Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Heartbreaker Home

Well, the fingers crossed for us to love the house we saw this weekend worked.... unfortunately, it takes more than luck and good vibes to win a bidding war these days. #wompwomp

This house was absolutely NOTHING like what we envisioned for ourselves -- it was a single-story bungalow with only two bedrooms and one bathroom, and was approximately 250 sq. ft. larger than our current apartment. Typically, I would have skipped right over it on MLS, but when it popped up Friday, I got a fuzzy feeling and sent it off to Andrew to ask if he wanted to see it. Within seconds of walking inside, we both looked at each other and said, "this is it; we are offering and we're willing to be aggressive."

The really crazy part is that this house was below -- WELL below -- our current budget. Our realtor, who is a good friend, even said that she thought it was slightly overpriced for the size, but the area we are looking in is hot, hot, hot (good school systems, good commute to the city, good town infrastructure and community atmosphere), so we initially went in at $5k over asking knowing there would likely be multiple offers. We received the counter to come back with best and final around 10am yesterday, and learned that we were one of three offers still in the running. We increased the offer slightly, and raised our inspection threshold.... then sat on tenterhooks until we got the news at 2:30 that the seller went with another offer "with better terms."

Typically, when people bemoan the current state of something, I assume that there is a level of exaggeration involved. What is so aggravating about this whole home buying process is that the market really *is* as insane as everyone says it is -- this house came on the market Friday, had an Open House Saturday, with final offers due Monday by 10... and it had multiple bids over asking price with all kinds of waivers for stuff like the inspection, the appraisal and the mortgage contingency.

How are we supposed to compete with that?!

I know that if waiving and overpaying were the keys to this house, it wasn't the right house for us. I know that. It still doesn't make it any easier, knowing we've been looking for a year, with pre-approval and down payment in hand, and have only seen three properties that remotely match what we're looking for. I read articles with comments stating that we millennials want too much and how we think we're entitled to convenience, etc. -- and to a point, I agree. But I'm sorry, I don't think a house with 2-3 bedrooms, 1-2 bathrooms in a suburb 45 minutes-an hour outside of the city for under a small fortune should be too much to ask for. It has to be out there. At some point, this bubble is going to have to burst.

And so, we will continue looking. And waiting. And hoping.

Keep those fingers crossed for us, would ya?


Friday, December 1, 2017

Five on Friday #2

Friends, Romans, Countrymen.... oh forget it. It's been forever since I've written about anything aside from Management/Research Administration (ONE WEEK FROM SUNDAY UNTIL MY CAPSTONE/THESIS IS DUE!), but I have been DYING to get back to some semblance of creativity so, here we are. Without further ado, I present:

FIVE ON FRIDAY: THE SEQUEL
(Disclosure: This isn't really the sequel. FoF was a common feature on my long-dead previous blog, as was the ever-popular "Friday Confessional." Oh well).

1. SENIORITIS
As I mentioned above, I am approximately one week and 60-some odd hours away from being D-O-N-E with my Master's degree. It seems as though it has been an excrutiatingly long time coming, but when I stop and think of everything that has happened since I started my Program -- my engagement, my marriage, births, deaths and in-between -- I can't help but smile (and shed a tear or two). As some of those closest to me know, I made and then lost a very dear friend during my graduate studies. At some point, I hope to write about her and the impact that she had, and continues to have, on me, the way I see life, and the way that I approach others. So as excited as I am to finish up, it is bittersweet knowing that she and I won't be going on that tropical graduation getaway we planned as we slaved away over powerpoints and prospectuses. So for the next week, I'll be thinking of her as I type away and prepare to end this chapter of my life.

2. Holiday Cheer
IT'S THE MOST WONDERFULLLL TIIIIIIIME OF THE YEEEEEAR! Seriously, though, Thanksgiving is my husband's favorite holiday (Halloween is mine, thanks for asking), and I love the Christmas/holiday season, so both of us have been in our element this week. We kicked it off with his 50-somethingth annual family football game on Thanksgiving morning (well, technically we kicked it off the night before when we tapped the kegs we're in charge of for said football game), and the celebrations continued throughout the weekend and this week. As usual, we spent quality time with both sides of our family, and there was plenty of wine, dancing, laughter and family shots (both camera and otherwise) involved in the merriment.

3. Nosy People
I wrote a FB PSA the night before Thanksgiving about this topic, and it quickly became one of my most liked posts of the year, so it probably bears repeating. This one goes on the "negative Nancy" list, but whether it's the status of our house hunt, size of my jeans, or state of my uterus, I am going to go verbally ballistic on the next person who inappropriately inquires about OBVIOUSLY personal issues. If you ever find yourself about to ask what might be an invasive question, ask yourself, "does the answer to this personally affect my life in any way?" If the answer could even in the slightest be "no," then I believe the venerable 90s queens of hip hop, Salt N Peppa, said it best: "IT'S NONE A YO' BUSINESS!"

4. House Hunting
That being said, I feel comfortable sharing that we are still very much in the midst of house-hunting, almost one year to the date from when we started looking. We've put in two offers during that time, and while both were competitive, we lost each to other couples with more cash in hand. In retrospect, in at least one of those cases, it was definitely for the best; we had another opportunity to buy almost the exact same property a few doors down and, once we considered it, we decided to pass. We have narrowed down the area where we are looking considerably, which doesn't help, but after a lot of discussion regarding where we would ultimately be most happy, we know that it's worth the wait.

BUT! We are going to an Open House tomorrow for which I am trying not to get my hopes up, but cross your fingers for us and, if you pray, say a little one for us that we find our new home!

5. Hamilton
Yes, I am aware that this is probably the most #basic (do we still say that? Or is it #extra? God, I am so old) thing that I could possibly say here, but after a several-months-long hiatus from the nonstop Hamilton soundtrack looping through my head, I have to admit that "My Shot" is back with a vengeance. The one-year anniversary of my birthday trip to see it in NYC passed a few weeks ago, and I'd be lying if I said that Lin-Manuel Miranda's vehement devotion to and tangible action for Puerto Rico had not sparked another spiral into the abyss of the Ten Dollar Founding Father. So to my colleagues, random people next to me on the bus, and any animals within hearing distance, my apologies. (But I'm not going to stop).


Saturday, April 22, 2017

#Sciencemarch #WOA

Almost 10 years ago, I graduated with a degree in English Language and Letters, and also Political Science, from one of the foremost public research universities in the country. During my time there I took two science classes, because my public high school Bio II had provided enough college ed credits to cover my bio requirement in college.

From there, with a 3.98 GPA in English, I tried to get a job in publishing. I was immediately shot down because I hadn't interned at a publishing house. A family friend suggested I apply to hospitals, so I did.

I was hired at Boston Children's Hospital two months after I graduated, as an assistant to a Program Director who was a brilliant, groundbreaking scientist. I had no idea at the time; he offered me a job on the spot and I took it. My dad Googled "Judah Folkman" and, over a congratulatory dinner, tried to tell me what I had just signed myself up for.

Dr. Folkman was more than just a boss; he was a living legend, a visionary, and a surrogate grandfather to me. He founded a field of science and was involved in more discoveries than you or I know of. He passed in 2008, six months after I started working for him. It was one of the hardest periods of my personal and fledgling professional life.

I was beyond fortunate to be taken on by someone else in a similar capacity, and later as a senior admin. Without getting into details, I spent the next several years learning about scientific discoveries, hypotheses and theories that changed the way I approach the world. I learned about drug delivery, cancer and eye disease in terms that my English brain did not even know existed -- yet everyone was patient, and explained what their research was about and how it could help others.

During my time in the world of basic science, where discoveries are reduced to the basic building blocks of the universe, I also learned a lot that can't be found at the lab bench. I learned that even in an environment where anything is supposedly possible, bias, gender inequality and a marked lack of female and minority leadership are still issues with which we struggle today. I learned that the world isn't always fair, and that you have to fight for ideas that others might not find compelling.

Despite my initial feelings of iniquity, I learned that, in the end, there isn't a ton of difference between the writers and the scientists; at the end of the day, we need each other to interpret each other's findings. The key to discovery, it turns out, is not so much in the scientific method as it is in communicating our findings with one another, and then using those findings to advance our communal standing as one united people of the world.

Over the past several years, I think that this symbiotic relationship between science and communication has eroded, to the detriment of both science and journalism. Essentially, I believe that we need to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and how it affects the everyday person, and I believe this administration is doing its best to further undermine that relationship. Scientist and writers need each other; of this I am sure.

With that said, #sciencemarch #womeninscience #WOA #scienceisreal #confessionsofanonscientist

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Humanity and Hope

This morning I had the chance to see real humanity (and Christianity) in action.

There is a guy who rides the train every morning asking for change for the bus. Most people pretend he doesn't exist, or offer a half-hearted smile and a slight shake of the head with a "sorry, man" (I am not excluding myself here).

This morning, a young man took the seat next to me as I rode to work. He opened a book and started to read. Probably 30, married, plain-looking guy. As the "train man" started his beggar's shuffle up the car before his stop, my seat mate paused.

"What's your name?" he asked, book closed in one hand while the other went to his bag.

"Mike," the man answered, after several moments of skeptical hesitation.

"Well, Mike," my seatmate said,  extending the hand from his bag. "I'm Paul," he said, slipping ten dollars into the palm.

And Mike whispered "thanks" as he exited the car.

And Paul smiled softly, as he returned to his Bible.

It was the New Testament, from what I could tell; it was hard to see behind my veil of tears.

So thank you, Mike, for reminding me of humanity.

And thank you, Paul, for giving me hope.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

REWIND: One Day

I first wrote this piece in 2012, after years of trying to find the words to express my feelings in exactly the right way. Now, four years later, I still believe this was and is the best I can do.

One Day

"The loss that we endured on that crisp September morning eleven years ago... the loss of lives, of our sense of security, of our perceived national innocence.... was, and remains to this day, impossible to capture in words. The sacrifice of countless innocent lives since, of men and women, mothers and fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends – it seems senseless in a way that I can't describe. The world as we knew it spun off course that day, and sometimes it feels like it hasn’t stopped since. The hatred and vitriol spewed across our televisions, facebook and other social media is increasingly alarming, particularly during election years such as this. I fear that as time goes on, the tragedy that occurred just eleven short years ago, a series of moments that most of us can recall in the minutest of detail, will be swept up in the tide of partisan politics and other modern issues, joining the list of anniversaries that prompt us to ask, “where were you?” and then, without even stopping to hear the answer, go on with our individual lives.

It feels easy to mash them all together, doesn't it? To wrap the whole thing in a neat bundle in our brains, dubbed "the tragedies of our nation," and drag it out of our mental dustbins to be reflected on once a year?

That cannot happen. We cannot LET that happen. We owe it to the people who woke up that morning excited for a trip across the country. The people who, just going about their regular day, didn’t get to see tomorrow. The incredibly brave, strong, heroic people who stood up on that day, and have continued to stand for us every day since, to say, “Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever again.”

In 2009, Congress passed a bipartisan act declaring September 11th the National Day of Service and Remembrance. It isn't about political affiliation; it's about personal appreciation and respect for our fellow countrymen and human beings, for those here with us and those who are gone. With that in mind, I encourage you to step up today, if even in the smallest of ways, to show that you care. Donate blood, smile at a stranger, register to vote – whatever we can do to remember, to reflect on that day and to honor those people: do it.

We owe it to them." - CMW, "One Day," 9/11/12

Friday, August 5, 2016

Flashback Friday: Five Rings

Note: I first wrote this in 2012 for the winter Olympics. My feelings haven't changed.

Every family has its quirks and traditions; I believe this is true because it's the only thing that reminds us that we are all one related unit and as such, it keeps us from clawing out each others' eyes at family parties.

My family, on both sides, has a vast array of traditions. My mother's side uses the same christening gown for every child, and the only one who hasn't been baptized in it is my brother Brian (and that's only because his twin brother was wearing it at the time). We have a habit of doing the Electric Slide in inappropriate places, stepping up as the fourth in the Siege of Ennis and, since we all suffer the famed "Irish Whisper," no family party is complete without a game that I like to call, "Who Can Yell The Loudest?" And there isn't a soul on the planet who can hold a candle to my Nana's mashed potatoes or her Irish bread, and no one on Earth will ever be able to convince me otherwise.

On my father's side, we have our common idiosyncrasies, too. My stepmom once commented on our reliance on ice cream, and she was right; in my experience, there is no situation, good or bad, that cannot be enhanced by a large, cold bowl of ice cream. Though we all tend to lean the same way, we are very politically informed and can (usually) see the merit in all sides of an argument. I've already waxed poetic on our love of college football and the fact that I can blame my running problems on genetics is well-documented. Our love of all things sport runs deep through our veins.

Today's topic is one of the few that I can say mean a lot to both sides of my family: The Olympic Games.

My Paint skills aren't the best, but just go with it.

Winter, Summer -- it doesn't matter; much like parents and their children, I love them both equally, for so many different reasons.

I grew up in the frigid northeast, so the Winter games are particularly dear to me. My mom enrolled me in figure skating at the age of seven so I could be just like my idol, Kristi Yamaguchi. Once I hit puberty and my center of gravity changed, I spent a portion of my teen years convinced I would make a grand transition to speed skating, and I still lament the fact that my mom refused to let me play hockey. I'm so amazed by what people can accomplish on ice, snow and other various elements, particularly because I now refuse to run outside in the winter because hello, I could slip! It's also a bonus that when his hair is long, my youngest brother is a dead-ringer for Shaun White.

[Source]
Freaky, right?

Yes, I love the Winter Olympics.

Ah, but then we have summer. I always feel like the Summer Games have an entirely different feel than the Winter, and it has nothing to do with the temperature outside. The intensity of the athletes remains the same, of course, because one does not reach the pinnacle of sport without a hefty dose of dedication, determination and drive. For whatever reason, though, a lot of the summer athletes seem more laid-back once their events are over, as well as a bit more open with the media (Hope Solo and Ryan Lochte and their "scandalous" confessions, anyone?). The world at large seems to prefer the Summer Olympics, which makes perfect sense considering that outside of a very small percentage, the events are more readily accessible to most countries, given the moderate climates needed to train.

Of course, the glamor of physically seeing so much skin and muscle in the Summer Games might have something to do with it, too; no one can argue that speedos and spandex are a lot sexier than mittens and mufflers.

There is often a debate between Olympics fans as to which sport is the best to watch. I love them all, from diving to track and field to table tennis, but I come out on one of the popular sides as far as my favorite: swimming, hands down. This has been true for my entire life, to the point that I once let my mother talk me into swimming as an alternate on our local Y swim team for a year (I never actually raced, thank goodness!). My sister and Andrew prefer gymnastics, both men's and women's, and I have to admit that I love watching people contort their bodies into ridiculous positions on insane contraptions. I'm also really looking forward to the running events this year, for obvious reasons, and am anxious to see which random sport catches my attention this time around (it happens every. single. time. For example, with Beijing, I found myself at a bar cheering on the steeplechasers like a maniac).

[Source]

My family shares this enthusiasm for the world's largest display of athleticism and sportsmanship. Some of my fondest memories are of all of us gathered around an old tv on an ugly shag rug, cheering on Team USA and rolling in laughter as my sister perfectly mimicked Kerry Strug or my brother repeatedly declared his love for Shawn Johnson at Nastia Liuken's expense. These are the memories that I most looking forward to making each time the Games come around. I'm also looking forward to the long chats and arguments amongst my coworkers, aka my "work family", whom I am very fortunate to say comprise a true global melting pot. Over lunch breaks and coffee and happy hours, everyone will cheer on everyone else's home country, and together we will cheer on Team USA.

In this day and internet age, where we are inundated 24/7 with scandal and heartbreak and everything in between, a bunch of immensely talented individuals will remind us that while their feats of athleticism are nothing short of amazing, it's the texts, tweets, posts, articles, interviews and water cooler talk already taking place around the globe that will make the next few weeks truly special. That no matter what colors we wear, whether on the Olympic podium or sitting at home on the couch, we all have something in common: our shared humanity and a desire to achieve greatness.

That's what the Olympics are all about, Charlie Brown.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

It Isn't Okay

I have spent almost 10 days trying to put all of my thoughts into words and, for one of the few times in my life, even the Oxford English Dictionary seems to have failed me. I still feel compelled to say something, though, so here goes.

When I was little, my two dreams in life were to be either a lawyer or a diplomat. I appeared to be pretty well-suited to either of these jobs; as anyone reading this knows, I love to argue and I never, ever shut up. I also have what a therapist once told me is "an uncanny ability to take myself out of any situation, to examine it from all angles, and then assess all solutions as a third party, even when I am directly involved." In short, I'm an empath, which means that I don't just acknowledge other people's feeling or points of view; I actually feel them myself and I am so open-minded that I can see almost any situation from any point of view, even if it is one that I personally loathe.

This is both a blessing and a curse.

I grew up in the Northeast -- New Hampshire, specifically -- and it wasn't until I went to college that I realized how fortunate I had been to attend the most diverse high school in the state. I'm a white, middle-class woman, but I was blessed to grow up in a multicultural city with exposure to people of all types of identities, races and creeds. I was also lucky enough to have picked up, through a wide group of family and friends, the view that all people are the same and, as such, are born with an inalienable right to dignity, compassion,empathy and respect. It wasn't until I was firmly ensconced in a New England, land-grant university that I realized that my exposure to people of other colors, nationalities, economic status, orientations and religions was vastly different than many of my classmates, some of whom had never interacted with a black person in anything other than a passerby capacity.

For that, I am forever thankful.

I have been oddly quiet for the past 10 days because, quite frankly, I don't know what to say. The state of the country at this point in time is both horrifying and sadly predictable. It seems that a week doesn't pass that we aren't inundated with news reports of murder, both of the mass and individual kind. My "feelings" well is almost at capacity from it. Sick, sad, scared, mystified, confused, guilty -- all of these are words that describe some of my emotions. There are two words, though, that seem to have stood out.

Anger is one; resolve is the other.

Don't get me wrong -- just because I have been quiet, just because I have not posted, just because I have not engaged people on my facebook feed just yet -- do not think that I am not angry. Because I am, in fact, seething mad.

Mad that fellow human beings are *still* being denied basic human rights.

Mad that people who I know, love and respect have chosen to turn a blind eye to that fact.

Mad that there are people who refuse to admit that black people and gay people and Muslim people (to name a few) are treated differently by society, and believe that there is not an endemic, inherent issue with race and homophobia in this great country that was founded on freedom of religion and the backs of Native Americans and African slaves.

Mad that there are people who can't see that these aren't just abstract, random strangers in the news; that they can't see these are our neighbors, these are friends, these are colleagues -- THESE ARE FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS, DAMN IT -- and that they need our help.

I find it ironic that the Hashtag Activists have drawn such a stark division between Black and Blue -- the colors we use to describe a bruise, the remnants and reminders that linger far after the initial injury has passed. Part of my hesitation to say something has been because I didn't want to get into "The Police Debate." I respect and acknowledge the profession of police officers, and I still don't have words for the amount of thanks I give for the sacrifice that they and their families and loved ones make to keep this country and our communities safe. I really, truly acknowledge that as well as the fear, uncertainty and downright danger that they feel and put themselves in the way of each and every day. Their lives and their jobs do matter.

The issue is that the majority of Americans, regardless of their color, don't need a reminder of that.

We do, unfortunately, need a reminder that Black Lives Matter. And Muslim Lives Matter, and Gay Lives Matter, and the lives of any actually oppressed population matter. Because when it isn't "our" lives (which do, in fact, matter), we tend not to care.

As I mentioned above, I am an empath -- and while that has its own unique set of problems, it also has its own set of benefits. For example, it is nearly impossible for me to view the world in black or white; I only see it in varied shades of grey. I don't think that anyone is inherently good or inherently evil. I take issue with the idea of "all." "All blacks." "All whites." "All police." "All Muslims." I didn't understand the concept of "all" at the age of five and I still don't understand, aside from the fact that we "all" have people who love us and we "all" need love and we "all" are products of our environments.

And we "all" can get past those environments if we want to.

Because of this, I believe that recognizing institutional racism and respecting our police officers are not mutually exclusive concepts. It *is* possible to do both. The answer is to eschew the concept of "all" and embrace the concept of "most."

For example: "Most" black people are not criminals, just like "most" police officers are not bad, "most" Muslims are not terrorists, "most" gay people are not perverts, "most" white people are not rich old men and "most" Christians are not members of the KKK.

And unless I'm mistaken, every single drop of needlessly spilled blood is the same color.

As I have tried to make clear from the beginning, I don't know the answer to all the world's problems, and I certainly don't have the words to articulate all of my thoughts. All I know is that I needed to and resolved myself to say something, and send it out into the ether, probably to fall upon deaf ears but hopefully to fall upon some. At this point, that's all that I can ask.

That, and send encouragement to those of you who also have words, and who feel the need to do the same.