Monday, December 27, 2010

the great blizzard

So, Christmas is over.  I managed to get all the gifts I needed, although it involved shopping on the morning of Christmas Eve.  My parents and Kathy's mother got along great (we knew they would).  We didn't have the kids yesterday, so we planned to take all the parents into New York City to do Christmasy things like see the tree in Rockefeller Center and have a drink in the Waldorf's bar. 

When we woke up yesterday, Kathy checked the weather, and was over at the computer cracking up.  "It says 'BLIZZARD'!"  "Blizzard?" I replied, "That's ridiculous."  We got our new running pants and shirts on, and went for a run.  There were flurries coming down.  We got home, showered, ate lunch, and got ready to go into the city.  "If it's going to snow, maybe we should take the train," Kathy suggested.  So we did.  "It's really coming down," my mom observed.  Undeterred, we put on our coats.  "Do you want a hat?" I asked my dad.  "Nah," he answered.  "It's not snowing that hard."

When we arrived in Grand Central, the people coming in from outside were covered in snow.  "They must have walked a long way to have that much snow on them," I thought.   We shopped, had a coffee in Grand Central, and plotted our course through the city.  When we emerged from the subway at 51st and Lex to walk to the Waldorf for our happy hour drink in the lobby bar, Kathy said, "This snow is great!  It's so Christmasy and romantic!"  Within a half a block, my mom said, "I'm freezing."  It was still snowing, and the wind was blowing.  We had our drink at the Waldorf and headed to Rockefeller Center to see the tree.  We were all covered in snow by the time we got there.  My dad's hair was covered in ice.  Our faces were wet and red.  Our pants were soaked through.  "Take a picture of the tree!" my mom exclaimed.  My dad, grumbling, pulled out his iPhone, removed his gloves, and snapped a picture of the tree.  We barely made it to the subway.  We were soaked and frozen.  My dad's hair was melting into his eyes.  "What a great adventure!" Kathy's mom said.

We went to the Soho Grand, and had another drink in their lobby.  It was kind of a hotel-lobby-bar-crawl.  When we were ready to go to dinner, Kathy said, "Maybe we should take cabs; walking to the subway seems kind of miserable."  My mom was in the bathroom, so I headed down to get in the first cab with Kathy's mom, and Kathy said she would follow with my parents.  After one block, our cab got stuck in the snow.  Our cab driver, who seemed unfamiliar with the frozen white stuff falling from the sky, tried to just push the accelerator.  The wheels spun, and the meter ticked up.  He tried, unsuccessfully, to reverse.  The wheels spun, and the meter ticked up.  When it hit $7.10 after going less than 2 blocks, I said, "Uh, sir, I think you might need a tow truck."  He replied, "You should get out."  That's the thing about New Yorkers, they are direct.  We got out, and saw Kathy and my parents drive by us.  Fortunately, we got an SUV cab, and made it to the restaurant.  But my parents and Kathy weren't there yet.  When they finally arrived 15 minutes later, they were, again, soaked and frozen.  "What happened?" I asked.  My mom could not answer because her face was frozen.  So Kathy said, "Our cab driver had another fare, so he made us get out 3 blocks away and walk here!" 

After dinner, we walked to the subway, made it to Grand Central, and took the train back to the suburbs.  That's when the real fun started.  The car was buried under about 20 inches of snow, and the parking lot to the train station had not been plowed.  After a half hour of Kathy, my dad, and me digging the car out and pushing it, a random guy stopped and helped.  The snow was blowing horizontally, and my shoes were untied. My pants were crusted with snow up the middle of my thighs.  I had been digging in my new leather gloves that Kathy's mom gave me for Christmas.  The car slipped and slid home, and we took our shoes and snowy clothes off.  I hadn't noticed, but my dad had been taking pictures with that iPhone the whole night.  We stood in the kitchen in our slippers and looked at them, cracking up.  He had pictures of our frozen mothers, pictures of that damn Rockefeller tree, pictures of Kathy and me laughing with almost our entire faces covered by scarves and hoods and hats. 

Our hotel bar crawl would have been fun in nice weather.  But it was really excellent doing it in the great blizzard.  And the best part is that the blizzard continued through the night, and there is no way I am making it into the office today.  It's nice having a job that has snow days.  Working from home might still be working, but at least you're at home!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the reason for the season

Yesterday, I was frantic all day at work (which is why I did not post).  I was wrapping up a hundred little details so I wouldn't be bothered over the holiday.  I was arranging for a delivery to a partner's home tomorrow, since the firm's mailroom is closed and apparently he planned on reviewing a document over the weekend (!).  I was doing all the small projects I could so that I could work from home today and not have to carry home a huge stack of paper.  After work, I had errands to run, gifts to pick up, etc. 

And somewhere about mid-day, someone I went to high school posted a facebook status along the lines of "If you are stressed out about Christmas, you're missing the whole point of the glorious holiday season!"  Um, excuse me, but eff you. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

love shack, part II

Last night, I was putting photos into the photo album.  I don't know why this was an urgent holiday task, but it suddenly felt like it was, so while Kathy sat there writing out the last of our holiday cards, I put pictures in the album.  I like printed out photos, and I like them arranged in books, rather than just in shoeboxes.  I think they're so much easier for people to look at that way.

The majority of the pictures that I was putting into the album last night were pictures from this past summer, and the majority of those were pictures from our Fire Island "house."  As you will recall, we can't really afford it if I quit working at the firm.  Even if I don't quit right away, with quitting on the horizon, there are probably a million smarter things to do with the money.  But still.

Kathy mentioned when I brought up the idea of letting go of the house how much the kids enjoyed it.  It's true, they did.  Looking back at the pictures, we had so much fun!  There are pictures of the things that I remember doing as a kid, when I visited my grandma's house on Saginaw Bay.  Like playing Uncle Wiggily and having "happy time" (aka happy hour, through the filter of a 9 year old brain).  Or exploring the beach and imagining drift wood is a sunken pirate ship.  I do think that is one of the best things about having kids in your life -- it makes you remember your own childhood, and all of it's adventures, misery, joy, and wonder.

Monday, December 20, 2010


(via here)

This weekend, we went to three parties.  One of them was at our house.  We had a holiday party Saturday night, my sister's birthday party Saturday night, and hosted some friends for the Steelers/Jets game on Sunday.  But let me back up.

As I have said, one of the biggest issues I have with life in general, and this holiday season in particular, is how busy I am and how I never have time for myself.  A wise friend told Kathy recently, "Try to give Erin a couple of hours to herself over the weekend."  So Kathy said to me, "You know, you haven't been to yoga in a while.  Why don't you go on Saturday."  I woke up Saturday, and went. 

Then I came home, and Kathy and I ran errands, then it was immediately time to go to the mall to do Christmas shopping.  I totally melted down.  Kathy very nicely took the kids and went to the mall with her mom and the kids, and I stayed home and napped, then wrote Christmas cards.  It was very nice.  Then it was dinner time, and Kathy asked if I wanted chicken burgers or beef burgers, and would I mind going to the store to get whichever I wanted?  And I melted down again.  Yikes.  Something was so clearly not right. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

the Hotel California

File:California Hotel (Oakland, CA).JPG
You can check out any time you like.  But you can never leave.  Photo via Wikipedia.

I think every Biglaw associate talks about quitting.  Kind of a lot.  But doesn't it seem like not that many of us actually do it?  I have a friend who is in her 6th year.  She has been talking about quitting for all of the 3 years I have known her.  I have another friend that I went to law school with, who has been talking about quitting for at least the last year, maybe longer.  And as you know, I have also been saying that I am going to quit.  So, why are we all still here?

I think the golden handcuffs are part of it, but not the whole picture. There's also the busy-slow-busy-slow problem, where you either don't have the time to look for a new job, or you don't have the motivation.  But I think it goes deeper than that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

the sabbath

(via Sabino)

In my view, there are two kinds of tired.  The first one is the kind you are from lack of sleep.  New parents and law firm associates are familiar with this kind.  Sometimes, when I have been working late several nights in a row, I wake up and cry because I'm so tired.  Then I think, "When is the next time I can sleep?"  If it's more than a day away, I cry again.  I know, sad. 

The second kind of tired is further from the surface.  It's the kind of tired you are when you have no time to relax.  Kathy once said it's like you have a raw nerve inside your brain, and everyone you interact with keeps rubbing that one exposed nerve.  (Actually, now that I think of it, I'm sure new parents have this kind of tired too.)  Even if you get enough sleep on a raw-numbers basis, this kind of tired wears you down. 

A pigeon shooting day

Some days start out like this:

(Come on now, Betty Draper from Mad Men. 
If you don't know that, you need to get the first season from Netflix.)

And some days start out like this:

Betty Draper shooting pigeons.

Today was one of those pigeon shooting days for me.  The car wouldn't start.  I was so rattled I drove around a "Do not enter" sign and got pulled over.  I was so rattled by that, that I left my wallet in my car and my friend who owns the coffee shop had to give me my coffee for free.  And that was all before 8:30 a.m.  All I am saying is that it's a good thing I'm too liberal to own a gun.  Because this would have been me.  Shooting at pigeons.  For lack of a better enemy.

Don't fuck with Betty

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the house across the street

It's time to talk about the house across the street.  It was built in 1890, and is an absolute monstrosity.  I'm talking thick red shag carpeting covering the original wood floors, asbestos, a refrigerator weirdly placed in the middle of the kitchen, an entirely dark brown exterior.  In fact, it looks like this:

And I want to buy it SO BADLY.  I should not give it any publicity, because now you will want to scoop it up and buy it out from under me, won't you?  It needs so much work, which I would love to do.  It's got 6 bedrooms, so when Kathy and I have more kids (yup, more kids) we'll have enough room for all of us.  We could lovingly redo each and every room.  I could take classes on Saturday mornings to learn to fix the wiring and plumbing myself.  It appeals to me so much.  This is probably my parents' fault, as they were big do-it-yourself-ers.  Whatever, thanks mom and dad.  It's been empty for years, and has been on the market for ages.  I think this means it is meant to be.  I would rip all that ivy off the front and paint it a lighter color so it's not so dark and imposing and unfriendly.  We would fill it with love.  All this, and we would still get to be neighbors with our favorite neighbor, who currently lives across the street from us, but who would live next door to us if we moved in here.  I think about it all the time! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

love shack

(what I would be giving up)

For the most part, when I think about changing careers, I have talked about things like regret if I make the wrong choice, concern about dissatisfaction even if I change, ensuring that my new career lines up with my values, and the stress caused by a lack of work-life balance.  All of these intangible things are important.  But there is one big, fat, tangible pink elephant in the room.  Money. 

The salaries of junior associates at big New York law firms is public information.  If you're a halfway decent googler, you can find out roughly what I make each year.  I've narrowed my alternative career path options down to a select few, and if you just look in terms of raw numbers, it represents about a 73% pay cut.  SEVENTY-THREE PERCENT.  That means that if I move to the career I'm contemplating, I will make about 27% of what I am making now.  To be honest, even when I realized that, I thought, meh.  So what?  I've lived on less, rather happily.  I would have time to do the things I want to do.  You can't put a price on happiness.  Etc.  I convinced myself that, despite my enormous load of law school debt, I was not, in fact, wearing the golden handcuffs you hear so much about in law school.

Today, I was faced for the first time with the hard truth that if I wanted to quit my job on the timeline I am contemplating, and put into action some of the plans that Kathy and I have been making, I would have to give something up.  Something big, that I enjoy a lot, but which I can only afford on my lawyer salary.  Worse yet, it's not just me that has to give it up.  It's the whole family, Kathy and the kids too.  I have to ask the people that I love to make a sacrifice of something that they really like, so that I can have the potential (not the guarantee, just the potential) to be happier. 

This thing is the vacation house that we rent on Fire Island each summer.  I use the term "house" loosely.  It's actually a converted garage.  I affectionately call it a shack.  But it's been our shack for the last two summers, and we all love it.  And if I quit my job, we really can't afford it anymore.

Last week I alluded to a book by Joe Dominguez and V. Robin called Your Money or Your Life.  In this book, the very smart authors point out that you don't actually make what you think you do at your job.  Actually, you have to deduct a bunch of expenses from your salary, which represent things that you wouldn't need to spend money on if it wasn't for your job.  Then, you have to add together the hours you actually work, plus the hours that you spend doing work-related things. Like commuting.  Or checking your blackberry.  As we near the end of the year, and I looked at my billable hours, I am reminded of all the nonbillable stuff that I do.  So I decided to do a little experiment. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


Last night, Kathy and I talked about me leaving the law firm.  We have talked about this before, but last night's conversation felt a little different, a little more serious.  Today, after a string of absolutely horrible workdays, I am having a good day at work.  Enjoying it, even.  And because I'm me, it has got me thinking, "WHAT IF I LEAVE AND THEN REGRET IT?"  So the question I have is this:  Am I having a good day at work because I finally decided, deep down, to leave the firm, or does the good day mean I should not leave the firm after all?  Because I am from outside of Detroit, this makes me think of the Red Wings.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

the cold

I have both kinds of cold.  It is FREEZING outside today.  And also I have a completely stuffy head.  Both of these things make me really homesick for my time in the Bay area. 

It's so cold I wore Kathy's coat today, since I couldn't wear my ski jacket to a meeting of an industry group I had to go to for work, and after three winters in New York, I still do not have an appropriate coat.  When it's like this, I always find myself thinking, "Come on!  50 degrees and foggy in the middle of August isn't so bad, is it?!"  There are things I like about winter.  Like skiing, and getting to stay home from work for snow days.  But when it's not snowy, and the city is crowded with tourists sauntering down the street without a care in the world (and blocking my way!), and I have to walk to work because there are no cabs, I just want to scream I get so cold.  And.

-.--.-Variations of the common cold virus.
(look at these cold germs.  via here.)

I have a head cold.  That means no getting up and going running, boxes and boxes of Kleenex, and embarrassingly blowing my nose in the aforementioned industry group meeting.  And that horrible red chapped nose thing.  I never got colds when I lived in California.  I do not think it is because they are any less common, I just think my immune system was a lot stronger.  Stress and lack of sleep tend to wear it down a bit.  I have gotten sick so many times in the last 3 years since leaving California that I can't believe it.  When I lived in California, my yoga teacher had a policy that if you had so much as a sniffle, you should stay home, and avoid spreading your germs all over the props.  I missed one class because of sickness the whole 3 years I lived there.  For real, one class!  I have had about 7 colds per year since moving to New York and joining this rat race.  Yikes. 

And so, what is the solution to this?  I haven't the faintest idea.  It's not like I can move back to Berkeley and go back to law school.  Although that does sound fun. Perhaps some Emergen-C is in order.  And a nap?  Not likely, but sounding so very appealing.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

the winter of my discontent

(via MSNBC's photo blog.)

A while ago, the NYT published this article about 20-somethings, and how none of us know what the hell we are doing with our lives, other than moving back in with our parents.  When I was studying for the bar and going through my divorce, I did just that.  I think this article resonated with me, because it so accurately described what me and many of my friends are going through. 

This article describes the 20s as a period of "identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic [reasearchers call] 'a sense of possibilities.'"  Perhaps.  But this "sense of possibilities" has a darker side too.  I, and my sister, and others I know, might call it "fear."  In the article, the researchers describe feelings of "dread, frustration, uncertainty, a sense of not quite understanding the rules of the game. More than positive or negative feelings, what [researchers] heard most often was ambivalence."  As we struggle with our identities, trying to figure out what to do with our lives, many of us are hopeful, but we are also afraid.  I know that I am.  Afraid of getting stuck in something I don't like, but also afraid of never finding something I do.  Or growing tired of something that once energized me.  I feel like every week I have a new career that I want to embark on.  I'm not lazy.  It's not that I don't want to do anything.  It's that I want to do everything.  Maybe this is the "sense of possibilities."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The chain goes like this:  A friend mentions Ani Difranco, circa 1996 (Untouchable Face, specifically).  I listen to the whole album (Dilate, specifically).  I hear the song Napoleon.  It reminds me of two things:

(1) A time when I was in college, and went over to visit a friend (no cell phones, people, we used to just stop by without warning).  She was listening to Napoleon so loudly that she couldn't hear me pounding on her door and I had to just turn around and go home.

(2) How I used to actually want to do things with my life.  Big things.  Bigger-than-me things.  And now I just make a lot of money.  And am totally unfulfilled and used up by the institution that I've chosen as my employer, with no time or energy left for the bigger-than-me things I used to want to do.  All I can do is write checks.  And how dare I complain about it to my college friends, some of whom are barely making ends meet, but doing something bigger than themselves.

I went to law school with a dream.  I thought it would be a way for me to do something that I am passionate about (work for LBGT rights) as my career.  I shopped and chose a law school with a strong public interest program (BERKELEY, for god's sake, it doesn't get more activisty than that).  I interned at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (the other HRC).  Then I interned at another Bay-area LGBT rights organization.  Then, I interned for BigLaw.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December Sundays

(photo via this blog.)

Yesterday Kathy and I put up Christmas lights across the front of our house.  This required 2 trips to Home Depot, 2 different ladders (the first one was 16 feet but wasn't tall enough!), 7 hours, 200 LED bulbs, and 1 very large bruise on my arm where we dropped the ladder on me.  But our house is looking good.  Last night we went to a holiday party, and today we got up and went to the Palisades mall, a four-story shrine to commerce in Nyack, New York, which might as well be in New Jersey.  We got lots of Christmas shopping done, and I even got myself a ski jacket -- my first coat that is actually warm, my third winter in New York.  After the mall trip, we put the Christmas lights on the bushes and had a classic Sunday dinner of roast beef, potatoes, and veggies with the kids.  Doesn't that sound lovely?  It was. 

Enter, Sunday Night Feeling.

Friday, December 3, 2010

ms. popularity

See full size image
I joined twitter about 20 minutes ago.  So far I already have two followers.  Both of them want to skype me and/or have sex with me.  And assume I am a guy.

just like a picture print by Currier and Ives. really.

Christmas Snow

  (Picture by Currier and IvesWho apparently believe in child labor. 
Our kids would never go just cut Christmas trees down by themselves.)

Kathy and I went to visit her family in California for Thanksgiving.  On the way there, we were both so excited to see everyone, and go to her uncle's almond farm in the central valley for the turkey eating part.  We also had plans to hang out with our friends in Berkeley Saturday night, go into San Francisco on Sunday, before flying home Monday.  As an ex-East Bayer, I was super excited to be on my old stomping ground with my old friends (as in they were my friends when I lived in the Bay area, not that they are old).  The kids were excited to see grandma.  But then, the thing that always happens, happened.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

the yellow zone

(From Graph Jam.  Warning: if you go to this website you may never leave.)

That's all I'm saying.