Friday, September 30, 2011

anchors aweigh

Six months into joblessness, one thing I'm struck by is how thoroughly our identities are wrapped up in what we do for work.  It's like our careers (whether it be homemaker, freelancer, corporate lawyer, or otherwise) are, at our core, who we are.  Being a (practicing) lawyer gave me confidence in other areas of my life in ways I didn't recognize.  It gave me something to complain talk about at parties.  It gave me something to do during the day, so that I didn't have to structure my days, weeks, and months for myself.  Being a lawyer, and a pretty successful one, for someone three years out of law school, gave me a core feeling of competence as I moved through the world.  It also gave me a sense of pride, to be able to say that I was a lawyer -- I had obviously worked hard through law school and bar studying, and had passed the exam.  It gave me a sense that I had made it.  All of this anchored me in the world in a way I didn't recognize. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

no wine, no erin

Wine Taste

Remember this post, where I talked about how shy I got at my horseback riding lessons, and how it actually makes me a worse rider?  And how I wanted to go to the Thursday night group lesson/wine drinking?  Well, I had planned on attending this week, which gave rise to this email exchange:

From: Equestrian Center
To: Erin

SUBJ: Thursday Lesson

Due to school closures/religious observances we are moving lessons up.

The Thursday 6:30pm lesson will be at 3:30pm
Please let me know if you can/can not make it.

Thank You.
From: Erin
To: Kathy
FWD: Thursday Lesson
I think I am going to say I have a conflict and go next week.  The point was more the hanging out, less the extra lesson, right?  No one is going to be drinking wine at 4 in the afternoon.
From: Kathy
To: Erin
RE: FWD: Thursday Lesson
From: Erin
To: Equestrian Center

RE:  Thursday Lesson

I have a conflict at 3:30 but I will come the next week -- Oct 6 -- at 6:30. Thanks!

From: Erin
To: Kathy
RE: FWD: Thursday Lesson
That's right!  NO WINE NO ERIN.  It's supposed to be FUN, right??

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

the simplest method

I originally wrote this post as a detailed account of how I waterproofed the deck.  Then, I realized that waterproofing a deck is kind of boring.  Really, what I had to say boiled down to one point.

(our deck before cleaning and waterproofing - can you tell where the doormat was?)

Since I had never used a waterproofing product before, I read the directions in the store to make sure I had all the equipment I would need. The "application" instructions say: "Apply by brush, roller, dipping, or sprayer. A garden 'pump-up' style sprayer is the simplest method." Alright then. I dutifully bought a pump-up style garden sprayer.  I was all for the simplest method.

 (the deck scrubbed clean)

After I had cleaned the deck, I was ready to spray the water sealer on the deck with my pump-up style garden sprayer.  I put the sprayer together, filled it up, and pumped.  I set it to spray a "fine mist," but all that came out was a thick stream, which actually mostly landed on an azalea, rather than on the deck.  I took the sprayer apart, put it back together, and went to it.  Still, thick stream.  When I tried to turn the nozzle clockwise to get a finer mist, it fell off.  When I turned it the other direction, it still projected a thick stream, but just a more forceful and less accurate thick stream.  Which hit the window of the house, and had to be removed with paint thinner.  I took the sprayer apart again, and it leaked waterproofer all over the deck, so I had to sort of swish that around and rub it in, but there was still a big oily patch (fortunately, underneath where our grill goes).  This went on and on, until I finally gave up.  I got a cheap paint brush and an old dishrag.  I painted it on, and wiped it off -- similar to how you would apply stain to wood.  I used half the amount of water sealer, and it took half the time. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

i finally want a job

Okay.  It's finally happened.  Nearly six months, to the day, from the time I quit my Biglaw job, I WANT A JOB.  I love what I do at home.  I love my garden, and keeping the house ticking, etc, etc.  But it's time to go back to work again.  This weekend I actually spent a period of time playing something on, which I'm pretty sure is directed at children.

Castle Defense Game

(specifically, this castle defense game)

I was bored, for the first time in ages.  My mind was bored.  So, I think, it's time to get me a job.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

farmers market

I've been trying to make my small Westchester town home, and one thing that helps with that is to get involved in all that the community has to offer.  This week, I visited the farmers market in the next town over -- in the pouring rain.  I was worried it would be closed or cancelled, but although the vendors seemed a little sparse, there it was.  I had to choose in a hurry, because I was getting soaked, so I didn't comparison shop or anything like that.  I just grabbed what looked good. 

Here's what $10 got me (still shiny from the rain):

That is:  a bunch of celery, 4 big carrots, a basket of onions, 2 apples, 2 tomatoes, a head of garlic, and a pepper.  The best bargain was that pepper, at just $.18, while the 2 tomatoes were probably the worst deal, at $2.70 (more than all 8 onions).

I'll definitely be back next week - hopefully with drier shopping conditions.

Friday, September 23, 2011

my investment portfolio, which can survive any crash

From the time I was 18 until I turned 28, I had 13 different addresses.  Finally, I have just the one, which I intend to keep for the foreseeable future. 

When I signed the two-year lease for our Fire Island house shack, which just expired, I smiled at Kathy and noted that it was the longest I had "lived" in one place, since moving out of my parents' house at 18.  Now I live here with Kathy and the kids, in a house she owns (until we redo the title, at which point I will also own it, hooray!).  Home ownership, combined with the joy I have found in trying not to kill plants in our garden, has given me the lovely gift of a feeling of permanence, in a good way.  I always thought such permanence would feel like being tied down.  Imagine my surprise that it, instead, feels like being set free.  Free to plan, free to make changes, free to hang on to the things that are working, while discarding the things that aren't.

(a fading hydrangea that's mine, year after year)

Yesterday afternoon, I bought heads of garlic online to bust apart and plant the largest cloves, in the hopes that each one will grow into a full head next summer -- if I don't kill them. It has gotten me thinking about all of the little investments I have made, knowing that I'm not going anywhere. Like any good portfolio, some are short-term investments (expecting payoffs in the spring or summer of next year) and some are long-term investments (which could take many years to mature):

Thursday, September 22, 2011

blogging for your worst enemy

One of the drawbacks of a blog being public is that, until you are ready to share something with your enemies, you don't want to put it on your blog.  Even if your enemies aren't in the habit of regularly reading your blog, rest assured, the time that you post something you don't want them to know, they will discover your blog and read it.  Didn't we all learn that with livejournal in 2001?  Right.  That's why I never had a livejournal.  I don't think I can even count the number of fights amongst friends that were described to me beginning with, "Well, she put on her livejournal that I..." I guess now it's what people post on facebook?  Anyway, the internet is public.  So my approach to blogging is that I try to imagine the person I would least want reading what I write.  Then I pretend they are reading it.  And I try to edit out anything I wouldn't want them to know.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

the savage beast

Today, I had a very disappointing day.  After allowing myself to wallow for a little bit (McDonald's french fries, finishing my book) I have decided to take charge.

I am listening to my entire Ani Difranco library on shuffle, as loud as possible.

Isn't that what anyone else would do?  If a little Shameless and Fuel don't make you feel better, what will?  It has also filled me with an uncontrollable urge to organize and clean things. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Today, I had a new teacher for my riding lessons.  The problem with this is that I felt really, really horribly shy in front of my new teacher.  When I feel shy, I want to curl into a ball.  When you curl into a ball, you can't control your horse.  When you can't control your horse, it's embarrassing.  When you get embarrassed, you want to curl into an even tinier ball.  Repeat. 

Horses are like people, in that if you ask them to do something in a meek, shy little voice filled with uncertainty, they just do whatever the hell they feel like doing at the time.  If you ask them to do something assertively, they do it.  Because I was so uncomfortable and uncertain, it was impossible to keep my back straight and actually ride the horse today.  So I basically regressed to the skill level of my first ever riding lesson.  Meanwhile I knew that all I had to do was have some confidence, and he would listen to me.  But as it was, he was in charge.  Not me.  Which made me keep thinking, "I bet they wonder what I am even doing here."  Which, in turn, further decreased my confidence and made me ride even worse.  Also, I lost my balance at one point and landed on the pommel in a really uncomfortable way, if you catch my drift.  So I have a nice painful reminder of how horribly I rode today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

birthday boy

Today, C turned 6.  This is a big milestone for me because, out of all the kids, I am most parental for C.  Not to say my relationships with the girls aren't important -- obviously they are -- but C does not remember his life before I was in it.  He is the only one of the kids who calls me Mommy (although I rarely respond to it because I am always confused and think he's talking to Kathy).  I remember the days of C in diapers and drinking out of a bottle.

And now, he's 6 years old.  He has no front teeth, and has opinions about what he likes to wear (preferably shirts with numbers on them -- no collars -- and shoes that light up).  He likes to walk up to the school with his friends, and has to be reminded to hug us goodbye. 

One of his favorite pastimes is spying on A.  To that end, he got a secret message pen and a lie detector kit from his sisters.  Nice of A to play along, since she is most often the victim of his secret missions.  He also got a skateboard from the family, a remote-control car that drives up walls (from me and Kathy), Battleship from my parents and a Steelers jersey and jacket from Kathy's mom.  Not a bad haul for 6 years old.  Oh right, and Kathy's mom sent him 6 dollars, so he now believes he is rich.

A few nights ago, C came downstairs with a bad dream.  Kathy snored through it, but I woke up.  He crawled in, curled up in my armpit, and was fast asleep in minutes.  After my arm fell asleep, I carried him back up to bed.  As I tucked him in, he woke up a little bit, and said in a groggy voice, "Thank you, Ewin.  Love you," then was back to sleep.  I'll be sad when the speech therapy at school changes the way he says my name, and when he's too cool to say he loves me.  For now, I'm just glad that at six, he's still such a little boy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


We have a lot of computers in this house.  We have a Mac in our kitchen that the kids use to play games on and for their homework (it's in the kitchen so we can keep an eye on what they are doing on the internet).  We have a desktop on our office.  I have a laptop, and an old laptop.  Kathy has a work laptop. 

Yet, yesterday, we had one computer in the house that actually worked -- the desktop in the office.  A while ago, I or someone else stepped on my laptop and broke the screen.  Yesterday, I fired up my old laptop, and was reminded exactly why I got a new laptop in the first place -- it took nearly 20 minutes to boot.  And the battery holds a charge for 0 minutes.  And it has no wireless internet.  There is something wrong with the wireless router, so the Mac is fine if you want to look at star wars pictures the kids have downloaded or play chess, but that's about it, since it has no internet.  Kathy's work computer was conveniently left at work.

Since Kathy worked from home yesterday, she had dibs on the functioning computer.  Which meant that blog posts went unwritten, mortgage refinancing rates went unresearched, and I generally had nothing to do all day but pace and do chores (and bother Kathy).  I even went so far as to try to use my phone to google whether I could use the old laptop as a monitor for the new laptop by hooking them together somehow.  (The answer seems to be no, at least with my existing skill set.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

out of reach

Since I quit my job, Kathy had been blissfully flexible with her work.  She was able to work from home a few days a week, usually days of my choosing, and she rarely had to work at night or on the weekends.  This is pretty unheard-of for a full time lawyer.  I didn't realize really, how used to that I had gotten and how much I depended on having pretty much constant access. 

We've always been a high-contact couple, by which I mean that we speak/email/gmail-chat several times a day.  That has actually decreased a little since I've stayed home, because I'm no longer parked in front of a computer screen all day.  But basically, for the last four years, I've felt free to keep her in the loop on every thought that enters my pretty little head (and that I have been privy to almost every thought that pops into hers).  I like this.  It means I can talk in half-sentences and she knows what I'm talking about.  It means she can jump from topic to topic in a way every other person on the planet finds bewildering, and I can keep up. 

But.  Then.  Yesterday, she had to work all day.  THE WHOLE DAY, even during the Steelers game.  I was so bored by her working during the game instead of explaining it to me that I ate 100 of those little hot dogs wrapped in dough that you buy in the freezer section (which I regretted).  And, for the first time, she got really, truly irritated with me for popping into the office ask her something. 

Friday, September 9, 2011


The entry to your house is the first thing that people see when they come for a visit, so it's your house's first impression.  That's why I think that it's important to have the entry be well-kept and tidy looking -- it sets the tone or something.  By the time you get people inside, they are busy thinking about when they can get a beer and where the bathroom is, so flaws/messes/broken things are less noticeable.  But while they are waiting for you to come to the door, there's really nothing to do but look around.  Which is why, for months, the sorry state of our front entry has been so annoying to me.

Kathy is blissfully unaware of all of this.  She has an amazing capacity to look right over things that need repair without noticing them.  So it was only me that was twisting myself into knots over the fact that the railing leading up to our front porch looked like this:

When I pointed it out to her, she responded, "Hey, look, it used to be blue; can we paint it blue again?"  Isn't she sweet?  Of course, I told her no freaking way we were having a tacky blue railing.  So I started the project of scraping, sanding and re-painting the railing.  I also thought I would paint the rusty mailbox while I was at it.  I figured the whole thing would take me a day and a half -- the first day I would scrape and sand in the morning and prime in the afternoon, and the second day I would paint it. 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

back to school

The kids have gone back to school.  A started 6th grade (middle school!) and B and C are in 3rd and 1st grade, respectively.  This means, for me, several hours of time alone each day.  It also means the much-needed return to some semblance of a normal routine.  I am SHOCKED at how much longer the day seems when everyone is up and active by 7 am, rather than 9, 9:30, or 10, depending on the day.  It's only 10:30 and I've already done loads of laundry, made a nice, long to-do list, made several much-needed phone calls (someone to fix our flooding problem, someone to get rid of the animal who has made his home inside our front steps).  If it weren't for all this rain, I'd be really productive.

Irrespective of the rain, something about the promise of fall is exciting.  I find it more energizing than spring, which mostly makes me want to lounge around in the sunshine reading books.  Maybe because the school year starts in the fall, it just feels like such a nice clean slate.  Time to clear away last year and start something new.  When I actually finish some projects around here, rather than just writing them on a sheet of paper and taping it to the wall, I'll post some before/after shots.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

labor day

Hopefully, everyone received an actual day off yesterday - not just a Biglaw day off, which means you still work, only without a secretary or cafeteria.

I spent the long weekend on Fire Island with Kathy and the kids, closing up our cottage and visiting a few houses which could be options for next year, should we be able to continue to have a summer place there.  I spent a lot of time thinking about my own labor, on this day devoted to the contributions of laborers, and what short- and long-term work-related plans might look like. 

(the Cherry Grove ferry dock)

the "vacation" ends - part V

I'm happy to say that the horror of our "vacation" ends with part IV.  By some miracle, things just stopped going wrong.  The following morning, the plumber came and snaked the tree roots out of our sewer line.  Then the disinfectant clean up guy came and sprayed everything with some kind of germ-destroyer.  We washed 1,000 loads of laundry, loaded the car, and headed off to Fire Island with our friends, where, I am happy to report, none of the predicted rain actually materialized. 

But you can see why, in the aftermath of all that, coming home was a little bit stressful.  I originally wrote a list of all the clean-up related chores I've been doing, but that was boring, so I deleted it.  Instead, I will say that I am grateful that somehow, in the midst of all that chaos and bad luck, we were able to have fun -- a fact which shocks me. 

I think the vacation series has gone on long enough, so I will leave this post at that, and let you know soon what else we've been up to around here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

the "vacation," part IV

When we got into town, we called our friends, and found out that the clean-up crew recommended calling a plumber as soon as possible, since what was leaking into our basement was actually sewage.  Which explained why the water level was going down so slowly.  The sewer pipe was blocked.  So the water would get pumped out by the sump pump, dumped into the laundry tub, and then flow directly back into the blocked sewer pipe, then back into our basement, in some kind of circle of death.  Resourceful things that we are, we booked the plumber for 9 am the next morning, scheduled the clean-up crew to come back after he was done, and went to the county fair.  Bam.

The county fair was one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life.  Here are some things you should know if you find yourself at one:
  1. The Gravitron will make you want to throw up, even if you could go on it 10 times in a row when you were a kid.
  2. If you ask whether there are any animals at a county fair, the people will look at you like you are a mutant.  Of course there are animals.  It's a county fair.
  3. You don't actually need to tell the woman letting you pet her baby bull that you are from New York City. She already knows that.  By how you want to pet her bull, and how you are afraid of its tongue.
  4. There is a relatively large market for handmade potholders, and wooden signs specifying that coffee is 5 cents.
  5. In a tractor race, the tractors just go one at a time and then try to beat the time of the other tractors.  So watching is kind of boring.

(we are all actually as afraid as we look)

After a full day at the county fair, our happy, sweaty, countrified selves piled into the car and started to drive back home, listening to country music and eating Slim Jims.  

When we were about halfway home, it started to rain a little.  Which would have been fine, except that I had pulled the fuse on the windshield wipers, remember?  So Kathy pulled over and started to get out.  "STOP!!!" I screamed.  "My dad says you should never open your door on the side of the freeway!! What are you thinking?  I will have to just put it back in with you sitting there."  Kathy disagreed, and said she should just get out of my way, but I won.  The fuse box on our car is underneath the dashboard on the driver's side.  Which means that I had to lean across the car, put my head in Kathy's lap, and rummage around under the dark dashboard, to try to put the fuse back in.  

the "vacation," part III

(read parts I and II here and here)

We did not encounter a bear on our hike.  This is a really good thing, considering that B and C had decided that they could totally handle the bear: they would throw a rock at his head, which would either hit him in the eye, damage his brain, and kill him instantly, or would miss his eye but still hit his head and knock him unconscious so we could make our great escape.

When we arrived back at our campsite, we were in high spirits, but soaked.  The rain had lasted long enough to drench the knee-length grass we were walking through, so our socks, shoes, and pants were saturated.  When I walked over to the clothesline, though, I was relieved to find that the towels and sheets hanging there were barely damp, and would probably be completely dry in an hour or so.

We stripped off our soggy shoes and socks and draped them over the cement edges of our fire pit to dry.  The fire pit was basically shaped like a C, with one side open so that you could add wood without lifting up the grill grate on top.  When we had a good fire going, we settled in around the picnic table, which was no longer shoved under a sagging tarp, and played Apples to Apples Junior while we ate snacks.  As Kathy was required to continue to slam her her hand on the top of her beer to open it, we realized we hadn't bought a can opener while we were in town (although we did pick up milk and sugar!).  When it was time to cook the dinner, we pulled out two cans of beans we could not open.

We settled on a group of bikers to ask for a can opener.  I walked down the hill to their site with a can of beans in each hand, while Kathy added another log to the fire.  After a while, kind of out of nowhere, a log rolled out of the open side of the fire pit and headed toward our picnic table.  PANIC!  Kathy tried to use a stick to pick up the flaming log and shove it back into the fire, while I stomped on smoldering bits of ash that were scattered around the ground.  At least it was wet.  When Kathy had the log almost back in, A screamed, "Your pants are on fire!"  Although we had been diligently moving our stuff away from the fire as it dried so that it would not catch on fire, we were distracted by the flaming log rolling toward us, and didn't notice when the bottom hem of one of my favorite pairs of pants went up in flames.  I used a shoe to smack the flames on the smoldering hem of my pants, then noticed that A's shoes (canvas converse high tops) had also caught on fire.  Also, a sock.

(fire damage, after being washed.  I am thinking they would make cute shorts?)