Visiting My Local Congressman

This past weekend, I attended an open house of my local congressman, Congressman Eric Swalwell. Swalwell had consolidated two offices into one more centrally located office and I guess they were doing a ribbon cutting for the new place.

It was not what I expected – but then quickly became what I expected. (After all, I used to be a board member of my local Chamber of Commerce.)

I got dressed up! (Ok, I mostly cleaned up a little.)

I was a bit nervous. For some reason, I thought I would get face time with the Congressman, like we would all file in and speak to him in his office. And I was nervous because I had no idea what to even say to the guy.

NOPE.

Basically, it was an Open House and the local Chamber of Commerce was there and brownie troops, and booths, and a local taco shop giving out free tacos. They were giving guided tours to his office and I went on that, too.

According to staff members, they had 1500 RSVPs and I’m not sure if everyone showed up, but they looked like a lot of people to me!

The crowd gathered around the stage.

I dressed up a bit because I wanted to be taken seriously on the off chance that I actually got to meet Congressman Swalwell.

I didn’t. But I did see him on stage and now no what he looks like (despite the fact that I voted for him).

BUT, I did learn things, and am thinking of becoming more involved in local politics because if this past election taught me anything, it is the importance of being involved.

Voting MATTERS. Annoying your local representatives matters. Squeaky wheels matter.

Congressman Eric Swalwell giving his speech.

So, how can I complain about things if I don’t call my reps (my phone phobia persists – sigh), email my Senator and Congressman, and most importantly, get to know the people in charge of my town and city and schools.

Thus, I am likely going to be more politically active (if even on the local level) this year and slowly scale up. After all, I JUST HAD A BABY.

So, what does an Open House look like?

I got in line to sign in, got a ticket for a free taco, and got in another line that I originally thought was to see Congressman Swalwell. It turned out to be the line for a guided tour of the office.

Me with Brian Vargas, staff member.

There was a little stage set up with a bunch of girls from a local Brownie troop having folks add their painted hand print to a UNITE banner. I am just paranoid enough to not add my hand print to a banner that might be seen to oppose Trump. (Not that they don’t have my info and prints from a bjillion other places.)

There were also a few info booths set up with comment cards and pamphlets. And of course, a table with free donuts, coffee, and water. I did not avail myself to any of them because I was in line and didn’t want to lose my spot.

Of course, by the time I was the front person in line, they stopped letting folks in because Swalwell was supposed to be coming soon and they didn’t want us to miss it. So, I stopped being anti-social and eavesdropped and then inserted myself into a conversation with the elderly folks behind me.

It pleased me to no end to see a really old white man in a bright yellow t-shirt proclaiming love, wearing a Black Lives Matter pin, and hearing him talk so knowledgeably about volunteering, etc. It made me happy.

The crowd was diverse – so diverse, I even saw a Trump hat. But the most important hat I saw was the Metallica one. The man knows what’s important.

Finally, the Veteran’s Colorguard presented colors, we sang the National Anthem, said the Pledge of Allegiance, and Congressman Swalwell said a quick speech (with some heckling from Trump supporters) after the ribbon cutting.

Some time during the speech, Guavarama and her family showed up and we hung out and then went on the office tour together.

District map and Congressman Swalwell’s office.

I mean, nothing special about the office tour, but it was still cool to see the offices (your typical small office environment), see the people who answer phones and represent constituents, and get a tiny idea of what Swalwell (or any Congressperson) and their staff do.

I didn’t realize they had staff to advocate for immigrants, veterans, police officers, elderly folks having problems with social security, etc. Who knew?

I am going to see if I can get my kids in to tour their offices with some of my homeschool friends. Even though my children have no idea about what this means, I suppose it’s a good time to educate them. (I recently told them about our POTUS as a bad man. Hey, they’re my kids. I am allowed to tell them the truth.)

Anyhow, after the tour, I was tired and wanted to go write and wasn’t sure if we would see the Congressman in person so we left.

As a side note, I didn’t realize folks thought he was eye candy. To me, he looks like a mashup of Dennis Quaid, Timothy Olyphant, and Michael C. Hall. He’s a good looking fellow, but not my cup of tea.

Also? I ELECTED HIM TO CONGRESS NOT TO A GIRLIE MAG.

But hey, I suppose if people comment on female Congresspersons and Senators and Presidential nominees, we can comment on the mens.

Anyhow, turns out, it wasn’t a big deal at all! I’m glad I went and might go to more in the future.

Have you ever met your local congressperson? What did you talk to them about? Tell me in the comments.

Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Life

A few weeks ago, I posted on how I almost spent an additional thirty years of our lives while on a routine walk to my kids’ preschool and our eventual decision to be content with our current home. (Yes, yes. No need to remind me of our first world problems. And not only that, our 1% problems.)

While I ultimately agree with our decision, there is nothing like catching a glimpse of what your life could be like (and only the good parts, of course) to make your current life seem utterly unsatisfying. More than unsatisfying. Horrible. Constraining. Bereft.

Ah… nothing like class privilege early in the morning.

I am an ungrateful ass. I know this. And yet, when I go over to people’s houses and see their awesome four car tandem garages (I didn’t even know this was possible!!!), their large square footage, or whatever else I see and want inside my greedy little heart, I cannot help but sigh and regret not getting the house.

Whenever my house is a disaster of strewn toys, pillows, crafts, junk mail, and life detritus, my heart gets all squelchy and all I can think of is that in the new house, I would have plenty of space for all our junk. In our new house, I would have the perfect life and be the perfect wife and perfect mother.

Is this how affairs start?

I feel like I’m having an affair with another house.

I mean, sure, double the square footage with all that lovely, empty space. All young, and sexy with nary a child in sight. I mean, it’s being shown to potential buyers for Pete’s sake. Of course all its best features are on display!

But once I leave my old house and actually live in a new house, it’s not like all my old problems won’t follow me there. I am sure to acquire more stuff and run out of space to put things. I will have double the square footage to vacuum and bathrooms to clean and rooms to pick up after and get lividly angry about. I will have to spend more money buying more furniture and customizing the house to my liking.

And not only that, my REAL problem isn’t with my current house. It’s with myself. And sadly, moving into a fancy new house will not fix me. It will mask the real problem for awhile (maybe years, if I’m lucky), and after the shine has worn off, the increased mortgage becoming a realer and heavier burden, I will pine after my old house, so perfect and lovely with the haze of sentimental memory.

I think there’s a good reason why Thou Shall Not Covet is one of the Ten Commandments.

I used to think it was such a stupid, bullshit commandment. The only use for it being a shout out in The Silence of the Lambs. But now, now I realize that coveting is a rotting seed of discontent, whispering lies and fantasies into our treacherous hearts.

If only I had so-and-so’s life/job/car/house/children/husband/wife. My life would be so much better.

It’s no secret that I’ve been having a rough go of it lately. My house, my kids, my very existence seem to conspire against me. I am floundering, wrapped up in a bundle of seething frustration, anger, and bitterness. In the midst of all this, I fantasize that if I remodel my house, or trade up for a bigger one, had older children, had another baby, had more free time, ate better, took better care of myself, whatever – that if only I did such things, my life would be drastically improved.

It’s not true.

The things I covet will not make me feel better. The things I covet will only paper over the gaping chasm in my heart, its breadth and width startling me as its edges yawn and sag open.

(Don’t worry, friends. I am getting help. I have the immense privilege of a supportive spouse, health insurance, time, and money so that I can do so.) 

I can only hope to respond in one of two ways to the things I covet:

1) Follow my own advice and if I want something, to shut up and go get it.

2) Use them as a canary in a coal mine and find the root cause of my discontent. And then do something about it. (Be it therapy, life changes, or better living through chemistry.)

Alright, friends. Having a hard time ending the post as usual. Be well.

De-accumulating Pains

So we had our first multi-family garage sale this past Saturday and it was an okay success. I mean, we got some money for some of our stuff. So that’s good. But really, it was a lot of work for little return. It will likely be a long time before I do one on our own again.

Here then are some thoughts I had about the process:

1) If your neighborhood ever has neighborhood garage sales where someone else (usually a realtor) does all the advertising, signage, and organizing, do that instead. Prepping and advertising a garage sale is a real pain in the ass. Plus, you will likely have a lot more foot traffic.

2) Don’t wait until the night before to price your stuff and make signs. That just means you will pull an all-nighter (I did) and ensures you will take all of Sunday to recover. (Hapa Papa is a saint.) I know this is obvious and we all knew it going in and yet we STILL procrastinated. So painful.

3) Don’t price your stuff too high. We fell into this trap thinking people would haggle. People did not. A lot of people just walked away. Some money is still better than no money.

4) Good signage is KEY! We had very good signs. (I am biased since they took me several hours.) Letter sizing should be 3-5inches tall in dark, thick ink. Ours were on bright poster board and I included huge arrows.

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I was super anal retentive and drew down lines so the letters would be the same size. Also, I first wrote in pencil so I wouldn’t have one of these situations:

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On the front, I also numbered each sign and had it correspond to a number on a map that detailed each intersection and direction the arrow should be pointing. The back of each sign also had that same number as well as the cross streets and a small map giving the approximate location.

I know. Perhaps I spent too long on the signs. But without good signage, how can people find your house? My crowning achievement was multiple compliments on the signage. It’s the little things, people.

5) Make a pact with your friends (or yourself) to immediately donate your leftover garage sale items. Don’t bring them back to your house. You will feel better.

6) Have a cooler with drinks and maybe some snacks on the side. People will buy them. We didn’t intend to sell food and drinks, but we did anyway.

7) Be prepared to possibly have more stuff at your house than you started with. Especially if your house is where the garage sale is held. That’s because some big pieces or random flotsam will be left at your house until people have time to pick it up. Also, you will inevitably swap stuff with your friends.

8) Clothes aren’t usually a big seller. I say next time, just donate it first.

9) Have lower expectations about how much money you will make. This is NOT Clean Sweep. That being said, our combined loot was around $4-500. Some folks made more than others.

If you have the time and energy, perhaps multi-day sales are a way to go. But in general, I don’t think the ROI is there.

10) Combine garage sales with your friends. You’ll have a lot more loot and a lot more fun. Even if you don’t sell much, you are at least still hanging out with your friends.

Look at all our loot:

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11) At the cashier, you should have at least two people. One person to tally the total of the sale. One person to tally how much goes to each person. To cut down on adding, I made a grid with our names and various prices. That way, I could just mark off a price versus add for a person. In other words, if Fleur had three items purchased, one at $0.25, one at $1, and one at $10, I would make a hash at $0.25, $1, and at $10 versus adding up $11.25.

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Ok. That’s all I could come up with. Those of you with more experience, let me know what I missed.