I made a mistake and then I fixed it.

I knew not long into practicing law that I made a career mistake. But, I felt trapped. My ego, my financial situation, my student loans, my expectations of myself, the expectations of others — all of these things made me feel as though I had no choice but to make a go of it. So, made a go of it I did for 12 years. Hell, I knew I hated being a lawyer when I started this blog, but all you have to do is read the title I chose – ProfMomEsq – or the “About Me” page to see how I nonetheless wrapped up law practice into my personal identity.

It probably isn’t worth it to rehash all the reasons why I don’t like law practice. There are too many reasons, and I’ve written about it before. I suppose some of the reasons apply to lawyers in general, but many apply only to me. The truth – which took me a very long time to realize – is that the reasons I hate being a lawyer are neither “right” nor “wrong.” They just are. So, ultimately, I had only a simple choice: did I want to be happy or unhappy? Pretty easy, right?

Yet, it took me 12 years — 12 YEARS — to find the strength not just to say I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore but to actually do something about it. You know what I did? I quit being a lawyer. Friday is my last day. I sent my goodbye email to my colleagues yesterday. I start an entirely new, non-lawyer job on Monday. And while I am a little nervous, I am mostly so thrilled that I feel as though I float down the hallways of the firm now, leaving a trail of pixie dust and the vague scent of warm chocolate chip cookies in my wake. I keep looking at myself in the mirror with this feeling of relief and surprise that – yep – I still exist even though I jettisoned the bar card.

As sunshine-y and rainbow-y as I am for myself, I can’t help but be sad for the lawyers I’ve talked to this week – colleagues, opposing counsel, clients – who remark about how jealous or envious they are of my decision to leave the profession or how brave I am to take this step. It wasn’t bravery that got me here. It was desperation. And, the envy is wasted energy. I want to tell each of them to spend that energy finding their passions. But, I know that the words are not enough. Like losing weight, quitting smoking or ending a bad relationship, leaving a career takes will power, and it is so hard to find the will. This is true even if your head understands that the change would be “good” for you, because we easily confuse “good” the feeling with “good” the outcome. Eating chocolate cake feels good. The rush of nicotine feels good. The momentary affection of someone you desperately want to love you feels good. But, that kind of “good” works some mischievous chemical voodoo on our brains and hearts that makes what is truly “good” (e.g, healthy) for us seem less desirable – to hell with logic and reason.

I had to get to the very edge of my sanity to understand this and – more importantly – to do something about it. So, while I listen to the stream of lawyers expressing envy or jealousy at my escape from the billable-hours grind, my heart aches for them. The answer is so simple it is literally unbelievable: do something else. But, we humans are so good at “justifying” where we are when we believe we are stuck. I won’t make as much money. I still have student loans. It will be better when I make partner. My clients need me. I don’t want to waste my degree. My family/friends/peers will think I’m a loser/quitter/weak/stupid.

What I learned (thanks to the happy coincidence of meeting a social worker who “got” me) is to stop evaluating my life choices as “right” or “wrong” and to start evaluating them as “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

Well, hey there, you know what’s not healthy? Spending more time doing a soul-sucking job that you absolutely hate than you do with the family and friends you love. It makes you a surprisingly unpleasant person. Paradoxically for me, it also made me put up with a lot of crap that I never in a million years would imagine tolerating.

Many folks I know are fond of the expression, “God gives you only what you can handle.” I don’t think that’s true. I have complicated feelings about God, but even when I’m open to the idea of a supreme being who has a plan for my life, I would have to believe that God grossly overestimates my threshold capacity for stress if he thinks I can “handle” the competing demands of law practice, raising two children, being a wife, addressing financial setbacks and learning/navigating the ins and outs of special education in a public school bureaucracy. Rather, I think God/life/karma/the universe deliberately presents us with events we can’t handle as a means of getting our attention and forcing us to make a decision. If I really bought into the God-gives-you-only-what-you-can-handle philosophy, I honestly believe I would be dead. I would’ve struggled mightily to continue to balance all those things, and I would’ve had a heart attack – a literal, chest-crushing heart attack. Instead, I saw it (eventually and after a lot of therapy) as a message: decide what is most important and focus on that.

My children are important to me. My husband is important to me. I am important to me. Being a lawyer is not important to me. I don’t view working as optional because of our family’s financial situation, but “needing” to work doesn’t mean I “need” to be a lawyer. And, funny enough, there are actually other (better) paying and more satisfying jobs out there!

So … what’s my point? Don’t waste your life doing what you think is “right,” when you can dedicate your life to doing what is healthy. Don’t confuse what feels good with what is good. Start small – plan every day to do just one thing that is healthy for you, and watch it snowball. Two months ago, I walked into an intensive outpatient therapy group for my panic disorder, and I stunned a room full of people dealing with abuse, addiction, disorders and depression into absolute silence when I told the story of my life. Five weeks later, I left that group hearing the applause of its members when I announced I had a new job and was on the path to a new career. That happened because every day I had to commit to doing something better, and every day I was held accountable for it by others until I was strong enough to hold myself accountable.

I know a lot of you reading this are balancing or juggling your own competing responsibilities, so I challenge you to find one thing – no matter how big or small – you will commit to doing today to help make your life better. Not your child’s life, not your spouse’s life, not you parent’s life — YOUR LIFE. Then, feel free to share it if you want some accountability.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, thinking up a new name for this blog. 🙂

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Random List of Stuff I Love #2

It’s that time again, chicklets:  the next installment of Random Stuff I Love.  (If you missed the first installment, you can read it here.)  The first time I did a list, it was haphazard, and my only rule was that my list include things I love, not people, so no hurt feelings.  But, I’ve decided I need at least a little rhyme and reason to these posts.  So, henceforth, Random Stuff I Love will include:

  • A book
  • A movie or TV show
  • A game
  • A song
  • A recipe
  • A website
  • A restaurant
  • A quote
  • A blog
  • Something completely random and possibly repetitive of one the above, but this is my blog, and I make the rules.  Plus, I  couldn’t really come up with a tenth thing.  If you have a suggestion, leave it in the comments for me.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
The Book
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume.  
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume
I read this book so many times, the cover actually fell off.  I tried to put the book back together with a glue stick.  It didn’t work out very well, and I gave it a proper funeral when I buried in the garbage can.  
Basically, Sheila was me; I don’t remember otherwise relating so strongly to a character in a book – then or now – except maybe to Meg in a Wrinkle in Time.  Sheila seemed very confident on the outside, but she was terrified of a lot of stuff on the inside.  We were both afraid of the dark and of spiders and of ghosts.  Sheila was afraid of other stuff, too, including swimming.  There’s a wrenching scene in the book about “slam books.”  If you’re old enough to remember what those are, you can imagine how it went.  Thinking back now, this is actually a good book through which to teach kids about bullying.
The Movie or TV Show
Although the oath was cut from the film, this pretty much sums up the tone of the movie:
I will never betray my goon dock friends / We will stick together until the whole world ends / Through heaven and hell, and nuclear war / Good pals like us, will stick like tar / In the city, or the country, or the forest, or the boonies / I am proudly declared a fellow Goony.
This movie had everything.  Good dialogue.  A great story.  A bit scary, a lot funny, just the right amount of sweet, plausible fantasy.  It somehow captured everything that was being a kid – the fun, the disappointment, the isolation, the love.  I’m totally watching this tomorrow with Nate.  😉  If you loved this movie, visiting the IMDb page is absolutely worth a visit for the trivia and memorable quotes.  Somebody get me a Baby Ruth.
The Game
I love board and card games.  I think I have a gene for this that I inherited from both sides of my family, because I recall learning to play games like Othello, Monopoly, checkers, Uno, poker, Yahtzee and such at a pretty young age.  My sister and I definitely played a fair number of hours of War, Slap Jack, Old Maid and Go Fish.  When my husband and I started dating, we would meet in coffee shops and play Trivial Pursuit.  When I had one win to his 14, I wanted to simultaneously punch and marry him.
One game we discovered along the way is Acquire.  (Thanks to my surrogate dad for this one!)  The idea is very simple, but the strategy is wonderfully complex and varied.  You draw tiles to play on a grid.  When you can play two adjacent tiles, you form a corporation.  Once a corporation forms, you can purchase shares of its stock.  At any time, as many as seven corporations on the board, but you can purchase only three shares of stock on any turn.  You can also “merge” corporations (unless they get too big) – sometimes at a good profit.  The goal is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game.
One of the things I most love about this game is that we can play it with the kids.  Nate started playing it with us when he was about 9 or 10.  My niece was over a few weekends ago, and not only did she play with the Hubs and me, she beat us — by a freaking mile!  And it wasn’t because the Hubs and I weren’t trying — you will not meet two people more competitive in the game department.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the Hubs sulked for about 20 minutes after we played, because he came in last place.  My niece’s polite but uncontainable excitement at whooping his ass was delicious.  For me.
The Song
Everest, Let Go.
I discovered this show watching baseball.  It was played in – of all things – a beer commercial.  I’m so glad this band got some publicity, but dudes, you are better than beer commercials.
The Recipe
A couple of weeks ago, I was preparing Helene’s breakfast, which included pureed apricots.  I got some on my finger and licked it off.  The flavor startled me, because it was really good.  I had forgotten liking apricots quite that much.  I licked the entire inside of the container of pureed apricots, then I added them to my grocery shopping list.  Before I set out for the store, I decided that whatever we were having for dinner that night was going to have apricots in it.  Thus, I stumbled across the recipe link above.  I followed the recipe exactly except for the capers, which I don’t necessarily dislike, but I’ve never really understood either.  What, exactly, do they add to a dish.  Anyway, both the Hubs and I really enjoyed the results, and I thought it was a relatively quick, easy and neat (as in not too messy) meal.
The Website

This is a Tumblr by October Jones built around images of text messages between October and the bulldog “Batdog.”  If you are not already reading this, why?  WHY?  It does not matter how bad your day has been, you WILL laugh.  So much laughing.  Here’s my favorite:

YOU BELLY-FLOPPED A POSTMAN DICKHEAD!

The Restaurant

Cupkates Bakery

Fine.  It’s not really a restaurant.  When you read what it is, you will forgive me for this technical hiccup.

Cupkates is the brilliant idea I wish I had.  Kate bakes the best cupcakes you’ve ever had in your life, frosts them with frosting that is better than sex, then packs them into a food truck and peddles them in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.  I seriously follow her on Twitter (@CupkatesTruck) so I know where the truck will be and when.  Why?  Because if you don’t get in line before the Cupkates Truck gets there, you may not get to the window of the truck before the “SOLD OUT” sign goes up.

Who the hell waits in a 45-minute long line for a cupcake?  Me, that’s who.  Why?  Three words:  Red. Velvet. Cake.  Listen, I am a red velvet cake snob to the point where I’m pretty sure I was a Southern Belle in one of my previous incarnations.  If not made properly, red velvet cake can have a very greasy and almost gummy texture, which takes it from fucking amazing to fucking disgusting in no time.  You will NOT have this problem at Cupkates.  Ever.  She is a Zen master of the red velvet to say nothing of the edible-wonder that is her cream cheese frosting.  And I don’t even really like frosting.

Other honorable mentions:

  • S’mores cupcake:  graham-cracker-bottomed chocolate cupcake with burnt marshmallow frosting
  • Guinness cupcake:  chocolate + Guinness beer.  Need I say more?
  • Twinkie cupcake:  Oh, yes.  But she doesn’t bust this one out very often.
The Blog

I found Lizbeth’s blog the way I find all my good spectrum parenting blogs:  Jim (of Just a Lil Blog) or Jill (of Yeah. Good Times.)  Lizbeth (who I’m sure won’t mind me talking about her like we’re friends even though we’ve never met!) is mom to three kids and has a sense of humor that is not only admirable but will give you great abs in 6 – 8 weeks, whether you have kids on the spectrum or not.  My introduction to Four Sea Stars was via this post about Lizbeth’s kids going to sword camp.  Yes.  You read that right.  Now, go read her fabulous blog.
The Quote
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” — Benjamin Franklin
One combination of words that drives me particularly nutty is “I’m sorry, but …”  Whatever follows “but,” is a statement of qualification that completely obliterates any sincerity in the apology.  If you are truly remorseful about something, you say only, “I am sorry.”  If the silence that hangs in the air after you’ve finished speaking that sentence is uncomfortable, tough. Soak that in that for a few seconds, which is probably less unpleasant than whatever you apologized for and a small price to pay.  And for the love of all that is holy and chocolate cake, NEVER EVER EVER EVER utter the phrase, “I’m sorry, too” when receiving an apology unless you actually fucking mean to apologize for something and not just ladle on more guilt.  You don’t have to accept an apology if you’re not ready to do so, but you can at least be grateful you got one.  (I will explain this rant again some other day – this is supposed to be a post about stuff I love …)
The Random

Zen Pencils is the brainchild of Gavin Aung Than, a freelance illustrator from Melbourne, Australia.  He takes inspirational quotes from famous people and adapts them are into cartoons. His website launched in February, 2012, so it’s a new venture, and I hope it is wildly successful, because his work is fantastic.  What’s better, some of it is for sale!  Here’s my favorite:

Brief but Magnificent Opportunities

If you like Zen Pencils, check out its Facebook page.  You can submit quotes you’d like to see illustrated.  Finally, if you need more motivation, Gavin donates some of his profits to various charitable organizations associated with the person whose quote he illustrates.  The whole concept is just downright cool.

My Blog May Not Have a Theme, But It Wins AWARDS. It’s Like the Seinfeld of Blogs!

GUESS WHAT!

Nope. That’s not it. Guess again.

No, I didn’t win an award. Guess again.

Stop being so impatient. I KNOW what the title says. “AWARDS”! As in plural. As in more than one.

I got TWO awards. TWO! Can you even imagine? It’s like getting TWO gold stars on the top of your paper, instead of the usual one (which is super nice, but not nearly the same awesomeness factor as TWO).

Great Work!

Yeah. I know this paper got THREE gold stars. Apparently, you can get one or three. Two is unheard of. Until now, anyway.

Award the First

The lovely, eloquent and very gracious George Kinnard over at COALESCENCE nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award, because I have tricked him into believing I know what I’m doing over here. He is too kind to me, really. George in fact DOES know what he’s doing over at COALESCENCE, and you should definitely go check out his blog. I particularly like his “Sunday Spin” feature, because he never fails to find a song that brings back great memories for me or to introduce me to something I’ve missed out on all these years. George also wrote a very compelling series of posts about his relationship with his father. You lucky souls who are just finding them get to read the posts all at once. I suffered through the cliffhangers (and the wait was worth every minute!).

Award the Second

One Lovely Blog Award

Jim over at Just a ‘Lil Blog gave me this award after he wrote a story about poo and called my blog “themeless.” Oh, alright. He didn’t actually say my blog had no theme. But it was definitely implied. Definitely. (I mean, why would he say such a thing?)

I know what you’re thinking. Jeez, lady. You’re awfully snarky toward a guy who just gave you an award. It does say your blog is lovely.

You’re right, you’re right. Here’s the thing. Jim is waaaayyyyy funnier than am I, which means I’m totally jealous fella. In fact, he is THREE times as funny (see here, here and here), AND he has a legitimate day job. [Or so he says, anyway. I have my suspicions.])

Whachya got in the basket there, kid?

Blogger by night. ALIEN by day!!!

As part of accepting these awards, I have to write seven interesting facts about myself (see below). I feel like these should be at least as funny (if not more so) than the stuff Jim wrote about himself when he got this award. It’s so much pressure! I have never done anything as interesting as crapping myself at work. I feel like the America’s Got Talent contestant who had to perform after Susan Boyle. (Yeah, I don’t remember who the fuck that was either.) But, I’m going to try, dammit. In the immortal words of Tina Fey (well, they will be someday), “My ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivaled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne.”

Do NOT, for the love of Pete, Google “chin acne” images. I think my eyes are bleeding.

So, without further ado (and before someone hooks me off my own stage) here are the strings attached to these awards.

First, I have to link back to the folks who gave me the awards. I did, and I – in all seriousness — encourage you to go read what they contribute to this Internet thingy. It is time well spent.

Also, I have to paste the award images into my post. Done. Easy-squeezy.

Now, here is the first hard part (which I mentioned above): seven “interesting” “facts” about me. What’s with the quotes?, you ask. Uh … you’ll see.

The Seven Wonders of Me

Wonder #1. I skipped the seventh grade. I went right from sixth grade to eighth grade. Cool, right? WRONG. See, my parents had the opportunity to do this little grade skipping stunt every year I was in school before the sixth grade. But my mother, in her infinite wisdom, waited until just before I hit puberty, to give it that extra kick of awkward that every 12 and 13 year-old girl needs in her hormone-raging life. (Also, I would like to personally thank my DNA right now for waiting on the boobs until I was a freaking sophomore … in COLLEGE. You come late to the party and then you leave early, too??? WTF.)

Wonder #2. I have a tattoo of Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. Yes. It’s a fucking tramp-stamp.Transmogrify!!

I got this tattoo before “tramp stamp” entered anyone’s vocabulary, okay? It’s not like the tattoo artist took me aside and said, “Listen, dude. I know you want this somewhere that your mom future potential employers won’t see it, but people are gonna make wicked fun of you in a few years when some hoochie mamas start getting all kinds of stupid shit tattooed in the exact same place.” Nope. He just took my $75 bucks and set every nerve ending in my lower back ON FIRE while telling me to HOLD STILL.

Look, I was in Berkeley when I got the tat, doing things you do in Berkeley. I had big tattoo plans, and those plans involved a lot more than Calvin dancing on the back of my hip in his cool shades. Hobbes was supposed to be there, too. Susie eventually. It all seemed like a good idea at the time. But a lot of things seem like a good idea when you are in Berkeley, stinking drunk well hydrated and stoned stupid well fed.

I also got this tattoo before I had children (which involved gaining and losing about 90 pounds each time. That’s NOT an exaggeration.) Calvin isn’t aging quite as well as one might expect for such a boyish face? So, no, I’m not going to show you an actual picture.

Wonder #3. I once worked as a temp for various Turner companies. I worked at TBS for a day in the video department that was responsible for putting those nifty stat graphics on the screen during a baseball game. You would not believe the amount of work that goes into that or how many people it takes to pull it off. (Or, at least, the number of people it took in 1990. Now it’s probably some snot-nosed 21-year-old with a Macbook who’s multi-tabling no-limit tournaments and fucking around with GarageBand at the same time.)

I also worked for Turner Publishing for a while. You remember when folks were giving Ted Turner a shitload of grief for colorizing old black and white movies? Well, I assembled press kits designed to convince people it wasn’t going to send Mr. Turner to cinemagraphic hell. I have no idea whether the press kits worked and, frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.

My last temp gig was for the president of CNN (at the time, Tom Johnson). I answered his phone, at which I was spectacular, thankyouverymuch. Although playing receptionist was not nearly as exciting as assembling press kits, Mr. Johnson’s office offered a decidedly better view. The front of the office was a long glass window. The office was perched over the CNN Atlanta newsroom, so I had an excellent view of – among other things -the top of Bernard Shaw’s head.

I did these temp gigs between 1990 and 1991, when the Atlanta Braves (owned by Ted Turner) became an outstanding baseball team. The Braves had one of the best pitching staffs I can recall — John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Greg Maddux, in particular. When the Braves were in the playoffs, work stopped all over Turner (and downtown Atlanta in general). We stood around televisions (which seemed to be everywhere) and held our collective breath with each pitch. We tomahawk chopped when we passed each other in the halls. I always liked baseball, but that whole time made me fall in love with baseball — with being a fan of baseball. Eventually, I realized that I did, indeed, leave my heart in San Francisco. (Holy Shit, Matt Cain!) But, I have to give the Atlanta Braves credit for lighting the fuse.

Wonder #4. I once went to a nudist camp. With my family. We were on vacation. No, I have no idea WTF my mother was thinking, either. No, I have not yet mentioned this to my therapist, thank you. I can barely afford her as it is, and you know that little confession will run me another year of sessions.

Wonder #5. Ah, first date stories. Aren’t they fun? Usually, first date stories are told at the wedding reception, little rom-coms that they are. Well, I don’t do anything the “usual” way. No. The Hubs and I had our first date at the theatre. The O’Farrell Theatre. It has a juice bar. (NSFW. Unless you’re a stripper. Then, I’m thinking your boss won’t mind. It’s like professional development or something?)

Listen, I’m sure this isn’t a big shocker now that you’ve read Wonder #4. And, to be fair, it wasn’t really a date. It was a dare. Close, but not the same.

Here’s what happened. The Hubs and I went to law school together, but we didn’t really talk because he was all tall-dark-handsome-I’m-too-good-for-you-don’t-even-look-at-me. (He, as you can imagine, has a completely different story. He says I was mean to him because I thought he got a better grade than I did in Contracts, and I got up in his face about it all über-competitive-like.)

Anyway …

At the end of law school, the Hubs and I started interning in the same place, and we occasionally had lunch together with another law school person. Somehow, the conversation turned to strip clubs. (Weird how guys manage to slip that into random conversation …) I’ll spare you the details, but the conversation ended with the Hubs “daring” me to go into the O’Farrell.

I showed up at our appointed time and place. Because dare, yo. But it wasn’t until that moment that I realized, Shit. I’ve never been alone with this guy. We’re driving all the way to the City together. We’re gonna be stuck together in a car forEVER. What the fuck are we gonna talk about? Well, now I’m standing there. In the parking lot. Where he’s waiting. And looking at me. It’s kind of too late to be worrying about this?

The Hubs at least had the good sense to feed me and liquor me up first. (I’m pretty sure this was the only part of the “dare” that was actually supposed to happen? Please see earlier discussion about the Contracts grade.) After dinner, he’s all, “You ready?” in his Cocky McCockerson voice with one eyebrow raised they way he does when he’s trying to make me weak. I downed my drink, said, “Fuck it. Let’s go,” and walked toward the front door of the restaurant. Between there and the front of the “theatre,” he gave me like 300 three chances to back out.

There are a lot of other details to this story, but I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law reads this, and even though she lives like 5,000 miles away, I can still feel her glaring at me all big-sister-like. So, I’m going to tell you only this. At one point in the evening, my future husband declared to me, “You are the coolest chick ever!” If you were there, you would know that he meant it. At least until the hot-ass woman who was expressing herself through dance to put herself through college took the Hubs’s money but gave me her phone number. And, don’t think for one second I’m not still flaunting that shit twelve years later. (Please see earlier discussion about the Contracts grade.)

Wonder #6. I lost my car once. I was at the Danbury Fair Mall in Connecticut. As you will see (if you click the link, which you should do, because it’s a map the helps this whole story make more sense for those of you who are – like I am – directionally challenged), there are six ways to exit the mall into the parking lot. Well, I parked my car in the area marked P3 and went into the mall through Macy’s. I made a mental note of where I parked. Then I set about shopping. Several hours later (I was in college – the halcyon days of free time), I exited the mall via Macy’s and went to where I parked my car. NO CAR. In fact, not only no car, but shattered glass in the parking spot where my car used to be.

This is in the days before cell phones, so I am left wandering around the mall parking lot muttering and crying, trying to figure out what to do about my stolen car. Luckily, golf-cart security guard sees the spectacularly hot mess I’ve become and stops to assist me. As I gasp for air in between my tears, I tell him my car was stolen. He smiles — a knowing, condescending, patronizing smile.

Mall Cop: Are you sure this is where you parked it?

Me: [saying aloud] Yes. [want to say] Yeah, I’m sure, you wanna-be, jelly-roll-eating, golf-cart-driving, glorified-parking-attendant.  Because, broken glass.

Mall Cop: Why don’t we just drive around to the other side of Macy’s and take a look-see? (Gesturing to the area marked as P4.)

Me: But, I know I parked here. And there’s glass. Clearly my car was stolen.

Mall Cop: Yes, I see the random glass to which you are pointing, ma’am. There’s a lot of that in this very, very big parking lot? So … [pats seat next to him in golf car]

Me: [pouting and sniffling] Fine.

So Mall Cop drives around to P4, and we start cruising up and down the parking rows. Round about the fourth row, I see the familiar red bumper. My face starts to match my car. I can feel Mall Cop laughing inside.

My car was right where I parked it. In P4. I really hope Karma enjoyed that shit. I probably deserved it, but …
Wonder #7. I am undefeated at Boggle.

BRING. IT.

I have never lost a game of Boggle to anyone. Seriously, my family won’t even play it with me anymore. For a while, we played with varied rules. I could use only five-letter words or higher. Everyone else could use three-letter words or higher. Still, undefeated. When Scramble with Friends came out, I was SOOOOOOO excited. Not anymore. Random opponents – creamed ’em. Family — dusted ’em.

I’ve been beaten at SWF only once. I was playing – of all goddamned people – the Hubs. He’d lost like 500 five games in a row to me. When I was taking my turn, Helene started pulling on me and asking for something, but instead of pausing the game, I got all cocky and just set my phone down on the table. I figured I had a healthy enough lead to win. Damn if he didn’t beat me by like two points. Don’t think he doesn’t flaunt that shit either. (Please see earlier discussion regarding Contracts grade.)

Now, no one will play that game with me either unless I let them slaughter me at Words with Friends. (*Ahem*Kevin Burdick*Ahem.)

The Seven Wonders of the Blogosphere (or at Least My Little Corner of It)

The last condition of these awards (and this is the HARDEST PART) is that I nominate others (seven others, actually) to receive them. I hate this part. I hate it for two reasons. First, I don’t want to leave anyone out and hurt feelings. I don’t deal well with guilt? Second, I know a lot of people really don’t like these awards, because they’re like email-this-or-bad-luck-forever-for-you forwards, only a lot more work than just hitting the “Forward” button and dumping your contacts list in there. And, I don’t deal well with guilt?

But, listen. My blog is a little fledgling blog, and I get so stupid-happy when people come by and “like” my blog, and I get warm-fuzzy-blissful when people comment (unless a person writes a trolly-crap-wagon comment, then I get all package-punchy). So, you can imagine the euphoria when I got TWO AWARDS. If nominating seven of you for an award is the price I must pay for happiness, I’m going to sit here and convince myself that you’ll forgive me. Please. Please?

So, here we go. These are in no particular order, but I’ve chosen blogs that I think are worth a lot more readership and comment participation than they’re getting. Also, if you’ve already told me that you are anti-the-awards, I am not going to make you write me a public thank you letter in which you politely decline the award but silently curse my name and wish for pigeons to poo on my freshly washed car. If one of my nominees happens to fall into this particular category, I beg you, please, do not wish the Karma pigeons on me. I wash my car myself. I’ll buy you a coffee or something and we’ll call it square, ok? Thanks.

1. Love Many. Trust Few. I nominate this blog and its author, Rose, for the One Lovely Blog award. I don’t even know where to begin describing what a wonderful blog Rose writes. She fosters several children one of whom is on the spectrum. She is a fountain of hope, knowledge, patience, wisdom. I LOVE reading her blog. And I look forward to the comments she leaves on mine, which are often insightful and comforting.

2. MrJMFlynn. This blog I nominate for the Kreativ Blogger award. Mr. Flynn is a freshly minted law student at the University of Michigan. He writes about a wide variety of subjects, and he writes well. I particularly like his posts that relate his experiences as a new law student. He also understands how to engage in healthy debate, and I’m enjoying watching him develop into a future lawyer (much as I usually try to talk folks out of it).

3. Ashley Jillian. Ashley gets the Kreativ Blogger award. She is a self-proclaimed “media savvy and fashionable math nerd.” She is also an aspiring comedian. Her blog posts are quirky, funny, witty, snarky — a lot of the things I enjoy in a writer. She’s got a crapload of followers already, so she probably doesn’t need this little award. Still, I’m glad she’s out there, and I hope to see her make it on the comedy circuit.

4. It’s Bridget’s Word. Bridget kicks ASS in the autism advocacy department, and I want to hug her more than give her an award, but the One Lovely Blog award will have to do. When Bridget writes, she does it all ballerina-ninja style. She mesmerizes you with graceful eloquence, yet she’s forcing you to reallythink about something. She doesn’t blog as often as I’d like (*ahem*), but when she does, I appreciate her point of view, because she is autistic and can speak from knowledge and experience even “experts” lack. You can also follow Bridget on Twitter @ItsBridgetsWord.)

5. nerdmommathfun. Ringer for the Kreativ Blogger award. So, I’m a total math-a-phobe? Seriously. I have a problem. But, I have NO problem with the lovely person who writes this blog. First of all — great sense of humor. I appreciate the “overuse” of emoticons. But, I also love the series of posts for the “kiddos” who need help with their math homework.  Let’s be real — it’s not just the kids who need math help, okay?  I was unable to help Nate with his math homework after about the fourth grade. So, factor on, Nerdmommathfun. Factor on.

6. Muse~ings. Elizabeth is an English teacher, so I love her by default. But, she’s also got One Lovely Blog (and now has the award to prove it). She writes about her experiences as a sometimes ninth-grade, sometimes twelfth-grade teacher. Her posts are funny:

Your name sounds French. Can you bust out with some French?

Uh… Just because I have a French last name doesn’t mean that I’ve got mad French skills. My maiden name is Taylor. It doesn’t mean that I can alter your suits for you. I can only swear in French and, even then, I am not sure if I am saying them correctly. For all I know, I could be saying “fish” when I really want to say “shit, er, crap.” That’s how I rock my French. (I don’t swear very well. I feel guilty.)

She is also practical and insightful about teaching and learning. But, Elizabeth also shares a good deal about herself, including about depression/anxiety and how it affects her in her personal and professional life. I genuinely appreciate people (especially women) who are willing to put the issue out there and discuss it, because every voice brings us one step closer to acceptance and understanding.

7. The Third Glance. Another One Lovely Blog nominee. This blog is written by E, who is a Ph.D student and Autistic. What I love about this blog is the way E shares stories. E expresses thoughts about autism based on concrete experiences, which puts thoughts, actions and communications into a context for me that I think helps me – as a parent – better understand and communicate with my daughter. E is an honest, compelling, smart and thoughtful writer. E’s site also has a fountain of other spectrum-related resources.

So there you have it. Seven facts. I’m sure you’ll tell me whether they’re interesting. And seven wonderful blogs. Thank you again to George and Jim.

Random List of Stuff I Love (or, This Is What Too Much Coffee & Sugar Reads Like)

I ate an entire bag of strawberry licorice, about five (dozen) Reese’s mini-eggs, and I am on my second third fourth cup first pot of coffee, so I need to let off some of this ridiculous energy.  A walk?  Too predictable.  Finish the laundry?  Ugh.  Go to bed?  Uh, did you read the first sentence?

Then it came to me:  RANDOM BLOG POST!!!  Wheeeeeeee!  Plus, I’m tired of making people cry when they read this blog.  So, I decided to lighten it up a bit with a list of stuff (as in not people) I love – in no particular order — and the reasons why.  This is by no means exhaustive, despite the ungodly length of this blog post.  Which means – yay — a part two!

Image theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan

Better Off Dead.  Yeah, yeah.  Two dollars.  You want your two dollars.  Whatever.  I want to punch that little bicycle-wielding punk in the teeth.  He is not why this movie is funny.  If I am having an enormously shitty day, I watch this movie, because it unfailingly makes me laugh.  Especially when Ricky’s mom’s face blows up.  Maybe it’s because my life is always better than Lane Meyer’s, no matter how bad it seems to suck at the moment.  Or maybe it’s because Charles De Mar is way more philosophical than people realize.  The proof?  How’s this for advice on improving your quality of life:  “Go that way.  (Pointing downhill.) Really fast.  If something gets in your way, turn.”

Then again, it might be this:

Monique:  So you won’t tell anyone?

Lane:  What?  That you’re a Dodgers fan?  (See, e.g., Baseball section below.)

Image courtesy of http://www.bradlaidman.com

The Princess Bride.  This is my favorite it’s-raining-and-I’m-on-the-couch-with-my-blanket-in-my-pjs-drinking-hot-chocolate-eating-real-popcorn movie.  The dialogue is smart, I love the sound of Peter Falk’s voice narrating the story-within-a-story, and it is just the right kind of cheesy:  cheddar not Blue Stilton.  It is so perfectly cast.  (Why did Fred Savage even grow up?  Seriously, between this and Wonder Years, he totally type-cast himself as a ten-year-old.)  And, despite the film’s age, it doesn’t seem old when I watch it.  This may be one of the few things about which my teenaged son and I agree.  If you haven’t seen this movie, you should immediately stop reading, improve the quality of your life, and go watch it, then have fun storming the castle.

Coffee.  I have a strange love affair with coffee.  For as long as I can remember, I loved the smell of coffee.  In fact, I loved it enough that my mother taught me – when I was about five – how to make a pot of coffee.  (Apparently, my mother did raise a fool – or a sucker – because I actually believed she did this for me.)  I didn’t particularly like the taste, though.  It wasn’t until many years later – when I was in law school and desperately trying to stay awake through classes that met 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. four nights a week – that I learned two important things.  One, coffee contains caffeine, and a shot of espresso is sufficient to keep a 5’2″ woman awake through a three-hour lecture on why the hearsay rule is nothing more than a preamble to about 36 exceptions that sometimes contradict themselves in painfully illogical ways.  Two, coffee that comes in a can is really, really shitty – which probably accounts for why I didn’t like it until someone introduced me to real (or at least reasonably drinkable) coffee.  Now, coffee is like a friend.  I like sitting down at my desk in the morning, wrapping my hands around my favorite coffee mug, and reading the advance sheets and the legal blogs I follow.  It lets me ease into my day so I don’t rip off too many heads, especially the one belonging to my assistant, whom I adore but who is often the (misdirected) object of my ire.  This may be why she comes in at 9:30 a.m.  Just a guess.  I also like sitting in the local coffee joint on the rare occasions my husband and I can spend an hour alone together in the morning after we drop the kids off at school.  At the rate we go, it’s like our own version of 50 First Dates.  I’m not sure which of us has the amnesia, but as long as we keep finding each other through our sleep-deprived haze, it’s all cool.  I’ll have a medium mocha, no whip.  Thanks.

Image courtesy of some random website, but I'm pretty sure it originally belonged to Charles Schulz.

My Blanket.  So, yeah.  I have one.  What?  WHAT?!  I had the same one from the time I was born until the 6th grade, when my cat had to be put to sleep.  I let the vet bury her with it.  I figured I was all grown up then, having dealt with the seriousness of death, and too old for a security blanket.  As luck had it, though, my room was always a horrible mess.  Among the various articles of clothing strewn around my bed was this rose-colored bathrobe.  I fell asleep on it.  It felt a lot like the blanket I just quit.  There was no pill, no patch, no hypnosis to make me kick this habit.  (I wish I could quit you, man!)  So, I quietly cut out the zipper and rocked that bad boy.  Then I got to an age when I might not be the only person sleeping in my bed.  (No, I am not going to tell you how old that was, because: (a) my kids might someday read this, (b) I’d rather tell you what’s on my iPod playlist, and (c) WHAT!?)  There was really no denying that my “blanket” used to be an article of clothing (what with the sleeves still on it and all), so it had to be ditched.  It is very, very awkward to have someone decide you’re a psycho when you’re – you know – naked.  Rest assured, the fates intervene again.  In a somewhat ironic twist, the parents of an ex-boyfriend sent me a blanket from a place to which they’d recently traveled.  It was meant to be decorative, but the minute I took it out of the package, I knew what was going to happen.  I brushed it against my face, felt that familiar twinge of paradoxical excitement and sleepiness.  Deal sealed.  And – the double bonus – when casually folded and draped over the edge of my bed, zero psycho factor.  Yay!  That blanket made it until about three years ago, when it started coming out of the washing machine with pieces missing.  Then, the fates brought me to Brookstone, where I discovered the wonders of something called the “Nap” blanket.  I will have you know it is clinically proven to improve my sleep.   See:

Chicken and Orzos.  Go read this.  Now, buy a whole chicken.  About six pounds is good for four people.  Stuff it full with shallots, lemon halves, fresh basil, fresh oregano and fresh thyme and two or three garlic cloves.  (A note to anyone named Lisa or Matt:  bulb of garlic ≠ clove of garlic.)  Put the chicken in a roasting pan and truss the legs so the body cavity is tightly shut.  Now, melt a stick of butter in a pan and add the juice of one lemon.  Pour it over the chicken.  Sprinkle generous, four-finger pinch of sea salt and two-finger pinch of fresh-ground black pepper all over chicken. Do not neglect the wings and drumsticks. Cover.  Put in 400º F oven for 60 minutes.  Uncover.  Cook for another 15 minutes so chicken skin turns caramel-brown.

While chicken roasts, put a 6-quart pot of water on the stove.  Make it salty like sea water by adding two four-finger pinches of salt.  Bring to boil.  Add one box of orzo.  Cook about 6 minutes.  (You want it still firm, because it will keep cooking with the chicken.)  Drain.  When chicken has been in for 30 minutes, put orzo in the roasting pan with the chicken.  Add juice of three lemons and enough water to just keep the orzo moist.  Cover roasting pan.

Serve with fresh vegetables, preferably a mix of string beans and carrots, a tossed green salad and garlic bread.  (Then please see Handwritten Thank-You Note section, below.)

Thanksgiving.  I love – LOVE – Thanksgiving.  It is the only holiday that has escaped complete commercialization.  It also involves cooking — and a lot of it — which I love a whole lot as well.  I know the origin of Thanksgiving is not without controversy.  I’m not celebrating Pilgrims or how white men (and women) came to the United States and brought a shitload of germs here with them that nearly annihilated the indigenous population.  Or the irony of the Manifest Destiny as conceived by people fleeing ideological persecution.  What I like is the sentiment — the idea of honoring the people in your life for whom you are thankful — by nourishing them.  Not just with food (although there is plenty of that, most of it starting with butter, which might be the greatest invention ever), but also with conversation, memories past and future, and a “friendly” game of nickle-dime-quarter poker.  Yeah, that’s right.  You read Super System and now you’re a cash game specialist?  Whatever.  I learned from Grandpa and my girl Gina’s Grandma Mary.  Bring your bankroll and a big appetite.  You will need both.

Crossword Puzzles.  I was nine or ten years old the first time I tried to do the Sunday puzzle in the New York Times.  I think I solved two clues, and whether those were right is debatable.  So, I’d wait until my grandmother or mother had done enough of the puzzle that I might guess some.  They got sick of me ambushing their puzzles, so one of them bought me my own crossword puzzle book.  From then on, whenever I was working on something for school (or later for work), and I got stumped, I took a break and worked a puzzle.  Sometimes, I’d get only a few clues in and – wham – like magic, I figured out what stumped me.  I remember the first time I finished the New York Times puzzle.  I was on BART (which is a commuter train where I live).  I was a freshman in college.  I actually yelled out, “Hell, yeah! I own you!”  I was on my way home to do laundry at my mother’s house, and I hadn’t yet showered, so I’m pretty sure no one paid any attention to the homeless-looking chick cheering for herself in the back of the car.  I actually scheduled in crossword time as part of my study routine for the Bar exam.  I’m fairly certain that that – and the ridiculous amount of time I spent with my study partner on a driving range – was why I passed on the first try.  I got rid of all my angst, anxiety, impatience before hand so it didn’t crush me in the pressure-cooker that was the convention center full of wanna-be lawyers.

Handwritten Thank-You Notes.  I admit that I am not as good about sending these as I should be, especially because I love getting them.  Listen, if you shoot me an email or a text message to say thank you for something I did for or gave you, that’s awesome.  It feels good to be acknowledged in any form.  But, there is something so awesomely cool about opening the mailbox to find that distinctive envelope — usually a color other than white — bearing someone’s familiar handwriting.  The first joy is that it’s not a bill.  The second (and more important) joy is knowing that someone took the time to find stationary and a pen, to stand in line at the grocery store, post office or ATM to buy stamps, to actually put pen to paper and write out their thoughts, and to seal it up and send it.  That makes the seven stops I made to find just the right thing really worth it.  Or, it makes the 30 minutes I spent interviewing you (which 30 minutes are not billable) actually a lot easier to swallow, which inches you ever closer to the “hire” column.  Food for thought.

Cover of original hardback edition.

A Wrinkle in Time

Αεηπου σνδεν, πςντς Σ εηπιζειυ χρεωτ.  Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything. – Euripedes

I found this book by accident in the library at school.  I was in second grade.  I remember two things from my first read:  I wanted to be Meg so bad it hurt, because I related to her in a way I cannot describe; and, there were a lot of damn words in that book I had to look up in a dictionary.  My mother made me look up the words because it was “good for me,” but I am fairly positive that she didn’t know what the fuck they meant either.

I’ve since read the book well more than a dozen times, at various points in my life, and I’ve loved it more or differently each time.  As an adult, I loved the fact that Meg is the story’s main character, she is both emotionally strong and seriously intelligent (and not comically so on either front), and she has real relationships.  She is a heroine who saves the day not by masculine strength or sexualizing herself but by simply being different.   This is all the more incredible when you consider the book was written in about 1960!  It was a welcome relief from the Sweet Valley High and Baby-Sitters Club crap littering the front of the library.

Pajamas.  I have to dress like an adult for work, which generally involves pantyhose and heels.  I am a fan of neither.  (Although I wouldn’t dream of turning down a pair of Jimmy Choos, okay?)  There is no greater separation of me from the stress of work than the emotional armor found in my favorite pajamas.  Those pajamas make a serious statement:  I am home. I am done working.  I am not leaving the house unless it is on fire.  I inadvertently taught my daughter this this lesson, because she will freak the hell out when you try to change her into anything but pajamas.  She knows damn well what pajamas mean, and she ain’t buyin’ the whole we’re-just-getting-dressed-because-it’s-cold-in-here b.s. I’m trying to sell her.  My son would go to school in his pajamas if I would let him.  I think love of pajamas might be hereditary.

Torture!

Baseball.  There always seemed to be a a baseball game on in whatever house I was living in or visiting during my youth.  My grandfather was a Yankees fan.  My father was a Mets fan — I’m pretty sure just to piss off my grandfather.  I started really paying attention to baseball for pleasure (as opposed to a male adult’s unwillingness to change the channel so I could watch Dallas) when I lived in Atlanta for a while.

I went to work as a temp for a variety of Turner-owned entities, like CNN and TBS.  It was 1991, and the Atlanta Braves were red hot, so I got on the bandwagon.  Actually, I hadn’t much choice, because work more or less stopped at TBS when a game was on.  Also, I temped for a while in the graphics department, where I learned how stats get displayed on your television during a game.  Still, it was remarkable and easy to get swept up in watching Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Steve Avery.  Chipper Jones was everybody’s favorite, but mine was that little pip-squeak of a shortstop, Rafael Belliard.  Dude had the wingspan of a turtle, but man he made some plays.  I seriously think that inch-for-inch, his ability to jump off the ground rivaled Jordan. Or at least that’s what it looked like to all 5’2″ of me.

As religiously as I watched the 1991 and 1992 seasons, I never went to a game at Turner Field.  In fact, my first live baseball game was at Fenway — which is really where you should watch a first baseball game, if only to claim surviving consumption of a Dirty Water Dog.  The Red Sox played the Toronto Blue Jays, which meant I didn’t give a shit about the game.  I did, however, get a thrill from being there, seeing the Big Green Monster in person, and feeling the energy of the live crowd.  A short time later, I became a sincere San Francisco Giants fan and have remained so since.  One of my favorite dates with my husband is a ballgame.  I love watching games with him at home, too.  It’s the one time we don’t chastise each other for swearing in front of the kids.

To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.  When I was about nine or ten, I had a Mickey Mouse record player.  (You know, that spinny-table thingy, with the arm thingy, that had the needle-thingy, that made sound come out of the vinyl place mat with weird ridges in it?)

One of my favorite albums was a recording of Bill Cosby’s act, To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With.  There is nothing not to like about Bill Cosby singing, “Dad is great!  Give us the chocolate cake!” about his father feeding the kids chocolate cake for breakfast because it has eggs in it.  The classic “God Dammit” and “Jesus Christ” routine made me laugh so hard my face would scrunch up into a semi-painful expression and my body would convulse, but no sound would come from my mouth — just tears streaming down my cheeks, punctuated by frantic gasps for air.  I cannot find a link to this album anywhere, but you can download it on iTunes.  It is so incredibly worth every penny.  In fact, you should send it as a gift to someone you know who’s had a shitty day.  A handwritten thank you note will follow.  (See above.)

The Point.   My other favorite album for the kick-ass Mickey Mouse record player was The Point by Nilsson.  It is the story of Oblio and his dog, Arrow, being banished to the Pointless Forest.  (You may be sensing a theme here about my feelings about myself between about 7 and … uh … now.) It is a musical story, and if you don’t get a little misty-eyed during Think About Your Troubles, you simply do not have a heart.  I’m actually somewhat surprised I didn’t end up with a dog named Arrow after the gazillion times I listened to this album.  Instead, I had a dog named Cinders who went to live on a “farm” after my parents got divorced.  Fuckers.

I don’t remember who bought me this record.  I was a latchkey kid growing up if ever there was one, so there wasn’t a whole lot of supervision of my watching/listening/eating habits.  I’m sure that explains a whole bunch.  Still, no doubt my mother would have been thrilled to know this tidbit about how The Point came to be:

I was on acid, and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, ‘Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn’t, then there’s a point to it.’ — Harry Nilsson

You can watch the masterpiece that was the made-for-television version of The Point, narrated by Ringo Starr, here.  (There are eight parts.  You’ll find them.  I promise.)

Congratulations.  You’ve reached the end.  Would you like a blanket?

About Me. (a/k/a Informed Consent)

I’m going to turn 40 years old on Monday.  It seems fitting that my 40th birthday falls on a Monday — the bittersweet coincidence that Monday is the worst day of the week but that it’s the start of a whole new period of time.

On the list of things I promised myself I would do before I turned 40 was to write more.  On reflection, that seems odd given I spend more than half my days doing just that.  But, my promise was meant to fulfill a desire to write more about things on which I want to spend time writing.  That, and launching this blog was only marginally less difficult than losing weight, running a marathon, saving money, becoming fluent in Spanish or earning a doctoral degree. I suppose that’s what happens when you draft a to-do-before-40 list when you’re 39.

So, what is it that I want to spend time writing about?  In a word:  Me.  Not in the I’m-so-wonderful-how-could-you-look-away-Kim-Karsdashian way.  I mean this in the I-have-so-much-going-on-there-must-be-something-you-can-relate-to way.  If you’re out there and can relate, welcome to the audience.  Participation is encouraged.

I am married to a great husband and mother to two wonderful kids, ages 4 and 14.  (No, that’s not a typo.)  That comes with all the usual stuff being a wife and mother entails, wrapped up in the semi-weirdness that will be simultaneously having a child in kindergarten and a child in high school.  Add to the mix that our 4-year-old was diagnosed last year with Autism, and you get anything but “usual.”  Truly — if I thought my life was full of acronyms after I became a lawyer, I had no idea:  ADA, IEP, SELPA, ASD, PDD-NOS, OT, PT, ST, MFT, LCSW … I could keep going, but you get the idea.

I’m a working-mom-type.  I’m a full-time lawyer, and I work at a law firm, which means I spend a good deal of my life locked in a battle between personal and professional commitments. I don’t know who is winning, but I’m guessing most days it isn’t me.  My husband is also a lawyer, so at least we have the assurance of knowing our children have no hope of winning an argument with us.  Ever.

I also teach legal research and writing classes to paralegal students.  I used to teach law students, but I found I like undergraduates more.  A lot more.  Teaching both reminds me why I wanted to become a lawyer and makes me question the entire human race.  If nothing else, students are a good source of material.

When I have a spare moment, I like to spend it in the kitchen or watching other people in the kitchen.  I love to read (which may explain how I ended up in law school), and I have no particular preference for fiction or non-fiction — just for well-written and meaningful stories.

So, there it is.  If you can find something to relate to in family, parenting, Autism, teenagers, teaching, learning, lawyering, balancing career and family, preparing a good meal or reading a good book, come on along for the ride.  Otherwise — no worries — as a mother and a lawyer, I’ve grown entirely accustomed to talking to myself.  It’s an occupational hazard.