Friday, October 31, 2008
On my very first visit to the Gothic campus, a matter of blocks from where I lived, I was in my City Year uniform and had to demonstrate what they called "PT" by doing jiggly jumping jacks in front of wildly overprivileged undergrads.
Sometime after I had been hired, at a breakfast for University employees in student services, I was seated at Mrs. Obama's table and actually spoke with her. I said I had met her husband when he spoke to us at City Year. Since she ran community service programs, I asked if the school had an alternative break program, because that was something I had helped run at my much less tony undergrad school.
In the sad in-between period, after I had quit City Year but before I had found anything else to do, I called the Obama campaign office, looking for work. This was back when he was running for the Illinois Senate against former Black Panther Bobby Rush. In interviews, he describes the outcome as "getting spanked." The guy I spoke with asked me, logically enough, to tell him about myself. Somehow I got to the co-op house I lived in, and he asked me to explain that. All I needed to do was say that instead of paying rent to a traditional landlord, the residents effectively "owned" a share of the house.
That was pretty much what I did. Only instead of saying "a traditional landlord," I said "The Man."
I could easily have volunteered for the campaign, but I was so terribly embarrassed, I never called to follow up.
I have spent a lot of this campaign season kicking myself for not following up, for losing touch with my lawyer relative who was part of the Daley machine, and for ever having moved away from the place I loved so much, especially for something like law school.
Just before Election Day, on Halloween Friday, bar results were posted and I learned I had passed. I had spent the weeks beforehand trying to assure myself that I would be okay no matter what the outcome was, and occasionally taking the risk of imagining what it would be like to call people and give them good news.
Friday afternoon I left my poll-watching post at 3:15 and got home at 3:40. I started the computer, checked the mail, and wheeled the trash cart around to the back of our townhouse. A dear friend, my partner in Bar Exam Purgatory, was waiting on her State A results, which I knew would be up early. At 3:55 p.m., I learned she had passed. I took this as a good omen.
State B's results went up at precisely 4 p.m. but I had to wait until about 4:06, because I'd promised I'd wait until my husband got home. I clicked the link as soon as the door opened. When he came into the room, I clicked on my letter. And there I was. And it took me a long time to believe it. And to a certain extent, I still don't.
I got to make my happy phone calls, and it was better than I could have ever imagined. Then we went out to dinner.
Saturday I went a little insane. I had plans with my mom and grandmother and my husband wasn't coming. I got extremely upset, not about that particular evening being ruined, but more about the larger patterns. It was fairly miraculous that Spouse thought to come home early Friday, and knew to take me out that night; I should have focused on that instead. There are certain things that I have to let go of worrying about because I cannot change other people's behavior. I can only change my response to said behavior. I hadn't yet come to that conclusion, so Saturday and a lot of Sunday sucked.
And now? You'd think I'd be in some kind of wonderful happy haze but I'm not. I'm freaking out about finding work because lawyer jobs aren't advertised here. Isn't that great? It's hard enough submitting resumes and getting through interviews, but imagine trying to find work when you literally can't find the work. Seriously. The answer, of course, is NETWORKING! Wahhh.
Yesterday was my birth-control shot. My blood pressure is always taken beforehand, and I was expecting it to be lower after my good news, and it wasn't. That sucked.
Tomorrow is therapy and I know exactly what it's going to be about--my need to be willing to get my shit done even when I don't feel like it. That and what to do about meds, because Vyvanse Sucks Ass. Focalin gave me a tad too much energy but I feel completely sapped on Vyvanse, and it hasn't helped with the Evening Grumpies anyway.
What the fuck is my problem? Seriously! My guy actually won, and I passed the freaking bar exam! These are great, wonderful, amazing, life-changing things. What am I so afraid of? I'm supposed to be feeling invincible right now!
I have to remember that I have nothing to lose by calling people and asking for help, or by sending out resumes, or by looking all over the place for jobs, or by calling the few attorneys I have tenuous connections to and asking them where the hell the work is. I have nothing to lose but this lazy life I hate but have gotten comfortable in.
Now I am going to go call the clerk of court and arrange to get sworn in next week. And then I am going to call and make haircut appointments.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
'Twas my second attempt at making an orange-flavored quick bread with dried cranberries in it. I don't know how I got stuck on this. Some time ago I stayed at a hotel that gave away Otis Spunkmeyer* cookies at the front desk, and I had an oatmeal cookie made with dried cranberries instead of raisins, and it blew my mind.
I found a recipe online, and for some reason I cannot bake just one bread, so I doubled it. And the dough came out very wet and sticky, such that I thought about adding a little more flour, but decided "Nooo, best not to futz with it." I don't know if that would have done much good or not.
So I took them out when they seemed done, and let them sit in the pans, on a rack, as instructed, for 15 minutes. The Pyrex loaf pans seemed to hold their heat a lot longer than the nonstick metal pans I use for brownies and such. At 15 minutes they were still too hot to touch without mitts, and didn't move at all when overturned. I decided to wait. At 22 minutes, the breads looked moist and sticky and I thought that the longer they stayed in-pan the gooier things would get. I failed to make the connection between "These look kinda sticky" and "These don't seem inclined to come out." So I ran a knife around the edges, turned the pan over, bonked the pan edge on the counter, jiggled, bonked again. Nothing. I ran the knife around more thoroughly and tried again, and, well, most of the loaf came out.
I got Spouse up from WOWing to try the other one, and it was worse: most of the bottom half of the loaf stayed stuck in the pan. He looked at me, shrugged wordlessly, and went back to his cave. (Have I mentioned yet that our fights consist of me yelling and swearing, and him going nonverbal? No? My bad.)
The breads are a bit overdone on the edges, but squishy in the middle. And I put pecans in both loaves**, which means I have two big, dense, sweet breads all to myself, unless I give the less-addled one to Mom.
Apparently a lot of women bake to console themselves on bad days. Sometimes this results in pretty output, good enough to give away, and sometimes not. I've had two disasters in a row now--I burned brownies, for gosh shakes--and I think I may be resorting to Publix the next time I need carbohydrate consolation. Maybe I will just write our neighbor a card.
*Seriously, man, what marketing genius came up with that?
"Okay, team: we need a name that connotes wholesome tasty baked goods."
"All right. Let's try a soul music icon's first name, a slang term for a bodily fluid, and then a German-sounding ethno-snippet."
**Those would be the Goddamn Nuts my husband won't eat (as in "Goddamn it, I'm putting the Goddamn Nuts in both of 'em!"), chopped with alarming force while listening to Tori Amos. Did I mention I was angry? And that bar results come out next Friday? And that Vyvanse doesn't appear to be doing anything at all, and my face still looks like hamburger?
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Note the Second: When baking something that must be absolutely, completely cool before it is wrapped in foil, because otherwise it would get gummy: do NOT start bonking around in the kitchen at 8:30 at night, such that the item doesn't come out of the oven until 10:30 and won't be cool until who knows when.
Note the Third, not so much to myself: I am, at this point, thoroughly perturbed at Joy of Cooking. Its snickerdoodles were a disaster, its orange bread mediocre, its crumb cake...kinda crummy. (Spouse deemed it Not Good Enough for His Office.) And as for the previously discussed Mocha Ice Cream Cake? You are to make it with coffee, not mocha, ice cream. Grrrrr. They have the edition I learned on at my branch library and I just may bring it home my next time out.
And yet: Its method for sautéed boneless skinless chicken breasts is easy and delish. I've only messed it up once, and that was after getting it right a couple of times. I also was able to poach BSCBs just fine by improvising on their instructions. So maybe it's not a baking book, but it's better for real food? I suppose I should withhold judgment for right this second.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
So I learned from the 1997 Joy, which was apparently controversial, because it departed from prior versions that featured droller copy, more Rombauer family lore, and sections on how to tastefully prepare a meal made of furry woodland creatures. I've had the new 2006 version for a year now--a gift from my grandmother. I'd be lost without it, but I think I may try to hunt up a copy of the prior one. The current version is organized a little differently, but it's hard to describe how with any accuracy without both versions. I do remember there used to be a separate section just on "American fruit desserts," which I miss.
The major problem with the new book: it's riddled with typos--in the basic bread recipe, even!--and one problem that's not addressed by this errata sheet is that there are incorrect page numbers all over the place. And I am very cheesed off about this: To make Mocha Ice Cream Cake (p. 731), you need to make 2 quarts of Mocha Ice Cream. One is referred to p. 832 for that recipe, but it does not exist on that page, nor anywhere else in the ice cream chapter. There's coffee ice cream, and chocolate ice cream, but no mocha. From perusing food blogs, and my own experimentation, it can be difficult to get mocha ice cream right, and I could use a real recipe for it. I'm riled up enough now that I think I'm going to email them about it.
There used to be a recipe for barley with toasted pecans, and co-op people used to really like that. It's gone, but you could just toast some pecans in a skillet, prepare the basic cooked barley from the gigantic grains chart on p. 364, and then mix the pecans into the pot. The 1997 version used a little tree symbol to indicate those cookie recipes that were especially suited to holiday baking. Personally I thought that was charming, but I have some particular neuroses about holiday baking, and if you saw my mother's annual operation you'd understand why.
Anyway, the consensus seems to be that the current version has corrected the problems of the 1997 version. I didn't know enough of the backstory to even know that the 1997 version had problems, and I think I might like it better.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
So, "Bring a Torch"? WTF?
It's...okay, look. It is neither revolutionary nor bad-ass. It's a danged Christmas carol, ok? And it's in French. And if you went to Catholic school like I did, and got French instruction beginning in 7th grade, you probably would have sung this song at your annual extravaganza of carols and inspiring readings. The song involves two girls, Jeanette and Isabelle, and they are supposed to bring a torch and tell the whole village that Jesus is born. Okay? Sheeze, I'm not even settled on the God thing, and my blog title is from a Christmas song. But...if you didn't grow up doing Christmas, maybe it will still sound tough. Whatever.
Ok, but why call your blog that?
Because I went through almost twenty pithy phrases and they were all either already taken, or too general, or too obscure, or too close to profanity, or too Viennese, and I really wanted to get started, and my husband was tired of hearing pitches. He came up with an adorable name that I absolutely love, but I don't have the stones to use it because it's vaguely reminiscent of certain slang terms that, um, anyway, maybe I'll tell you about it sometime.
Whatever. So, how many times have you taken the bar?
I sat for the bar and failed it, in February 2006, July 2006, and February 2007. Then I kind of had a fit and threw out the state-specific materials.
I studied for the February 2008 administration of another state's bar but pulled out the Friday before because I knew I wasn't ready.
And then I sat for that state's bar in July 2008. There's some variation by state, but results for February exams come out in April or May, and results for the July exams come out around Halloween. If that sounds completely, unbelievably horrible, that's because IT IS.
Damn, woman. Are you completely insane?
Pretty much. I don't know exactly what my current diagnosis is but it probably includes ADD, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depression. And maybe some OCD and social anxiety.
No, I mean, why do you keep taking the bar?
Because I feel like I have to at least try practicing law before I give it up and try something else.
Why are you up at 1 a.m?
Because I'm on a stimulant for the ADD and I slept really late today so I didn't take my pills until noon.
Uh-huh. Do you always talk in run-on sentences?
Friday, October 17, 2008
Edited 11/17/08 to add this N.B.: Welcome! I have no freaking clue how to pronounce Vyvanse; personally, I say "viv-VANTZ," but whatever floats your boat. I tried the stuff for a month after having some afternoon wear-off issues with Focalin, and I cannot overemphasize how much VYVANSE SUCKED FOR ME; I could barely get out of bed, much less leave the house to get stuff done, and basic tasks like cooking dinner (or, gulp, showering) became these huge, unapproachable monsters that I avoided like crazy. I'm now back on the Focalin and feeling a lot better. For the part of this entry that actually covers my Vyvanse experience, see the final four paragraphs. For valuable layperson perspective on psych drugs, go read CrazyMeds, or The Trouble with Spikol, or if I may be so bold, some of my very own entries, helpfully labeled "drugs" and/or "therapy." For professional advice, ASK YOUR SHRINK, for crying out loud.
I finally understand this Twitter thing, I think. (Although if I ever sign up, I will never, ever refer to anything I post as a "tweet." That's just silly.) I believe the popularity is because of how FAST it must be to post something that little. Because unless you are doing a one-off entry, like "Hey, go watch these
[choose one: adorable/grumpy/furry/scary/disgusting/ninja]
[choose one: lorises/babies/otters/bears/cats/candidates for executive office]
[choose one: sniff for a sandwich/dance with Ellen/hold hands/get caught lying/eat lemons/act stoned/fatefully fingerquote/creep stealthily]
on YouTube," it takes freaking forever to write something and settle on it. Or it takes me forever, anyway.
I've been trying to leave comments places where it seems relevant and appropriate to do so, and to even summarize a quick little anecdote, recapturing maybe 90! freakin'! seconds! of conversation, I have to fiddle with it, hit preview, change something, hit preview again, fix it so the entire thing is not italicized, preview to make sure it took, blah dee blah blah blah. I do almost everything the roundabout way, but sheesh.
And if it takes that long to write up talk that people actually uttered, how long does it take a novelist to make it up completely? I heard an author talking on NPR years ago about how he had tried to write fiction and got stuck on how hard it was to get a character successfully across a room. That would be me. (Also, hello? My life is not goofmoid enough, I have to go making shit up? Iiiii don't think so.)
I've had kind of a strange week. I'd noticed recently that at the end of the day--unfortunately for my spouse, it was usually right when he was getting home from work--that for no reason I'd suddenly start feeling weepy. I'd be at the produce stand, or on my way home from getting milk, and blam-o. I'm pretty mood-swingy anyway, which is probably why it took me a long time to discern an actual pattern. Like if I'm in the car and "Gypsy" comes on the radio? It wouldn't be out of character at all for me to cry then. What made me take notice was the fact that I could be having a perfectly good day and ZOT--I'd suddenly feel like crying.
So I mentioned this when I saw my shrink last week, and she suggested we try a different ADD med, one with an easier transition from day to evening, and I started it Monday morning. I spent most of this week sitting in front of this computer, looking at blogs, and trying to write for this one. And I'd look up and it'd suddenly be four in the afternoon and I hadn't showered yet. I can't believe it's Friday already.
In my experience, futzing with meds is like walking a tightrope. Without a net. Over a pit filled with alligators. This is the first time I've ever been able to just switch something out, instead of having to titrate down on the old med and gradually phase in the new one. It's slightly less weird this way, and yet. On Wednesday SB [Sugar Bear, or Spouse of Bring] came home and, like clockwork, I was in a strange place mood-wise. I started mewling, "M-m-snorrrk maybe it was a dumb idea to change my medications this close to Ha-Hal-snifffonnnk-Halloween."
Because on Halloween, or maybe a day or so before that, I am going to find out my bar results.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I'm supposed to check in with my therapist on weekdays by leaving him a message, and his voicemail cuts you off at three minutes. There was one day I filled it all the way up twice, erasing it twice, before realizing: it's my therapist, he's already well aware I'm crazy, and he'll deal. And then I filled it up a final time, and hung up when I was done.
The last time I had a real job, I was constantly having to genuflect and supplicate to people on the phone, because I needed information they had, a client was entitled to something it was their job to provide, or because I needed guidance from my boss, who worked in a different city.
I am horrible at the phone, even on my best day. I am unsure of myself, my high voice makes me sound like a five year-old, I stammer and trip over my own tongue, and if I catch the slightest hint of "no" in someone's tone, I get thrown off and discouraged. This is a sad combination of factors anyway, but it is fatal if your job success hinges on your ability to phone a complete stranger, explain a sad situation, and persuade the stranger to do something about it. If your target ass-hauler perceives, via super-sensitive ass-hauler antennae, the slightest possibility that no ass must be hauled, no comfortable thumb disturbed, if only you can be eased or forced off the phone, that is precisely the outcome you can expect. In other words: To get anyone to haul ass, you have to make it abundantly clear that you will not hang up unless or until you get what you need.
I was an utter failure at getting anyone to haul ass, and I developed a huge complex about making phone calls. Eventually, unless I was ordering pizza, I couldn't dial the phone without making out a list of exactly what information I needed, doodling a checkbox next to each point. I would spend half an hour formulating these lists in what I thought was the most logical order, to make for the most efficient call possible, preparing for every conceivable question, with rebuttals for every possible "no." I would work myself into such a lather worrying about each call that it would take three tries to dial the damn phone. And of course the conversation never went like I wanted it to anyway.
My Boss's in-box was Where Email Goes to Die, I learned too late, and there was nothing I could do about it. I would spend hours carefully composing emails, designed to be answerable merely by typing a "Y" or "N," and couldn't even get those answered. Important concerns would sit until they could wait no longer, and I'd frantically place a call to Boss, who'd dispense whatever wisdom I needed to hear, usually in reproachful, calm-down tones. I got the distinct impression I was being a bother every time I called. I began to dread calling Boss more than calling strangers. I would hurry, hurry, hurry to get off the phone as quickly as possible without pissing Boss off, hang up, sigh with relief, and then realize I'd forgotten something essential from my list. Necessitating another call. Crap. I said "Crap!" so often in that job it became my signature catchphrase.
Maybe I should go straight to letters or faxes and leave the phone to those able to speak in short sentences. I am amazingly talented at leaving the type of message that no one wants to return. When I call attorneys trying to network, they don't call me back, and I'm too chicken to call them again. Not only did I suck at advocating for other people, I can't even do it for myself.
Here's another example. I last saw my primary-care doctor in early September. He wrote me a prescription for Retin-A after I pointed out the dark spots on my face from the huge cysts I got while I was studying. I waited about a week, until I needed refills on other things, and then I dropped off the slip at my pharmacy. When I got home from running errands, the pharmacy had already left a message: under our insurance, I needed prior authorization to get my skin goop. They'd already faxed a form to my doctor's office but I should call to make sure it got there.
So I call the doctor's office and everything sounds fine. They promise to call me once the form is signed and sent off wherever it needs to go. So I wait. I put myself through major stress worrying about ever getting a job, and my face explodes like it hasn't done since before the exam. I wonder if the problem is that I saw the doc on a good skin day. I pick at everything. I get huge, dark scabs, one smack in the middle of my nose. I cry when I see myself in the bathroom mirror. I call the doctor's office again. And again. And again.
More than a month after I submitted the prescription for the gorram skin goop, I call the doctor's office for the fifth time. The nice lady (they're always pleasant and patient with me) says they've just received the paperwork from InsCo, and they'll fax it to the pharmacy once my doc signs it, and they'll call me when all this is accomplished. Yay. I hang up.
Wait a minute. What about the paperwork the pharmacy originally faxed over? Like, weeks ago, back when I originally tried to fill the prescription? Did it never get there at all? Was that not the right paperwork? I don't know. If I needed this medication to breathe or something, I'd be in serious trouble.
I called the pharmacy to find out how much it would cost out-of-pocket just to be done with it already, and it turns out I'll save about $35 if I wait for the paperwork to go through. So I am stuck. I'm 31 years old, I suck at the phone, and I still have giant, honking acne.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1.
Holy cow. Is this actually going to happen, people? Are we getting the White House?
I was feeling quite pessimistic about this. Monday I ventured downtown to Obama HQ, and they had me phonebank. I made 45 calls and actually spoke to about 30 people, all senior citizens, and it broke down almost evenly into thirds. One-third would not tell me who they were supporting. One-third had decided to support Obama. And one-third were undecided.
And I do not understand for the life of me how anyone could be undecided at this point. I've tried to think about things the way I imagine an older Southerner might, and I still don't get it. Voting for McCain makes much more sense to me than still being undecided this close to November.
And I'm scared that for generations of white Southerners it may come down to his race. It definitely did for one lady I talked to. Yeesh. I marked her as supporting "other."
Another lady said she "just didn't know," saying "they just came out with something today on public radio." That was the morning the Ayers attacks had begun, and I worried that they had started to stick.
But when I went down to vote early, it was also the last day to become registered, and at 5:00 the line flowed out the door and down the sidewalk.
I was freaked yesterday because, like a moron, I watched the "Sidewalk to Nowhere" video, of people waiting in line to see McCain at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. It was absolutely frightening. I can understand people being angry about the state of the world, I really can. What I can't understand is that in an age when there is plenty of information available, and numerous news outlets feature some kind of rumor-debunking capacity, why in hell would you base your vote on an email forward? Because it was clear from what people were yelling that they had gotten their facts via in-box. How did poorly formatted, thoroughly misspelled emails, complete with faked photos and the inevitable dozen animated flags, become a trusted source of political news? I see these things when I periodically clean out my grandma's Outlook, and it always raises my blood pressure. I'm frequently dismissive of my liberal arts background but I suppose it gets the credit for making me a skeptical, sophisticated media consumer. (That and $5 will get me a cappuccino, right?)And then David Brooks comes out sounding like a scholar. I don't know what to think.
Friday, October 10, 2008
The other day at the mailbox I peeked at the cover of Newsweek and squeaked, "Ewwwwww." Suddenly I was way too acquainted with Governor Palin's pores. I desperately do not want this woman to become Vice President, and she makes me angry on a thousand levels, but seeing this picture, I can't help but feel for her. You can count the mustache-area hairs, see where any recent zits have been--it was like looking into a mirror, down to the annoying chin-crease bumps we appear to share. Granted, she had makeup on, and I almost never do, and I'm sure my upper lip is much more hairy, because I'm not about to get mine waxed.* Nonetheless, I was horrified for her.
My spouse points out that Newsweek doesn't pull punches with its cover photos, if Henry Paulsen's recent scary mug was any indication. Check out that throbbing temple vein! It's not a fashion magazine in the first place, and its content and design aren't at all stylish. I had typed "I wonder if celebrities have any right to be angry when they are portrayed this way," but then I realized: this is what Governor Palin looks like. What I'm complaining about is actually a truthful portrayal of a middle-aged face. We media consumers are so accustomed to manipulated photos that when an unretouched image is blown up, emphasizing a pretty person's imperfections, it seems pointedly, needlessly cruel.
I [still!] haven't gotten to the actual story yet, but the cover copy reads "She's One of The Folks (And that's the problem)." As if they're trying to say, "She's bumpy! She's lumpy! She's flawed!" Well, duh. After all those non-answers in the CBS clips, I thought Katie Couric was going to throw something. (I had to excuse myself for a calming cocktail during the veep debate.) There are ample legitimate criticisms of Sarah Palin's readiness to govern--so why attack her face so pointedly? I don't get it, and I don't buy that they were trying to highlight the Governor's smile, either.
Fox brought in two lady politicos to discuss the "issue," such as it is, and of course the Republican got to tear Newsweek a new one while the Democrat had to prop up Palin, remind us that it was the "Women in Leadership" issue of the magazine, and say she thought Palin looked great, "folksy" even. I don't doubt her sincerity--and according to her American U bio, she's a regular token lib on Fox, which means she's entitled to combat pay and my eternal gratitude, whether I agree with her or not.
*I do get my brows waxed because I don't have the fortitude to tweeze and my natural arch is quite severe, giving me a perpetual glare, à la Evil Bert.
If I spear more of
your spears, will you ease up? My
eyes are watering.
I know it has been
months, but my lover will not
take a single bite.
And I cannot munch
an entire bunch alone.
I'm not a rabbit.
Tonight at Pricey
Steakhouse, I pounced. The side dish
outshined my sad fish.
A most delicious
six spears. But five hours
hence: the smell of revenge.
I'd eschew all the
other veggies if only
you'd quit pulling rank.