Category Archives: Family

Introducing: Bridezilla

Reading articles about batshit brides who enamored over every detail of a wedding led me to pronouncing I would never, EVER earn the title “bridezilla.” And, yet, shortly thereafter my official engagement I’ve been called this at least two times – not yet once from my finance who surely has thought the term silently while watching me create a google spreadsheet of 20+ local venues to visit in order to find – THE ONE.

As a personal finance blogger, and someone who tends to toy around with compound interest calculators as a means to destress after a challenging day, weddings – as in, the modern American wedding with an average cost of $25k ($31k-$51k in my region) – are absolutely ridiculous.

$50,000 — over a 30 year period growing at 5% — amounts to $216k. Sure, that’s not enough to get one through retirement, but it’s an awful lot to spend on one 6-hour party. When down-payments for a starter home are $200k or more, spending any money on a wedding, no matter how high your income is (unless you already are financially independent) seems incredibly frivolous.

So far, we’ve done well to combat the frivolity of this phenomenon known as nuptials. I was verklempt when my man got down on one knee and, after going through a series of romantic gestures, asked me to marry him. When I noticed he had picked the $300 ring off my Pinterest, I took pride in being the type of future bride who didn’t buy into the “Three Months Salary” bullshit propagated by jewelry marketers – likely ones related to the same person who came up with “A Diamond is Forever.” The average cost of an engagement ring these days is $4000 — which is a lot considering most of America is in debt.

There was this little voice in the back of my mind, the little girl who dreamed of a fancier ring (not necessarily a diamond, but still, something above and beyond what I might purchase for myself) — and then I stopped that voice, told it to shut the fuck up, because the ring — beautiful, simple and unique — was perfect. And I wouldn’t want to be walking around with a $4000 sentimental target on my back for anyone who wanted to rob me. Ultimately, I’d rather have a house than a ring, so this was the right choice.

That doesn’t change the fact that the minute you tell people you are engaged the reflex of most Americans – male or female – is something along the lines of “let me see the rock.” Well, it’s a rock alright — a low-cost gemstone that may or may not be the one that we think it is. It was supposed to be peach but it’s actually clear which only bothers Bridezilla me because I feel like everyone “just knows” that it’s a fake diamond (which it wasn’t meant to be) and then I get nervous that others will look at it and think, oh god, does she not know it’s a fake? I was perfectly fine with a sapphire or alexandrite or something that didn’t look like a diamond, but when it almost looks like a diamond showing off your ring gets uncomfortable, so says Ms. Bridezilla.

The ring, however, is the least of the costs that go into having a wedding. Every ounce of my rational self is screaming ELOPE YOU DUMB IDIOT YOU! I’m definitely the type of girl that dreamed of having a large, fairytale wedding – but now that i’m nearly 32, I’m largely over that dream and much more practical. If I was paying for the entire thing myself, I’d be a whole lot of more practical – but with my parents wanting to foot the bill, I’m torn.

My dad – who worked his entire life in a job that he didn’t exactly love – was told eight years ago that he had two years to live from a very respectable doctor at Sloan Kettering in NYC. His late-stage prostate cancer had metastasized and while there were a number of treatments and trials to prolong his life, there was no cure. And, already dealing with numerous health issues, such as diabetes and morbid obesity, his prognosis wasn’t so optimistic.

Dad – as stubborn as he is – has lived much longer and is still kicking, knock on wood. Him and my mother purchased a condo in Boca which he’s now spending his days determining how to decorate – despite years of nagging me about getting married, he doesn’t seem to care too much about the wedding now. His response when I called to tell them I was engaged was “about time.”

My father has clearly stated, many times, that he has money put away for this shindig and that he’d cover the event. The budget, which was $30k, grew into $50k once I made a list of how much everything would cost (and this is with cutting out all of the items that would go into a dream wedding with a pricetag of about $100k.) He said $50k is fine.

I know he’s looking forward to his dream wedding. My mom’s mother made their wedding horrible, because she’s crazy. She wouldn’t let him invite most of his friends to the event because they needed to invite all of the Israeli relatives, and then not surprisingly those Israeli relatives didn’t show up leaving a lot of empty seats. If my finance had a large extended network of family and friends I’d almost  be ok with a large wedding, but it just doesn’t feel right to have a wedding with 30 people from his side and 150 from mine. That isn’t a wedding.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure someone like me where I am today in understanding finances can spend $50,000 on 5 hours – even if it’s not my money. To put perspective on that figure, for the last 5 years of my life I’ve been aiming to save $50,000 A YEAR after taxes, including interest from investments. It’s a lot of money, no matter how you slice it, and whose money it is.

Some of my friends say if your parents want to pay for the wedding, let them. But I’m almost ashamed of it. When I was 12 years old I had a lavish Bat Mitzvah which included custom-made t-shirts which I designed, musicians which included a band AND a dj, and a number of other items which led for one expensive coming of age ceremony. Back then I didn’t understand money at all. The party was fun and all, but it was ridiculous at the same time. How can a grown-ass woman rationally spend anywhere near $30k-$50k on one day? Well, this grown-ass woman might — but she’s still not sure.

I’m absolutely torn. The options seem to be accepting my parent’s gift and a world of compromise for throwing a party for 200 guests including many family friends/relatives who I don’t know that well, OR, paying for an event on our own which would be a lot smaller and cheaper. If we do an event on our own, most of the people I want to attend wouldn’t come, because it would be a smaller, less lavish affair. Maybe that’s not a terrible thing – but I feel like if you’re going to have a wedding to begin with, the point is introducing both families to each other – and with that, I would like to encourage a decent turnout from both of our sides. We have families across the country so a wine country venue with the promise of incredible dining and entertainment would do more to encourage an annual vacation vs a picnic in a park.

Yes, they say that whatever you do for a wedding, the people who want to be there will be. Those people don’t have tri-state area expectations. I definitely grew up in a culture where these fancy weddings are the norm. And, as privileged as I am to even be able to ponder what to do with a $30k+ budget, I should also just embrace the fact that my parents want to pay for this event – which will likely be a night that my finance and I will remember for the rest of our lives. So let’s just do this.

Even with a $50k budget (which is, again, ridiculous) there are still lots of cuts to be made. So a dream dress might be $10k. I looked on pre-owned wedding dress sites, where they sell one-night-worn dresses for 30% to 50% off. Well, buying a dress site-unseen for $5000 – even if it was a $10k dress – seems like a bad idea. Buying a used dress does intrigue me, however, since spending even $3000 on a dress to be worn one night is nuts, but spending $1500 on that same dress that was worn once makes a lot more sense (especially if you can resell it again, say, for $1000.)

At the moment, our decision du jour is the venue itself. Picking a venue and a date will make this a whole lot more real. My finance and I have similar ideas about what makes the perfect venue, but they aren’t always 100% aligned. We visited one venue yesterday that he adored – but it’s too expensive and honestly it was just not quite what I had in mind (paying $50k for a wedding which features fancy port-o-potties is not going to fly with my parents, and is also not on my preferred logistics list.) While we both love the idea of getting married outside in nature, I prefer a venue at the top of a hill with a view, he prefers one nestled in a valley. We both are hoping for some sort of water features — a lake, a stream, or ocean with dramatic cliffs. I prefer a venue where we are able to come set up in the morning, early, and he prefers one which enables late-night after partying well into the next day. We’re coming up empty handed.

All of this added stress should be fun, but planning a wedding is a lot of work. Yes, you can hire a planner (and I probably will) but that doesn’t solve everything – it doesn’t solve the issue of managing my parent’s expectations. If they are footing the bill, that will be another giant job on top of the FT job I already have, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to plan this shindig to begin with.

And I come back to thinking – isn’t this supposed to be a day about the joining of two people who are going to spend the rest of their lives together? Why should that cost $50,000?



Mother’s Day: Being Thankful for an Imperfect Mother

Now that I’m 31 and of age to be a mother, I acknowledge that age doesn’t actually poof make you mature enough to be a good mother. Mother’s are just little girls that grew up and made little creatures that they have to take care of – who then go on to become mothers (or fathers) more often than not before they have their own shit together.

I must be thankful that my mother was not a drug addict or alcoholic. She was not a thief, sex trafficker or Russian spy. For all this, I am grateful.

When I see a bunch of my friends post pictures of their mothers on mom’s day and say “thanks to my best friend” I have to wonder what it’s like to have that kind of figure in your life. Don’t get me wrong – my mom and I talk all the time. But we talk at each other. Not to each other. And, without a nurturing bone in her body, she never once was the type of mother who was “there” for me when I needed it most.

My mother embarrassed me time and again in my life in terms of oversharing my “accomplishments,” trials and tribulations to anyone who might be willing to listen – but the worst of it came from how she, along with my father, completely warped my world view and sense of self. I was trained from a young age that all that matters is being brag-worthy. That I’m inherently special and worthy of praise. Yet any shortcoming, any slight imperfection, was not something that I could work on and fix. It was just ignored. Replaced with some story of grandiosity which fueled my oft confused ego.

I’m grateful that despite my mother’s unyielding self-self-absorbtion, she doesn’t have an evil bone in her body. Her acts are just frustrating, inconvenient at best and nails-on-chalkboard annoying at worst. In the most meaningful moments of life, her only though is if she and the others posing around her look good in a photograph. She is just entirely void of the ability to empathize with others. Her own growth was stunted by her narcissistic mother, who is evil and selfish. My mother is selfish but not in the same way. She’ll put her needs above others but she won’t be angry at said others if their needs end up coming first. Her entire life since age 18 has been in an abusive relationship with my father. She’s never cried. Not even behind closed doors. Her emotions seem to have been stunted as a small child, and were never recovered.

There are worse mothers out there. Ones that go out of their way to use their own children. Ones who push their children to do things that they wouldn’t want to do otherwise. Even when I came out as bisexual she cringed but didn’t kick me out of the house (she hoped it was a phase.) And, in terms of being present versus not in my life, my mother was always there – I’m not sure if she was always there for me, but she was always there. Involved in the school PTA, all of my teachers and administrators knew her well. Everyone in the school knew my mother. Her entire identity, at least once I was born, was created by the accomplishments of her children. Without a sense of self, there became an impossible pressure on her kids to be special enough.

My mother did not teach me about love. My mother stayed when my father screamed and threw ice water in her face or when he grabbed her arm and threw her across the room. For all the effort my mother put into outside appearances in terms of dressing nicely and wearing makeup, she didn’t worry about my father’s repeated humiliation of her in public. After being out of the work force for so many years, she was too afraid to get divorced and have to return to the employed life. She enjoyed her life of shopping and lounging by the pool in the long summers and actively involved in her children’s schooling. She saw her own child getting beaten with a belt and said nothing, even though she knew this wasn’t right. She let her young child start to abuse her, because her child learned this was the only way to stop her chronic nagging. She was a victim, still is a victim, and was incapable of escaping the borderline personality disorder eggshells she walked on throughout her life – first with her own mother, and then her hot-tempered, violent husband.

I feel sorry for my mother. Sorry that she will always be incapable of having her own life. Sorry that she does not have the emotional depth to have a fulfilling adult relationship. Sorry that happiness in her life is defined by buying more and more things, even though she’s never actually happy. The normal state for her is anxious, constantly panicking about what needs to be done, yet never accomplishing much at all.

My great worry is that if I do have kids one day, I won’t be able to be a good mother. I know I will try to be more nurturing and caring, more there for them when they need it and out of the way when they don’t. I’d love to be the type of mother who one day, when my children are all grown up, is referred to as a close friend and confidant. I want to be a strong figure, with a satisfying career and sense of personal accomplishment, to show one example of a successful life and ideal, loving relationship.

And all the while I wonder who I’d be today if I was born to one of those mothers who – maybe is strict – but who knows what it means to love and care for her own children – to, outside of financial means, put her children’s needs ahead of her own, especially when they are young and most vulnerable. All of the crazy in my mind – the constant panicking – the inability to get things done without someone telling me I’m absolutely awful, and having to prove them otherwise – my recurring failure to lead a stable, normal life – or to stand up for myself when I should instead of burst into tears – is something that is so ingrained in me, I can’t shake it off. So much of that is due to my mother. My father had quite the influence as well, but since it’s mom’s day I’m writing about the female component of my parental pair specifically.

So as much as I miss my mother, I’m glad that I moved to the other side of the country. It makes me sad that as the years go by there will less and less time I can spend with her. It’s terribly upsetting that if I do have kids, she will barely ever see them – even though I imagine she’d be a better grandmother than parent, especially if my father isn’t around to scream and make for anxiety-ridden situations. I wish I could flip a switch and suddenly she’d know how to feel – how to care – how to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her. I know that sounds awfully silly coming from someone such as myself who is also so self absorbed. But at least I have some awareness of the fact that this world isn’t all about me – or my future children – or my life. I’m just a speck in the infinite universe. I’m lucky and unlucky all at the same time, but more lucky than not all things considered. While some of what I have has been earned, most has been obtained through chance.

She would never be able to grasp that. She just doesn’t care about other people – or herself. She is driven by a relentless, all-encompassing need to have stories to tell about others who would want no part in the tale.







My Parents, My Aunt’s New House, and Taxes

If my father were to find out that I hadn’t filed taxes for four years, I would never hear the end of it. He would basically tell me I’m a horrible, disorganized person who is so irresponsible. I hear his voice now, sighing my name in judgement-filled disappointment. And that judgement would kick me straight in the stomach yet again, because I’d believe that there is something truly wrong with me, and that I’ll never be able to resolve my deep-rooted mess of a self.

But when it’s my own father who hasn’t filed the taxes, well, then the world is out to get him. He is being kind of enough to co-sign a loan for my divorced aunt who is attempting to purchase a house, and in order to do this they’ve asked for two years worth of back taxes documentation. Well, he doesn’t have that because while he’s paid what he believes he owes, he’s never actually filed for 2011-2013.

The reality of the situation is that both of my parents could be in very big trouble for not filing taxes. It sounds like he has actually paid the amount owed, but he can’t know for sure because he hasn’t actually filed and filled out the paperwork. My mother is concerned about this, of course, but whenever she brings it up with him he will go off on her and call her a jerk. He really likes to call her a jerk.

It’s so unfortunate for her to be in this spot where she has absolutely no control over the finances. If they were to be audited they could both be thrown in jail. Now, you could say that she should be more pro-active in ensuring her own taxes are filed on time, but my father keeps all of the financial information in boxes that even he isn’t able to find easily. He’s been procrastinating on filing taxes because everything is a giant mess. I wonder where I get this being a mess thing from, hmm.

To be “fair” to my father, he does have terminal prostate cancer, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to spend his remaining days doing taxes. Maybe in his mind, since the doctors told him he would die five years ago, he was putting it off so that he’d never actually have to deal with it. Who knows. It’s hard to task a dying man with filing paperwork to the IRS, but he’s lived much longer than the doctors have thought and he typically spends his days not schlepping up to Sloan Kettering in NYC watching television or napping.

I’m concerned about my parents, but there really isn’t anything I can do. My dad is so ridiculously stubborn and he won’t change that. He spent a good ten minutes yelling (over the phone) at my aunt’s loan officer because he thought that he only had to show two years of taxes for 2013 and 2014, and in fact they need 2012 and 2013. Well, he just loves to yell. He’s just so angry and I don’t know if I’ve ever met a person with more anger in his heart – no empathy at all for other people just trying to do their job – no concern for his own wife who he could be setting up for jail time. No, he’ll just spend all his time screaming at everyone else, because the whole world is against him, clearly.

What is a grown adult daughter to do in these situations? My mother is dealing with her own mother’s finances and taxes, which is quite ironic given she doesn’t have a handle on her own. My mother doesn’t get sad, ever – as the daughter of a narcissist herself she was not allowed to have emotions – but she is clearly frustrated by my father’s failure to just pay the taxes. She laughs it off with her nervous laugh, because her only emotion as far as I can tell is “anxious.” There is nothing I can do, but it upsets me that my father, even after all of these years, even after he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, even after his children have grown up and removed that stress from him, is still as bitter, selfish, and full of rage as he ever was. I’d like for there to be a day when he finally realizes that the world isn’t out to get him, that criticism can be constructive, that people deserve to be treated with respect. But that will never happen. I only get to hope that my parents do not end up in jail and my dad finally files the taxes.

The Emotional Reprecussions of Narcissistic Parents

No one has perfect parents, and by 30-something you’re supposed to be well adjusted enough to forgive and forget any of their misgivings. I don’t know why I’m still holding out for the day my parents learn how to care about anyone other than themselves, yet that faith consistently proves futile.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and told he had one to two years to live, I spent an evening collapsed on the floor with my friend holding my hand and praying to Jesus for me – which despite my being an atheist Jew was somewhat comforting. Despite growing up as the child of narcissists, and despite being quite self absorbed myself, somehow I’ve managed to learn how to care about others. I’m not very good at expressing this, and I certainly don’t know how to manage these feelings within the context of my family, but I’m learning.

Dad is still alive and kicking. While I had hoped that somehow the stars would align for him to both kick the terminal disease and for having a terminal illness to turn him into a man far less self-centered, I’ve realized this will never happen. The more amount of time I spend away from my parents, the more I can observe their great narcissism. To be fair, they financially took care of me throughout my childhood and then some, and I had a very comfortable childhood, at least on paper.

But that comfortable childhood was spent listening to hours upon hours of my father telling my mother she’s an idiot, throwing curse words at her, screaming and berating her, while my mother nagged about one thing or another, setting him off over and over again. My parents, in many ways, are perfect for each other. There is no satisfying their narcissistic supply, and it would surely drain anyone who actually cared to please the other when such pleasing was impossible.

I may be the type to over dramatize a lot of things in my life, but my parent’s crazy is not one of them. The definition of narcissistic personality disorder defines my father perfectly. My friend from childhood came to visit today and said she was not looking forward to coming over to the house because of my father, as he was never kind to her. She was a bit of a troublemaker as a child, but that was due to her parents both working and leaving her home alone from a young age, alongside her father’s alcoholism and abuse (which I did not know about at the time.) We both had crazy situations at home which is why we bonded, but my father always made it very clear that he looked down on her and her family. Today when she came over, he didn’t greet her in anyway. Yet, when my boyfriend comes over and doesn’t say hi to him, it’s the absolute worst possible disrespect. In short, my father is a great hypocrite, proven time and again, as he constantly cuts others down for faults that if he’d only look in a mirror for once he’d see so clearly in himself.

My father is the more violent type of crazy. He’s what I’d call a bad person. He has no care about how his actions make others feel. It is true that my mother has no care about how her actions make others feel, but typically his actions make others feel unsafe while hers are just annoying or embarrassing at worst. Wouldn’t it be nice for my father to, at least for the short time I’m home to visit, make an effort to make the household hospitable? No, in just 24 hours I’ve listened to him spurt more variations of “Fuck you” and “You’re an Idiot” at my mother than I’d care to count.

Thank goodness my mother has no heart inside of her to care. It’s just same old, same old with her. He seems to no longer physically shove her or grab her anymore, largely due to her calling the cops on him finally years back. Of course, after the police came to pick him up and take him to the station she had to go down and pick him up once he was released. That was the day I was terrified my father might actually kill my mother. She’s always been petite and weak, he’s always been obese and strong – which is a bad combination with a man who has no ability to control his temper and a woman who has no ability to realize she ought to not nag – or suggest any of her own ideas – in order to keep peace in the household.

My mother is no angel. She doesn’t have an ounce of mothering spirit in her body. A friend of hers came over tonight, a woman who was my Hebrew School teacher long ago, and as she asked how I’m doing I explained to her my concerns about having a child and maintaining a high-powered executive job, she briefly stroked my hair in a very motherly sort of way — this was completely off-putting to me, but the motherly-ness of it was kind of nice. She does call my mother out at her self-centeredness from time to time, not that my mother actually internalizes any of this feedback, but sometimes it’s nice to have a third party’s opinion organically in the mix. Makes me feel a bit less crazy.

Then there’s my sister, who, just graduated from college, is thank goodness a good person, yet broken as much as I am from growing up in an abusive household. While my seventeen jarring years at home pushed me towards my bipolar medley, she has also sought help for her depression. She has also been, just recently, leading quite the promiscuous life, because she has no sense of what a healthy relationship is, or how to respect herself or her body. And I feel horrible as her bigger sister not being able to provide any guidance to teach her that she deserves to be loved, and what that means. The fact is both of us have been formally diagnosed with depression, and I’m confident that the root cause of this was more nurture than nature. Who can come out of a household filled with so much selfishness and hatred and lead a healthy, normal, successful life – at least without being heavily medicated?

The Beatles said it best – all you need is love – and for the first 20 years of my life I had no such thing. During my 20s I struggled to learn how to love with a very patient, mild mannered, soothing boyfriend who came from his own broken background. His neglect and my physical and emotional abuse seemed to create two fractured creatures made somewhat whole together. There are days when I look around at other people in society who are perhaps more “normal” or socially able and I wonder what it would be like to be a person who can go out to events and socialize, but then I have to remind myself how completely awkward and abnormal I am, and why we’re the perfect fit for each other, till death do us part. And I remind myself that the only thing I really need to be happy is the love I never had as a child, the forgiving, relentless, eternal love that manages to find equal parts beauty and annoyance in even my many faults.

When I began my career, I had no one. I had never experienced love, I never valued myself enough to be in a healthy relationship with another person I fully respected or who respected me. Sure, I had a few relationships, but these were short lived – a girlfriend who, despite being kind and giving, was far too simpleminded to be a long-term match; a boyfriend who, a risk-loving midwestern guy with a horde of giant dogs and bad jokes and no emotional depth, was no fit for my sensitive side; and another boyfriend, a professional who, despite at the time earning a hundred thousand dollars more than my intern salary, and having been dating for nearly two years, made it clear that I would be paying for everything on every date, down to a $7 movie ticket, and then I’d be sleeping on the living room two-person couch for the night. I was so hungry for love and looking for it in all the wrong places because I had absolutely no respect for myself. I didn’t know how to be loved, or how to be worth being loved.

This is why I threw myself into my career. I wasn’t great at everything I did at work, but I had nothing else to focus on, even when my relationship with my current boyfriend begun, as I was unable to let him in. I found myself, typical as a child of abuse, trying to start fights at every turn, not feeling comfortable just existing in love. I needed the chaos, the ups and downs, the rush of the pain I was so used to. I pushed him away harder than one should be able to push a man and yet he stayed. He stuck he out. He knew I was hurting and lost and we both knew we were perfect for each other even though I tried so hard to break us apart.

Now I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve grown up a bit. I still have a lot of aging to do with wisdom to gain. But now all I need to find happiness is to be hugged tightly in his arms. I don’t need money or a fancy house or nice clothes or a new car or even to travel the world (though I enjoy traveling) because I could spend the rest of my life in a room with him and it would be ok. Suddenly, all of my motivation to focus on my career at the cost of avoiding my broken self shifted to my desire to be able to create a healthy, positive family with him. The years began to fly by and suddenly I was in my late 20s and then 30s. We didn’t get married or have kids, we just kept on watching the years go by, having fun together, but making little progress in terms of starting that family I began to see clearer and clearer.

I know having children is going to be a massive challenge due to my PCOS, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage to maintain my job and go through infertility treatments when the time comes. I’m going to have to make a lot of sacrifices and I will have to be strong enough to do this, not on my own, but as a team of two, us against the world. I’m quite frankly terrified because I don’t want to have kids and be a bad mother – I know I can be a horrible boss sometimes and while that’s not good either, at least with work you don’t always have the same employees throughout your career. One wrong move as a parent and it haunts you and your child for the rest of your life.

My teen self never dreamt of becoming a mother. Now, there’s nothing else in my life that seems more desirable or real. I’m afraid of what happens when I have children and introduce them to my parents, especially to my father’s rage, and how to explain to them that he thinks he’s right all the time even though he isn’t. Then I remember that chances are he won’t even be around when they’re born, or old enough to understand anything. Then I get sad over that, because I do want them to meet their grandfather, even with all of his volcanic anger constantly erupting. And I want them to meet my mother, as she far better plays the role of crazy grandmother than mother, taking pictures of her grandchildren and buying them presents to later be photographed with as well.

I can’t believe how fast time is flying — I’m nearly 32 and I’m not even married yet. I don’t feel behind mentally yet I know biologically the door to have a family is rapidly closing. Between that and the challenge and cost of going through the procedures needed to even children while also maintaining my high-pressure job is frightening. I’ll need to make some big choices about giving up massive savings potential in order to have a family. But at the end of the day, what is the point of saving if you never have a family to share that with (if that’s what you want to do, that is.)


My Parents, the Snow Birds

I never thought the day would come. Sure, all the other Jewish parents from the Tri-State area eventually buy a winter home in Florida, but my parents weren’t like that. They were just too east coast. They were too cultured. They were too… not that.

But, after a trip to Florida and dealing with the long cold winters, they’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge and purchase a winter home. Property in Florida is relatively cheap, so I don’t think it’s a terrible decision, but it’s just kind of unsettling to me that clearly it’s that time in life when this choice makes sense to them. I’m also perplexed by the amount of money they’re putting into fixing up the northeast house (and seem to be ignoring any set budgets) while now planning on spending half the year in a whole other state.

I’m not actually surprised by my mother’s interest in the half move – she loves her summers and long days by the beach and hates winters. She also grew up in Southern, California. But my father didn’t seem to be the type. I get that he has trouble getting around now so being in a place where snow and ice isn’t an issue also makes sense, even though his cancer doctors are in NY. This whole situation is rather surreal and yet another step in everyone getting older, myself included.

This also means that I will no longer be able to take a side trip to visit my parents on work trips, which most often occur during the winter months. It’s just the end of an era, and one that I wasn’t quite ready for, despite being over 30 and needing to get over this whole ironic nostalgia for my, in reality, quite unhappy childhood.

To Invest or Not to Invest?

Another surprise from left field – after offering to help front the money for my father’s credit card bill and have him pay me 50% of the interest they would charge, and him blatantly refusing such a preposterous suggestion, now he’s throwing around the idea that I should invest in their Florida condo. And he’s not joking.

The thing is, they have the money to pay for it outright, he just doesn’t want to pull his funds out of his 401k at the moment. And it wouldn’t hurt for me to have some investment in actual real estate. I haven’t run the numbers but logically it doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. Since I’d be investing in property owned by my parents, in the long run half of that property theoretically would be owned by me whether I invest in it or not. More importantly, though, is that if I were to purchase property in Florida for my parents to live in, the tax situation would get tricky. I’m not sure how it works – would I make them pay me rent? Pay me back for the loan with interest? Or would I just remain co-owner, or heck, buy the entire thing outright?

I’ve considered buying rental property before, but not property to rent to my parents. That just sounds overly complicated. And I’m not that interested in buying a condo in a 55+ community in Florida. The other piece of the puzzle is that while I haven’t been the best at saving liquid funds for a down payment of my own, if I put money into the property in Florida I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a house of my own. So it seems like a really bad idea, even though it would provide the opportunity to diversify my portfolio a bit.

In any case, I have to get used to this crazy new world of my parents as “Snowbirds.” I’m not sure I ever will, but they sounded happy calling from the state, happier than I’ve heard them sound before. So that’s a good thing.

Feeling Lucky in Love

When you grow up with “everything” in terms of material possessions and funded hobbies up to the wazzoo, your mental health issues such as depression are thought to be pure youth melodramatics. But in my ripe old-ish age of 31, I’ve found what I was missing and didn’t know I wanted. I found this thing they call love. And like the many songs that have been written about how people search for love in all the wrong places and shapes and sizes only to find it isn’t what they expected at all, here I am, a girl who thought she could never find true love, knee deep in the definition of it.

Oh, he isn’t perfect, and I never expected perfection out of another human being. But both of us lacking parents with the ability to love in our childhood have found that we can pour out all this love we have to give, our sensitive souls smiling with each instant cuddling on the couch or waking up in each other’s arms. He’s turned me into a total softie. He’s taught me that the hollow space inside my heart doesn’t need to be filled temporarily with material possessions – that I could easily be happy living the rest of my life in a relatively small space with few items, if only I would be guaranteed the opportunity to spend that time with him, being terribly silly, immaturely mischievous, and at the same time spiritually whole in the glow of his calming, zen-like attitude towards the world which combats my east coast leather-like psyche turning it into mushy clay.

But having him in my life also makes me unclear of what I want, because just 10 years ago I could only be striving for some sort of “success,” which merely meant a story my parents could brag about to their friends and our family. I didn’t have anything I really wanted. Fame, sure, but even my lust for fame was fleeting when I realized I didn’t actually like being the center of attention, I just liked not being alone. So as this love of mine developed over the past decade I started to find myself and she wasn’t who I thought she was at all, for good and bad. She was a lot less ambitious. She cared less about being smart or rich or even beautiful. She suddenly wanted a life of stability over a life of restless leaping from story to story until her final breath. After running for so long all she wanted to do was stop and fall into loving arms. And that she did.

I like to work and to be creative and help create projects as part of a team, so I’m not aspiring to leave the workforce anytime soon. I just don’t care as much about wealth as I used to. I’d like financial security, to know I can stop work when I have kids and spend time with them if I want to; to be able to have choices. But I don’t need a giant house (thank goodness because unless I’m ultra rich there is no way to afford one here) and I certainly don’t need new cars or fancy clothes. Even my vacations tend to be more on the budget side, within reason, because I feel uncomfortable in any environment that is slightly luxurious.

All I want right now, and the me of 10 years ago couldn’t believe I’m saying this, but all I want right now is a family of my own. I want to have kids, I’m sure of it, and I want to be a mother who tries her best to be a good mother and friend to her children. I want a house big enough where I can go into another room to have alone time but not so big that it has extra space to fill with crap collected throughout the years. I appreciate interior design and aesthetics but I lean much more to simplicity than I did in the past. I may be splurging on face creams to deal with my starting-to-age skin, but beyond that, I don’t really have anything I spend on. I’m so busy working there isn’t time to shop or take fancy trips anyway, which is fine by me.

So love really changes a person… I know first hand. I see how my parents, never able to love, instead continue to try to find completeness in buying lots of stuff. My father — his collections of often not-so-great art, baseball figurines, books, DVDs, et al, filling up the house; and my mother, clothes and more clothes and then random contraptions QVC convinced her to buy. Stuff. So much stuff.

Relatedly, my dad called me the other day while I was at work – I picked up as my dad NEVER calls me so when he does I figure something bad happened so I should pick up. No, I forgot, the other reason he calls (it has happened once before that I can remember) is when my general region is on the news and he worries about me. Last time, years ago, it was because there was a very low tsunami risk on the California coast. This time it was the rain storm that was causing a little bit of flooding. I told him I was fine and I had to go, but he kept talking, because he doesn’t really care that I was at work or had to go, and he started telling me that he’s going to go ahead with the purchase of a winter home in Florida… which is fine by me, they can do what they want, but again, they just keep buying stuff, I don’t think any of it makes them happy, and it’s sad but they’ll never be happy because they’ll never know love. They can’t. They’re two narcissists who only can love themselves in a twisted sort of way.

But here I am, 31 years old, and I have this guy in my life who loves me for who I am. He’s been there through thick and thin. Literally picking me up from jail (after my first-ever and last-ever DUI.) Holding me through losing my jobs and being there as I moped through periods of unemployment until the next opportunity came around. He’s just this rock, this smiling, beautiful, charming, unlike anyone else in the world rock. It’s not that I can picture spending the rest of my life with him – it’s that I cannot picture “not” spending the rest of my life with him. We’re together now, the way couples are together, but I didn’t think that was something that I could ever be a part of. I thought that was reserved for people who were more mentally balanced, people who deserved such love. Yet I found it. And it’s worth more than anything money could buy. And for that, I’m forever grateful.


Should Parents Pay for a Wedding (if they want to)?

With marriage on the mind and the remainder of my single friends getting wedded up and knocked up at full throttle, I’m more than ready for matrimony (with the exception of what it will cost me in taxes, but sans that thought, I’m ready to “settle down,” so to speak. While once upon a time I dreamed of a fancy ceremony and traditional large wedding, I’m kind of over that at the moment. I’m not sure if I’d regret not having a big wedding, but one thing is for sure, my parents want that big fancy ceremony, and they want to pay for it.

Now, wanting to pay for it is not synonymous with wanting to arrange a day that will be a symbol of my love and dedication to Mr. Right. To be fair to them their wedding day was quite horrible thanks to my mother’s mother who not only planned the entire thing to her liking but also joined my parents on their honeymoon to boot. I guess they’re thinking everything they do isn’t remotely as bad as what she inflicted on them. It’s just a bad and quite terrifying baseline to begin with.

Maybe in my 20s a big wedding with a poofy dress would have made sense. Even seeing my good friend married off at 32 recently in a fairytale ballgown hasn’t changed my heart. Perhaps if I was marrying someone different – someone who liked to dance or who enjoyed social events with many people who he barely knows then a big wedding would make sense. But if I have a big fancy wedding it’s surely going to only be applicable to one half of us, and given my latest take on the whole wedding industry, one half of a half of us. Continue reading

Let’s Give Some Thanks Here

Gratitude. It’s the one thing that can turn a bad day into a good one. Thank goodness there’s one day a year that makes us stop and remember to be thankful. We should be thankful every day. I’m guilty as charged of forgetting to, as my therapist suggested, think of three things I’m thankful for every night. It’s time to make a list. Since I just turned 31, I’ll write 31 things I’m thankful for. This will take a while…

1. I’m thankful for my boyfriend who is just as alien in this world as I am, yet who completely connects on our strange sense of humor and INFP idealist sentimentality towards the world around us. Even though relationships are never perfect, I’m so ridiculously thankful that the stars aligned so I could meet him 8.5 years ago. He’s been there with me through a whole lot of ups and downs, and, other than being upset about my mess, never once judged me for who I am or my various faults. I often think that without him I don’t know how I could have survived my 20s – he is my rock, my quiet, awkward rock, who is always there to give me a hug or hold my hand or genuinely laugh at a bad joke I make because just the act of making it feels like an inside joke to both of us. And I’m thankful that even though he’s avoiding proposing to me because I suck at cleaning up and need to figure out how to remain organized for a period of time I know that one day soon we’re going to get married and have a family together – he’s going to be a wonderful father. He has that parenting gene that I never got. We’re a good fit together. A good, awkward, alien race fit together. So much thanks here.

2. I’m thankful for my good friend who is now helping me out with work projects as well. I don’t often make good friends but he is one of the only people I know IRL who actually reads this blog (because I gave him the link) that’s how well he knows me. And he also doesn’t judge me for it, which I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for him being there to help set me straight on when I’m overreacting about things at my job vs whether I should be feeling the way I do. I’m thankful for him being chill enough to not “defriend” me when I stood him up for sushi dinner because I’m terrible at being on time and got stuck at work. I actually “talk” more to him (if you count skype) than anyone else I know – usually about work stuff, but still. Bonus points that he is the magical friend who I had always dreamed of who will sing duets with me (though I’ve yet to convince him to do any broadway beyond pop.) And I’m thankful for whatever reason that he believes in me and my abilities, because I know he’s wicked smart and amazing at what he does, so it means a lot.

3. I’m thankful for my dad, even though he’s nutso :), because he gave me a lot of the crazy spunky psyche that makes me me. He thinks he’s funnier than he is but he still has a sense of humor that sparked my interest in attempting to be funny in a sarcastic way. He’s also very smart in a math sort of way, and, you can say, believed in me and my intelligence when I was young so I didn’t let myself completely fail, even when I was struggling, because maybe I wasn’t quite as smart as he expected me to be (or able to focus, yeay ADHD). And somehow I do appreciate that in his own guilt-trippy, overprotective way, he cares about me, or at least me in the sense of me “being alive” and “safe” a lot. I know that no matter where I am in the world, as long as he’s around, I’ll never go hungry or live without a roof on my head.

4. I’m thankful for my mother, even though she’s nutso :D, because she is so amazingly unafraid of speaking to anyone and has no anxiety whatsoever in social situations, which is incredible to watch. She will say any thing that comes to her mind, especially things that will embarrass you and/or others, and she will tell anyone what she’s thinking, even the janitor who came over to fix the toilet. While this trait can drive a child crazy, it’s also quite amusing to witness, especially as an adult who can turn off the embarrassment and just appreciate crazy for what it is — entertainment. I’m thankful for my mother’s artistic talent, even though she doesn’t use it any more, for her love of the arts and teaching me to appreciate aesthetics. I’m thankful that she’ll always be there to pick up the phone if I need someone to talk to (not about anything serious because the empathy is entirely missing from her personality) but just to talk to pass the time and have someone to respond; or, to have someone to have talk at me about things that don’t really matter just because I want to get my mind off of the things that do. And i’m thankful that she always welcomes me back into the house whenever I want to come home. And even though this was a double-edged sword I’m thankful that she cared so much about what I look like as – while it gave me a binge eating disorder – it did teach me how to do my makeup well and how to appropriately pose for pictures (she trained me like a dog to smile in pictures as she’s happy-photo obsessed, so I know how to take a damn good posed shot.) 🙂

5. I’m thankful for my sister who I’ve gotten much closer to over the years, even though she’s so far away. I’m thankful that I have a sister in the first place. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to witness a girl who was told she would never go to college and always struggle with her life find her passion in amusement parks and this year graduate from a state college. I’m grateful that she got my dad’s sense of sarcastic humor too and enjoys teaming up with my boyfriend to poke fun at me in a lighthearted way, and that the starts also aligned for my awkward boyfriend and awkward sister to get a long quite well (this is our close family going forward, since my bf is an only child, and a small one at that, so that’s very important.) I’m sad she won’t be able to make it to thanksgiving this year due to her internship, but I look forward to hopefully having her come out to the west coast to spend more time with me in the coming years, and having time to visit her. Plus I owe her a graduation trip to Australia or Hawaii…

6. I’m thankful for my job! It’s extremely challenging, impossible to be perfect at, and filled with lots of things that I struggle to do (details are not my forte, to the bane of anyone who has hired me for a role requiring strategic leadership and endless execution) but – I’m thankful that my boss sees something in me (and I see it too) how I can be really great in this role. I have a long way to go and I hope he has the patience with me and I have the ability to focus on the big wins so we can work together as I build myself up into the executive I know I can be. It’s going to be a bumpy road for sure, but I adore my team and can honestly say that I’m in with a group of really wonderful, talented and smart people who  are making great things happen. I need to play my role and play it well. If I can, this can turn out to be a very good thing. It’s not easy, not anywhere near easy, but since when was I motivated by easy?

7. I’m thankful I live in the U.S. and not some third world country where women are raped/beaten/hung/tortured on a daily basis as part of social norms. Even though the U.S. isn’t perfect and has to get its shit together regarding a lot of important issues, it’s a pretty nice place to live for the time being. I’m thankful that I live in a country big enough where there are so many different types of places I can choose to live – that I can come home to the east coast and witness a November snowstorm and leaves completely dropped off trees, and then return west where the sun will be shining and the hills, while not green due to the drought, will be filled with some form of foliage.

8. I’m thankful for California, for that dream I had as a little girl to one day end up in this magical place where my mom grew up chasing around movie stars, for – thank goodness – my father’s sister and my mother’s sister living in northern California to show me there is a better way to live in CA 🙂 and for my picking myself up after college with just an internship and no idea what I was doing with my life, and heading west to figure shit out. I’m thankful for that decision every day. I’m thankful that when things got really tough the year out of school when I felt completely lost and unsure of what to do, I forced myself to stick it out, I managed through a deep depression, I pushed myself into a social arts project where I met my boyfriend, and I started to build a life for myself. I’m thankful for not giving up and returning home to live in my parent’s house for the past 10 years, which could have easily happened.

9. I’m thankful for Thanksgiving – because today I’ll get to go to Pennsylvania to my aunt and uncle’s lovely home that is always so warm and comforting (she has that old American style which always looks to be out of a catalog and always feels a bit like Christmas (they are one of the few parts of the family that does have a Christian home so this may be why.)) I’m thankful for this opportunity to be here and spend time with my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandmother for what I’m sure will be a fun day of heated political debates and updates on what’s going on with everyone, plus a group of the guys watching some sports game on TV.

10. I’m thankful that my boyfriend doesn’t understand sports and would much rather go to see a play than get tickets to the world series or superbowl.

11. I’m thankful that my parents were able to pay for my college experience. I had no concept of money at the time and they very well could have told me I had to go to the state school (which was actually a good school that I got into for the same major in a prominent arts program and would have cost a lot less each year) but they never once asked me to go to the lower priced institution. While I do have privilege guilt over this, I’m thankful for being able to live in another new city for college, for not having to worry about working through my school years and instead was able to take nearly 8 classes per quarter (the norm was 3-4) and learn about a lot of different things since I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. This enabled me to find journalism, to learn that I actually adored writing and reporting, and also to explore sociological issues in a variety of social sciences classes. If I had gone to any other school I’m not sure how that would have turned out with a more limited, rigid curriculum. I’m thankful that life lead me to the freezing midwest city where I completed undergrad, and I’m thankful I managed to graduate in four years, even though I wouldn’t have minded a fifth.

12. I’m thankful for randomly finding a person finance blog when I was about 21 called “Her English Major’s Money.” Unlike the other personal finance blogs I had read, hers was not about debt. Instead, the post was on how to invest an inheritance. I grew up with such messed up ideas about money and wasn’t making a lot at the time where it felt impossible to save. But reading her blog, and then other blogs she linked out to, I realized that I could focus on investing and saving and actually aim for small goals and turn those into bigger goals. I started this blog and took my $8k out of a low-rate CD and opened a ROTH IRA (which I had not known about previously – my dad, who was a pension planner for a living, did not think to mention this to me) which turned out to be a key move since I ended up working for companies with no 401k access until my mid 20s (and not yet has one provided a match.) I’m so thankful for that day where I found her blog and something switched in my brain where I decided to get serious about money and saving. Ten years later I’ve saved over a quarter of a million dollars, even though I’m by far perfect with my money or frugal.

13. I’m thankful for reading pieces of Ramit Sethi of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” Even though I never paid for one of his courses (they are so expensive!) I’ve taken away his basic premise that you should not focus on saving money by giving up, say, your daily Starbucks, but instead should focus on how to make more money – making more money is always better than reducing your spend in order to live the life that  makes you comfortable (I agree with that unless your comfortable life is completely extravagant, but he’d argue then you just have to make more.) His take on the world and email marketing newsletter suggestions led me to realize that people make as much as they ask for, or at least they need to market themselves in order to earn more. Lots of people doing the same exact things in this world are all getting paid varying amounts. I’ve managed, through an ongoing turbulent road of sorting out my career, to obtain what I consider high pay that is not unreasonable but definitely is more than I could be making because I learned to negotiate hard and hold my ground, to know what I’m worth. Despite being insecure and not actually believing I’m worth that, I was able to fake it enough to get the salary I wanted. Now I don’t have to think about salary or feeling like I’m being underpaid and I can focus on my job.

14. I’m thankful for being born in 1983 – for having had the opportunity to live for a few years before the internet was everywhere. To really experience live when it was a bit slower, when people still, gasp, mailed letters and you had to drive more than 10 minutes to get to yet another dunkin donuts, starbucks or drug store. When people came home after work they actually were able to join dinner and sit with their kids and ask how their day was because they didn’t / couldn’t jump back on the computer to respond to emails and finish work for the day. I’m also thankful to have lived through this rapidly accelerating world of technology, one where now there are self-driving cars I see prancing around my neighborhood on a daily basis, for having the ability to look up any piece of information quickly using a tiny device that fits into the palm of my hand that, oh, I can also make calls on. I’m thankful how living so far away from family and friends technology makes me feel much more connected to them than I would have felt if I lived pre home internet and mobile phones. I got the taste of both worlds and I like them both for different reasons.

15. I’m thankful for cheese. Because, come on, who isn’t thankful for cheese?

16. I’m thankful for my friends from high school who I can meet up with for a day after so many years of not seeing them and we can click and connect like old times. I’m thankful that those few friends that I stay in touch with have always accepted me for who I am and accepted my role as entertainer in our group.

17. I’m thankful for shoes that fit. Especially my new shoes that I splurged on because I have shit feet and I’m tired of buying shoes that make me want to cut off my feet at the end of the day. Yeay shoes that fit.

18. I’m thankful for my grandmother who had a large family (6 kids in total) so I grew up with such a large network of cousins that I just assumed was how everyone’s family was. Holiday gatherings were really massive parties as each child of hers had two kids, so the years we all joined together we had 24 people in one house, which made for some good parties. It makes me sad to know that this isn’t how everyone grows up and that my own family – unless I start popping out quadruplets – will never be this large and vibrant (me with one sister and my boyfriend an only child.) But we’ll figure out how to make the holidays feel special with a smaller family nonetheless, and borrow some non-blood relatives to extend the festivities.

19. I’m thankful for the brave people in Hollywood who have shown that there is no one right way to be. We live in a unique era where celebrities can come out of the closet and still be successful, where the uncool is cool, where different is ok. There’s still a long way to go here in terms of acceptance, but we’re in a much better world today than we were when I was born in terms of accepting that everyone is different and that’s ok.

20. I’m thankful that I’m at number 20 because this is harder than I thought. Ok, I can’t get off that easy here… I’m thankful for sleep, because there’s nothing better than cuddling up next to someone you love completely exhausted and waking up with them still holding you close.

21. I’m thankful for airplanes which make it possible to travel and see the world in a relatively short amount of time.

22. I’m thankful for my good friend and our adventure last year to southeast Asia — life starts to blur once you reach a certain age and the only major memories are those that are from the days you were out of your normal, day-to-day routine environment. There were so many fun and exhilarating moments of that trip. Travel is exhausting for me as I admit I like routine to some extent, but it’s one of those things that make life worth living. I hope to do more of it throughout my life.

23. I’m thankful for the sun. It’s just crazy to think how that one giant star is holding up our entire world as we fall through space together at 30,000 mph (yes, that’s how fast we move around the sun guys, holy shit, that roller coaster where you go from 0 to 80mph doesn’t seem that scary any more.) But, really, I’m thankful that the universe managed to all fall together to make this very unlikely world of ours exist. For the religious it’s easy to thank god for this. For the non religious it’s just incredible to experience and be part of this wonder.

24. I’m thankful for carpeting. Wooden and tile floors can be so cold.

25. I’m thankful for my friend back west and her beautiful baby boy who is absolutely hilarious. She is an amazing mother and a good friend. I look forward to watching her child grow up into an adorable kid and a kind young man. I hope when I have my first kid we can align so she will have her second at the same time, but she’ll probably be on to her second before I’m on my first!

26. I’m thankful for oceans. Nothing in the world makes me feel more at peace than sitting on a beach and watching the waves crash to shore as water extends and sparkles out to the horizon.

27. I’m thankful for all of the turkeys that have sacrificed themselves so that way a bunch of Americans can stuff themselves silly today.

28. I’m thankful for mistakes, because without them we’d never know if we were right to begin with.

29. I’m thankful for my future children, because I’m excited to meet them, assuming I can have kids one day.

30. I’m thankful that this list is almost done because 31 is a lot of things to be thankful for. I’m also thankful for all of the pecan pie, even though I shouldn’t eat it, I’m going to eat it, and it will be amazing.

31. I’m thankful that my father, who was told he has two years to live about seven years ago, is still alive. While we don’t always see eye to eye it truly is a miracle that he’s still here and doing so well. He mentioned last night that his doctors are amazed by how well he is doing (and he goes to one of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in the world so clearly they know what they’re talking about.) I’m hoping that he is still around in a few years and doing so well so he can meet my children and so they can meet their grandfather. Knock on wood, maybe he will be a miracle, who knows. He said that his grandmother apparently had lymphoma and decided not to treat the condition, but still managed to live to 90. Her doctors noted it had somehow been cured on its own. While it’s crazy to think it, maybe our bodies are as stubborn as our wits in this family.

So there you go, 31 things I’m thankful for. I’m sure there are many more, but these are what came to mind this morning. What are you thankful for?


Life as a Child of Hoarders and Killing the “Alien Brain”

It was just another day of my childhood. My father came home from the city after a long day at work and my mother would tell him that yet again I hadn’t cleaned my room. My father would tell me that I’d get my punishment soon, and once he settled in I’d get a spanking or strapping. This repeated for years until at some point when I was about seven or eight he stopped hitting me. I don’t recall the exact date. But, needless to say, I never learned how to be organized.

For all the good and bad that comes with it, the home my parents live in today is the same home where I was brought after I appeared in the world a few towns over at the hospital. It is filled with so many memories — as any childhood house would be — but it’s also just cluttered with stuff. So. Much. Stuff. My parents are both hoarders, though different types, and yet they never understood why I struggled to process the right way to clean. To my mother cleaning had nothing to do with getting rid of stuff – it was merely finding a place to put things, adding another storage unit, hiding things away in drawers and boxes and nooks and crannies.

I was reading some articles online today about children of hoarders and one point that stood out was that children of hoarders, trapped in the mess, often feel like their parents care more about inanimate objects than animate ones. This is spot on and, I think, true in the case of my family household.

Every year I return home around the holidays to my childhood room, I feel a sense of extreme guilt and anxiety spending time in my old bedroom. The room is filled with boxes of various things that have collected over the years. Every time I come home I vow to go through the boxes and sort them out so this room can be a comfortable place to stay. Every year I manage to throw out one or two bags of stuff… and yet still, there is just so much stuff my short-term work barely makes a dent.

This room, which should have plenty of space to feel pleasantly open and uncluttered, is filled with boxes of papers, old clothes, lots of old art projects, and random who-knows-what, not to mention various items of my mother’s and sister’s that found their way into the mix over the years.

While it’s easy to say – just throw it all out – there is some important things mixed in with everything – newspaper clippings of my artwork in the local paper, favorite school projects I’d like to keep, old videos and photos that would be sad to lose. But the problem is that there are dozens of copies of everything that my mom would keep. For example, one newspaper where a photo of me standing with my artwork was featured on one page is kept in a box alongside 12 replicates of the entire bulky newspaper, pages fading and falling apart. Instead of keeping one good copy and putting it in a protective covering she kept 12 and left them to go to shit. That’s how most of the stuff is here… it’s just… important things but too many of them and no sense of prioritization of one item over another.

I’ve explained this room as the “alien brain” of my life — as in those scifi movies where once the alien brain is destroyed all the networks of secondary aliens explode into non-existence. Getting this room in order feels like the first step in resolving the networks of stress and mess in my life – and this is SO important to do for my own sanity and happiness. And yes, I just need to do it.

So far this week I’ve made reasonable progress, but it doesn’t look like it. I’ve already tossed out three garbage bags worth of stuff (complete with a guilt trip from my mother for getting rid of all the falling-apart duplicates of these newspapers and broken art projects collected from pre-school through college.) I also have one bag of super old clothes to give away and I bought a pack of bankers boxes to begin sorting through the whole mess in a sensible manner like my organization consultant taught me last year at my household. Even though I’m still keeping too much shit, it’s a start to have all my high school papers put in one box, my college papers in another, and memory clothes/shirts/costumes in another.

The goal is to get this place into reasonable enough shape that there are few boxes remaining (to go through my next visit) and to make room to replace this hilarious twin-sized bed that my 6’2 boyfriend and I squish into on each visit with a queen — and to ultimately turn this room into a formal guest room for the many occasions I’m not around. This also involves re-doing the carpeting and wallpaper, which makes me sad as I’ve had this design since I was 7 years old – but it must be done (esp since the electrician cut a giant hole in the wall and ceiling in order to put in the new ceiling lights.) This room is a hot mess so much so that it’s hilarious. The walls are covered both in delicate pastel wallpaper reminiscent of a 1990s Ethan Allen catalog and the collage work of a bipolar, bisexual, fashion-mag-addicted adolescent who spent way too much time attempting to cover her ceiling in cut outs of eyes and lips. The whole room needs a redo as soon as I get these boxes cleaned out.

Children of hoarders seem to react in one of two ways – either they become hoarders themselves, because they’re unable to understand how to prioritize their own items, or they turn into more OCD clean freaks. I’m certainly the first. My boyfriend who also grew up as the child of hoarders is more on the clean side, or wants to be, as any mess makes him nervous. He’s not exactly OCD but he certainly is not happy about my incredible talent to make a mess out of any amount of tangible assets.

So I need to “kill the alien brain” at my house in order to finally manage the rest of my life. This is something I would really like to do this week – it’s bad enough it was left this way in my 20s but now it’s time to get this place sorted out. I just wish I felt progress when cleaning but I’m only overwhelmed.

Happy Birthday To Me… an Awkward Conversation with My Father

It’s past two a.m. on my 31st birthday morning. I’m already in this odd mood and exhausted, not in the mood for any sort of serious conversation. Unfortunately I started to doze off on the couch which meant at 2am I had to walk past my awake father in the kitchen who apparently had something he had to get off his chest. No, he didn’t want to wish me a “happy birthday.” What started as a somewhat kind “do you want to talk” inquiry launched into a tirade about how my father is upset that my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet and that, at the same time, he hasn’t said hi or thank you to them in the time he has been at our house, which has now been a few days on and off.

I understand my father’s concern – and he’s expressed this many times before – but this time it was clearly more pressing for him. It made me quite uncomfortable. My response is always that I’m not sure I even want to get married and maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I have a good job. I can take care of myself. Etc, etc. My father, being of the traditional mindset (who refused to get a divorce despite it being obvious both him and my mother would be much better off apart from each other and who also pretty clearly hate each other and/or love themselves too much to ever love another person who doesn’t fuel their narcissistic supply) is freaking out that 1) I’ll never have children and 2) That I’ll have children out of wedlock and 3) That I won’t live the life he envisioned for me.

This may be fairly typical of parents from that generation, and I understand that he’s also looking at not having many good years left due to suffering from terminal cancer, so I try to be sensitive to this, but at this point I don’t know what to say. I want to just scream at him – what do you want me to do? You think starting over now, even if that was the right thing to do (which it isn’t – my boyfriend and I are going to be together permanently and already have discussed this) – how would starting over help matters any? Do you really think I’d be able to find another guy in this world who is as compatible with me and obtain a marriage proposal and jump into having kids before I’m too old to even have kids? It just doesn’t make any sense. Logistically, love aside, I’m best sticking with my current option if the end goal is grandchildren.

That said, I understand that he is upset that my boyfriend hasn’t said hi or thank you. What can I say, my bf is an odd duck – but so am I. He’s shy and he grew up in a household where social norms were far from the norms. While I have social anxiety and struggle to act like a normal human being I have learned, I guess thanks to my parents, how to fake it. They’re so good at faking it that they can convince people who don’t know them well that they’re an actual sane, lovely couple reaching their senior years. It’s amazing how my father is so completely delusional about many things – caring so little about his own appearance or other’s emotions yet being so overly paranoid about how other’s chose to live their lives. I wanted to shout “fine, if you have an issue with him then we just won’t visit again.”

At this point marriage is on my mind too, though, and I know in some respects my father is right. While I’m not sure I actually want to get married due to the marriage penalty taxes and huge potential losses in annual income, I’d like to think that at the least my boyfriend would have proposed by now and we can discuss it. Tomorrow is our 8.5 year anniversary. I know he’s been waiting on me to learn how to keep my stuff organized in our house (which is a huge challenge due to ADHD) so I have to hold up my end of the bargain before he puts a ring on it and we can discuss whether we want to get “real married” or “legal alternative to marriage married.”

Regardless, it’s going to be an awkward week at my house, to be sure. I just hope no fireworks are set off.