Random thoughts - life and such.

(Top: Bratislava, Bottom: Prague)

Eastern Europe!
Before my obtusely nonsensical spiel, have some eye candy from our whirlwind trip to Eastern Europe that we took after my final PhD defense. I loved Slovakia and Poland the best though I surprisingly didn't take any decent photos in those places - probably too busy getting touristy wasted on cheap wine and beer. Interesting factoid: when we visited Auschwitz, the tour guide told us that a lot of the survivors hated striped clothing for the rest of their lives; it made me rethink my relationship with breton tees.

On buying a new house
So we bought a house... I sometimes wish we hadn't only because after we signed the documents, did the inspection and visited the house multiple times over the last few weeks that I realized we had a place that needed so much work done I could start a lifestyle/DIY blog and make bank. You know what, maybe I will. I read somewhere - who knows, GOMI maybe - that bloggers make the natural progression from fashion to lifestyle to mommy blogging. That's right, the natural progression of blogging niches corresponds with the rate of body sag and accumulation of body fat.

That said, in our neck of the woods, anything that is remotely updated with a good location in the city and enough space so that you're not peering into your neighbor's porn collection will cost an upward of $600k - often times more, with no contingencies attached (Waive the inspection! Waive the financing! Waive the appraisal! Bend over Grey-style and get screwed twice! It's the market!), over 20% downpayment and occasionally, a complete cash offer over asking price.

I mean obviously I'm just being an ungrateful snot because we're so goddamn lucky to own a house but when you're standing in front of a blackened fireplace, faced with barf-colored walls and four different kinds of cheap berber carpeting and sagging kitchen cabinets that don't close, how your life sucks is really all you can think about in that moment.

On anxiety, existentialism and being faux-emo
I'll confess I've been struggling over the last few years with deep-seated emotional issues stemming from a bad grad school experience and from several inherent character traits that have been downright self-destructive for me. I don't think real-life struggles get talked about enough; I don't trust anyone who makes everything seem like it's always rainbows and sunshine and kittens when it's really boxcutters, drippy mascara, Bright Eyes on repeat and tubs of chocolate ice cream. I tried Headspace for two-minutes, got even more annoyed at that British bloke (Reddit always makes me side-eye everything) and decided I needed to see a therapist instead. I think the therapist has been good for me, there's no prescription meds or talking about childhood trauma - it's about building a plan, facing up to responsibilities and being a little less hard on myself.

This is going to sound so obnoxious and self-aggrandizing but I'm pretty harsh on myself and tend to want everything to be perfect. I'll stop short of calling myself a perfectionist (I'm not, I let a lot of things slide, I think...) but a lot of what I do borders on crazy. I need the edges of my towels (bath towels, hand towels, kitchen towels, blankets, sheets, etc., etc.) to line up perfectly and folded once lengthwise and three times after that. They also all need to be white. I got so tired of trying to correct my husband's folding that after he folds them, I redo ALL of them. Which is why I never get any real work done - I'm too busy fucking folding towels in thirds. Jesus Christ. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

My therapist made me realize that I don't have control of everything and I beat myself up if things don't go my way. So I got all existentialist on her, yo. "What's the point of anything if I can't control things?!" I sobbed, wah wah wah.  "Influence," she said wisely. "You can always influence the outcome." I think I love my therapist.

My absolute avorite written works (and secret bibles) in the entire history of mankind are 'Paradise Lost' and 'Maldoror' and I think subconsciously, I veered towards those two books because they seemed to speak most closely to my nihilistic approach to how I viewed the world and the existence of a higher authority. Perhaps after my therapy sessions ends, my new bible would be something by Emerson... hahahahahahaha *wipes tears from eyes*.

On stuff
Moving is a damn bitch. I hate it. I hate the sound of tape pulling over boxes, I hate standing in line to buy boxes, I hate bubble wrap and newspapers and being scared that my gazillion potteries will break when it falls out of the U-Haul. Moving makes me want to stab my eye with a pencil and yank out my hair and run around screaming like a crazy person. I would pay for professional movers but we just spent all our money buying a house and fixing a shitty bathroom that I can't justify paying someone to pack my shit and load/unload them so I can go back to folding my towels.

But I think more importantly, moving and packing makes, made, whatever... makes me feel bad about myself. It exposes me in ways that make me feel uncomfortable because when you're standing there staring at heaps of glassware and plates and cake pans and throw blankets, it doesn't lie. You can't escape the shelves of sparkly wine cups and gleaming ceramics sitting there serenely and winking wickedly, conspiratorially at you. Amanda, you have a shopping habit. The reason you can't afford movers or an expensive lamp is because you bought ALL these porcelain goodies from Crate and Barrel or DWR and you don't even like them anymore because there's even more porcelain goodies from Crate and Barrel or DWR to buy. So it goes, as Vonnegut says.

Maybe those people at GOMI were right, I've been using blogging all the while to justify a shopping habit (Alright, you hams win!!!). I'm actually pretty mortified at how much junk I have, it's really gross on some level. Maybe crazy cot lady and all the insufferable spartan minimalist holier-than-thou Instagrammers were right. My life would be so much easier and less revolting if I only had to move a couple of Aesop products, a shoebox of kitchen utensils and a Fjallraven backpack of clothes.

But in all seriousness, as I've pointed out before, I'm glad I'm realizing that buying all these things haven't made me a happier person even though just a few years ago, I thought that they did. I know I'm going to accumulate some junk in the future because it's the natural progression of life despite what all the insufferable spartan minimalist holier-than-thou Instagrammers say, but I think the horror of moving and having to clean and pack shit when I'm already so tired and fed-up with everything is going to keep me in check. Yes, it's going to cost me blog readers and Instagram followers because I'm not posting pictures of expensive candles and flowers and plates  and macarons (not macaroons you damn morons!) anymore but at 32, I think I'm old enough to realize that those fleeting moments of validation are an illusion and really just not worth it most of the time.

On this blog
After laying all these things out (and actually having a full-time job, woot!), I think it's safe to say that I should and probably would be hanging up my finely-polished Marni shoes and calling it a day. I'll probably still update occasionally with some pictures on how things are progressing with the house/dog/dog/dog/life/growing zygotes/organic gardening because it's fun and I'm a braggart. I'm debating about starting a new blog  I kind of want to keep things going only because I like having a outlet where I can just moan about the same thing for the umpteenth time and not have anyone cancel lunch on me. Maybe this time for realz, the blog about home decor with my shoddy DIY skills should be called, Assembled Haphazardly.

* Apologies for the potty-mouth of late, I'm trying to get my teenage-angst out of the way.

Truth, word.




The last four or five months has been kind of nuts. If 2015 is any indication of the rest of my life, I think I'll be needing a permanent Vitamin B pump and a ginseng tube (or speed maybe?) Either way, I've been finding it hard to slow down and almost had a crazy nervous breakdown a few weeks ago from working/un-procrastinating about 100 hours a week.

Long story short, I'm finally there, dear readers. I've reached adulthood singularity and beyond me is this infinite expanse of bills, 9-5 jobs, sensible shoes, mom hair and screaming children. I have my dissertation done, my exams scheduled, my gown reserved and a low-paying research contract lined-up. All these years of moaning, finding excuses to procrastinate and talking endlessly about frivolously trivial things has amounted to... one big giant let down.

Don't get me wrong, I am glad I'm finally out in the real world and away from the life-suck of academia but the new exciting world just seems to be more of the same, except honestly, so much scarier. We've been saving for a bit and trying to buy a house that isn't about to fall apart at the seams and would fit a family of three and a dog comfortably while allowing for days where we want to avoid each other as much as possible. Three you say? Well, yes. My biological clock is ticking and my husband isn't quite as cynical or existential as I am and well, if I want to shart out a wailing piglet, I should best do it now before my creaking knees won't be able to withstand the extra weight.

I find it hard after all these years of blathering about quality vs. quantity etc. to come to terms that when you're an adult with a house and a family to think about, spending $600 on a pair of shoes is hardly justifiable. I was looking at cribs and goddamned strollers the other day and wasted time reading some stupid mommy blog about buying a Bugaboo. For a brief moment, I pictured myself in a pair of cloppity No. 6 clogs, a $500 Laura Manoogian sweater and pushing a $1000 stroller with a baby swaddled from head to toe in Nico Nico. That's me! I'm a cool mom.

And then I came to the realization that: (a) the baby would outgrow that damn stroller in three years (b) no one fucking cares if I wear a Laura Manoogian sweater or a Banana Republic one except that I'll be devastated when I have spittle all over the front of a hand knitted alpaca sweater and I'll feel like a moron and  (c) mortgage, college fund, medical bills, hipster car payments, violin lessons, vaccinated trips to Disneyland etc. etc. would render me destitute and careworn.

Would a Bugaboo work better than a $150 Graco stroller from Target? I'm sure it would. Is it necessary? I'm sure if I'm still at the point where my source of validation is Instagram and this blog, it definitely would be. But my point is that in the grand scheme of things, as long as it works well enough and lasts a long time, it doesn't matter. I feel that I've tricked myself into believing all this while that "quality over quantity" crap is sustainable in any way for a regular human being. I mean, at some point in your life, maybe one starts realizing that having twenty Gap t-shirts that you can afford to have stained with applesauce might be more financially prudent than having one $125 Alexander Wang one.

I'm not sure where to draw the line. I'm not entirely sure if my mind hasn't already been so brainwashed by years and years of incessant marketing and being sucked into an Instagram/blog/La Garconne vortex of beautiful people in beautiful clothing with well-behaved children and supportive husbands who vacuum that has made me so blinded to the realities of life. It's hard to remember sometimes that for the six or seven L.A. bohemian mothers who remain at 90lbs after giving birth and living in million dollar mid-century homes, there are thousands and millions of other women dying in childbirth or struggling to balance finances with kids who have autism or military wives or just women whose lives are so much more than just brunching and talking about MNZ shoes.

I keep getting these comments or reading views about how no one wants to read about crappy things and that blogs are a means of escape - but isn't the whole point of a blog to be an online "diary" of sorts? At some point, blogs stopped becoming an interesting read about real life struggles and degenerated into rehashing the same glossy magazine material. I don't know about you, but for every two posts I read about buying some hipster crap, I want to read about the person behind the blog and why she buys what she does and what it means to her instead of every single post being a click bait or a giant advertisement.

It just seems as if the more I have to do or the more responsibilities I have, the less I find that I need to think about simplifying or buying less or consuming less because I have no time to actually buy anything. Suddenly there are a million of other things that seem so much more important for me to use my money on. I've come to the realization that all these purported things that make your life so much more enjoyable and luxurious like $80 candles (I hope you appreciate my ironically posted picture above) and handmade soaps and $40 tea in a can is an absolute waste of money. I don't know if I get that much more enjoyment out of a Cire Trudon candle than I would a farmer's market one. I don't know if Bellocq is selling me good tea or just the pretty tea canister. I don't know if Saipua soaps are worth the price when there's so many really great Etsy sellers making the exact same soap. My point is (and I realize I do a terrible job at getting to the point in any straightforward manner), I don't know if expensive or luxurious things and that whole buy quality over quantity schtick is valid anymore. I mean sure, I want to buy a bike that won't fall apart like a cartoon when I start pedaling, and I want some decent copper pots and pans, but all the seemingly unnecessary nonsense like cushions and shoes and bags and jewelry... it's all just so... wasteful.

Sometimes I look at houses on Instagram, and I think about how in the blue hell does anyone sit on such white couches with overpriced Kantha throw pillows. A blogger recently gave up her comfy couch for a cot. A COT! A fucking COT! A married woman whose husband is fine with this nonsense! It's like these people (women, always women) have their husbands' balls in a vice and makes them agree to never leave a video game lying around or disavow watching the TV and instead of drinking beer on Sundays, go out and plant hydrangeas while their wives brunch their lives and savings away. And the poor children, whose toys are always wooden and sterile and who are forced to live in this colorless void of black and white Pleasantville bullshit. For a while there, I sort of got sucked into this made-up world, and I think that realizing finally, that the more important thing to me instead of picturesque brass trivets and Japanese-turned bowls and white walls was the ability to not have to worry about money, to allow for some mismatched silverware and beer caps lying around, and to just fucking sink into a ratty old couch with my dog and my bazillion books and DVDs and tangles of wires from the TV and the iPad and the computer because it's goddamned exhausting (and frankly quite boring) trying to live the sterile, made up life.

I think some while ago, Moya left a comment about how after having a kid (beautiful little Severin), she couldn't justify spending hundreds of dollars on a dress. I've come to the realization that the more time I have to think about simplifying my life or whatever, the more I tended to shop to offset the items I have that I felt were mismatched or that didn't belong in my replica of a mental asylum. I think having responsibilities and a life that isn't completely based on false online pretense is probably the best way to avoid that whole consumerism black hole in the first place. Go read a book, go watch some trashy TV and think about your child's college fund. And if you don't ever want to have kids, go plan a holiday or save for retirement at 40. Anything is better than sitting around planning some bullshit capsule or rearranging your socks because at the end of the day, these things don't matter; what matters is not having to worry about anything.

P.S.: I'm not saying anything new here, but I just wanted to share some feelings that have been roiling for the last few months. I'm at my fifth month of not buying too much crap: I bought a Karina Bania art, some Heath Ceramics pieces during a Didriks sale, an Uzbek painting from Project Bly and some Simon Pearce glasses from Dara Artisans. I think I'll also be buying a new pair of shoes in the next few weeks. But yay for no random pick-me-up purchases!

ETA: My husband thinks it's very tiring to read meta blog posts about blogs, blogging and bloggers, so I'll shut up and not take things that bug me too seriously. I think he liked it better when I was raving about shoes... weird, no? Let me assure you that I'm really as insufferably whiny in real life as I am on the blog but there's also someone in making sure my stupidity & inadequacy isn't going to ruin my everyday functionality. Thank goodness for voices of reason.

Please buy one less item today and donate to the Red Cross' Nepalese Earthquake fund. All affiliate links revenue from Assembled Hazardly now till the end of the year will be donated to the Nepalese Earthquake fund. Thanks.

Resolutions and commitments

 University of Washington Drumheller Fountain (photo: Assembled Hazardly)

Over the new year, I read a really interesting opinion piece by Ruth Chang in the New York Times on resolutions and why most people see their motivation taper off after a month. Resolutions are different from commitments in that resolutions are temporarily motivational while commitments involve long-term obligations. After reading the article, I decided to commit myself to being someone that I know I can be without having to compromise certain ideals or inherent traits (like being lazy).

I decided to commit myself to:
1. Working out three times a week instead of resolving to lose x amount of pound
2. Spending more time reading a book instead of resolving to spend less time on the internet
3. Being a less pessimistic person, even if this environmental ethics class I'm taking right now is making me so depressed I want to slit my wrists
4. Visiting Instagram and some really unimportant sites only on Sunday

An introspective search made me realize that I could indeed be that person; it wouldn't change me terribly, it would take some hard work, but I could possibly do it. None of my commitments would make me a great person or even a good person but it would be a massive improvement.

Long time readers of the blog will know that Assembled Hazardly has always just been a place where I allow my inner pretentiousness and haphazard train of thought to spill forth, often times in a barrage of word vomit. I think I tend to overshare, which never bodes well in the blogging world. Slate recently wrote about 'The Year of Outrage' where it seems like everyone gets upset about everything these days regardless how things actually started or what the context was or if there really is any truth to the matter. It seems people cherry-pick facts, start a shit storm without thinking about the corresponding consequences and then just fade out - nothing actually happens, no actual justice is done, but it makes one feel good to shame another person or fly off the handle about something just because they can.

The Andrew Goldman story on Slate really struck a chord with me because like this Gawker article points out (albeit poorly), you can be an asshole without being a sexist - no doubt Goldman was an idiot, but he wasn't being sexist in the way that was misconstrued. The funny thing is that most people don't seem to even know the definition of the word they are using except that it's a great sound bite to lob at an opponent. If you call someone a Chinese and they're Chinese American, you're  a racist. If you're slightly jittery and skittish, you have bipolar. If you call a woman crazy, you're a sexist.  If you're President Obama, you're simultaneously a fascist and a socialist. All of which makes no sense.

I'm only pointing this out because as I sat through the aforementioned ethics class yesterday, I thought about what my own personal definition of being ethical, just and fair meant. When I say I want to shop ethically, what does it really mean? Sure, I want respect and living wages for factory workers even if that meant I had to pay more. In an ideal world, socialism would work but this world isn't ideal and thrives on capitalism and greed, so if my demand for workers rights forces companies to raise prices, I don't lose out - poorer people do. This whole green-washing thing seems to serve only one purpose, which is to make richer, liberal consumers feel better about themselves while shaming companies that make a huge profit, all in the name of helping the poor.

People get outraged when things like the Rana Plaza collapse happens or when they read stories about environmental exploitation and animal welfare. They tweet endlessly, call for change on some level because it makes them feel like they're doing something immediate but it all dissipates the next moment another sensationalist story comes along. Being outraged about it and wanting to do the "right" thing like boycotting factories and buying subsistence-farmed goods doesn't make the problem go away. The outrage is misplaced, because it fails to take into account that the entire economic and social justice system is flawed. It's also easier to be outraged than to actively seek a pragmatic, level-headed solution because outrage (as opposed to rage) is temporary emotion that provides an ephemeral sense of urgency. This excellent article by Nicki Cole summarizes my premise more succinctly.

Looking at my own consumption habits over the last year or two have led me to questions about the driver for my habits. I think they are two fold - one is because they give me a sense of being in control about the larger social and environmental impacts and two is because I like humblebragging and my sense of worth is tied very closely to my consumption habits (hence commitment #4 above). I buy a lot of eco-friendly products, I compost and recycle and I grow my a lot of my own vegetables all because they assuage my fears about the environment. I buy sustainably-farmed meat and organic vegetables because they make me feel better about eating an animal and not putting pollutants into the earth.  I buy "ethically-sourced" clothing, handmade artisan jewelry, natural beauty products and try to limit shopping at fast-fashion chains because I feel good thinking that my money is going directly into the pockets of workers and not corporations. Not that any of these things really matter in the grand scheme of things - it's a step in the right direction, but it still is consumerism after all.

I've come to the realization that this is flawed thinking, the world can't be saved by green consumerism (sorry, we've kind of boxed ourselves in) and any single kind of consumption - the very act of human existence - contributes to environmental and social injustice. The presence of the human race displaces justice for every other species on earth. The very fact that the latest IPCC report, put out by one of the most conservative climate panels in the world, is taking geoengineering into account is simultaneously frightening and depressing. Short of suffering from a complete existential meltdown and going bonkers (don't worry, I often sound more pessimistic that I really am hence New Year's commitment #3) the only thing I can think about doing on my end is to be diligent at influencing policies with my work and degree and actively seek to REALLY reduce consumption on every front - which I've admittedly done a horrifyingly bad job on.

So my fifth and final commitment for this year is to finish/wear what I own before purchasing something new. I can't tell myself to buy less because it's so arbitrary and it hasn't work thus far but I can (and should) commit to wearing out something to shreds or to finish a bottle of eye cream or to eat all my cereal or to drink all the vodka (note to self :-)) before making a new purchase which would hopefully cut down on my rate of consumption drastically without me having to resolve to anything temporary.

Final note: I know some of you have stumble here from GOMI, where I am known by The Road Less Jenna (I'm revealing my username as atonement for my snarkery) and am an occasional participant in the That Wife, Product Reviews and Gluten Free Girl threads. There is also a Minimalist Blogger thread that criticizes this blog, constructively but sometimes in fairly unsubstantiated ways, for having double standards. I encourage you to read through ALL the posts on this blog that have detailed my transition from an enthusiastic prep to a sweatpants-wearing, beer-bellied dogmother and to call me out in the comments which is opened to everyone and will never be censored unless it contains more than three swear words or involves embarrassing parts of the anatomy. I like learning from my mistakes and being more critical about my thought process and this blog facilitates open discussion. I don't moderate comments, and when I have to, I don't do it willingly but it's a feature on Blogger that all comments older than 3 weeks have to be held in queue for spam.