These are a few of my favorite things: NPR podcast edition

I listen to podcasts that aren’t produced by NPR, of course. It just happens that a lot of the ones that I obsess over are NPR. I am a huge fan of virtually everything NPR produces. The only other company I can say that about is Costco. These are just two of my personal favorites:

How I Built This logoThe show synopsis describes it as “a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.” I don’t secretly fantasize about starting a company or owning a small business but I love hearing other people’s stories, especially when they are talking about something they feel really passionate about or have expert knowledge in. For example, there’s an interview with the two co-founders of Reddit that I loved (and I don’t even use Reddit). The episode on Airbnb is fun and enlightening as is the one with Alli Webb, founder of Drybar. They all talk about the hard work, the sheer excruciating endless and sleepless months and years it took to get them to the “wildly successful” place they are now but they also in equal measure talk of the serendipity of being at the right place at the right time.

Rough TranslationTapping out Anna Karenina through a prison wall. American surrogates hired by Chinese women to have their babies. Affirmative action in Brazil. Noteworthy topics from an international perspective.

 

 

(images and podcasts can be found on npr.org)

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An experiment in finances

Adan and I tried a zero spending experiment this week (just Monday through Friday). We had groceries and foodstuffs so it’s not like we were recreating famine times or anything, we just wanted to cut back on our expenses and see how much we could save in an effort to re-work our monthly budget. Turns out that living far from the city is actually a huge boon to our savings as there is very little in the evenings to tempt us into spending anyway. We cheated only twice because we ended up having to replace our iPad charger cable and also, I needed butter and apples to make an apple streusel dessert. I am of the opinion that both of these cheats are justifiable as they both qualify as actual necessities, on par with medical emergencies and oxygen (I currently only have Internet access by piping it through the iPad).

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The entirety of our purchases this week

Having made it through the experiment, I am not sure what would be more conducive to greater/easier savings: having one zero spending week a month or if we should just tighten our finances as a whole so as to spend less without putting such drastic measures in place. Truth be told, I’d like to say it was so liberating to not carry cash or have the option of handling any temporary frustration by throwing a pack of Oreos at it (Before I met Adan, I used to handle my frustrations in a healthier way: potato chips. Being exposed to his sugar cravings has increased my own, I think, which is not great because as everyone knows sugar kills.)

And yes, it was liberating but it also felt as if we were on a diet and couldn’t wait for the weekend to come so that we could binge. Case in point, Saturday morning, we woke up and drove into the city to go have breakfast at the Waffle House, then went to the movies.

I find balance and moderation impossibly hard. I think taking an actual vow of silence is easier than to always speak wisely, with words of encouragement and to not gossip or criticize or be negative. You know how John Mayer says, “It’s better to say too much than not to say what you need to say”? I get his point but clearly, it would better still to never say too much without leaving things unsaid that need to be said. I have actually found saying too much to be just as troublesome as saying too little because, as everyone knows, you can apologize for something you said but you can never un-say it. It is easy to have designated feast or famine times with our spending and I think my tendency leans towards famine times because I grew up with a mom who thought buying anything that you liked (as opposed to needed) was self-indulgent to the extreme, whereas Adan is more of a spender (she also taught me good things, like how it’s better to save money for a rainy day rather than to put it on a credit card), and hopefully, we are finding a way towards balancing each other out

 

The Eagle has landed!

You know how studies have shown that remodeling your home is significantly more stressful than just having a swarm of soccer hooligans come over and completely trash it? (Yes, the scientific term for when there is more than five hooligans is swarm). After unspeakable mess and not having a functioning sink for four days, what do we have to show for it? A finished kitchen. Voila!

Before:

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After:img_12841

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Now, I can relate to new parents who bring their babies home from the hospital and just can’t stop staring. If you know me even a little, you know that I don’t do well in a cluttered environment. Adan and I used to love watching the show Monk and I think he mainly found it endearing that he thought the main character to be a slightly exaggerated version of his wife. Needless to say, I’m thrilled that each week, there is a little more order to our home. We couldn’t be happier with our kitchen. Really, we tried but it is just not possible.

In other breaking news, we saw the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them and were pleasantly surprised. I do have one caveat, though. I know the movie came out a million years ago but if you haven’t yet and are considering letting your kids watch it, I should warn you that it’s pretty scary and probably not appropriate for children under the age of 25.

There is this one bit of dialogue that I especially liked:

Newt Scamander: Now, there’s absolutely nothing for you to worry about.

Jacob Kowalski: Tell me, has anyone ever believed you when you told them not to worry?

Newt Scamander: Well, my philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.

I can relate because I tend to be in the camp that loves to suffer twice. Case in point, when I think about having kids, the very first thing that comes to mind is worry over what will happen if they can’t find a job in their field when they graduate from University. It takes a lot of calisthenics to work up to this level of finely tuned worry so don’t feel bad if you haven’t taken the time to worry about your as-of-yet-unborn children’s post-graduate careers.

Where was I? The movie was written by the ever so talented J.K. Rowling and though it takes place in the same world as Harry Potter, you don’t necessarily have to have read or watched the series to understand. (It does, I think, give you a deeper appreciation for the details if you have, though, and certain parts will seem funnier for it). Adan hated the movies and never read the books but was still entertained by Fantastic Beasts.

J.K. Rowling is, of course, full of these little gems in her dialogue. You know what I mean… wisdom wrapped in humor, ensconced in truth, with an outer shell of something so obvious that you marvel that you hadn’t thought of it yourself. I leave you with this example, my favorite Dumbledore-ism from the HP series: It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Thinking about potential baby names

My beautiful friend Kassi is expecting a baby in about a month’s time. She and hubby are choosing to not find out the sex of the baby, which I love. I mean, I know nobody is asking me, but I love it when couples wait to find out. They have also hit a bit of an impasse with baby names. She asked if I had any suggestions and I have to say, when it comes to baby names, I have always been a fan of the timeless biblical classics, many of which are gender neutral. You know, like Nebuchadnezzar, Abner, Dodo, Abednego, Hephzibah, Orpah, Joiada. You really can’t go wrong with any of those, not to mention that most likely no one else in their class at school will share that name. What do you say, Kass? Do any of those names float your boat? You’re welcome for ending the current marital stalemate on this subject.

The Seventh Circle of Hell

Yes, you guessed it. I had to go to the immigration offices this morning. As an official permanent resident of Mexico, I no longer have to go every year and pay to extend my work permit. I do however, still have to show up and fill in mountains of paperwork every time I move, change job situations or marital status, if I go to the bathroom, wear white after Labor Day or think an impure thought.

So I spent the entire morning being a bureaucratic donkey, running from one side of the city to the other, making endless copies of Adan’s and my marriage certificate and getting it stamped by the right people. But mainly I waited, and waited and waited. I think by about the third hour in that place, I started to get delusional because I became convinced that the immigration office must be the best place in the world to work. There was only one person working in the section I was waiting in, and, in the entire time I was there, she was able to “help” three people/groups between chatting with her co-workers and her coffee break.

Usually I am averse to people complaining about bureaucracy, because it’s like complaining about the weather. Not effective and won’t change a thing. It is really just best to take a long novel and to go expecting things to go wrong and take it in stride when they do. Get kicked in the face by the bored office people? you merely pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and kindly say, thank you so much, I really needed that while smiling your most genuine smile. Somehow, though, this morning, my zen attitude towards bureaucracy would just not kick in. I sat there, huffing with impatience.

Really, the only good part about having to do these things is the feeling of satisfaction that comes from being able to check them off.