Tuesday, December 18, 2012

what I like about being stuck at the train station

My parents are coming for a Christmas visit.  This is desired, but always leads to a bit of stress -- the stress of combining busy schedules, plus a holiday, plus houseguests.  It led to a conversation between Kathy and me yesterday about how we could better manage the stress of it all.  My parents, like most parents, have things they do that annoy their children. They know this.  I, like most children, have things I do that annoy my parents.  I also know this.  Necessarily, this will lead to conflict at some point.

"You know," Kathy said, "I wish I could just handle it like Diane.  She never seems to get ruffled by this stuff.  What would Diane say?" 

A few years ago, when B was turning 6, we had a birthday party at our house, which involved renting a pony.  This was much less expensive than we thought, and really, what could make a better birthday party than having pony rides in your tiny suburban backyard?  NOTHING.  We were so excited, we invited Diane to the party, even though she was not a first grader (she was, and is, an adult).  She planned to take the train in from New York City, and either Kathy or I would drive down and pick her up before the party. 

Only it started raining, and the pony arrived and made a mess of the backyard, and everyone was clamoring for rides anyway so we had to make garbage bag rain ponchos for 10 six year old kids.  And we completely forgot about poor Diane at the train station.  She tried calling Kathy's cell phone, but who picks up their phone when there is a pony crapping in the rain in your back yard?  She didn't have our address, so she couldn't just take a cab. She was just stuck at the train station. 

(not our train station, but just try to imagine)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

music of the season, from the comfort of your ergomatic desk chair

One thing I love about Christmas is the music, but even I must admit I get a bit sick of it at times.  I recently re-discovered this annual compilation of Christmas music by lesser-known artists, which is refreshing when you have listened to the same version of Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree for the 500th time.  Below is Vol. 1, but there are Vols. 2 and 3 as well.  Since you can stream it, you can at least enjoy the music of the season from the comfort of your office computer, even if you don't enjoy being stuck in your beige cube while the rest of the world is out enjoying eggnog and ugly sweaters.

Note: If the embedded player doesn't work, just click here to stream or download directly!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I had planned on not writing any more.  To be honest, some of the allure of blogging had worn off when I realized I was no longer as anonymous as I thought.  I found out several months ago that the higher-ups at my old firm had somehow become aware of the existance of the blog, and the thought of them rifling through my relatively private thoughts, a discussion of my vulnerabilities, etc. left a bad taste in my mouth. And as a result, once everything went through the filter of what I would want them to read, I found I didn't have much left to say.  I tried to write a few times since then, and failed.

But, in reality, I missed it.  I miss it.  So.  Perhaps we will call it a lapse and see where things go from here.  Hopefully they have all moved on with their lives and were lulled into a false sense that I wouldn't write anymore based on my months of silence.

In case you're a reader who doesn't know me personally, hello, I've missed you, and I'll give you the briefest of updates, all in terms of facts and figures, although it doesn't say much about what life is like on a day-to-day basis.

Because I like blog posts better when they have pictures,
here is one from London (see update number 2, below)
even if it's a complete non-sequitor. 
Anyone who can explain it is invited to do so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Sometimes, when I am sad, or stressed, or just need to get away from the office, I walk over to the East River and stare at it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Kathy and I have issues with contractors.  Every time we have one, I am shocked.  I wonder when I am going to learn to lower my expectations about this.

I think most people tend to think that they are reasonable.  I am no different in this regard.  I know there are times when I am being unreasonable, and can't seem to help myself, but generally, on this topic at least, no.    And yet, all too often, when we have to hire a contractor for something, we experience the same set of issues:

Getting an estimate.  No one ever wants to give us one.  When we were fixing up our flooded basement, once the first contractor fell through, I called three other contractors for estimates, and only two of them even bothered to call me back, one showed up, and zero returned an estimate.  I thought a full-scale basement remodel was a decent sized job, especially in a recession, but apparently the contractors in our Westchester town could not be bothered.  And, it's not like I only called these people once.  I made multiple phone calls.  For the basement, this threshold issue was so severe that we eventually just did the work ourselves.

Timing.  The first contractor that fell through on our basement did so because he couldn't meet our timing.  And by that, I mean that we received an estimate for the work in August, and in November he informed us he wouldn't be able to start until after the holidays.  I think that six months is an extremely long time to wait with your basement furniture sitting in your foyer.  It was at that point that we said thanks, but no thanks, and I started trying to get other estimates.  We've also had this problem with a painter and a gardener.  Delays of months before they are willing to even get started on our projects.

Communicativeness.  Okay, so maybe I am a little bit horrible at returning phone calls sometimes, but come on.  If someone hires you to do work, calls and leaves several messages that say "When can you start?" I think common courtesy requires a call back in under six weeks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

internet presence

Last week, I wrote a long post about where I've been lately.  Then I realized that said post teetered dangerously close to a line called "oversharing" or "dirty laundry."  So I deleted it, and wrote this instead.  Suffice it to say that over the summer, the stress of planning a wedding, renovating a house, working a new job, and parenting three kids just completely overwhelmed me. So, I did the only thing I could -- I withdrew, put my nose to the grindstone, and soldiered through.  Completely unhappily while complaining a lot.

Ultimately, the result was a complete lack of any internet presence. No tweets, no status updates, no pins, no blogging.  But!  In the name of keeping things positive and upbeat over here, rather than complain about how stressful the summer of wedding planning and house renovating was, how about I instead share what I learned.

(in the bathroom of a wine bar in the west village while out with my sister the week before the wedding)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

live long, and prosper

I have mentioned before that we love Star Trek (the Original Series) in our house.  I thought I might emphasize this fact with a few examples of our over-the-top Star Trek loving.

1.  A photo me, as a Vulcan.  This was Halloween last year; I didn't just dress like this for no reason.  Although I would.

2.  Another, for good measure.  I tried not to smile the whole night, since Vulcans don't really have emotions.  I mean, technically, they do, they just don't acknowledge them.  Which is what I went for.  I am pretty sure I failed miserably though.  A recently told me that I could not really be a Vulcan, because who ever heard of a Vulcan that cries.  I had to point out that really, Spock was only half-Vulcan.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

five tips for staying awake during long conference calls annoyingly scheduled immediately after lunch

Today, I have a 1 1/2 hour conference call scheduled immediately following lunchtime.  This call is a drafting session, which is particularly painful (i.e., boring).  We have these calls for this particular client at relatively regular intervals -- every 4-6 weeks or so.  Here is the thing, though.  Always, ALWAYS without fail, the call is scheduled for a day I am sleep deprived.  Last night I was up late working, but sometimes I am just up late fretting and stressing about something, or I am exhausted from a weekend of working on the house, or A had a school project due that kept us up late, or whatever.  So, I have developed the following strategies for staying awake.  I cannot take full credit for these -- some of them are Kathy's.  But some are all mine.

1.  Don't eat too much.  Not only does the food make you sleepy, but being hungry actually keeps me awake. 
2.  Don't get too hungry.  I know this kind of conflicts with the first one, but a drop in blood sugar can be a dangerous thing.  You have to strike just the right balance.  Sometimes it helps to snack continuously through the call.
3.  Drink two Diet Cokes with your lunch.  Not only does the caffeine help, but needing to go to the bathroom also helps.
4.  Stand up.  This is a good one if you are in your own office, but is less effective for live meetings or conference calls in your boss's office.
5.  Thing about something that is actually interesting.  This is a tough one, because it requires you to not pay attention.  Use sparingly! 

The problem with this particular call is that it is in my boss's office.  I see him doing all of these things -- standing, eating, etc.  But I am limited, because I want to seem professional and wandering around his office in the middle of the call does not seem all that professional to me.  Once, I just broke down and asked if I could get coffee in the middle of the three hour call.  He said yes. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

changing your name is hard

Everything about changing your name is hard.  It's emotionally hard, letting go of an old name and taking a new one, which means a little bit of letting go of an old identity and taking a new one.  It's physically hard, especially if you have to get discriminated against in the process.  But it's also just logistically hard -- sometimes even impossible. 

There's the social security card, then the passport, and the diver's license, and work, and the bank, etc.  But yesterday I encountered a particularly surprising difficulty when I tried to change the email address associated with the blog.  Not being Erin R. anymore, I tried to switch my log-in credentials over to my shiny new Erin H. email address.... only to discover that it was impossible.  You just can't do it.  So, through several backbends and contortions and a lot of signing out and back in, I finally managed to add my new email, even if the old one is still lingering, attached to the account.  Which hits on one of the weird things about changing your name.

In a lot of ways, you become a whole new person, with all your history wiped out.  I don't have my email history, I don't have any history on blogger (although you can see from my profile that I reserved my new email address shortly after getting engaged, way back in February).  In almost every way, it seems like Erin R. has to get erased for Erin H. to spring into existance.

And so.  If there is a bit of funkiness during the transition, where I appear to be two different people at the same time, rest assured it is not just you.  I actually am two different people at the same time. 

(Erin R.)

(Erin H.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

south beach

So, my doctor put me on a diet.  Not a weight-loss diet, although I may lose some.  But a sugar diet.  It turns out, it's actually not completely normal to feel shaky, light-headed, nauseated, and head-achy every 2-3 hours.  Which is how I felt.  Sometimes, if I went 4-5 hours without eating, my vision would start to tunnel every time I stood up.  So a few months ago, I went into the doctor to find out what the heck was wrong with me.  She listened to my symptoms, did a physical, and told me without much hesitation that I was hypoglycemic. 

"Ok great.  What do I do?" I asked.

"Well, you need to change the way you eat."

"Ok, fine.  Do you have some kind of hypoglycemia diet I should follow?"

"Really, the best thing you can do is follow the South Beach Diet."

The South Beach Diet : The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss
(the book)

I knew all about the South Beach Diet, because various family members had tried it about a decade ago.  There was no way I was interested in giving up every bread.  I am not a low-carb kind of person.  "Oh, don't you have a handout or something?"  I wanted her to tell me to eat more fruit or something.

"No, not really, but you could look at the South Beach Diet."

"Ok.  Are there some general guidelines I could follow?  Just sort of, you know, generally?"

"Yes.  The South Beach Diet."

OKAY.  I get it.  South Beach Diet.  But this was a month before the wedding, when we had bitten off way more than we could chew in terms of work/fixing beach house/wedding planning/family visiting/etc., so I decided to just table it for the time being, and gave myself permission to just eat when I was hungry without worrying about what it was.  I gained roughly 10 pounds in as many weeks.  And was still miserable, and hungry all. the. time.  (I feel as though I should clarify here -- I am actually not a big junk food eater.  Usually I was eating a salad and bread for lunch, and crackers mid-afternoon, and then cheese and more crackers when I got home, and dinner. Or something like that. I don't really eat sweets because I don't like them much. So when I say whatever I want, it's not like I ate three cupcakes a day or something. That's why the 10 lbs. in 10 weeks was so shocking.)

I am no doctor, but the theory is that ironically, if you have low blood sugar, you need to avoid sugar, because it triggers your body into overproducing insulin, and drives your blood sugar lower than it was in the first place.  It's like a sugar roller-coaster.  Avoiding simple sugars makes it so the insulin production is slower and more level, so the blood sugar doesn't dip dangerously low.  So finally, after much resistance (and in lieu of buying all new pants) I decided to try the South Beach Diet.  I went and bought the book.  This was Monday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

in which we are Discriminated against

Well now, it has been a while since I've written.  We are married, in the state of New York, anyway.  Today, we went to the Social Security Administration to officially change our names and become the Mrs. Hs.  I will spare you the gory details (although I am not sparing the Social Security Administration complaint box or the poor soul who reads the email directed to our beloved President), but suffice it to say that I have not been treated with such indignity in a long while.

Friday, June 22, 2012

oh, hey

Last published on MAY 18!  Did it really say that when I logged in to Blogger?  Pretty sure it did.  So hi, it's me again.

What have I been doing in the last one month and four days that has kept me from all 19 of my readers for so long?

Friday, May 18, 2012

head hangy

I spent some time debating the title of this post.  I'm not really sure if it's spelled hangey or hangy, but it's supposed to be pronounced like the word hang with a long e at the end.  Just so you know.

The phrase "head hangy" is one Kathy made up, and is essentially an unpleasant task, hanging over your head (hence the name) that colors your entire mood -- often, without you even realizing it.  You know the type.  You are cranky for days, sometimes weeks, and then you give the presentation, confront the family member, make the doctor's appointment, do your taxes, whatever, and suddenly, you are light and free and fun to be around again. 

I have had so many head hangies over the last two weeks that I've been snappish, cranky, and stressed.  Anxious and sleep deprived.  All manner of lovely things that make the mornings go really smoothly at our house (haha).  Finally, I realized how many head-hangies I had, and started diligently trying to get some of them off my head.  I also made a concerted effort to drink coffee before speaking, which also helps immeasurably.

Just when I finally managed to clear all the head hangies, I was informed that I have due diligence over the next ten to fourteen days -- which includes this weekend and Memorial Day weekend -- except that I have no idea when the documents will be provided.  It could be any time today, any time over the weekend, or any time on Monday.  (For you non-lawyer types, due diligence involves massive piles of documents provided by the other side, all of which must be read by a lawyer to make sure that the client will still want whatever transaction to go forward.  It is often mind-numbing, but you can't actually allow your mind to go numb, or you will probably miss something crucial.  If you are really lucky, you get to summarize everything you read in a 200 page memo.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

rainy days and mondays

a man wearing jeans and a dark jacket walks down madison avenue carrying a black umbrella on a rainy evening
photo by Joe Bergantine

Rainy Mondays make me me fantasize about a life where Kathy works 8 to 5 but makes enough for us all to live on, so I can become housewife extraordinaire, stay home instead of trudging into the city to work every day, make dinners, read books and do projects at home.  Kathy can come home in the evening and go for a run and play with the kids, then we can all sit down to dinner together.  Kathy and I can catch up on Game of Thrones after we tuck the kids in.  Every Friday we get a babysitter and go on a date or spend time with friends.  We head out to Fire Island every weekend and work on our house and lie around in the sunshine on the beach, drinking lemonade.  We get a dog.  We are never stressed or tired.  We all live happily ever after.  The end.

You know, the kind of life that exists only in fantasies, but is nice to think about on a rainy Monday nonetheless.

Friday, May 11, 2012

a good start

I suppose I would be remiss in my duties as a gay-engaged blogger if I didn't write something about Obama's historic announcement this week in support of marriage equality.  But honestly, I have trouble viewing the statement as any real progress.

I'm glad he finally made this announcement, and I suppose it is "historic" as he's the first President to openly support same-sex marriage.

And yet, as one of my friends pointed out, it gets us no closer to slashing the number of federal rights that Kathy and I are denied, even though we can get married in our home state of New York.  And it does nothing for friends in school without health insurance because their working spouse isn't permitted to cover them.  It does nothing for friends scraping by financially because they've had to devote their resources to paying legal fees to have documents drafted so that their "registered domestic partnership" isn't rendered null and void when they cross state lines.  An endorsement without an action plan feels a little hollow. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

two months in - an action plan

In the last post, I gave myself a 3.6 out of 10 on the scale of work-life balance. Which, I say again, is pretty abysmal. I committed to developing an action plan so that my precious few non-work hours didn't slip away from me.  Well, my friends, the time has come to commit to that action plan publicly, in front of you.  This is mostly for my own self, to hold me accountable, but if anyone has suggestions, they would be appreciated in the comments!

Also, sorry about the lack of pictures, but this post is very serious.  Also I only had a short amount of time to work on it.

1. Gardening. Just so you know, the lawn is no longer a foot tall.  I mean, it's a good 8 inches again, but not a foot, and it's been raining all week.  Kathy and I have decided a good way to handle this is that one day a week, when I can get out on time, I'll mow while she cooks dinner.  Usually one of us cooks and the other bops around the kitchen chatting, so this is a small sacrifice of some family time together, but we make a point of sitting down as a family for dinner each night, so we will have to catch up then.  Also, C has baseball games each Saturday morning, so when it's our weekend with the kids, I'll stay home while the rest of the crew goes to the baseball game, so I can do the other gardening -- weeding, mulching, planting, etc.  I bought a flat of annuals for some fun color and we actually have an enormous amount of mulch left over from last year stashed in various places, so I am all ready for the implementation phase.  Two hours every other weekend is not as much time as I would like in my garden, but it's a heck of a lot better than nothing.

And Kathy has promised to help me plant Stewart.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

two months in

One of the main reasons that I quit my job last year was to enable me to focus a bit more on the non-work things I loved about life.  These were things like gardening, cooking, reading, working on my house, and exercising.  When I decided to go back, I also decided to really focus on making sure that I was doing these things regularly.  In corporate speak, this is called work-life balance.  It's something I was sorely missing before and actually thought, at one point, was impossible for a lawyer.  So, now that I've been at my new job for two months (two months!) I decided to check in and see how I was doing.

1.  Gardening.  I revealed last week that our lawn had grown to a foot in height.  Nothing has been weeded, unless you count randomly pulling clover out of the cracks of the driveway as I walk to the front door at the end of a work day.  There are no annuals in the ground, no vegetables in the raised bed (except the garlic, planted last year) and I haven't spread compost or mulched a single thing.  The Stewartia is still in it's shipping pot, sitting on top of its future home.  I did manage to mow the lawn on Monday after work, which took me about twice as long as normal because I had to bag the extra-long lawn clippings, and decided to mow the patio so at least the weeds were as short as the grass. 0 out of 10.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Yesterday was a grey day.  I did not get any sleep the night before, so I was tired.  The lady at the store where we were registering for our wedding gifts was rude.  We had to go to Ikea in New Jersey in under 3 hours.  My mom told me that my grandparents weren't going to come to my (gay) wedding.  It misty-rained all day long, just enough to make my feet wet on the way home from work.  All this was a recipe for sad.

After Ikea, I came home mopey and reticent.  Then Kathy noticed the box on the front porch, which had apparently been delivered sometime after 6:30 when we had left for Ikea.  It was tall and skinny.  I knew in an instant what was inside.  My stewartia pseudocamillia.  Which I have been boring my family by talking about since last summer.  I wanted it last summer.  I ordered it last fall.  And I have been waiting ever since. 

It's funny how magical delayed gratification can make something, and how a little tree can turn a grey day around.

(my very own stewartia, basking in the morning sun in its future home)

Thursday, April 26, 2012


When I was staying at home, I used to wonder if I would contribute more to the family if I was working.  I worried, occasionally, and especially in the early days of staying home, that I wasn't "pulling my weight" if I wasn't doing house work or projects non-stop all day. 

Last night, after work, Kathy met up with some colleagues and I volunteered to go home for kid duty so she could stay out.  When I got home, I was instantly crabby.  Our lawn is, in some places, a foot tall.  A FOOT.  The house was a shambles, with stacks of mail everywhere, dirty dishes, crumbs, toys, and sticky substances coating nearly every surface (this might be an exaggeration.  Then again, it might not).  I decided to spend the night cleaning, tidying, and throwing away.  I worked non-stop for a few hours, until the house was at least tidy, if not clean.

Monday, April 23, 2012

the house of orange - demo

I've tried to think of the right words to describe the horribleness of the walls in our living room at the House of Orange, but it's hard to convey with words, or even with pictures, the experience of opening the front door and being enveloped in some kind of orange pinstripe wonderland.  The pictures do not do justice to the intensity of the orange, and the dizzying effect that white quarter-round trim nailed in stripes and boxes all over your walls can have.  This effect is intensified by the draperies, which were white curtains with orange stripes, or orange and white striped roman shades.  All of this was highlighted by a white lattice-work ceiling (custom built!) and a white linoleum floor.

In the following pictures, we have already moved the furniture away from the walls and started work, but here is a little bit of what I mean.

I'm fond of the shot above because it highlights some of the finer features, including one of our Romanesque statutes and the white wire chandelier with orange wooden tassels hanging all over it.  You also get a good sense of the trim covering every wall.  Yes, that is trim, not just some artfully painted white lines.  They painted, measured, cut, and nailed all that trim to the walls. 

Here's a shot of the front windows.  Sorry to say we've already relocated some lamps, etc. so it's not really a "before" shot like it would be if you had just walked in, but you can see all the extra action that the drapes provide.  You can also see, which I forgot to mention before, that they painted a bright orange stripe around all the window trim with a super-shiny acrylic paint.  So, in order to cover it, all the trim had to first be wiped with a liquid de-glosser, then primed twice.

Friday, April 20, 2012

moving in, and a gross miscalculation

One of the logistical difficulties with renovating a house on Fire Island, is that it's on an island.  Which means you have to take a boat to get to it.  Having a fair amount of experience schlepping personal effects, clothes, and food out to the island for the past few summers, we realized that our week of renovating was going to require a fair amount of prep work.  What this meant for me was a detailed shopping list, including a full week's-worth of meals for six people, purchased in advance, all of our home-improvement supplies, and all of our tools.  What this meant for Kathy was that we got to had to rent a U-Haul.  Her first real-life U-Haul lesbian experience.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

goodbye to Remy

Last week, we started on the renovations to our Fire Island house, so we could get it ready for the wedding.  One of the first tasks was to remove all the crap that accumulated in the house since it was last cleaned in 1985.  The owner of the house in the 1980s was a designer, with a very unique style.  Owners since then have embraced this style but, um, it's not exactly "us."

We learned from neighbors that there are three ways to get rid of weird stuff in your house: (1) put it near your garbage and hope someone takes it, (2) throw it in a dumpster at the dock on community clean-up day, or (3) donate it to the Cherry Grove community center so they can sell it in their annual fundraiser flea market.

As we started to fill the back bedroom with boxes of stuff to donate (this being our preferred option, since it benefits the community), it quickly became clear that we were going to run out of space.  So we decided to start leaving stuff out and see what went.  This was our first attempt:

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Next week, we'll spend the entire week in our brand new-to-us house on Fire Island (which does not have heat!  Lots of snuggling will be required!). 

Our goal: to begin to change it from this

to something a little more like this.

Pinned Image  Pinned Image 
 Pinned Image  Pinned Image

We're going for a look that's a little less Rocky Horror Renaissance Creamsicle and a little more Classic Beach House.  Here's to a sea-inspired palette, natural fibers, and outdoor showers.
On the agenda for the week -- steam cleaning all the existing upholstered furniture, ripping up the dirty orange carpet off the stairs to assess what's underneath, choosing a color for the exterior, and painting that bright orange living room.  If we're way ahead of schedule (haha, when does that ever happen with home improvement projects?!) we might even get started painting our all-white kitchen.  I'll bring along the camera, so you can expect lots of before/after shots.  You might even get some action shots in there along the way. 

See all the beach house design ideas (and the sources for the inspiration shots above) by following me on Pinterest.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

the illusion of four weeks (with tips!)

A conversation I had with a first year associate at my new firm reminded me of one of my least favorite aspects of Biglaw.  At the conclusion of our conference call, a fourth year, the first year, and I started chatting about associate life.  The first year, who has been at the firm about three months, I think (read: longer than me) finally asked, a bit nervously, "Can I ask you guys something?"  I was excited.  An opportunity for mentoring!  I love mentoring!

"Of course!" we both answered enthusiastically.  The fourth year must love mentoring too.

"Well, my hours are kind of low.  But.... I don't know.  I wanted to take this vacation in July.  Do you think I'm allowed?"  Oh boy.  I bet she thought this was an easy question. 

Officially, associates at my firm are entitled to four weeks of vacation per year.  This is the case at most Biglaw firms -- it's totally market.  So it seems like the answer to this poor first year's question would be a "Yes" as long as she hasn't somehow managed to already take one month off when she's only been here for three. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Diary of an Expat: Culture Shock

A few weeks ago, I was planning on posting a blog about a cultural difference I'd noticed between the US and the UK. It all got started when I was watching Breakfast on BBC (similar to The Today Show, for those of you in America, except with slightly more news content and slightly less Al Roker acting like a tool), and there was a piece on interracial adoption in the UK. The moral of the story was that there were many children in foster care across the UK, and many families wanting to adopt a child, but they couldn't be put together because parents can only adopt children of the same ethnic background. If you're interested, you can read some of the facts here (I couldn't find the original piece I saw on Breakfast)

Hearing this, I was absolutely shocked. I thought to myself (and even said to Joe) this would never happen in America! What really matters, I thought, is for children to have loving parents, no matter their ethnic background. I was all ready to post away, when I thought to myself, "I guess I don't really know if America has a similar policy in place." With just a quick check of Wikipedia (most trusted source in the world!), I learned that there actually IS a similar policy in America. I also learned that there were many people - of all races - fighting to stop interracial adoptions not because they think there is anything inherently wrong with parents of another race adopting a child, but because they think it makes it difficult for children to understand their own identity.

Monday, March 26, 2012

if a tree falls in the forest...

One of the weird effects of Kathy traveling (other than becoming strangely morbid and thinking about her death all the time) is that I often go for long stretches of time without speaking to another person.  Wednesday, for example, was one of those days. 

I got coffee, so I spoke to someone then, in a real way, since my friend owns the coffee shop.  After that, though, I silently rode the train to work, arrived, went into my office, sat down at my desk, "worked" (which is in quotes because I was slow so mostly I just surfed the web and wrote), went out and bought a salad, where I said "Harvest Cobb, no beets" and "Thank you." I went back to work, and sat in my silent office some more.  I spoke to a friend on the phone for about 15 minutes, then went to a yoga class, where I said, "I don't know, I haven't ever been here before" in response to the question, "Is it always this crowded?" and "Namaste" at the end of the class. Then I rode the train home in silence.

So.  From 8:30 in the morning until 8:30 in the evening, with the exception of one fifteen minute conversation, I said exactly 16 words.  I had the strangest sensation of the day not even happening.

Friday, March 23, 2012

the name

This is always a controversial topic, and so for a while I have avoided writing about it.  But as my wedding draws closer (less than 6 months!) it occupies increasing brain-space.  This is a topic that everyone has their own opinion about, and I think we can all agree that each woman's (person's?) decision is made for deeply personal reasons.  But.  That does not stop us from judging each other about it. 

I am talking, of course, about changing your name when you get married.

The first time I got married, I did not change my name.  At the time I thought it was because I had a firm sense of my identity, and that included my last name.  Now, I am thinking maybe it was, a bit, that I did not have a firm sense of my identity, and that hanging onto my name gave me some much-needed stability.  Or, maybe my decision not to change my name reflected some deep ambivalence about marriage, or that particular marriage, that I was not prepared to acknowledge explicitly at the time.  I don't know what the "real" reason is, I only know that changing my name was not even really an option for me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

seriously, I could quit at any time

I recently got a new iPhone from work.  It's a 4S, which means it has a robot voice who answers me when I ask it questions (or when A asks it questions, although it has no opinion of what she should be when she grows up and it is not in love with her).  Surprisingly, my biggest concern when I got my new phone was not robots becoming animate and taking over the world, although I heard on the radio earlier this week that scientists suggest that is actually one of the more likely world-ending scenarios, if we are to believe the Mayans and such a thing is imminent. 

No, instead, I was slapped with a feeling of guilt when I opened the new iPhone box in my office last week.  "They probably wouldn't have given me this if they knew I could quit at any second," I shocked myself by thinking.

Now, first.  Yes, actually, they would give me the phone if they knew I could quit at any second.  That's why if I quit in less than six months, I have to pay for the stupid phone myself.  They would not have policies in place for this kind of thing if they didn't anticipate it happening, at least some of the time.  Anyone, with any job, could technically quit at any second (so long as you are an at-will employee, I suppose).

Second, why was I thinking I would quit at any second?  Didn't I just start this job?  I realized I felt a little tug of guilt with each benefit or perk I enrolled in at my new firm.  Not as though I didn't deserve them for working there, but instead because I didn't feel loyal enough to deserve them.  The funny thing is, it's not like I wanted to quit.  I didn't -- I don't.  It was as if I was afraid I would accidentally quit.  I felt like something would happen that was too similar to the old place, I would have some kind of post-traumatic stress type reaction, and before I knew it I would be handing over my badge, grabbing my potted plant, and heading for the door.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

death of a single girl

Kathy has been in London all this week.  I hate it when she's gone.  A weird thing that I think often, when she travels, is "If Kathy died, this grey, bleak, horribleness would be my life."  I can be a little morbid, I guess.  This trip, this feeling was particularly acute.  Maybe it is because I finished a really, really depressing book yesterday in which one character's onion farm fails and his wife leaves him, so he tries to kill himself but instead shoots himself in the shoulder and loses the arm, and another character drunkenly drives his car off a bridge at 8:30 in the morning after losing his business, having his house repossessed by the bank, and his lover (the wife of the onion farm guy) breaking up with him.

I don't think it's just the book, though.  As I was walking into work today, thinking about how it Kathy died, the grey, bleak, horribleness would be my life, I also thought, "Well, I didn't use to feel like this about her not being around.  I used to live semi-alone in that apartment in Hell's Kitchen, and be totally fine with being alone, or whatever.  I never used to get all sad and bored and lonely.  What's up with that?"  I feared I had become too dependent, or at least that I had lost a vital, independent part of myself. 

As an erstwhile fiercely independent thing, living in New York City, I used to find the solitude liberating.  But now, instead of feeling liberated, I just feel sort of lonely.  This made me incredibly sad.  I liked that independent young woman, living in Manhattan, struggling with her job, making it through.  Where did she go, and when did it happen? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

off the gravy train

When I was tucking the kids in one night last week, I kissed C's forehead and said goodnight.  He pulled his favorite stuffed animal (a mole, creatively named "Moley") from under the covers and said in Moley's voice, "What am I, chopped liver?"  So I kissed the disgusting stuffed mole that has been dragged through who knows what outside and around the house -- deciding that it was, at least, moderately less gross than actual chopped liver.

Friday, March 16, 2012

finding our feet - part II

Read part I here.

So Saturday morning, I woke up after a few weeks of acting "horribly," as Kathy put it, and we tried to figure it out.  We all got up to take A to her horseback riding lesson, and I brought my cookbooks with me.  While she had her lesson, B and C at bagels and I tried to find actual real meals that could be cooked in under 45 minutes.  Then the whole family piled back in the car and we went directly to the grocery store. 

We bought the stuff for the meals I'd planned, but we also bought stuff previously on my prohibited-list for budget-friendly grocery shopping.  We bought little containers of drinkable yogurt (which I personally think are gross).  We bought a massive bag of shredded cheese.  We bought Pop Tarts, and granola bars.  When we got home, I unpacked the groceries and Kathy started taking games off the shelves of our game closet and sorting out what was no longer age-appropriate for our kids. 

We went to Home Depot and got the stuff we needed to finish our closet in the basement so the toys could be moved down there, as well as the hose we needed to fix our grill (something chewed through the gas line) and the part we needed to fix the unflushable toilet.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

finding our feet - part I

Kathy and I went to Oregon early in this month to celebrate the domestic partnership of two dear friends.  It was a long weekend full of wine drinking, celebrating, and lying around drinking coffee re-hashing the events of the night before.  Basically, it was like college, only in college it was Jack Daniels Downhome Punch or Old Milwaukee instead of wine.  The weekend was fabulous.

What was slightly less fabulous was diving into the workweek on Tuesday with two suitcases full of dirty clothes, a dirty house, and no groceries.  How could I have forgotten this horrible fact of being a dual-income family?  Without your weekend, no chores get done!  You start the workweek about 10 hours behind, and then frantically paddle, trying to not only keep your head above water, but actually make forward progress so you can get back on track. 

Each morning was a mad rush, packed with convincing the kids that three-week old bread with American cheese on it was a delicious and nutritious lunch and that those jeans aren't that dirty; in fact, jeans are designed to be worn more than once without washing!  Each evening was a load of laundry, a cobbled-together dinner made of things purchased at Sam's Club and stuck in the freezer when I wasn't working, and sorting through stacks of mail and other papers, trying to make sure no utilities were shut off in the meantime.  And then I had a business day-trip on Friday, so I had to leave the house at 6 am.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

the return of insomnia

It's 5:42 am.  I've been up since 3:08.  For the first hour and two minutes, I tossed and turned.  Finally, I got up and started cleaning, because I didn't know what else to do with myself and the house was a wreck.  From 4:10 until 5:20, I unloaded the dishwasher, reloaded it and did all the dishes by hand that needed to be done, straightened up the living room, put some tools away in the basement, tidied up the office, threw away massive piles of accumulated mail, and cleaned the bathroom.  Then I sat down to pay bills, which I've been doing since 5:20.  Sometime around 5:15, A came down and went to the bathroom.

"What's going on?" she asked, bewildered, as she looked around the house, lights blazing in the middle of the night.

"I'm cleaning. There was no other time to do it."

This is true, and not true.  There was no other time to do it, but that's not why I was doing it.  I was doing it because I could not sleep, and the state of our house was driving me crazy, so there seemed an obvious solution.

(photo via here)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

labor of love

Last summer, Kathy and I were sitting on lawn chairs on the sand in front of our Fire Island house, talking about how the stock market had just taken another dip.  The reason we were talking about it was because we were trying to figure out with some retirement funds.  Putting it into the stock market again didn't seem to make much sense.  As we mulled this over, a solution slowly came to us. 

We had also recently been thinking about how it didn't make much sense to continue to dump money into a vacation rental, even someplace we loved as much as Fire Island.  We had retirement money that we didn't want to put in the stock market.  Suddenly, it became clear.  Maybe, just maybe, we could buy a house on Fire Island. 

After some looking around, we found a perfect two-bedroom bungalow that would just barely fit our family.  When we talked to a real estate agent about it, he said that the house we found was fine, but there was something even better for us.  There was only one problem with it...

Monday, February 27, 2012

first days

Last Thursday, I started at my new law firm.  The first day, as can be expected, consisted mostly of training and orientation activities.  Afterward, there was a cocktail party -- which apparently happens relatively regularly.  By the end of a four our technology training, I was dying to go home, but I felt like I should go to the cocktail party -- especially since it was my first day. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


When Kathy and I sat down to start looking at wedding invitations online, I was not fully prepared for how different our visions were.  Generally, when it comes to sylistic decisions, we agree.  We have similar clothing tastes, and we almost always easily agree on house-decorating decisions.  So I thought wedding planning would be similar.

"How about this?" Kathy said, as she pulled up an ecru rectangle with black script writing on it. 

"Um, boring."  I replied.  "I want them to be a little different.  They should reflect our style and our wedding a little.  How about that one with the adirondack chairs?"

"Too casual.  I don't want people showing up in jeans because it's on the beach and we put adirondack chairs on our invitation.  How about this?"  This one was an ecru rectangle with navy blue script writing on it.


"This one?"  Ecru square with black script writing.

"Square invitations require extra postage.  It sounds like it wouldn't be a big deal but it adds up.  No squares.  And it's boring.  How about that one?"

"I hate floral patterns.  What are you, 80?"  And on, and on like this, for rather an extended period of time.

Finally, I stood up and stretched.  "Why don't you just pick one you really, really like, and if I don't hate it, we'll go with it.  We're never going to agree.  You want something stuffy and boring, and I want something too casual for you.  It seems like we have fundamentally different visions of what we want this to look like, and it's way more important to you.  I guess I just don't care that much."

BLACK and WHITE Damask...

Friday, February 17, 2012


Frequent readers of this blog may have noticed that it was private for a few days.  Here's why.  It turns out that someone at my old firm circulated a link to this blog to a bunch of partners.  Which meant that they were reading it.  I always knew, when I decided to start a blog, that it was public.  I knew I had to be prepared for my worst enemy to read it.   But I kind of always figured that no one would be cruel enough to pass the blog along to the partnership at the old firm, and that even if they did, the partners would seriously have better things to do than read about my search for life-satisfaction and gardening success (or lack thereof).  It turned out I was wrong, in both respects. 

So when I found out that had happened, I had two thoughts:  (1) Was there anything on here that made me look bad, professionally?  and (2) How creepy, that there are people out there that I would never even tell what I did on the weekends, and now they know that Kathy and I got in an argument over what towels to use and my identity as a  non-lawyer.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I received an offer from the firm I interviewed at last week.  The partner from my old firm, who moved to the new place, called and left me a voicemail with the details.  When I listened to the voicemail, I felt like I was only catching the drift, not hearing the individual words.  As the words washed over me -- "Making you an offer... Would love to have you on board... Conflicts paperwork... " -- it hit me.  I was going back to work. 

Remember those days I never got dressed?  The week I finally put "take a shower" on my to-do list to make sure it happened?  Remember the long mornings weeding my garden, filled with gratitude for all I had?  The DIY projects I took on, some more successful than others?  The books I read, the naps I took, the old hobbies revived?  All of that was ending.

When my phone rang, I was doing yoga for the first time in months (years?), trying to alleviate the back pain that had been plaguing me for the last month or so.  I heard the phone ring, but could not find it to answer in time, so I paused my video, waited for the voicemail to show up, listened to it, texted Kathy with the news, then got back to the yoga.  As I stretched my sore muscles, I let my mind wander and let the news really sink in.  I had decided to go back to work, and had decided, for a number of reasons, to go back to BigLaw.  I knew, in my head, that this was the right decision.  But I was also so afraid, and was trying hard not to allow the fear to take root and grow. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

really, actually perfect

When we last left our heroine (that's me) she was sitting on a bar stool with wet feet in "Whispers," the hotel bar of the SoMa Courtyard by Marriott, happily crying at the news that her partner was finally officially divorced, after approximately four and a half years of battles.

Once I had collected myself, Kathy again pleaded with me to go to the bathroom with her.  I was feeling all fond of her and squishy, so I agreed to go, despite the fact that (1) the bathroom was up some stairs, across a catwalk, and down a hallway, (2) I had absolutely zero desire to put my feet back into my soaking wet shoes, and (3) I think it's weird to go to the bathroom when you don't have to go, just to keep someone else company, especially considering that I do not wear lipstick so there was nothing to re-apply while I was in there.  But like I said, I was feeling particularly fond of her, and sort of wanted to be with my divorcee girlfriend for her really long walk to the bathroom.  So off we went.

Friday, February 3, 2012

a banished ghost

The weekend before last, Kathy and I took a short trip to San Francisco.  She had to go for a work function (the social and work lines are often so blurry -- it was basically a mandatory party).  We had a trip planned for February while the kids were on break with their father, but had to cancel it for a variety of reasons, so we decided to take the opportunity and a few thousand frequent flier miles, and I tagged along. 

When we arrived, we went to my favorite San Francisco restaurant (Taqueria Cancun, in the Mission -- I advise you to get some kind of Super Burrito, if you are ever there, and split it with someone), checked in at our hotel, went shopping at Gumps, without the kids, found me some boots that could withstand rain (duh, this is why you don't wear Uggs in California) and met up with our friend for drinks.  Which was kind of weird, since she was 8 months pregnant, but whatever, we were on vacation and technically ginger ale is a drink.  It was, actually, kind of a perfect day.  But then, the night happened.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Yesterday, I interviewed for a job as an associate at a big New York law firm.  Have I lost my mind?  Did I forget all that I went through last year, including the crying on the floor in a towel incident? Um, I hope not.

I need to find a job.  If I wait until the end of my sabbatical comes and goes, it will get significantly harder for me to find a job, since I am completely and officially unemployed.  So, I started to panic.  I met with a headhunter, revised my resume, and told her what I wanted -- ideally, a firm that was open to part time, or a full time in-house job where the lifestyle would be drastically different.  She called me back and told me that the only opening for someone with my experience was at a huge New York law firm notorious for burning out associates.  I politely said no, thank you, but to let me know if there were any other opportunities.  I waited, and the days of silence stretched into weeks.  Then, I found out that a partner at my old firm, who I liked, was moving to a different firm.  I took a deep breath, bit down hard on the bullet, and asked him if he needed associate help at his new firm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Last weekend, Kathy and I were in San Francisco (more on that later).  While we were there, she got a 5 am text from Kathy's ex-husband, asking if he could go to our house for the kids' snow clothes.  Which we ignored, because it was 5 am.  The 5 am text was followed by a 7 am text, which Kathy responded to by reminding her ex-husband that he had his own set of snow clothes, so there was no need for him to go to our house to take our set.  At 8, he informed us that he had gone to our house anyway, and the kids had gone inside to get the snow clothes, because they found a door unlocked.  He assured us he would just send the kids in, not go in our house himself, since he knows -- and we have already said -- that we don't like him in our house when we aren't home.  This was irritating, since he does, in fact, have his own set of snow clothes, but was acceptable, since we want the kids to feel like the house is their home, which they can have unfettered access to. 

When we arrived home, I noticed that the kids' tracks went all around the house, to all the doors.  Because I was concerned that we had left a door unlocked, and because the kids snow clothes were still piled right by the back door where they were when we left, I asked B what door they went in and why they didn't take the snow clothes.  "The back door," B answered. 

A narrowed her eyes suspicously.  "Did Daddy go inside?" she asked, since she wasn't with the other two kids at the time. 

"Yes," B responded.  "He wanted other clothes so he said, 'I'm coming in this house!' and went up to get the long underwear and my sweatpants and some other stuff."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Diary of an Expat: The Holidays Abroad

When I made the decision to live abroad, I knew that it would mean giving up some of the things I love. I also knew it would mean missing things that my friends and family got to experience together. But I'm not sure anything could have prepared me for my first Thanksgiving out of the US.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. It is all the warmth of seeing family, a fantastic meal and a few days off from work without the added pressure of having to buy the perfect gift for every relative, friend and acquantaince while baking copious amounts of cookies and making sure your house looks perfect. Christmas dropped way down on my list of favorite holidays (to dead last) once my brother and sister left for college and there was no one to share the anticipation with. It's begun to climb back up, but really nothing will ever compare with Thanksgiving. Last year was my first Thanksgiving without any of my family around. I thought it would be hard, but I have a fantastic network of friends in New York who celebrated not only US Thanksgiving with me, but also Canadian Thanksgiving (who knew you can have the excuse to cook a turkey and GBC - green bean casserole, in case you didn't know - in October and November?!).

Canadian Thanksgiving Spread

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Not to be a complainer or anything, but I can't believe how much my back has hurt.  I went to the chiropractor, who told me that I had a back spasm.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I had no idea all that pain could come from some muscle acting up.  I think, after some internet research (I know doctors love it when people do this) what is likely is that I strained a muscle, then proceeded to do an extremely vigorous workout, involving a lot of pushups and jumping around, which caused the strained muscle to spasm.  The result is that I could not lift anything, or sit down, or bend over, or basically participate in life, since 20 minutes out of every hour I had to lie on my stomach with a heating pad on my back. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


About two weeks ago, I did something to my back.  I have avoided mentioning it for two reasons.  First, because I have been trying to deny that it is an actual problem.  Second, because I thought it would be boring.

By ignoring the fact that my back has hurt in varying degrees of severity for two weeks, I have probably made things worse, by going running, lifting weights (!) and hauling Christmas decorations up to the attic. 

Also, this weekend, we almost killed Cutie, the hamster (this ties in, I promise).  It turns out that it was too chilly for her little body near the window.  But we had no idea what was wrong with her when she simply stopped eating and basically stopped moving.  "Don't pet her, Boo," Kathy said to a very concerned B.  "Sick animals sometimes bite." We learned that being cold makes hamsters hibernate (who knew?), and once we warmed her up, she was fine. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

why I cook

When you live in Manhattan, you exist on take out.  It's so easy to fall into a rut of pizza, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Greek, repeat.  Many of my friends (and myself included) have folders or even entire binders full of takeout menus.  It just seems simpler to have someone else make the food -- especially when every restaurant, including McDonald's (if you can call that a restaurant) delivers to the door of your apartment.  Kathy was a big NYC takeout eater too -- until her mother came to visit and a 2 year-old A yelled "FOOD!" when the doorbell rang.  It was hard to explain that Pavlovian response in a way that did not involve copious amounts of takeout.

Growing up, my busy mom's cooking style was mainly this:  (1) go to the grocery store and buy things that are on sale and that she knows we like; (2) put most of it in the freezer; (3) at dinner time, open the freezer and stare in, trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

I thought this was how everyone did it, which is why, when I went to college and "invented" my own method for planning/shopping/cooking, I felt like a genius.  Then, I discovered that my sister had also "invented" this method, and that, in fact, it was what a lot of people did.  But there is so much joy to be gleaned from good food, and really, it's not all that hard, even if broke or busy, or both.  The key, I think, to being able to cook good food at home, is the grocery shopping.  If you want to make good meals, you need to have the ingredients in the house at the time you want to start cooking.  And that is why I started writing a long, preachy post about grocery shopping, one of the most mundane of topics.  A post that was so long, and so preachy, that I deleted almost the whole thing.  Believe it or not, this masterpiece is a mere fraction of what I have to say about grocery shopping and the benefits of learning to cook, even if you just learn to cook a little.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


As I mentioned last year, I'm big on New Year's Resolutions (with a capital R).  This year it was a bit tougher than last year to come up with concrete resolutions.  I suppose this is because I am not as intensely unhappy as I was last year.  So, before we get to this year's resolutions, let's take a look back at 2011 (last year's resolution post is here).

1.  Try to see changes as beginnings rather than endings.  This was kind of vague, I now realize in retrospect, which means it's a "bad" resolution.  Did I accomplish it?  I dunno.  I have, however, become more comfortable with change, and more comfortable in my own skin, as I move through changes.  So success?  I guess so.

2.  Start a new career (or a new job).  Um, can you half-succeed at a resolution?  I did, in fact, manage to leave the law firm last year.  That was hard, and liberating, and identity-changing.  But here I sit, in my kitchen in a sweatshirt, drinking coffee at 9:30 am.  So it seems that I haven't gotten the new job off the ground yet.   That said, I made significant progress on figuring out who I am if not a Biglaw associate, and learning what I want out of my career/job.

Tuesday I met with a head-hunter in the city, who assured me that finding a job would not be the difficult thing; finding a job that I want will be the difficult thing.  But there has been huge progress on this front, as far as I am concerned.

If all else fails, I can go with C's approach.  He said to me the other day, "Why are you trying to find a job?  You already HAVE a job."  He meant that he, himself, was my job.  Point taken.