the stairs since there were no lights upstairs. We finally settled into bed in our basement bedroom at around 11:45. We heard Arnold arrive home at around midnight. Minutes later, as we were just starting to doze, we heard the door at the top of the stairs open. Arnold yelled down, saying Dexter’s name and something about a fire. Dexter yelled something in response and ran upstairs. I fumbled around for my glasses and a sweatshirt, putting them on as I ran upstairs.

Arnold told us he saw a glow from a recessed light in his bedroom. Dexter got the fire extinguisher and blew it at the light a couple of times. He went to the hall closet where the attic access was to see if he could extinguish from the top of the fixture in the attic. As he went toward the closet, I asked, “Are you sure we shouldn’t just call 911?” He went ahead and opened the passage to the attic. It was bright with flames. He yelled for me to call 911. I did, and gave the responder our information while trying to get the dogs on leashes. After throwing on a pair of rainboots, I ran outside with the dogs. The responder told me that the fire department was on its way. Dexter ran back downstairs to put on outside-appropriate clothing, and we frantically knocked on our neighbors doors to warn them about the fire. Our roommates grabbed a few possessions and then joined us in warning the other families. Then, Dexter ran inside to grab our laptop off a TV tray in the living room.

I called our friends who lived just down the parking lot. I apologized for waking them up and said, “Our condo is on fire. Can we bring the dogs over to your place?” They agreed. I dropped the dogs off with them, let them know that everyone was out safely out, and went back to see what was happening.

The fire department arrived amazingly fast–in under 3 minutes. We stood across the parking lot and watched smoke pour and flames rise from the roof of our home. My whole body was shaking, either from shock or from the cold. Neighbors came out of their homes and watched the firefighters work. They brought us blankets and invited us in for hot chocolate. We accepted the blankets, but stayed outside so we’d be available to answer questions. We prayed for the safety of the firefighters and thanked God for the safety of all the residents.

The attics in the sixplex are all connected, so it was necessary to access the attics in multiple places to make sure the fire didn’t spread. Our neighbor to the left wasn’t at home, but even after they had broken the door open, they couldn’t access the attic. They took chainsaws into our house to cut out the ceiling in the bedroom. They also cut the side of our neighbor’s condo open to access the attic so the fire wouldn’t spread. The fire was under control by 1:25 and out by 1:40, but we didn’t know this until the next day. Firefighters were there until 3:00 or 3:30, and Red Cross was there until around 4:00, giving vouchers for food, clothing, and shelter to people who would be displaced at least for the night.

Before went went to our friends’ house to sleep, the fire department allowed us to walk back inside to get a few things we needed. We grabbed my purse, our camera, some clothes and shoes, toiletries, our hermit crabs, Dexter’s large desktop computer, and a laundry basket full of meat from the freezer (worth around $400). We were so thankful that the firefighters had pushed a lot of furniture (including our piano!) and possessions out of the way and covered it with a tarp so that as little as possible would be damaged.

Thankfully, we have great homeowners’ insurance from State Farm. Our agent brought us an intial check and a bag of snacks, toiletries, and bottled water. The cleaning company, electrician, and property management are all working to start repairs. Our insurance will cover a hotel for us to stay in, and if the repairs are scheduled to take more than a month, they will find us a house. For now, our dogs are staying with my parents in Des Moines. If we get into a house where we can have them, we will bring them back to Iowa City with us.

Neither of our roommates have renters’ insurance. One of them lost almost nothing, but Arnold, whose bedroom the fire started over, lost almost all his furniture, his electronics, and his nicest clothes. They will salvage everything they want from the house this weekend. We’ll go in on Monday and work with a company to inventory all the items that need to be professionally cleaned and those that have been lost.

Although the fire really only hit one room, the smoke, water, and electrical damage have affected the whole house. We haven’t received an estimate on how long we will be out. Update 10/25/11: They estimate we’ll be out of our house for about two months. We’re staying in a hotel right now, and will probably be moving into an extended stay place or rental house so we can have access to a kitchen. The insurance company is stressing that they’ll try to find a dog-friendly place with a yard so we can bring our puppies back soon.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the damage:

Total Money Makeover Update: August 2011

Since I’m switching to budgeting a calendar month at a time (rather than starting at the 15th of each month), I knew I would have to do a teeny-tiny, half the payments update sooner or later. So here it is.

In the past two weeks we’ve paid off 0.2% of our debt and we have 72% left to go.

I’m not expecting a huge drop in percent next month since we made a bigger payment last month with my multiple paychecks from school. My first paycheck of the school year is in September, so I’m hoping to be able to celebrate my birthday in October by moving down into the 60s.

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Projects

Top Ten {Tuesday}
As I compiled my list of summer projects, I got a teensy bit overwhelmed. I thought it would be nice to pare it down to a list of ten things. I have ten fingers. I should be able to handle ten projects, right?

1. Move the bedroom into the office and the office into the bedroom. We swapped these in March but decided we don’t like it. So, we’re switching back, away from the front porch light and dripping drain spout. Right now, both rooms are a mess due to three months of mamby-pambying around about whether we wanted to organize them because we weren’t sure if we liked the new set up.

2. Fix up our ugly bathroom. There is no toilet paper holder, but there is a hole in a cabinet where one was installed by a moron. There is also a wallpaper border that has been painted over. I don’t really know how it’s going to come off. I might be crazy by the time this one is finished.

3. Clean the carpets. I am fairly confident that our dogs have desecrated our carpet to the extent that we will have to replace it before we sell. However, I still have to touch it with my feet for now, so I’m going to get it as clean as I can.

4. Get rid of all of our junk. I’m even thinking about doing a crazy minimalist project like this. I really want this junk out. I’m not sure if Dexter would be on board, and it looks like a lot of work. What do you think? Too extreme?

5. Paint our upstairs bathroom. Not that the mold above the shower isn’t lovely against my cute Urban Outfitters birdie shower curtain.

6. Refinish the kitchen table. My grandfather bought our table from a feed store and refinished it when my mom was a little girl. I was its last stop before it left the family for good, so I have permission to do with it what I please. I’m thinking about staining it darker to make it appear a little more modern. Thoughts, interior design gurus?

7. Recover the kitchen chairs. I’m thinking something with a little bit of teal in it. Which leads me to…

8. Paint everything teal. Okay. Maybe not everything, but at least a few spraypaintable accessories. What do you think? And if I’m going to change my accessory color scheme, I probably need to…

9. Repaint my main floor. My parents and our neighbors helped us paint before we moved in a couple of years ago. I’m getting a little tired of the blue and green, so I’m thinking about switching to a neutral color so I can change my color scheme more easily in the future. (See #8)

10. Repaint and make(?!?) cushions for our glider. My great-grandparents sat on the glider we now have and waved to my grandmother, my aunt, and my mom as they drove away. Now it’s rusty and the paint is chipping away. I hear the original cushions had teal in them, so I’m thinking I should try to recreate them. (Um…does anyone have any tips for how to make cushions for something like this?)

What’s on your summer to-do list?

This post is linked to OhAmanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.

Guest Post Mania

Today is a triple threat at Mrs. Dexter. Kind of like these oatmeal raisin cookies are a triple threat of sweet, buttery, and delicious.

I’m guest posting for Sarah at Loved Like the Church where I share my recipe for Magical Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

Then, Shawna and Krystal of Simple Life Celebrations are guest posting right here on how minimalism can save us money.

I am continuing the Ultimate Blog Swap trail by posting about clutter hot spots on I Dream of Clean.

Top Ten Signs You’re Overcommitted

Top Ten {Tuesday}

  1. You say only, “Thank you,” or “I’m sorry!” to your husband 90% of the time.
  2. There is a possibility that you will start crying at all times for no (apparent) reason.
  3. You don’t have time to exercise.
  4. You don’t have time to blog.
  5. You don’t have time to eat.
  6. You begin to doubt if your emotions are appropriate for the situation you’re in, but decide to dismiss it because you’re too tired to control them anyway.
  7. You wear dirty or mismatched clothes because you haven’t had time to do laundry.
  8. You feel like you miss your husband even when he’s right over there.
  9. You just sit still when you realize you have a few free minutes because your brain isn’t worth anything.
  10. You are highly motivated to do super creative things but have no time or energy with which to do them.

It’s been a busy few weeks. Last month, I told you I was looking to our first free weekend on May 21. I was wrong. We’ll be waiting until June 4. Sigh.

Linked up at OhAmanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Reasons I Can’t Wait for Summer Break

I know, I know. Poor me, having a 10 week break during the season of sun, farmer’s markets, and barbecue. You’ve got to cut me some slack, though, because I do spend 7 hours a day trapped in a windowless, air-conditionerless room with the future of America in its adolescent form.

There are 17 days of school left. My summer to-do list is 18 miles long, and I’m anxious to get started before I realize that 10 weeks (minus 3-4 weeks of a summer job, minus a school workshop, minus curriculum planning) is not nearly enough time to accomplish half of what I want to get done.

Here are the top ten things I can’t wait to do this summer.

  1. Read. Every once in a while, I can turn my head just right, blocking out the mess, and focus on reading a book. My 30 Before 30 list includes reading a book a month, and right now I’m behind 3.5 months. I keep making mental additions to my reading list, and I can’t wait to get started.
  2. Running. On Easter, my schedule finally calmed down and I began making time to run. I’m now in the middle of Couch to 5K Week 3, and it’s going better this time than ever before. I’m even thinking there could be a 10K in my future.
  3. Farmer’s Market. Although down south, where it seems like the majority of bloggers that I read live, some summer food seasons are already over. In Iowa, the first veggies have barely started to be harvested. Our town’s first farmer’s market was last weekend, and I’m looking forward to weeks of fresh veggies. We’re not doing a CSA this summer, so I’m going to make an effort to faithfully shop the farmer’s market each week.
  4. Cooking. The past month or so, we’ve been eating spaghetti, pizza, canned soup, and canned Indian food. I’m ready to get in the kitchen, make some delicious, fresh meals, and still have the time and energy to clean up after myself.
  5. Paying off Debt #3. I’m not 100% sure, but we might be able to pay off what I’ve dubbed our “mini mortgage” on July 1. I’m excited to figure out the budget and take that check to the bank! We’ll still have a ways to go, but we’ll be down to our last two loans.
  6. Being artsy and crafty. I’ve always enjoyed artistic things, but haven’t really considered it a full fledged hobby before. I have lots of creative ideas bouncing around in my head, and I’m excited to put some of them into action.
  7. Blogging! Between running, keeping food on the table, and keeping my home mold and bug free, I haven’t had a lot of time to blog. I’m still trying to decide how many times a week to post this summer, but I’m hoping to get into some semblence of consistency and discipline.
  8. Walking my dogs. My poor puppies spend every day cooped up inside, but they love to run and sniff. We got Fitz a new collar that helps him to walk with us rather than drag us on our faces down the street, so it should be a much more pleasant experience.
  9. Refinishing furniture. I inherited a dining room table and a porch glider from my family. The dining set is in good shape, but I’d like to refinish the wood so it’s darker and more modern. The porch spring is metal and rusty, so I’m hoping to clean it off and give it a fresh coat of paint. I’m still looking for an old bed and dresser to spruce up for our bedroom.
  10. Redecorating my house. Maybe it’s all the interior design blogs I’ve started to read lately, but I can’t stop thinking about rearranging my furniture, covering my sofa, painting my walls a calming neutral, and adding pops of teal and red throughout. It just sounds bright and cheery.

Head over to OhAmanda for more Top Ten Tuesday!