a few new things

20170108-IMG_4857

I kicked off the new year by making an offer on a house!

I took the photo above the day after I submitted the contract, when I realized that I’d need to pack up my multi-purpose bedroom and thought I might want to capture some of its whimsy.

20170108-IMG_4854

Of course, these photos also capture the chaos – the nearly constant, relentlessly managed chaos of having a bedroom, a closet, and a sewing room in one open space. I cannot clear a surface without claiming it with a new project within a week.

The excitement I’m experiencing right now is directly related to the excitement of paying off my debt last year, and is only due to the budgeting skills and financial confidence I have acquired in that process and since. It’s also due to some generous money gifted from family, which I am quick to acknowledge because it’s frequently a part of home ownership and often helps to explain why Person X is able to be in a particular place while Person Y is not – generational financial stability, plus the knowledge and emotional support of parents who have navigated this process. I am hugely privileged in this way, and I need to acknowledge that.

Where do things stand now? I’m under contract. (I’m always tempted to say “we” – “We’re under contract!” –  which is partially my own acknowledgement that IT TAKES A VILLAGE and that I couldn’t do this without the support of my realtor, lender, inspector, etc…but I think this is also a piece of my amazement that I’m buying a house as a single woman. This is honestly one of those financial/emotional hurdles that I would actively name in my 20s – I was sad to be single because I didn’t believe I’d be able to own a home by myself. The fact that such thoughts didn’t even occur to me in this process speaks greatly about the maturity and contentment I’ve grown into.) I’ve been sending hundreds of financial documents to my lender, and I just had the house inspection. We’re (my realtor is doing the bulk of the work, so I just can’t claim it) bringing in a few professionals to look more closely at systems, but it seems like the seller is motivated to resolve any issues and to get to closing.

My planning nature has kicked into high gear. I have at least a dozen secret pin boards, gathering ideas and inspiration for furnishing this particular space. I have a google spreadsheet that is tracking my cash balance and my planned expenditures IN ADDITION to my regular budget (which should, despite all this activity, stay fairly stable in the midst of the transition – a bit of a reminder that higher spending should not be contagious across categories). I am immobilized with frustration that I cannot start DOING these things that I’m planning to do, that I have to wait almost another month, which means I’ve also started creating project management charts to track how quickly I can tackle each task once I have keys in my hands. (Perhaps the benefit of a spouse in this scenario would be someone to forcibly drag me away from my lists.)

I’m not sure whether I intended to say anything else, before this devolved into lists of lists (which has always been a deep theme of my blogging) – it just seemed important to mark this moment, to immortalize it in some small way, and to give a slight warning that I might turn into a home decor blogger for a brief stretch of time. (Is there anything more satisfying than a before and after shot? NOPE.)

The house will have three(!) bedrooms, which means I will have space for a sewing room AND a guest room – and will not be forced to magically combine them in one space, which is what I’d expected to happen. There is enough room for the giant table I built last winter. I will not have to share a fridge or freezer with anyone for the first time in ten years!(!!!)

Okay, that’s enough for now.

44 books finished in 2016: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

44 books finished in 2016

THE FINAL BOOK FINISHED IN 2016! And also the last book remaining of those chosen for my 2016 book club (which, despite significant attention, had fairly low attendance and eventually lost momentum mid-way through the year).

As was frequently the case with these book club picks, I started reading it with no context. This turned out to be a collection of short stories, and each one was a tightly-packed, emotional gem. I will definitely be hunting down more ZZ Packer. I wish I had better words to describe these stories, but I will let a professional tell you instead.

Save

43 books finished in 2016: The Moor’s Account

43 books finished in 2016

I had no idea what this book was going to be about – or perhaps I did at one point but managed to forget over the course of the year since I bought it – but this book was wonderful. Let’s just let Wikipedia handle the description:

The Moor’s Account is a fictional memoir of Estevanico, the Moroccan slave who survived the Narvaez expedition and accompanied Cabeza de Vaca. He is widely considered to be the first black explorer of America, but little is known about his early life except for one line in Cabeza de Vaca’s chronicle: “The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor.”

Okay. Wow. I didn’t realize this was based on historic events. That makes it even more wonderful. This book was incredibly well written and had a quiet confidence that carries you through. I was so invested in the fate of the narrator yet was not confident that he’d come through okay – he was a slave in a foreign land. Though he was frequently the most morally sound of the explorers, and one of the most competent in many ways, his fate was consistently tied to the generosity and/or selfishness of the man who owned him. Watching the ways this uncertain fate affected him created a tense reading experience.

I continue to filter books by foreign-born authors through this (admittedly privileged, perhaps unfair) lens of whether or not the experiences described are explained in a way that is accessible to me as a reader. It’s difficult to discern whether this is white privilege at play – expecting authors to conform to my limited knowledge of their cultures – or if a book that transcends cultural understanding is an accurate measure of the author’s skill. It’s probably a mix of both, and I’m enjoying this process of discovering authors who can place me completely in a place and time that were previously undiscovered.

(We’re veering into end-of-year reflections, since this was my first year to actively seek out books by non-white, non-Western authors. Even with a few frustrating or difficult reading experiences, I think this was ultimately enriching – the world seems larger, and more deeply complex thanks to these books.)

Save

42 books finished in 2016: Kindred

42 books finished in 2016

At this point, I am going to be sad when I run out of Octavia Butler books to read.

Unlike Lilith’s Brood which is a post-apocalyptic/alien story or Fledgling which is about vampires, Kindred could be described as historical fiction. Or perhaps I should say time-traveling historical fiction. So anyone who’s watching Timeless on television right now, you’re going to love this!

This book is a gut punch. A woman living in modern day is repeatedly pulled back in time to a slave plantation. Each time, her life becomes more deeply connected to those in the past. And as one would expect, each time a black woman returns to a slave plantation, her body and her life are increasingly abused and endangered.

One warning: this is fast-paced and intense, so you might end up reading it in one sitting.

Save

41 books finished in 2016: Midnight’s Children

41 books finished in 2016

I had the privilege of seeing Sir Salmon Rushdie speak in September. He was so delightful and thoughtful that I knew I’d enjoy his writing, so I immediately purchased the book that had already been recommended to me and put it next in my reading queue.

THIS BOOK WAS SO DELIGHTFUL! I love a narrator with no boundaries, and I loved how frequently he doubted his own memory while also weaving a complex and beautiful and absurd history of India.

I’ve sought out a few more books that fall under the category of magical realism since many of the things I enjoyed about this book match what I enjoyed in Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s possible that I’ve not just discovered a few authors to pursue, but a whole genre to dive into!