The Joy of Budgeting

Hey, guess what I forgot to do: change the title of the post — the title I assigned to a post in August 2013 that was never written — after deciding not to write about budgeting. Guess what else: I’m going to go do something else now.

Oh, hey! I just moseyed over to this blog to see how she’s doing. The blog stats indicate that interest in this blog hasn’t totally flat-lined; at least two people have come by in the last 48 hours. I feel kind of bad being that blog. I definitely follow blogs like that (come back, The Sneeze! Get back on the horse, Hyperbole and a Half! You can do it, Stars and Garters!)  Well, not to say this blog has ever come close to being as good as any of those blogs, but the point is, I know what it’s like to just check back and check back — knowing that a new post is only slightly less improbable each time — in the hope that maybe my favorite blog will have put out something. 

As most of you know, I started a blog about Milo in fall of 2011 and that blog is fairly active — to date, I’ve posted about 230 posts on the Milo blog (vs. a little over 100 on this one). That blog started out as just a chronicle of Milo’s life, but has broadened into more of a story of my life with Milo. Because really, the two stories are inseparable.  There’s no part of my life that isn’t somehow affected by Milo.

But, I also know that Milo’s 2 years old, and one day he won’t be. One day, he’ll be like, “Moooooom, can you give me a ride to Grayson’s house?” and I’ll give him a ride to Grayson’s house and then I’ll come home and be home. By myself.  And I know that once I come out of the small-child era, I’m going to have time to develop and nurture the things I abandoned pretty abruptly when had Milo, and I know writing will be a big part of that. I fucking love writing. (And painting. And gardening, swimming, walking, organizing, and a bunch of other stuff that doesn’t get done in the 2-6 hours of discretionary time I get each weekend.) So, this blog will return.  It might be 3-5 years or so before it does, but it totally will.

[Here, I was going to share some pictures of me doing things that didn’t involve Milo at all. After 10 minutes of searching I found three pictures: a hotel room in Rockwall where I stayed while doing some training; me testifying to a state council on digital preservation; and some purple heart re-emerging from a barren flower bed.  I decided 10 minutes was enough and you didn’t really need those visuals.]

[Oh wait, you do?  Um, okay, well:

2013-03-13 IMG_3241 Rockwall 2013-03

Hotel room



Purple heart

Purple heart

Yup. There you go: my life without Milo.

See you three to five years!

We are not the hotshots.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t felt compelled to write creatively in a long time. I feel compelled to share pictures of Milo on the Milo blog and to recap conferences on the blog at work — but sitting down and writing a Slambango post is not something I’ve cared about doing for over a year.

This morning, though, I am burning with the desire to write. I drove a little faster this morning to get here (I’m at a conference hotel where the conference isn’t starting for another 30 minutes), put my head down to avoid eye contact with any of my colleagues, and made a beeline to an empty conference room. Get me the FUCK to a laptop, I was all.

Here’s what’s eating me up:  this conference is the first archives conference I’ve been to since 2010, a year after I left the archives world to become a records management consultant to government agencies. It’s been three years since I got to hear archivists talk about the innovative work they’re doing to preserve and provide access to traditional and new digital collections. I haven’t worked with archival collections since I became a consultant, but I’ve mostly kept up with what’s going on in the archives world so that I can advise others on it.

But still, the archives world has moved on without me. Yesterday morning, I attended a session on managing digital university records. One of the speakers was a major university’s new “digital asset manager,” basically in charge of making sure all the marketing photographs that the university takes are shipshape, filed well, backed up properly. I realized some things in that session:


Have you seen my photo organization structure? It’s ISO 8601 compliant and it doesn’t even need to be!

This is where I would put screenshots if I could have waited to post this until I was at home!

What’s more, it’s a job that does not (like many archives jobs) necessarily benefit from some understanding of the history of any particular subject or place. (This was why I was good at being a university archivist in my previous life — the university was only 40 years old; it had almost no history at all. It just wasn’t that hard to wrap my arms around 40 years of one institution’s history.) I didn’t go into the archives and records management profession because I care about history, but because I’m fascinated with how people and places work. I care about what people do and what records come out of those functions. I’m incredibly boring at parties because I love probing people for the nuts and bolts of what they do.  I’m good at taking a high-level view of an organization (or a person’s life) and arranging records in a way that reflects the way it worked (a basic archival tenet known as “original order”).

The longer I listened to this girl (because she had to be about 26 years old), the more I started to dismiss everything she had to say and come to just loathe her. And that loathing started to grow and envelop a new colleague of mine, a recent library school graduate and classmate of the young hotshot and basically a clone of 26-year-old Angela who is furiously live-tweeting this conference. That loathing started to spread to just, all new young professionals in general.

used to be a hotshot. The month before I started my consultant job, I made a standing-room-only presentation at a national archives conference, talking about my master’s paper research. After that session I had coffee with the person my research was based on, an archives celebrity that I have a total professional crush on. I was a blazing future archives star. I was 29.

But… I started to pull back, put my hate gun back in its holster, and realize that I don’t hate the 26-year-olds, I just really, really miss being the young hotshot with all the answers. It’s exciting to come into a new job filled with cutting-edge knowledge and ideas and clean it all up.

And also, it’s exhilarating to be a young professional (or grad student, a pre-professional) at one of your first professional conferences, meeting your heroes, having breathless conversations with other colleagues at lunch plotting how to take over the archives world. I’m not old, but I have a kid. I’m going to a reception from 6-9 tonight, but I had to make childcare arrangements for that and I can’t get shitfaced on wine because I can’t be hungover when I wake up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to take care of my toddler.

Then again, yesterday at lunch at Banger’s, sitting one table away from the hotshot table where the 26-year-olds sat, I laughed harder than I have in weeks with my fellow mid-30’s colleagues, chomping on a bockwurst, drinking a delicious beer in the middle of the day. We didn’t innovate or inspire anyone, but Jesus, we had a perfect time.

I guess I’m not sure where to go with this (this post, my career, whatever). Sometimes I dream about moving to Lawrence, Kansas to work with electronic records at their state archives (the best state archives in the country tend to be in some of the least desirable locales — Lansing, Cheyenne, or Frankfort anyone?) It won’t happen. I can’t quit my job to take an internship. I can’t even really take an entry-level job at this point and still manage to pay my mortgage. I don’t have time to volunteer. I’m not 26 anymore and I have a kid and fairly deep roots in Austin. I’m married to a guy who likes his job a lot. We have a house and a day care we love. We’re not going anywhere.

But there’s got to be something that comes between being a hotshot and waiting for retirement. Right?  Will I get to do exciting things again or do I need to give up on that, put my head down, and be grateful for employment? Because if that’s what the next 35 years have in store for me, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. Did I trade in my professional mobility when I had Milo? Do I need to just accept that I’m in a pretty good place and leave it at that?

Beth is back!

Is it wrong that I find her utterly delightful? She makes me laugh out loud!


The Time-worn Servitor

To all of you guys who commented, emailed, or even wrote actual physical letters to me after you read my last post: thank you so much.  It’s so hard to know what to say to a grieving person, but you all shared such heartfelt and poignant thoughts with me that it really softened the blow of losing Grandma, and reminded me of how universal grief is and its ability to connect people.

Having not attended a funeral since my Great Uncle Dean (Grandma’s brother) died when I was in high school, I found myself scrambling for guidance. For example: does the baby wear black? (That seemed improbable.)  My stepmom was texting much-needed tips all day, like the location of the nearest Ann Taylor because they had a few long-sleeve black dresses that would work, but for the baby question, I turned to Google.

For some reason, one of the first hits for “does baby wear black to funeral” was this chapter from a 1922 Emily Post etiquette book. It had no guidance about what to do with babies, but for some reason, I took so much comfort in that article — particularly the introduction:

AT no time does solemnity so possess our souls as when we stand deserted at the brink of darkness into which our loved one has gone. And the last place in the world where we would look for comfort at such a time is in the seeming artificiality of etiquette; yet it is in the moment of deepest sorrow that etiquette performs its most vital and real service.
All set rules for social observance have for their object the smoothing of personal contacts, and in nothing is smoothness so necessary as in observing the solemn rites accorded our dead.
It is the time-worn servitor, Etiquette, who draws the shades, who muffles the bell, who keeps the house quiet, who hushes voices and footsteps and sudden noises; who stands between well-meaning and importunate outsiders and the retirement of the bereaved; who decrees that the last rites shall be performed smoothly and with beauty and gravity, so that the poignancy of grief may in so far as possible be assuaged.

It was comforting to read about funeral customs from my grandma’s era (she was born in 1926), like about how being asked to be a pallbearer is “a service that may not under any circumstances except serious ill-health, be refused,” the necessity of writing down all the flowers received and who send them (“write on the outside of each envelope a description of the flowers that the card was sent with: ‘Spray of Easter lilies and palm branches tied with white ribbon.’ ‘Wreath of laurel leaves and gardenias.’ ‘Long sheaf of pink roses and white lilacs'”), and particularly, a system of crepe streamers to notify callers about the deceased:


As a rule the funeral director hangs crepe streamers on the bell; white ones for a child, black and white for a young person, or black for an older person. This signifies to the passerby that it is a house of mourning so that the bell will not be rung unnecessarily nor long.
If they prefer, the family sometimes orders a florist to hang a bunch of violets or other purple flowers on black ribbon streamers, for a grown person; or white violets, white carnations—any white flower without leaves—on the black ribbon for a young woman or man; or white flowers on white gauze or ribbon for a child.

I think I had really been in denial about how close to death she really was. My therapist helped me tremendously by just pointing out: for the last year, she really was dying. This was the natural conclusion to over two years of the dying process.

I’m actually feeling pretty normal now, already almost two weeks later — the difference between depression and grief, I’m told. I know I’ll continue to miss her for the rest of my life, and will do my best to honor her memory, but losing Grandma won’t destroy me the way I always feared it would.  It was really nice to hear you guys tell me that it was obvious I loved her. The day before she died, I had mailed off a card to her — “GET WELL SOON OR ELSE” — that would have arrived about the day after she died. I felt so guilty that it took me so long to send a card, and feared that she felt abandoned in that skilled nursing facility.  But I’m sure, if it was obvious to my friends that I cared so much about her, that she really did know.  Thanks.

My grandma died.

And I am sad.

And I just can’t think of anything to say about it other than it was unexpected and I miss her so much. She was such a great human. The fact that she was in a lot of pain at the end (she died at a skilled nursing facility, recovering from another trip to the hospital for mysterious swelling) and that she’s not going to be in pain anymore is some comfort. I don’t know if I believe in the afterlife, but it sure is a nice thought to think she’s reunited with her beloved mother and all of her sisters and brothers. Right now, I kind of have to believe that she didn’t just cease to exist and that’s it. I need to believe that she’s somewhere and she’s comfortable and happy.

But goddamnit, I’m so sad.

You are not tired

Joel is trying to disabuse me of the notion that sleepiness is a merit-based system. I didn’t realize until recently that I felt this way.

It didn’t start until Milo was born and I entered an alternate reality of true sleep deprivation. It’s kind of funny at first (haha, I thought the stuffed turtle was the baby!) but, especially when you have to go back to work, it becomes rather debilitating. For one thing, I would get very dizzy. And, much like when you’re sick, I felt like anyone I talked to needed to know about it so they could excuse my fogginess.

From that point on, whenever a friend or coworker or anyone without a baby has told me that they’re sleepy, it triggers the following (silent) responses: 1. Bitch, please; 2. Damn it, Angela, you used to get sleepy before you had a baby. Remember insomnia?; and 3. Okay, could this person actually be sleepy? Why would someone without kids be sleepy?  Then I think, 4. All sleepiness prior to the baby was my fault for being too carefree and injudicious with my evenings. I had no right to complain about being sleepy! And then I have a final reaction: 5. You are one of those parents who thinks they’re better than everyone else. Don’t be a jerk.

Unfortunately, that sympathetic part of the reaction doesn’t extend to Joel, because whenever he tells me he’s tired, my mind immediately starts calculating the truth of the statement:

(Total hours between bedtime and rising) – (middle of the night wakings) + (reason he stayed up later than me last night) = (total possible sleepiness credits)

and I usually conclude with: “You should’ve gone to bed when I did instead of playing around on the computer. You’re not sleepy. I’m sleepy.”

To which he invariably responds, “It doesn’t matter if I deserve to be sleepy! I’m sleepy!” to which I’m like, “It’s an insult to me for you to claim you’re sleepy!”

He compares “You’re not tired!” to telling someone they’re not cold based strictly on a thermostat reading. He finds it pretty ridiculous. Nevertheless, he has taken to prefacing “I’m tired” with “Okay, so obviously I have no right to say this, and of course you’re more tired than I am, but…”

I really don’t want to be one of those holier-than-thou parents. Friends, trust me: I really do think you’re entitled to be sleepy. I guess I just want it to be clear that my chronic lack of sleep is dulling the edges of my brain, making me just slightly less interesting and articulate than I used to be. I need you to understand that because I don’t want you to think that I’m just dumb and boring now. I envy you your ability to make up for lost sleep tonight, but I don’t hold it against you.

I mean, unless you stayed up too late playing on the computer.


Last week I received a number of dirty texts on my iPhone from an Austin area code. Either some (I’m sure well-meaning) girl got the wrong number, or there’s a rumor out there that I have a huge penis and she wanted in on the action. Or it was spam. That’s what I assumed, so I didn’t respond and deleted each of the messages as they came in.

But then a few days passed and I got this text:

Oct 7, 2011 12:29 PM

Goddamn spam! I thought. Hours passed, then:

Oct 7, 2011 7:10 PM

I started to imagine this Beth, and how maybe she was starting to resign herself to the fact that she’d slept with yet another guy who seemed to be really into her, then never returned her calls. I imagined how embarrassed I’d be if I’d sent a number of explicit texts to someone, only to wait several days for a response that was never coming. I imagined that from 12:30 to 7:10 that day, Beth was alone in her apartment, willing the phone to ring, hoping for just some reassurance that she wasn’t going to die a lonely skank. So…I engaged.

Oct 7, 2011 8:49 PM
I think you have the wrong number…you’re writing to a married mother of a 4 month old baby…

Oct 7, 2011 8:51 PM

I was so relieved. Beth was a real person, and I had just given her a little ray of hope that this guy actually didn’t fuck-and-run. Maybe he’d been waiting for her text, and when they finally managed to reach each other, they’d laugh about how Beth harassed some strange married mom when they first met.

I should have left it at that. It was a perfect little ending.

But I got high on my own power in solving this mess, and added:

Oct 7, 2011 8:53 PM
No problem. If that was you earlier this week I didn’t respond because I thought it was spam.

Okay, whatever. I regretted sending the message, because I thought it might embarrass Beth further. Maybe she didn’t need confirmation that she texted filthy messages to a (female) stranger. But I didn’t hear back, so I figured all was well in Beth’s world.

The next day, though…

Oct 8, 2011 12:04 PM


I don’t get it… I thought. She knows I’m married. And she knows it’s a wrong number! Is she really this dumb? I ignored it. An hour passed.

Oct 8, 2011 1:18 PM

Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. Three days went by.

Oct 11, 2011 9:29 AM

Enough was enough.

Oct 11, 2011 9:45 AM
You need to stop texting me.

Immediate response:

Did I suspect, just for a moment, that maybe Beth is  a real person and actually has been fucking Joel for over two years? Of course. But I also know that Joel would never have sex with someone who writes in all-caps and can’t spell. My husband has standards. Maybe I should tell her that.

Cat for sale

Steig, 2009

I don’t know what to do about Steig. Today I caught him squatting just outside the litter box — which Joel had just finished cleaning — pooping. I was carrying the baby with my left arm, so with my right, I picked him up by the scruff of his neck (which is mean, given how fat he is) and dropped him into the litter box. He jumped out, waddled over to a different part of the dining room, dropped a couple of little turdlets, and then ran away, freaked out.

But the real problem is the peeing. Oh my god, the peeing. I don’t think he actually uses the litter box to pee anymore, preferring the entry way and the dining room instead. This means a full-on olfactory assault as soon as you walk into the house and as soon as you sit down to eat. The peeing started years ago, but this unrelenting urine blitzkrieg coincided with the baby’s arrival. We made the mistake of keeping the nursery door open when we left for the hospital and came home to find three pee spots on the new carpet. I’m still finding cat urine in unexpected places, and that door stays closed at all times.


I was complaining to my brother-in-law about this, concluding, “I just don’t have time to care about the cats right now.” “And don’t they know it,” he responded. It’s true; the baby has absolutely replaced them. At the end of the day, after the baby goes to sleep and the cats want to snuggle, our capacity to nurture is pretty tapped. We are such bad cat owners; we’re aware of that. But I’m always going to choose Milo over the cats. I’ll have more time for them later, but this peeing/pooping thing is really eroding any patience or affection I ever had for that goddamn boy cat. And I’m worried about the hygiene aspect of it when Milo starts crawling, which he’ll be doing any day now.

Do I dope the pee cat with kitty antidepressants? It’s either that or … I never thought I would say this… shelter?  Can you really take a cat to a shelter after you’ve had him 10 years?

Eh, no. I don’t think I have it in me. But don’t tell that to Steig.

Babies and boobies

My friend Tricia gave birth to her daughter a few days before I had Milo. She and her husband chose the Bradley Method of childbirth, a 12-week program that teaches couples how to have a baby without drugs (and, I assume, deal with the ensuing psychotic break). Tricia sent me a brief Facebook message a couple weeks after Milo was born to ask how things were going. We exchanged birth stories, and she told me that she didn’t go to the hospital until she was in transition. Transition being the part of labor where the baby’s head corkscrews through the pelvis and gets ready to come out. The woman has my total respect.

She asked if I was breastfeeding and said that, if I was, she felt for me. Two weeks into her daughter’s life, she said that breastfeeding was turning out to be more difficult than having a baby without any drugs whatsoever. And I totally knew what she meant.

As much as breastfeeding seems to be trending in our Western society, I think most of us still have only the weakest grasp on the mechanics of it. Before attending a 2-hour “Breastfeeding Basics” class in my third trimester, I thought breastfeeding went like this: bring baby to boob. Baby drinks milk. Happy baby! So, after attending the class and learning things like, breastfeeding passes on the mother’s antibodies to her baby (the one thing that formula still doesn’t do, as close as it’s come to the real thing), and nursing releases oxytocin into your system that helps your uterus firm up again, and breastfed babies tend to have higher IQs (the reasons for that are debatable, though — is it just the frequent contact with Mom? Is it the socioeconomic status of the family that the breastfed baby is born into?) — after learning all those things, I genuinely didn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t breastfeed. I started resenting my mom all over again for giving me formula, which was probably the cause of my colic (not to mention the reason for my always feeling slightly too dumb, amiright?) because she just didn’t like the idea of breastfeeding. (To be fair, it was barely becoming fashionable again when I was born in 1980.)

Back to mechanics. Did you know there’s a whole nursing lexicon out there? For example, the “latch.” The latch is what happens between the “bring baby to boob” step and the “baby drinks milk” step.  So many people fail at breastfeeding because their babies just won’t latch. Then there’s the “suck.” We watched a whole video in class about this, and I squirmed uncomfortably as a lactation consultant complimented a new mother on her baby’s “good suck.” But without a good suck, you’re screwed! Tricia’s problem is that her baby is a “lazy suck.” She just won’t suck hard enough to get enough milk. She was having to get up every single hour around the clock to nurse the baby, then pump milk with a breast pump after each feeding, then feed the expressed milk to the baby.  She got so exhausted that her milk supply started to drop. Also she got mastitis.

A picture that has nothing to do with breastfeeding, but breaks up all this crazy text! (This is Milo at 3 months.)

Anyway, breastfeeding seemed like a no-brainer. In the hospital, I was proud, probably even a little smug, to tell the nursing staff that yes, I would be breastfeeding. I remembered from the class that babies usually nurse for the first time about 45 minutes after they’re born, and this is a really critical feeding for them because they’re recovering from the shock of being born, but alert enough to eat. After about an hour, they fall asleep for basically a few days. So when Milo came out quiet and blue, and I started to hemorrhage, my mind was fixed on that closing window of opportunity.  And then I didn’t see Milo for almost three hours.

Finally they brought him in and handed his little seven-pound body to doped-up, puffy, numb-from-the-waist-down me. I felt like a monster shoving my big ol’ boob in his tiny, perfect little face. And I do mean shove. Getting the latch right is kind of like lining up the chute to drop a quarter in Zoltar’s mouth. You must wait until the baby really opens wide, then quickly insert the boob and hope he sucks. If you don’t wait until the baby opens wide, or if you don’t stick the boob in far enough, then the baby doesn’t take enough of the boob in his mouth, which is very very painful for your nipple and eventually leads to cracking and bleeding. And what happened to me (I’m sure this is common) was, I would get him lined up, “make a sandwich” (I’m not going to explain that one; ask your lactation consultant!), shove the boob in, and he wouldn’t suck. Or he’d fall asleep. Or he’d suck once and then lose it. And then finally he’d latch, hooray! and five sucks later…asleep.

The real challenge with breastfeeding is that you have to establish it when you’re at your most mentally and emotionally fragile. Here’s this tiny new baby who needs you to feed him in order to survive, and if you can’t figure out the latch/suck puzzle, he’s going to be hungry, and that’s going to make him cry a lot. And, worse, he’s going to start losing weight, and if he loses too much or doesn’t start to gain it back, then the doctor will probably suggest supplementing with formula, and you’re so exhausted and desperate to feed your baby that you say okay. And you feel like an absolute failure.

But. Three months later and a few hundred dollars’ worth of nursing products with ridiculous names — Bamboobies! Majamas! — I’m here to tell you: nursing the baby is the highlight of my day. The oxytocin that helps your uterus contract? What they don’t tell you is, it also completely relaxes you. It is why, when I’m nursing the baby, it is the one time of my day when I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I need to do. I’m kind of addicted to the oxytocin high, to be honest. And looking down and seeing my sleepy little baby all snuggly and warm and sated?  What could be nicer and more reassuring?

Maybe that’s why I still can’t bring myself to breastfeed in public: not just because I don’t want strangers to see my boobs, but because I am so totally enjoying myself while this exposure’s going on, and that feels…self-indulgent? I know that it seems like I can overcome this embarrassment by just covering up, and that’s true to some extent, but covering up when it’s 105 degrees outside is hot as hell, and it makes both me and the baby miserably sweaty almost immediately, even when we’re inside. Plus, I need both of my hands: one hand to hold the baby, the other hand to facilitate the latch. And unless a bathroom is truly clean enough to eat in, I’m not feeding my baby in a toilet stall. So, I don’t know the answer. Never leave the house? Get over it?

And that’s all I have to say about breastfeeding. It’s been two days since I started this post and the baby’s waking up and I gotta go okay bye!


The baby’s been asleep for 45 minutes. I am watching his every (non-) movement on the baby monitor with one eye as I brush out the coffee grinder with the other. Joel, filling our water bottles, drops an ice cube in the sink.

ME: Careful with the rattling and the banging.

JOEL: I am being careful!

ME: Joel, you know what sound it makes when you drop an ice cube in a sink.

JOEL: I didn’t drop it on purpose! Obviously! Obviously I would rather use the ice cube. “Hey, let’s hook up the Wii — no, fuck that, it’d take too long. Hey, I know! Let’s drop ice cubes in the sink!”

I laughed so hard I drooled right onto the ground. It happens a lot around here.