...wherein a girl packs up her dissertation and moves to the Pacific Northwest to learn what it means to build a life as a someone's partner, finish a dissertation, and make a life and home in Seattle, WA .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

one country.... now two -- an update

My life used to be about one.... one person - me.  Then my life became about two - me and Partner.  I guess I never really realized it until we made the decision, until he signed the contract, yet before Sunday our lives as individuals and together had really been about one country - the US.  Both of us spent time studying overseas, but going abroad while a student is very different from selling your home, selling off tons of your belongings, packing up your home, placing three quarters of it in storage, shipping one quarter of it overseas, and hopping on a plane bound for a new life in Singapore. We are now of two countries.

Yup.  That's right - we've moved to Singapore.

Things on the blog have been dead quiet for the past few months because there was other writing that needed to get accomplished -- btw, I finished and defended the dissertation (!!!) -- and I until the deal was finalized and announced I had to keep a lid on the whole Singapore thing, which in a space where I write about my life is pretty challenging to do when your entire days are about freaking out over the dissertation that you fear you won't finish or the GIANT move you might be making to a country you've never even visited.

Not being able to write about the move or really talk that much about the move with anyone but Partner meant that I did not really get to process the enormity of our decision to move to a foreign country and give up everything that we've known before we got on the plane Saturday.  Frankly, there also was just not a lot of time - I defended the dissertation 14 days before we moved.  My head needed to be in that space as much as possible so that I could wrap up the project and not die during the two hours in which I was raked over the coals answered questions from my committee members.  I am really excited by the adventure that we are on together and there is no other person with whom I would I would take on such an adventure, but oh man, this is big.

We made it to Singapore on Sunday having lost all of Saturday to travel.  We also pretty much lost all of Friday to cramming our remaning belongings into our storage unit.  That is an episode worthy of a whole post all of its own. Yesterday, Partner and I spent much of the day wandering around the Central Business District so that he would know the lay of the land and how to get from the service apartment in which the company has put us up for the next month to his office. Plus it was really nice for us to do a bit of adventuring together in this new country which will be our home for the next however long.

In the coming days/weeks I will be apartment hunting for us, getting to know a bit more of this place, and complaining about how insanely expensive everything happens to be in this country.  Once we have a place to live and our stuff which is currently sailing the high-seas arrives, then I will get to resume some of my research projects from my life back in Seattle and start looking for work in Singapore.

Monday, February 6, 2012

...and the puppy comes home, too?

Friday morning I took Partner to have his wisdom teeth extracted.  The oral and maxillofacial surgeon we saw was fantastic and his staff was wonderful, gentle, and caring.  We could not have asked for a better experience in having teeth ripped out of one's head. Partner came through it with flying colors and without any complications.  This is saying something because he is man who loves his milk, which means that his bones are solid and those teeth took some serious effort to get out.  I am so happy and grateful that all has gone so well so far.

Thursday night we spent sometime preparing for the surgery - i.e. making smoothies.  While I am sure that Partner would say that some pretty cool stuff came into his house when I moved in, by far his favorite new toy has been the blender and with it all of the smoothie making that has gone on since I arrived.

He has become a very creative and talented smoothie maker.  This batch included frozen organic spinach from our Full Circle CSA, organic kiwis and organic pears from the CSA, bee pollen from Honey Run Farm in Williamsport, Ohio, a blend of tropical frozen fruit from Costco, and papaya nectar from Trader Joe's.

Friday morning we were both a little bit anxious before the surgery.  Thankfully the office staff let me sit with Partner while they were preparing him for surgery. I just wanted to be with him until they put him under.  Having had my own wisdom teeth extracted, I know how very alienating it can feel to be alone in a room with everything going on around you - all of these sounds and being poked and prodded.  Not fun.

He was awesome.  He had lots of questions and the woman who was in with us getting him ready answered everything in detail.  Maybe a bit too much detail, but I think such details made him feel a bit more in control of the experience.  For me, I just hated having to leave the room.  No, I certainly had no desire to hang out in there and watch the whole procedure, but I just hated the fact that I could not be in there to hold his hand.  He was worried about waking up too soon or having bad dreams while under anesthesia - I just wanted to be able to tell him that I would be there with him in case any of that happened.  Sadly, I could not.  So off to the waiting room I went.

The hour went by pretty quickly and once Partner was settled in the recovery room, I got to go keep him company, find out how he did, and get all of the post-op instructions.  He was so cute and so loopy on drugs when I came in.  I could not help but want to hug him and gently kiss his swollen cheeks. He was also rather happy about the stuffed dog sitting on his shoulder.  It was there to keep the icepack propped up against his jaw.  At the time he wished it was a real puppy and then he wanted to take the stuffed puppy home.  He was a bit sad when I told him that he would have to leave the puppy behind.  But I did tell him that we could stop off at the animal shelter on the way home if he really wanted. I figured this was my shot at getting a dog.  Instead he moved onto talk about crayons. Gotta love good anesthesia and painkillers.

Friday, February 3, 2012

car and driver

Life really has been filled with lots of changes for the past 11 months.  Moving to Seattle was the biggest noticeable one, but that really was just the beginning..... or the middle, or the first part.

Really the biggest changes have been the unseen ones.  The changes in everyday living and being that came before the boxes and the move, and long after the boxes and all the unpacking and finding a storage space for two of our five sofas; after purchasing bookcases; and as I continually scan craigslist for that perfect chair or table.

I've been in school for a long, long time, but no where in there did I learn what goes into making a life with another person, what goes into planning for a future as two people as a singular unit.  I have known Partner for a long time -- going on 14 years. We me on our first day of freshman orientation at college.  I remember meeting him then: he was smart, funny, a bit arrogant, an excellent soccer player, and loved music and cars.

After college we fell out of touch for a while, but when he tracked me down about four or five years ago, I was not at all surprised when he let me know that he had recently purchased a Mitsubishi Evo.  In fact when he said that was what he got, it completely fit.  The Evo is a powerful performance car -- there is a rawness but also an elegance to it.  Yup, that was the car for him.  Well, the Evo and the 1999 Nissan Sentra for which he built a motor.  That car is so powerful it shakes the whole house when he starts it up -- it far too powerful to be a daily-driver in Seattle.  Even the hint of rain and tires will spin.

In June we took the car to be tuned by English Racing.  Here is on a lift about to roll onto the 4-wheel dyno for tuning.

In the five years since Partner first purchased the Evo his life changed and he got more into cycling, and then he got more into me. Well, actually, I got more into him, he was already into me.  Still, nothing could have prepared me for the changes of the automotive type around here.  This week Partner sold the Evo.

For a long while now we've known that we would be replacing my 1998 VW Jetta TDI.  It is a nearly 14 year-old car that lived all of its life up until now in states that salt their roads.  While my car is in amazing shape for its age and it is mechanically sound, I knew that it was soon going to be time to replace it with something else because the Jetta would need more money to be put into it to keep it up in the coming years. At some point that becomes a losing situation.  Even before moving out here I knew that I would be replacing my car with another TDI -- once you are used to getting 45-50MPG you just can't go back! -- this time preferably a wagon.

After many talks this fall about replacing my car, we determined that we would wait another year -- until the dissertation is done, until I am fully employed (I felt very strongly about that last point).  My car suffices for us when we need something practical.  Yes, something a bit more suited to our lifestyle would be nice, but my car give us excellent milage for the longer trips and we can throw both bikes in the back of my car -- albeit awkwardly and in a way that means we can't pack too much else.  Sometimes my car makes me nervous -- I hate to think of it breaking down on us somewhere in the middle of nowhere, but still, I am hesitant about replacing it because right now we have three cars for a two car garage.  My car is the one parked on the street and I am not really keen on parking a brand new car on the street.  After more conversations about the cars this winter, we settled on something a bit more radical: sell all the cars!

The Evo sold the other night.  It was snatched up quickly.  That night we moved the TDI in the garage. Opening the door to the garage now and seeing anything but the Evo in there is strange -- even if it is my own vehicle.

There is a lot to figuring out this new life together, but I never would have thought that one of the changes would have been Partner selling the Evo.  I don't know what the timing will be on selling the the Sentra and the TDI.  First I think we both need a moment to get used to the new automotive configuration.

Yesterday morning before I left for campus, I found my spare key for my car and put it in Partner's key ring.  The TDI is now our car.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

lighting the office

Recently I did a bit of bragging about my two workspaces in the house.  Having two is wonderful for mixing it up sometimes when the writing mojo is just not flowing in one space I can head to the other. We have a designated office on the third floor that we set it up as shared space.  We built a desk that has enough surface area for the two of us to work side-by-side and there are two chairs up there, but I think I've only seen Partner work on his side of the desk once since we built it about six months ago.  My old bed is tucked in that room as well for when one of us can't sleep (generally me). But we also have a working space in our first floor guest/media room.

One day Partner was talking about the need for surface area of sorts for the guest/media room, some type of table or coffee table.  A few weeks later I found a fantastic solid oak, art-deco desk on craigslist for $20.  The $20 turned into $40 when we could not fit it in my 1998 VW Jetta TDI -- our serious workhorse of a vehicle, but the desk is a really lovely piece, works perfectly in the space, and provides additional storage and the desired surface area. I was very happy that Partner agreed and let me bring it home.  It was not quite the type of surface area he was looking for I later found out, but he really has gone out of his way to let me do things to make this place feel more like home for me too.

In December I found myself working in that first floor space more and more because the lighting down there was better.  That is an amusing statement because the office proper has three windows, while the first floor office has one tiny window which is always covered. Still, the first floor office ends up having better lighting because the ceiling in there is flat (recessed lighting) and I have a decent desk lamp.  In our shared office the ceiling is sloped in line with the pitch of the roof, which is lovely.  But the recessed lights in that room point away from the desk, and my only other desk lamp, and the only one which would have worked in that space, got broken by the movers in the move.  Yeah... at some point I should write a whole post about our lovely movers.

For a few months now I've been making do with the SAD lamp acting as a desk lamp.  I am still not sure if it has been helpful or not with the very dark days of the Seattle winter season, but I think it has been really helpful in the mornings when I first stumble into the office just after waking up. Regardless, it is not a very good desk lamp as I can't direct the beam anywhere.

When we got back from our adventures in Thailand and Cambodia I moved another lamp to the middle of the desk in hopes of brightening up that side of the room a bit more.  Still, the truth of the matter has been that I really needed an adequate desk lamp to illuminate my writing space.  Last week I finally broke down and found a really nice vintage piece on Etsy.  I do love perusing that site.

The lamp arrived two nights ago and I was super excited to see how it worked in the space.  But as I opened the otherwise really well packed box, I learned that the bulb which had been shipped in the lamp was broken.  So not only would seeing how it worked in the space have to wait, but I needed to figure out how to get the broken bulb out of the lamp.

Faced with the lightbulb that had been broken off in the socket, I recalled an episode of Mr. Wizard that I saw on Nickeloden when I was a kid.  I found it really interesting at the time because Mr. Wizard used a potato to removed a broken lightbulb from a light fixture.  I think it was the first time I had seen produce used in home repair. Thankfully we had some potatoes in the house thanks to our Full Circle CSA deliveries.

Partner was a bit curious when I wandered into the kitchen with the lamp in hand searching for a potato. Even after explaining to him that I learned the trick from Mr. Wizard he did not seem all that convinced. Still, he let me sacrifice a potato for the lamp, and probably to guarantee himself at least 10 minutes of amusement.

The potato sacrifice was totally in vain as it did not do much other than get my lamp all covered in potato gunk.  After failing with the potato it was time to get out the tools and see what I could make happen.

This kit of tools and the drill make up pretty much I that I use for tacking home projects.  

All it took was a creative use of the needle-nose pliers -- place pliers inside the socket, fully open them so that they are pressing against the wall, and hold the tension while you unscrew -- and the lamp was free of the broken, old bulb.

After freeing the lamp of the old bulb I took sometime to cleaning it of the potato gunk and juices.  I also grabbed some baking sode from the pantry and mixed that with a bit of water to polish the lamp base and arms to a nice shine.   The shade is a bit worn and muted, but I really like the look of it against the artwork in the office.

Hopefully I will find some time today while working on writing the conclusion to the dissertation to run out to Lowes to find a light bulb that will fit the lamp. Then I will get to see how it really looks in the office.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


When Partner and I were making all of the arrangements for me to move out to Seattle, I got estimates from a number of movers.  In talking with each company I had a number of questions and concerns that I needed addressed before signing a contract with any one of them. A major issue for me was moving my plants.

None of the moving companies were willing to move the plants, and I was a bit devastated by this detail.  In all of my past moves -- and there have been more than I would like to count -- the plants just traveled with me by car.  For the Ohio to Seattle move it was not an option as after pricing out our options (driving out west together, me driving out here on my own, shipping the car with a transport company, shipping it with the movers) it was going to be a better deal to just have the car shipped -- less wear-and-tear on the car, less wear-and-tear on me, and I would get to my new home much sooner.

Still, I was saddened when I learned that there was not going to be a way for me to get my plants to my new home.  I realize that it sounds like a silly thing or a small thing to be upset about, but for me it was going to be a loss.  Plants were something I cared for and nurtured, and leaving them behind just did not sit well with me.  In the same way that being without my books leaves me feeling naked.

There was one plant I was most upset about leaving behind: Molly.

This is picture of Molly back in Ohio pre Seattle move

Knowing I would be leaving behind about 20 plants, I decided that somehow Molly was going to make the move with me.  Molly has been with me since 2003.  And yes, she is the only one of my plants that happens to be named.

On my second trip out to Seattle -- the final one before I would be moving out here for good -- I decided I needed to find a way to have Molly with me on that flight.  I checked the TSA website and a number of horticulture websites and there was no rule or regulation that prevented me from carrying a plant on a U.S. domestic flight.  So that was what I was going to do.

I did some serious pruning of Molly, removed her from the pot, wrapped her roots in wet paper towels and then wrapped all of that in saran wrap. To further protect her root system, I also modified a box I had lying around so that I could protect those while still letting her planty-self be.

Yes, in fact that is a philodendron in my purse!

TSA was a bit perplexed when they saw me with a plant in my bag.  But they were fantastic about safeguarding her from getting hit by the heavy lead drapes that carry on bags pass through as they enter the x-ray machine.

By the end of that trip we successfully repotted Molly and she stayed behind in Seattle keeping Partner company while I went back to Ohio to pack up the apartment and ready for the movers.

Molly thriving in Seattle, while one of the jade plants tries to recover from being neglected while we were in Thailand

As the date for my dissertation defense draws closer, I have been thinking a lot about the past seven almost eight months and all of the changes that have taken place.  This is certainly not where I thought I would be, not at all what I thought my life would become, but it is turning out far more amazing than I could have anticipated.  Brining Molly with me was not some way of holding on to the past, but about continuity, about bridging all of the experiences and places I've lived.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

an attempt at DIY.... or just cobbling something together

A day or so before we packed up and headed of to Thailand and Cambodia, I was working in the downstairs office (yes, I am spoiled I have two workspaces in the house) when I heard a crash coming from the ensuite bathroom. Dreading what I would find upon entering (please, let it not be the artwork!), I was relieved to find that it was only the faux drawer face plate that had fallen off the vanity.

Was I relieved?  Well, not exactly.  I knew that I did not have time to take care of it before we were heading out of town so it was just going to have to wait until we returned.  Then we returned and there was that snow storm, so it had to wait for a few days until things in Seattle thawed out and I could head to Lowes to find the strange plastic attachment doohickey. Yup, that is the technical term!

See, how it is held on there?  Those little plastic things that allow the face plate to just pop into place? Two of them had broken off.  

Sadly, as I wrote earlier, Lowes was no help that day, which is how I ended up venturing to Goodwill and scoring the beautiful piece that is now in my entry way.  Still, the broken vanity has been annoying me since then. We don't use that bathroom all that much, but each time I venture in there I cringe at the board just lying across the basin.

For someone who loves projects as much as I do, we aren't really the home DIYers, and we certainly don't have much going on in the way of home repair tools.  Now, if you are in need of tools to work on your car - we've got those covered!  For the house, however, it is me and my trusty drill.

When I moved to Seattle from Ohio, I was the one who brought the majority of the home tools that we currently use.  Yup, that's right, me, the girl.  I used to joke that I dated men for their tools and or their music.  That's only about 5% true.  This drill, however, was purchased one morning at 6am when I was back from a summer in Vermont and needed to do some work on my apartment in Ohio.  I was totally done with the guy I had been seeing before I departed, and although he did have awesome tools and was kind enough to help me build a closet and hang a lovely door, those were not reasons to pick up a phone and dials his number ever again.  So as a declaration of my independence and total frustration I went out and bought a drill.  I probably should have spent more time researching the purchase, but I was a broke grad student at the time, it was on sale, it was cordless, and so it was coming home so that I could put holes in something! The drill and a medium sized tool kit from my grandfather are about all I've got, and they do handle a surprising number of jobs. 

In leaving Lowes and trying to determine what I would do next, I recalled that I had some wood in the house.  More specifically, I had some wood shims lying around from purchasing shims last summer to deal with one of our dressers.  So I figured I would see if I could somehow make use of that wood and just "make it work."

Yeah.... no.  This was a total fail.

I emailed a handy friend of mine a picture of the plastic piece to see if he knew what it was called so that I could find it online.  Sadly, he was of no help in that area.  I know that I don't NEED to find the exact plastic piece, but I am going to need something, something more than shims to get the vanity back together. Truthfully, at this point I think some shallow L-brackets will do, but that will require me making bit of time to head back to Lowes to see what they have so that I can get the vanity back together again.  Time is getting tight as the due date of the dissertation approaches.

Right now, I really am just frustrated each time I walk into the bathroom as it still looks like this.

I guess this is why I've been working in my other office.  Back to revising the Introduction -- home repairs will have to wait for another day or bout of procrastination. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fast and Furious

Life is coming at me pretty fast and furious these days.  Truthfully, it has been that way for about a year now.  Ever since I was issued an ultimatum and was crazy enough to say "Okay, I'm in!" life has been one crazy ride. Most days I handle it well.  And by that I mean, I am able to find various ways to manage and take control of all the crazy.

Sometimes, however, I can't actually tackle the problem itself or the specific thing that is overwhelming me. If I can't control the real issue, then I will do everything in my power to take control of everything else that surrounds me. Most of the time that means cleaning or organizing the shit out of everything.

Last week, after I finalized the timeline for the completion of my dissertation with my advisor, I felt so overwhelmed by the next step—looking at the remaining weeks and figuring out some schedule for the remaining tasks—that I had to do everything besides figure all of that out.  So I did two loads of laundry, vacuumed the second and third floors of the house, tried to repair the vanity in the first floor bathroom, took out recycling, reposted items to craigslist that we were trying to sell, and then I investigated our sandpaper supply so I could figure out what I needed to start refinishing the new console table. Yeah, I was a bit freaked.

There are other big things going on with my dissertation and with figuring out what I will do once it is done, so I have a feeling I may be refinishing that table sooner than I thought while trying to work through my revisions to the introduction this week.