This Fleeting Moment of Levity Brought to You by PMS

… because if I don’t laugh, I will shank someone.™

It’s cute, really, the way television ads make PMS seem like this 30-second drama that ends in frolicking around a beach in a white bathing suit.  Let me break it down for you, though.

One night, you go to bed a relatively sane, properly nourished, pH-balanced woman in her forties who would rather have a daily bikini wax than actually wear one – let alone a WHITE one.  The next morning – and by morning I mean THE MOMENT THE SUN RISES even though it’s Saturday, you could’ve totally slept in and no one else in the house – hell, NEIGHBORHOOD – is yet awake – you find you’ve changed.  “Flowered,” “blossomed” – call it whatever ridiculous gardening analogy you want – the truth is this:  There is now a four-alarm fire going on in your lower back.  Your intestines and about half your internal organs are pushing, shoving and kicking their way out of the “building” through your uterus.  There is an oil slick developing on your face reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez, and the only thing that’s “blossomed” is a pimple the size of Mount Everest.  For good measure, you’ll get that zit (a) somewhere dead-center on your face so that you spend the day certain that everyone is staring at the neon target-like deformity now bulging from your head; or (b) somewhere you cannot reach but can constantly feel so that you spend the day certain that estrogen and progesterone are actually chemicals banned by several treaties and contemplate submitting your body to a U.N. inspection team.

Before and After

That’s not enough, though.  As your ovaries and kidneys crowd toward your uterus in their crazed attempt to flee,  your stomach suddenly has room to expand.  Now, the only way to satisfy the ridiculous hunger pangs caused by this impromptu remodel is to eat four pounds of chocolate, a large pizza, a hot fudge sundae, 37 croissants and your young.

Apparently, you also spent your night licking a salt block, because your body now retains enough water to irrigate a desert, leaving you torn between hating the ankles that look like a Tempurpedic mattress and loving the boobs that actually stay up on their own again – because they’ve hardened like concrete.  This conflict will resolve itself the first time you bump into something with your boobs – like your shirt or your bra – and gain valuable insight into what electroshock feels like.  Doctors recommend exercise to alleviate these symptoms.  I say that I hope these same doctors – who clearly do not have boobs – come down with a vicious case of crotch crickets.

But, wait!  There’s more!  Even though you were wide awake at dark o’clock, you will be late for whatever you have to do.  This is probably because you will put on every piece of clothing you own when trying to get dressed and NONE of your clothes will fit.  You will trade pieces around like you are a human Rubik’s cube with the same result – impossible to fucking solve.  You will decide that black yoga pants can be dressed up if you try hard enough.  You will try to put on your make-up, but it’s really hard to get your eyeliner and mascara right when you’re crying about how you have nothing to wear.  Oh, and your hair.  Your hair has become a hay stack, all its moisture having crept off the follicles and onto your face as you slept.  The only “product” that will help you now is an electric razor.  You will contemplate your cheek bone structure in the mirror, wondering whether Sinead and Demi were on to something.  You will recall your last hormonal haircut and achieve a second of clarity so pure and sweet you will be certain the hair-scrunchie is actually some type of prophylactic device that inhibits such rash decision making.

Because you’ve now become a lighted stick of dynamite, why not start shortening the fuse?  It is just about a given that you will be out of coffee, milk or both.  Your car will need gas.  You will forget your keys or lock them in your car.  At least one – but probably all – of your children will contain more whine than a ton of grapes so that the mere sound of their breathing is like fingernails on a chalkboard.  You will have to go to a store to buy feminine hygiene products, which ensures that you will either (a) buy $347 worth of other items (about $340 of which are absolutely pointless) in a futile effort to mask your purchase of tampons or (b) find yourself in the checkout line of the youngest and best-looking checker while purchasing nothing but tampons.  There will be men waiting in line both in front of and behind you.  A price check will be needed.  You will start to fantasize that you are Medusa.  Nervous laughter will ensue.  Everyone will back away slowly.

Medusa

By the time you get home, you’ll have ingested your weight in Advil and look like someone dragged you backward through a bramble bush.  You will take off your heels (What?  Heels go with yoga pants.), massage your sausage feet and trudge to the kitchen.  En route, you will step on a Lego brick/Lincoln Log/Chinese throwing star/rusty nail.  The pain signal will wind its way from your foot to that lesser-known neural center of your brain called batshitcrazyium.  You will unleash a rant on your child(ren) and spousal unit during which you unload every.  single.  thing.  they’ve ever done wrong (plus some stuff you know for sure they’re gonna do wrong someday but haven’t yet . . . or that you completely made up).  No one will be foolish enough to come near you without the requisite sacrificial offerings of gin, bacon or Xanax.  The smart ones will gather up their charred remains and decide that now would be an excellent time to visit the grandparents or least let you have control of the television remote.

You will watch Steel Magnolias, have a good, cathartic cry.  You will vent about this on Facebook to your girlfriends and marvel at how even women who spend only virtual time together end up on the same cycle.  You will ponder why it has yet to occur to the U.S. military that a troop of women with synchronized menstrual cycles and no access to ibuprofen might actually be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.  Or, you know, you’ll write a blog post as a public service to people within your blast radius.

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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. 🙂

Happy Birthday Sylvia Chauveneux, Love Cheryl Tiegs

Today is my little sister’s birthday.

Happy Birthday

I so wish we still had that crown somewhere. I’d make you wear it all day.

When I asked my sister what she wanted, she told me she wanted to be immortalized in a post on my blog. I was prepared to bake a cake, babysit my niece, maybe even buy some wine with an actual cork. I wasn’t prepared for this. This is a lot of pressure, man. This blog post can go only one of two ways: the feeling you get when you open the door and Ed McMahon is standing there with a shit-ton of balloons and a poster board check made out to you for an obscene amount of money, or the feeling you get when you open a gift of sexy lingerie from your weird aunt while your entire family is watching you and the room fills up with that awkward state between stunned silence and hysterical laughter when no one wants to be the first one to break.

I gotta say … I’m not really sure which one I’m going for here.

I have more than three decades of stories.  That’s an overwhelming amount of information to condense into a single blog post.  So, we’re going to do this photo-essay style.  I know, I know.  It’s kind of a cheap way out.  But, these pictures tell stories that my words cannot.

Look at that happy baby smile. I’m pretty sure my mouth is smiling here, but my mind is thinking, “Touch my toys, and I will eff you up, munchkin.”

My sister was mostly cool to have around.  I got a puppy out of the deal, so it wasn’t all bad.  Also, she was pretty entertaining.  She was born back in the days of televisions sets that had dials and rabbit-ear antennas, so it was her or Sesame Street.  I mostly picked her.  Unless Villa Alegre was on. Because ¡Villa Alegre!

Still, she was pretty cute, so she usually reeled me in.

Smile nice for the camera and keep quiet about my bangs. You’ll have the same ones soon enough, missy.

She was usually game for whatever I wanted to do. For example, if I wanted to play barber shop and I needed a model …

I warned you, didn’t I? Listen, I wasn’t the one who thought battery-powered Snoopy scissors were a good gift idea for a kid.

Or, if I wanted to play hours of kickball in Grandma and Grandpa’s backyard.

It grew back. Sort of.

Eventually we were like peanut butter & jelly, a Caramello and milk, an Egg McMuffin with a side of syrup …

Aaaaaaand … there you have it. Exact same bangs, right down to the part. I think you should definitely sport that yellow yarn necklace more often. It’s a true statement piece.

We shared a lot of adventures.  This photo is possibly emblematic of our respective roles in those adventures …

(I notice I have a vague choke-hold on you in a lot of our photos. Weird.  Also, Mom must’ve been REALLY bored, because these are the best Halloween costumes I think we ever had.)

I think this photo captures the boredom that gave birth to Sylvia and Cheryl. I’m pretty sure there are no two siblings on earth who made up better, more involved, more dramatic games than we did. It might be because we watched hours of General Hospital and The Edge of Night when no one was looking. Just a guess.

Oh really, Sylvia? Well, my mother is the PRESIDENT of the company, so we’ll just see about THAT! Ha, ha, ha, ha, Cheryl! My mother OWNS the company! (Also, let’s just marvel for a second at how small and somewhat tan we were …)

My sister frequently shared the misery of the unfortunate fashion choices of some of the adults in our lives who shall remained unnamed here but who know damn well who they are.  (Yes, MOM, I’m looking at YOU.)  I mean – really?  Someone should be punished for this. This photo likely captures the moment my sister birthed and subsequently mastered the face that says, “My mouth is smiling but my eyes are killing you with daggers. Stab. Stab. Stab.

What in the holy hell happened here? It’s like we got into a fist-fight with the remnants bin at JoAnn’s Fabrics. I can’t even …

Of course, turnabout isn’t just fair play in sisterhood, it’s a prerequisite to a lot of other stuff.  For example, if you cut off all your sister’s hair, you should expect her to wake you frequently at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday to play Barbies.  Or marbles.  Or to make her breakfast.  This can result in thrilling discoveries (e.g., brown sugar and cinnamon rolled up inside Bisquick dough is freakin’ awesome) or slightly less thrilling discoveries (e.g., napkins can, in fact, catch on fire).

This is only fair, I guess.

This photo says:  “Yay! Barbies! Marbles! I knew you’d see it my way!!!” (It also says, “I’m gonna take a Sharpie to your mother-effin’ Barbie coloring book, biotch.”)

The next time either of us thinks we’d look better with bangs, let’s please look at this photo.

Sisterhood also means putting up with a special brand of crazy core meltdown that occurs nowhere else in nature.  To the average person, this photo says, “Look at that sisterly love.”  To my sister and me it says, “I don’t care how much you hate your hair or your shirt or how fat you feel, get in the goddamned car and let’s go, or I’m telling everyone about that time I caught you picking your nose.”

It also says, “You better enjoy that sweater, you early-Christmas-present-opener-terrible-rewrapper-person.”

This photo says to the casual observer, “Awwww.  Sisterly love.” To my sister and me it says, “Thank god I didn’t let her pluck my eyebrows this time.”

Alright, seriously? Who would’ve predicted we’d grow up into this? 🙂

I jumped forward a whole lot of years – mostly because I need get some sleep before the next generation of 6:30 a.m.-get-up-and-let’s-play appears at my bedside and literally pries open my eyelids. (And people don’t believe in evolution. Pfft.) I think you get the general idea though.

Sylvia Chauveneux – The Next Generation. Except, her mother probably WILL own the company.

Happy Birthday, “Sylvia”

bday

I leave you with this one final thought:

Love always, your sister “Cheryl”

A Holiday Greeting from ProfMomEsq

Wishing all of my wonderful readers a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa or just a plain, old terrifically awesome day.  I thought I’d celebrate by sharing a little art gallery of the holiday projects my marvelous kids have given me over the years.  Happy, merry, jolly!!

IMG_0351 IMG_0352 IMG_0354 IMG_0355 IMG_0356 IMG_0357 IMG_0358

We Seem to Have a Breakdown in Communication: Men, Women

I attended a professional function a little while ago that really irked me. I’m going to try to retell the events as objectively as I can, my remarks in bold are my subjective views that explain why I was so bothered.

The function was specifically for women.  The speaker was a “life coach” who was ostensibly there to talk to us about improving our ability to communicate with men.  The life coach opened her presentation by remarking that men and women have different styles of communication.  She also noted that communication is really only 10% the words we say; the remainder is body language and tonality.

So far, I’m with her.  I’m not sure I completely accept the premise that men and women communicate differently, but I’m willing to roll with that.  

The life coach then provides us a square divided into four smaller squares.  Each of the smaller squares describes a communication “style.”  Under each style is a description of the communication traits within the “style” and some data showing the percentage of people who identify with the particular style.  There is no breakdown of the data to show percentage by gender.  The data is also presented in a way that suggests that people must identify with one of the four choices – no shades of grey.

My radar is up.  I don’t deal well in absolutes.  As I’m reading the four styles, I immediately know that I fall somewhere between two of them but not entirely in any of them.  Also, to be fair, I’m irritated because the speaker has made an off-handed (and stereotypical) remark about autism. I’m already struggling to take her seriously.

We spend the next 50 or so minutes talking about the different communication styles in very, very general terms.  We talk about how certain styles have difficulty communicating with other styles.  Still, there is no discussion about how this impacts that woman-communicating-with-man thesis that opened this lecture. Then, the speaker says – and I’m not going to say this is a quote, but it’s a damn good paraphrase – that she doesn’t know a single woman who could spend a week talking about the Super Bowl, but men sure can.  She then asks the group of women assembled whether we know of such a woman.  When we sit there in silence, she takes that as affirmation of her generalization.

Now, I’m done.  I’m furiously texting a co-worker.  I’m watching the clock.  I am praying I don’t shoot my mouth off before …

The speaker opens the conversation up for questions.  She gets one or two obligatory softball questions, but then a couple of direct questions are asked, and the responses are less than direct.  The “sports” thing comes up again.

… too late.  

I raise my hand.  When I’m acknowledged, I say to the speaker that she started her presentation with the statement that men and women communicate differently, that up to this point, I hadn’t really heard anything in her presentation that specifically identified those differences.  In fact, I found myself troubled by the idea that we were sitting here talking about how all men can talk about is sports, and if the tables were turned, and I walked into a room full of men remarking how all women liked to talk about is shopping, I’d be pretty upset. So, I asked her whether she could provide information – either statistics or  facts – that would help us, as women, improve how we communicate with men in the context of her four boxes.

I don’t think she liked my question, because her face squeezed into what I know well as the fuck-off-and-die-smile.  I use it a lot in court. What the speaker did next, though, floored me.

The speaker responded to my question by saying a few things, but the one that stuck out for me was that women need to feel like they have the “right” to speak to communicate well.  So, I asked her how we, as women, develop that sense of entitlement.  She responded by smirking at me and saying, “It comes from experience.  And, I have that experience that, perhaps, a younger woman – in her 20s – doesn’t.”

Wow.  But, wait.  It gets better.

The speaker then starts talking about stress and how “neuroscientists” have determined that women live with a consistently higher degree of stress than men.  This causes, according to the speaker, women to balk at taking on additional responsibilities, because the woman doubts her ability to be successful.  Whereas, men jump at the chance to accept more responsibility, because the “challenge” brings their stress level up no higher than what’s tolerable.

A co-worker asks the speaker about the science behind this.  She explains that she had just recently spoken with her doctor about stress, and his feeling was that the level of stress a person experiences is not the product of extraneous forces but internal response, which varies from person to person regardless of gender.  My co-worker then said, “This isn’t me talking – I’m not smart enough to think this stuff up – this is a medical doctor.”  The speaker then says, “Ah.  You see what you just did there.  You said you weren’t smart.  I mean, I don’t want to single you out or embarrass you, but that’s the kind of self-deprication that women engage in that really hurts them.”

Oh. You mean like how women are catty bitches to one another in the workplace and often their own worst enemies?

Listen, I’m not a big fan of women-only events.  I feel like they serve only to highlight the gender differences that we (as women) assert are the cause of disparate treatment.  And, communication is inherently a two-way event.  How can you possibly hope to improve the way in which one group communicates with another unless you get both groups to the table?  But, even putting that aside, the speaker is a “life coach” who proceeded to give a talk based on gross generalizations, bald assumptions and even stereotypes when she KNEW she was speaking to a room full of women with nothing less than professional degrees.

What are your thoughts, readers?  Where do you come out on women-only events?  Are they useful?  Have any of you ever used a “life coach” with any success?  Is this a “real” profession?  Why do you think women tend to be so competitive with each other?  Or, do you think that?  The whole experience left me with way more questions than answers and a very uneasy feeling in my gut …

Yeah. Good Times.: A recipe for the perfect cup of coffee

I have been writing things lately that are decidedly unfunny.  Most of them have been work-related, but some have been blog-related.  (No, I did NOT forget I had a blog, thankyouverymuch.)  But, I wrote a note to some friends the other day, after waking up from a lit – tle hangover, and the consensus was it was blog-post worthy.  My wonderful, awesome, fantastic, marvelous, kick-ass, partner-in-crime friend Jillsmo over at Yeah. Good Times. thought it would be doubly-good to illustrate my blog posts.  So, without further ado:

Yeah. Good Times.: A recipe for the perfect cup of coffee.

Trust me.  You WANT to click the link.  You NEED to click the link. Click it.

I remember.

There are moments in our lives we never forget. For many of us, the moments are joyful and cause to celebrate — the birth of a child, a graduation, a wedding.

But, so many generations have an unforgettable moment marked by tragedy. As I grew up, the tragic moment of my parents’ generation was remembered with this question: Where were you when you heard about JFK’s assassination? Although this terrible saga in American history occurred before I was born, the emotional weight of it is apparent in every ready answer from among those who lived through the tragedy. It was an event so shocking – so calculated to strike at our emotional foundations – that no one could forget where they’d been when they heard the news; a moment so cold it burned itself into our collective memories.

On September 11, 2001, a new question was presented to my generation: “Where were you when …?” The words that followed “when” were too many and too painful – when the first plane struck the World Trade Center, when the Pentagon was hit, when United 93 went down, when the first tower fell and then the second. Ask me to recall what I did last Monday, and I could give only scant details. Yet still today, I can recall even the smallest details of how my day unfolded on September 11, 2001. And, my heartache was limited to the loss of a naive sense of safety. I cannot begin to imagine what this day recalls for the hearts and minds of those who lost much, much more that day.

To those who lost their lives in this tragedy, and to their families, friends and loved ones; to those who volunteered their lives in service to this country in the aftermath of 9/11, and to their families, friends and loved ones —

I remember.

We remember

Photo credit: Getty Images