Turn and Face the Strange

Several months ago, a colleague came into my office and said he wanted to talk to me about leaving my job and joining a partnership with him, forming a new firm.

“Are YOU CRAZY???” I said?  “How can I leave my office, my coworkers, my paycheck, people will be mad at me.  THERE WILL BE BLOOD!”

“Huh.” He said.  “It hadn’t occurred to me that you might not need me…”

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

I talked to Scott.  He thought I should do it.  I talked to Mom.  She thought I should do it.  She called me back to tell me that my 99 year old grandma had said to tell me: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  I wanted to do it.  It was scary.

I approached my bosses.  They were angry with the colleague for asking me.  They were sad, they were supportive.  I said I’d think about it some more.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.  I was scared.  With a regular paycheck, I know I can hit my bills.  I don’t know about all this overhead and such, licensing, paperwork, insurance, etc.

I told Matt, the colleague, that I’d do it, but that he had to set everything up. I told my bosses at my old job that I was going to do it.  They told me to give them 60 days notice, I said okay.

We started looking for a building, and found one pretty quickly.  We have the option to buy it at today’s prices in the next few years if we want.  I said I could order letterhead if Matt would do everything else.  We were set to go August 1.

Then my bosses placed an ad, saying that they were looking for someone to start July 1.  They asked if I could leave the 15th, they told me they couldn’t keep two lawyers on for more than a couple of days.  I told them I was going to probably have to shoot for opening the 1st of July.  So that is how, half way through June, Matt & I had, suddenly,  2 weeks to get everything in order.

Luckily, Matt had been doing a lot of set up to get things up and running, and it was a matter of dates.  I ordered the letterhead.  I told Matt that if his name was going first I wanted the big office.  I got the big office.

Suddenly I realized that I know NOTHING about decorating, and suddenly there was a big office to decorate.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.  Then I remembered my secret weapon.  Embee.

Embee is what we call style gifted.  I am what we call style challenged.  I asked her if she would help.  She said she’d promised herself never to decorate another office again.  Then she said yes, because she is an awesome friend.  Before and after pics here.

Let me tell you, I could not have done what she did with that office if I had all the money and time in the world.  She was quite patient with me, going out, looking at things I liked, and saying, mmm, No.

So here we are.  The last time I had this much change in my life at once or, as Grace Paley once brilliantly put it, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, I was pregnant with Charlie and my ex-and his girlfriend had just gotten in their really romantic motorcycle accident and I was about to be a broke single mom.

This feels nicer.

Soon I hope to have clients, and to figure out how to work the thermostat in my office.  Ms. Caroline is our receptionist.  Thursday I did my first ever really girly thing in my whole life and took Caroline and our paralegal out for nail related stuff at the local Vietnamese nail salon.  They got pedicures.  I got tips to cover up my psoriasisy regular nails and now I click click click on they keyboard.  Also I wish I spoke Vietnamese so I knew what they were saying to each other while we were there, and also because it’s an awesome sounding language.  I’m girly as hell now, I tell ya.  Well, womanly.

Watch me fly.

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Just yer 19th Nervous Breakdown

Most of the day was pretty good. I’m feeling a little sore throaty, and I’m not sure if that’s the clean sinuses plus the smoking, or the purge, or some combination of the two.

In my body I’m having weird things – neti pot related, I can actually FEEL the sinuses in my forehead and under my pituitary when I’m done cleaning them – purge related, I am losing an old sensation I get from time to time of having like, thick sludge in my bloodstream, and kind of feel tingly blood flow under my skin in some places. (My arms and face. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

So I typed up the days one through five entry, and then in the middle of it Scott got home and I was all of a sudden very very GROUCHY! Man, if he had set out to go to the store and buy every single thing I am not eating right now he could not have done one millionth of a percent better than he did not even trying.

THEN, oh, THEN, he decided that THAT? That moment right there? That was the moment that he decided it would be PERFECT to go over all the things you could recycle and how much you can get for recycled BRASS! COPPER! And Amy Amy Amy – Did you KNOW? Did you EVEN KNOW? That it is less expensive to recycle aluminum than it is to mine bauxite to produce it? And somehow he had misinterpreted Scott, I DON’T CARE, to mean Scott, if you keep telling me this then I WILL CARE, and the more I tried to explain him that no, I really didn’t? Well, the more recycling facts he pulled right out of thin air. And then my head exploded.

GAH. I was in this whole long rant of like – you didn’t even READ the labels and why are you feeding the kids all of the things I am reflecting on the utility of and OMG ICE CREAM IS NOT A FRICKIN NECESSITY. I swear on all that is holy he shops like he’s stoned.

Then I went off on a rant about how he NEVER supports me with the kids and, as if to prove my hypothesis, he got in the middle of something I was asking the kids not to do and explained why he thought it was an okay thing to do, (which, was, by the way, going into our room when we’re not home to make sure we’re turning all the electricity in the house off and OH MY GOD I JUST WANT SOME PRIVATE SPACE IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?????)

Then I realized that I was very much reacting to the whole evening much like Charlie does when he gets angry or upset. Charlie’s a pretty laid back guy, but when he gets upset? He goes ballistic. Last year when we were driving to Montana he spilled a little peanut butter oil on the rental car seat and “Dammit, I spilled something” accelerated into “and what idiot INVENTED putting oil in PEANUT BUTTER ANYWAY” and “WHY WOULD ANYONE EVEN SELL THIS PEANUT BUTTER????” in a matter of seconds.

I think I might be experiencing withdrawal from something or other. Either that or it’s PMS. From hell. Riding on a tornado.

Confidential to My Hoity Toity Decorator

How about this set for the reception area?

Okay Daysonethroughfive GO

I am going to lose some of these awarenesses that are coming and going like so many lights on the freeway if I don’t write em down.

1. Day 1 – Friday – I woke up really excited to try this temporary dietary shift. I’d hit Trader Joe’s (Which, can I just tell you, that store has to be 90% hype. They have as much, if not more, pre-packaged processed shit as your local SuperJumboMarket, but they couch it in this… Okay. I’ll say it. I kind of hate Trader Joe’s, not least of all because they suck me right IN to the hype and I walk through going – Oh, I LOVE Trader Joe’s…HEY WAIT A MINUTE…) Aaaaaanyway – I’d hit Trader Joe’s and picked up a little produce and some steel cut oats and some unsweetened dried blueberries on Thursday night. So I woke up Friday Morning PSYCHED about breakfast.

Usually I skip breakfast, or if I eat it I pick up some greasy biscuit thing at the Wawa, or a bagel at Dunkin Donuts. Never, never NEVER do I get up and make myself something from scratch for breakfast, at least during the week. And even then, if I’m doing that, it’s really a family breakfast I’m cooking, and I get to eat because I’m there. So the first plus was waking up and thinking, kind of What can I do for Amy this morning? I got the same feeling I get when I am cooking for company, putting things together just so, creating order out of chaos, thinking of how they’ll react to each taste. So BANG. An awareness – right there, before I started. Like a ton of bricks. It was made more delightful by the underlying smug feeling of superiority I felt toward Oprah, who did her cleanse with people cooking for her, singing her praises. Oprah missed treating herself like company. I didn’t. I KICKED OPRAH’S ASS.

Awareness 2 – Cooking steel cut oats takes about 30-40 minutes, and so instead of my usual, wake up slowly, screw around, grab coffee, take shower, grab more coffee, run out the door at the last minute
there was a deliberateness to my morning. I was more awake, on account of having breathed well the night before, and while the oats simmered I made myself up lunch from a little recipe I love that I stole from Linda over at Losing the Cow. It’s basically a salady mixture of black beans, tomatoes and corn, thrown together with some lime juice and then I think I threw in cumin, but I may have been out of cumin at that point. I left the house feeling a little more accomplished and taken care of than usual, if that makes any sense.

Having taken the time to plan for myself for the day, and having actually eaten breakfast (WHICH, by the way was AWESOME – the steel cut oats are porridgier than rolled oats, giving what is usually accomplished by the addition of milk, and the blueberries added a WONDERFUL and flavorful sweetness), I missed that point in the day around lunchtime where I am suddenly hungry as hell, and wandering off to find the closest fastest bulkiest greasiest thing I can. When I got hungry, I ate the beany thing. I ate it until I wasn’t hungry anymore, and took the rest home. The other thing that didn’t happen, the other thing that was different, was that I didn’t get that after lunch crash that I normally get, well, after lunch.

Dinner was tasty, I had a snack, blah blah blah. Let’s not retitle this blog WHAT AMY ATE, shall we? But you get the picture. The day was a lot about time, I think, and self care, for me, and the fact those things? Actually? Really enjoyable. Not a chore, when you approach it a little differently.

There was caffeine. OH, there was caffeine. But instead of freaking out about how I SHOULD be doing the thing, and now I’d screwed up the thing, and I might as well just trash the whole thing right there, I just, well, I just didn’t. I just kind of shrugged and went – Wow. I am REALLY attached to caffeine. Okay then. We won’t give up the caffeine just yet.

Day 2 – See – Dammit, this is why I should have been writing one through four daily. I don’t remember a lot of day 2. I was fine during the day, felt okay, reconnected with my old friend cantaloupe and remembered how wonderful a cold slice of cantaloupe is in the morning. I felt a kind of discomfort about any eating I did in a rush, or at the computer, or reading. I invented a dinner that, while good, really needs some perfecting, involving tofu, asparagus, mushrooms, red onion slices, garlic, freshly squeezed orange juice and ginger, all over quinoa which was bland, I think because not enough orange. Carly and Sam were in a tiff over dinner, and then Carly was grumpy with me, and that sort of, I’m not sure. I got really self righteous and grumpy. OOOH! Awareness! Drama while I’m eating makes me cranky!

Actually, now that I think about it, that makes some sense, given the drama surrounding meals just about everywhere throughout my life. When I was a kid, being forced to eat hubbard squash, (Which, actually is from the devil), fights between my parents, fights in my first marriage, our first anniversary where I was so hungry by the time we got to the grocery I got completely out of sorts, and my ex-husband actually THREW a tube of liverwurst at me which smashed gloriously across the floor, being a young mother with picky eaters who were not as compliant when I tried to force them to eat things they didn’t like, even recent meals, cooked with a sense of martyrdom and an inevitable falling apart on my part when some kid or another said, eeew, what’s in this????

So conscious eating, maybe there’s an element of creating some peace for myself in the taking of a meal. Eliminating distractions. Maybe there’s a really good, really human reason behind prayer before eating, a gratefulness, yes, but also a setting the stage, creating a space to really BE grateful as we go.

Day 3 – Day three was my only no caffeine day, and I do remember it well. First, in my body, my muscles were begging to be stretched all day. I was busy all day. I met Margie down at the new office, and we measured some space, and within, like, a minute and a half, she’d come up with so many BRILLIANT thoughts on the space that I was thrilled I’d imposed on her. We had lunch, and then trolled a couple of resale shops where she said things like – “No, that’s a dressing table, you need a secretary” and I’d go wha???? She’s got these really magnificent design books that she’s put together, and DUDE, she just KNOWS stuff. (I would bet she could even identify mauve, which, what is that, some kind of tan thing? Or is that taupe?). Anyway – Margie gets her own entry, later, but we walked around like this for about 3 & 1/2 hours and just, well, I can’t speak for her, but I enjoyed her company and just felt most of the time that
I was in the presence of absolute brilliance and I should just keep my mouth shut. (You know, better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt). Toward the end of the day I felt a little tired, and I went to bed quite early, to just let my body acknowledge the lack of caffeine. But generally this isn’t what I do on the weekend. Generally the weekend is my sitting around time, accomplishing nothing productive, and I didn’t feel like doing that. Well, until I actually sat down at the end of the day.

Yesterday, well, I wrote about yesterday yesterday, kind of, and Scott’s home from the grocery store and I’m now feeling quite peevish and self righteous about how he shops. So I need to take a moment or more. I’ll write about day 5 separately, as this entry’s starting to feel like work. And I’m feeling lecturey all of a sudden.

The Purge

I don’t like thinking of this as a cleanse, just because that brings to mind all sorts of posts wherein I discuss my colon at length. That ain’t gonna happen, although I am pleased to report less farting and an increased firmness of my poops.

Anyway – I told Margie that I was going to call it the purge, just because that was the only thing I could think of that sounded just a wee bit grosser than cleanse, and for some reason I can amuse myself by grossing Margie out, which is just horrible, because she is truly one of the nicest, most down to earth people you could ever hope to meet.

Whatever. It’s just this temporary change in my diet, wherein I can spend some time looking at my relationship with food. That does not make a good title, nor is it good shorthand.

I’m on day four of what the author of this book, Quantum Wellness (which I’m not linking to again, because I find it, on the whole, incredibly problematic, and I’m not sure how much trust I have in the writer, but some of the ideas are good. E-mail me. I’ll send you my copy when I’m done), refers to as “The Cleanse.”

The basic notion has to do with bringing an increased awareness to the table (get it?) in regard to our eating habits. That is only a small part of the book, and I’m finding the book really problematic, because although I believe the underlying premise is valid, the execution is just so, I don’t know. A lot of talk of “Spirit” and “putting intentions out to the universe,” or “to the ether,” or, whatever, that I just find so new agey and squishy that I find it off-putting. In addition I’m not getting a sense of ol’ Kathy’s credentials in this arena, and the science she reports is couched in the same sort of squishy terms that I find irritating. But the underlying premise, that wellness is a holistic body-mind-soul relationship, and that we have the power to make huge positive change in our lives with small shifts in our consciousness, that I do believe is true.

At any rate. End tangent.

In the process of this purge, I’m giving my body a break from certain things in my diet, in an effort to gain a deeper sense of awareness regarding my relationship with food. The reasons for this are multi-fold. First, I’m overweight, and would like to come to a place where I could care about that. My current and historical place comes almost solely from my mother’s voice in my head, and that leaves me feeling angry, unloved, disappointing, and rebellious. Not toward my mother, in particular, although therein lies the root, but just in general. None of those feelings are useful to a life that moves forward, and I want a life that is on a forward path. So I’d like a relationship with food that is about nourishing my body, and enjoying eating.

Second, I do remember my initial foray into vegetarianism being motivated by something deep within myself. There was a deep sense of adventure in seeking out intriguing sounding ingredients, and finding them delicious. There is also a sense of connection that I had then, briefly, with the building blocks of fueling my body, and the result.

There’s also the aspect of corporate America, and consumerism, which I know I am too much a part of, and which I’d like to disengage from. The initial vegetarian “convincer” was not about additives, or health, or baby bunnies, but about the incredible amount of waste that goes into meat production. It was Frankie Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet and it’s wealth of information between the energy cost of meat production vs. plant proteins that intrigued me then, and intrigues me still.

Finally, although I’ve always been, I think, fairly in touch with my intellectual/emotional and my spiritual life, I’ve always been completely out of touch with myself as a physical being.  I’d like to be just a little graceful, maybe slightly imposing, and, could I hope, coordinated????  And I feel like remembering and having an awareness of the connection between what I eat, and this vessel it goes into, you know?

So, thus far, this seems like a start.

The biggest pro of this stupid stupid book (a book touted on Oprah, no less, hang my head in shame), is that she talks about coming from a place without judgment about yourself.  And that part of it, in terms of what I will call “the Purge” is a wonderful perspective.  I’m just, noticing, you know, in those places where I’m not eating consciously, so instead of this sense of – well, you fucked that up, go ahead and eat some gluten and dairy, now that you’ve had that caffeine, it’s like – eh, well, that’s interesting, now, isn’t it.

What I’ve learned so far, I’ll go into at more length later, but for starters, the basic gist is spending up to 21 days not eating meat products, sugar, caffeine, alcohol or gluten.  Out of the last 4 days, I’ve had caffeine three, yesterday being the only no caffeine day, but then, you know, again, today, the magnificent David brought me a cup of coffee.  BUT, it was the only cup I had, as opposed to the usual 5-10, you know?  And if I want a cup of coffee, then I’ll drink a cup of coffee.  It’s not something I’m willing to cleanse yet, I guess.

Even with the caffeine, though, I’ve been noticing very subtle changes in the way I’m feeling, and they’re positive.

And for those of you who are tuning in solely for the snot report, what I’m starting to notice as a side effect of the neti pot is the cleaner my sinuses, the more chemically gross cigarettes are smelling and tasting.  NOT SAYING I’M QUITTING.  Just saying I’m noticing.

Gunk Removal

Yesterday I talked of the gunk in my nose.  Today I shall discuss the gunk in my body.  I promise it shan’t be so graphic, and or disturbing.

I’m in this weird state right now.  I’m on the verge of a huge new beginning in my job, which is going to lead, I think, eventually, to huge new beginnings in my life.  The kids are getting older, and I’m in this sort of state of transition, I guess.   Which makes me sort of in the mood to try new things, and nudge myself along.

The fact that I started with my sinuses?  I don’t know what that is.

Through a fortuitous sequence of events, I read this post on dooce almost immediately following the beginning of a conversation about relationships with food with Margie.

We were talking about times in each of our lives where these relationships had shifted a little, momentarily, and about the strength of the triggers that shifted the relationships back to the comfortable old patterns that don’t really help all that much.

Her momentary shift came with a diagnosis of diabetes.  Mine came from a brief flirtation with vegetarianism when Caroline and I moved to Cincinnati before my ex-husband was released from the Marine Corps.  Her shift ended with a visit from her mother.  I laughingly remembered an interlude when I was visiting my mother at Christmastime about ten years ago, and, at the age of 34, after about 3 days there, noticed myself hiding in the bathroom eating Christmas cookies.

Patterns, strings and cords, none of them useful.

Recently I find myself yearning to be more awake in my life.  Whether it’s the passage of time, or the unanswered questions about whether I’ve reached the half-way points, or a recent visit with my 100 year old grandmother, I am yearning for a shift in the way I interact with my world.  ARGH.  HEAVY.  BLAH BLAH BLAH.

So, anyway – shortly after the conversation with Margie, I read the aforementioned dooce entry on this “cleanse.”  Now, I must say, I hate calling this a cleanse.  I hate thinking that I am “cleansing.”  I don’t like the focus, I don’t like the new ageyness of it.  Hate.  So I’m thinking of it more of a jump start, which is the way it’s described by Kathy Freston in the book from which it originates, Quantum Wellness.  (And if you don’t think I didn’t hang my pretend to be all high-fallutin’ head in absolute mortification when I had to tell the guy at Barnes and Noble “I think it’s an Oprah Book” well, you just have no idea how high-fallutin’ I pretend to be in my head).

The idea is fairly simple, and involves taking a break from certain aspects of the American diet that tend to bog a body down.  Only one of them bothers me, and I’m not cleansing the caffeine quite the way Kathy would have me do it, (i.e. all at once) but Kathy doesn’t understand that I harbor a sneaking suspicion that caffeine is what keeps my heart from just flat out stopping altogether.  So basically it’s a break from sugar, gluten, alcohol, animal products and caffeine.

Except not the caffeine.  Not yet.  I’m really afraid to give that up, is what I’m noticing.  Yesterday I did fine until I got to work and my boss had brought me a cup.  And because I know myself well enough to know that this isn’t going to last for me if I look at it as “giving stuff up” instead of something I’m trying because I want to shift some perspectives in my life, and therefore something I’m choosing, and also because IT WOULD BE RUDE NOT TO DRINK IT, I drank the coffee.  And he brought me a cup in the afternoon, and I drank that.  (He’s sort of served as my dealer over the last 5 and 1/2 years, now that I think about it).  But I also told him what I was doing.  I told him I was reluctant on the caffeine, and that I would happily drink the coffee.  And he agreed that by Monday he will not bring me coffee, and we were all fine.

And today I drank some, but not as much as yesterday.  So that’s progress, I think.  And with a nod to Freston’s focus on consciousness, instead of reheating some burned up crap coffee to get my fix, I made a new pot.  And it was tasty.  And I enjoyed it.

What this all means is, I think, peculiar to me.  I am not setting out to lose weight, or even to get healthier.  Just to see what subtle shifts are out there in relation to the world and my place in it.  You will never find me counting calories, or reaching for the reduced fat x, y, or z for a number of reasons.  I am not looking for a relationship with food or my health or my body where it owns me, you know?  I’m looking, I think, for an understanding between us, each of the other, since we’re in this together.

More than you Ever Wanted to Know! (I Promise)

I think I have some changes happening regarding health and well being types of things.  I’m getting older, you start to realize you aren’t as spry as you once were, you start to question some habits, and wonder about what you can change.  I think I’ll be writing more about that, in the days to come, because after a conversation with Margie, and inspiration from Dooce, I am looking at my diet, and following Dooce on her cleanse.

But as an aside, on that self same post, she mentioned a neti pot, which is something I first read about on Velcrometer, and have kind of wondered how it worked, what it did, etc.

It’s not that my sinuses are really horrible, or that I have a life time of allergies conspiring to take me down.  I do notice more in the last few years that pollen season is uncomfortable, and smoking leaves me constantly congested, and add to that that I have fallen victim to what a DuPont employee friend refers to as the Delaware drip.

Now MY DAD – well, there are some bad sinuses for ya.  When I was a kid you could hear him blow his nose from one end of the State to the other (in fairness, it was Vermont, which is smaller on the scale of state sizes), and he constantly had at least one hankie going, which my mom would keep laundered, but I doubt she ironed, but she may have.  My most vivid memories of dad and his hankie habits are of sitting in the back seat of the car, while he would drive with his hand out the window, hankie draped over it, drying it in the wind.  I think, but I’m not entirely sure, that he would also sometimes dry his hankies on the radio antenna at high speed.  This habit, I believe, was peculiar to my father, and I believe one of which my mother was far more tolerant than his habit of coming to the dinner table in his boxer shorts.

Aaaanyway.

As part of this overall health focus deal, I started thinking about the health of my nasal passages, the congestion, the snoring, the occasional sore throat, and the fact that smoking has, let’s face it, left years of gunk in my head and lungs.  (By the way.  I’m not ready to jump off the quit smoking bridge just yet, but this is step one for me).

So yesterday I stopped by a local pharmacy and asked about the neti pot.  They had two options in stock.  The first was like a small plastic teapot, (short and stout, handle, spout, etc.) which came with saline packets that you mix with water and pour into your nostrils.  The picture of the woman on the package was very smiley, as she poured water in one nostril and it came out the other, but that might be because the water just loops through where she’d had her lobotomy.

The second option was a bottle with pre-mixed saline solution in it.  This one has a whatever the option of suction mechanism is, sort of an accordion bellows that you push in and it forces the water up your nose.  Not really an accordion bellows… You know the mechanism you use to make to make certain match-box cars race, or at least you did in the 70s, sort of a cylinder of air with folds in it, and you push on it and force the air out, and the car takes off??  Like that.  But on the side of the bottle, forcing the water up your nose.

I chose the second one, largely because it looked more like something I could handle, like I may chicken out pouring water up my nose, and I still can’t figure out quite how that model works.  I also wasn’t sure about the mixing required by the other one, and didn’t want to come home with a thousand little packets of saline solution, which, if this experiment failed, would point their little fingers at me for years to come.  This model I could just throw out if I didn’t like it.

All atwitter with excitement to try my new purchase, I hurried home.

Now part of my interest in this had to do with understanding just how this thing worked.

I failed miserably on my first attempt.  It says RIGHT ON THE BOX, don’t inhale.  But I’m no Bill Clinton.  The solution went right down my throat, and was gross, sort of like a deluge of post nasal drip.

So I tried again with the other nostril, this time, leaning forward, not inhaling and HOLY COW!  Nothing went down my throat, but it was a little akin to getting pool water up your nose.  I had to blow my nose several times afterward, and the gunk you would expect came out in copious quantities.

I did it again before bed, and this time it worked like a charm.  Still the burning of sucking pool water into your nose, but not unmanageable.  The water didn’t drain out the opposite nostril, like the box showed, but a couple of quick blows to get rid of the residual snot, and I was off to bed.

As I slept I was vaguely aware throughout the night of breathing through my nose, which I haven’t done in years.  I woke up at five thirty this morning, sinuses clear, feeling remarkably rested.  When Scott got back in bed for his early morning nap, I asked how the snoring had been, and he said he didn’t think I’d snored.

This morning while rinsing I think I got the right amount of pressure on the vacuum button thingy, because I didn’t have the chlorine in the nostril sensation AND?  Water and snot drained right out my other nostril, just like it’s supposed to.  I had to scramble for the paper towels.

Vote on the neti pot is a thumbs up, and a look to the title of this post will reveal that I keep my promises.