Tags: BigLaw, cleanse, detox, eighteen-month-old check up, Kitchen Aid mixer, New Year's Eve 2008, tax law
The first two weeks of 2009 have been frigid and snowy. I feel a bit guilty for not writing, but I’ll now do my best to catch up. Here’s a short list of 2009′s milestones thus far:
1. New Year’s in the Country
Little Buggy and her friend, August, check out the snowplows on a snowy New Year’s Eve night.
We woke up New Year’s Eve day to a veritable blizzard but wouldn’t let that keep us from heading out to Tim and Isabella’s newly renovated farmhouse in Concord. (In any event, I was in charge of the wine for the dinner party, so I couldn’t let everyone else down, right?) We took the T to North Station and then the commuter rail out to Concord, and I have to say, when we stepped off the train and Tim, our host, was waving to us on the snowy platform in his Barbour coat and wellies, I felt as if we had arrived for a weekend in the English countryside. (However, note to self: in the future do not take a toddler on a train without adequate snacks.)
There were four couples for dinner, exquisitely prepared by Isabella and her friend Lisanne (both of them true gourmets). We started with prune gnocchi (with a fruity and sweet Dolcetto d’ Alba that perfectly balanced the prunes — by far the best wine pairing of the night), then salad, then a pork tenderloin roasted with fennel and rosemary (with a Chateauneuf du Pape, which I picked really only because it’s my favorite wine, although it did go well with the pork…) I also had brought some cool dessert wines — a Bonny Doon framboise, a sparkling Shiraz from Australia, and some port to go with the chocolate fondue we were to have for dessert. However, we didn’t quite make it to the last course, as the evening devolved (evolved?) into a spontaneous dance party in the home’s detached studio, where we rang in the New Year as Little Buggy and little August slept away in the main house, peacefully oblivious.
2. I bought a Kitchen Aid Mixer
I woke up New Year’s day to the sun sparkling on the snowy fields and low stone walls of Concord — picture perfect New England. Isabella already had baked banana bread; Little Buggy and August had pulled chairs up to the kitchen island to “help” her. I resolved right then to finally purchase the Kitchen Aid I’d been craving for years, justifying it with cozy thoughts of Little Buggy helping me bake over the years. And, indeed, in just two weeks I’ve made chocolate chip cookies and my own banana bread — more baking than occurred in all of 2008.
Just as fun as baking: hiding in the box
Before all this baking happened, however, starting January 5 (a Monday — the real beginning of 2009) I went on a 5.5 day cleanse: no dairy, caffeine, soy, alcohol (duh), sugar, or grains. The first two days were rather painful only in that I was hungry. But I made myself a rash of healthy things in advance — soups, smoothies — and by Friday I felt great. My skin was clear, and I had lost about seven pounds (for real!) I’m back on the sauce: caffeine, alcohol, dairy, but I feel good about dropping that holiday weight, even if some of it creeps back on. I do sort of wish I could eat like that all the time, but frankly, it’s boring. Interestingly, I didn’t miss the cheese or wine all that much, and the hardest part for me was not stopping in the Starbucks in the lobby on my way up to my office. There is something innately comforting to me (Pavlovian?) about the routine of standing in line, grabbing that cardboard cup, and settling in at my desk to begin the day.
I’ve been to yoga six times! I’ve been getting up at 5:45 a.m. to get to the 6:15 class at Prana Power Yoga in Central Square. Even though it makes the mornings a bit more hectic, my days are so much better. I’d like to try to do it every morning — maybe that can be my next goal.
5. Running Club
The 2009 running club was inaugurated by Ellen and me last Saturday on an icy cold morning on the Charles. It was more like “adventure ice running” over large unplowed sections of the path on the river, but we felt rather proud afterwards. This morning’s running club has been cancelled due to the six degree cold outside.
6. Lots of snowstorms.
Helping Daddy dig out the cars
7. Little Buggy is 18 months!
She had her 18 month doctor’s appointment on Thursday. She’s a healthy little girl. Weight: 24 lbs, 11 oz (50th %); Height: 33 1/4 inches (quite literally off the charts for height percentile — greater than 100%). Both Tim and I were early growers, so that’s not surprising. Still, I wonder if she’ll end up being over six feet, like her Aunt Stephanie. She’s talking almost incessantly these days (wonder where that came from?). I can pretty much understand what she wants, and she can parrot back almost anything, making me realize I really do have to start curtailing my use of four-letter words.
I’ve been a BigLaw attorney for four months. I feel a little bit like I did when arrived at Princeton and was surrounded by people who, like me, legitimately loved school, and books, and asking questions, and learning. In the tax department, I’m also surrounded by people who are unabashed about their nerdy love of the tax code and the problem-solving it presents. I think this is what makes practicing tax law a bit different from corporate or litigation. In corporate, some people love that rush of the deadline, of staying up late, of making huge transactions happen (well, to the extent that they do anymore…). In litigation, people love doing the case research, writing briefs, looking for that one clue that will turn their case. In tax, people like to sit around and discuss the freaking TAX CODE, inventing scenario after scenario of possible outcomes.
More to my specific interests, however, each time I have the chance to do the college and university tax-exempt work (that I went to my particular firm with the hopes of specializing in), I am reminded of my real passion for education-related issues. This week I attended a conference for college and university practitioners, as well as a firm-sponsored lunch on topics in this area. Many of the issues in this area are far from tax related — admissions, labor, etc. — and I do hope to get some exposure to these areas as well. I also was assigned a pro-bono case in which I’m going to represent the mother of an autistic child against the Department of Education to help extend the girl’s education-related benefits after she turns 21. I’m nervous, as I am going to be the lawyer — but this is the benefit (indeed, the point, I think) of doing pro bono work as a young attorney. You have client exposure and responsibility that you’d never have in your normal place at the very bottom of the pecking order (to wit: I will be spending part of my vacation day on Monday transcribing , word-for-word, a two- to three-hour conference call. Not really using my, um, legal skills…)
Oh, yawn! Was that so boring? (Told you I was a dork.)
Anyway, one more thought about work: if you click on that link to the right to “Above the Law” you’ll see that this must-read legal blog has been listing almost daily firms that are laying off workers or freezing salaries. My firm, while halving bonuses like all the other firms, is not freezing salaries, which is encouraging. Nevertheless, things are nerve-wracking, as they are for everyone in the country. If I have a job in 2010 — bonuses, salary increases or not — I will be truly grateful.
And with that, I embark upon the latter half of the month, promising to update a bit more regularly.
I love New Year’s Resolutions. The list-lover in me just loooooves seeing (in my minuscule handwriting) the rows and columns of things I am going to self-improve each year. These resolutions (which I truly, and rather dorkily, write down) energize me, as well as get me through the first few weeks of inevitable post-holiday, Northeastern winter depression. Most of the time my resolutions revolve around the same theme: do more yoga, meditate, spend less, be kind. Sometimes they are vague sentiments along the lines of “be healthy”; other times they are more draconian: no caffeine, dairy, alcohol; run four times a week; keep a little notebook in my bag and record how much I spend every day, etc. You can guess how long those latter ones last — but as I said, it’s inspiring for at least a little while to try to achieve a personal goal. And for a type-A personality like me, the more precise, and the more difficult, the better. (It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my tendency to go overboard with resolutions — one of my favorite bloggers, Erin, has a similar post today.)
At the risk of revealing my neuroses to the world, but in the hopes that by divulging them I’ll hold myself somewhat accountable, here are my challenges/goals for 2009:
1. MUCH Less Drinking in January. Tim and I are in this one together. According to him, the Irish always go dry in January. The holidays push them over the edge, and they take January off before plunging back for the rest of the year. We’re focused on the big picture here, which is cutting back and/or eliminating the nightly glass/bottle of wine (especially after Dr. French Fry informed us — picking up her hefty pathology or hemotology or something book for intellectual backup — that one’s liver regenerates after a few weeks of clean living) than total abstention. (NB: if we win the lottery or sell the Milton place, we can drink as much as we want.)
2. No New Shoes in 2009. Don’t laugh! I spend way too much money on shoes. By this point, I should have enough pairs of three-figure shoes to get me through one year. Exception: running shoes. I’ve found that in general, extremes — e.g., a flat-out “No” to anything — don’t really work for me, but this is one place where I do think a total ban is warranted!
3. Run. Specifically, to inaugurate the Saturday-morning running club with Ellen and Nell, our goal being to run the Great Bay Half Marathon again the first week in April.
4. Cook More (a/k/a Eat Out Less). This is a challenging but necessary one. Not only do I like cooking (although am sorely out of practice), but the $35 or so we regularly spend on mediocre take-out from Charley’s or pizza (albeit delicious pizza from Bostone on Newbury, but ultimately way too pricey and unhealthy for a weeknight staple) seems like something we can easily cut out of our budget. Along these lines, I’d like to start having people over for dinners more on weekends. The quality of conversation and fun is just as good and, most of the time, even better at someone’s home (plus, you’re not shelling out another $100 on top of dinner for a sitter). To all my friends: bring some wine (even your kids if you have them!) and I shall feed you all year long.
5. Eat Healthy — a big, catch-all category. I feel better when I eat less/no meat. It is difficult to cook two meals a night (one for your meat-loving husband, and one for yourself), but I’m going to try to get back to my vegetarian diet. Along those lines, I also feel better when I don’t have dairy,either, but because I find the mere thought of a lunch or dinner without cheese to be truly depressing, instead of banning dairy entirely, I’ll have to compromise by at least trying to think about how to cut back without feeling deprived (and sad).
6. Be Neater (a/k/a Pick Up After Myself). I’m clean — you will not see a speck of dirt in my home — but I am not “neat.” I throw my coat over the dining room chair when I get home, kick my shoes off in the middle of the hall, toss my clothes (unfolded) on the end of the bed, leave the kitchen cabinet doors open. It drives Tim absolutely crazy. And then every once in awhile, I’ll get neurotic and go on a cleaning binge (my college roommates will tell you it happened more often than not after a particularly long night out…). Again in the spirit of moderation, I’d like to keep an even keel: less daily mess, fewer cleaning frenzies. I happened upon a quirky website run by someone called The Fly Lady about keeping one’s home neat and tidy. It is aimed at women who don’t work out side the home (do you love how p.c. that phrase is?) and encourages you to set aside days of the week for different chores: Monday is ironing day; Tuesday is bathroom cleaning day, etc. (kind of like “Little House on the Prairie”). However, there is one trick I think I can manage: setting a timer for 15 minutes (the Fly Lady’s mantra is “You can do anything for 15 minutes!”) and just clearing out certain areas of the house each night, e.g., the entry way, the bathroom, the kitchen. Spending 15 minutes cleaning when I get home from work is of course the last thing I want to do, but for the sake of my husband’s sanity, I will attempt to keep my belongings from straying all over the house.
7. YOGA. This is the most important and the most difficult — I’m not sure how I’ll accomplish this, but even going once a week regularly would be a good start. (To that end, I hauled myself out of bed and went to Prana at 6:15 this morning. It was a miserable class — I felt so stiff and out of shape I quite literally felt the tears coming to my eyes — but little steps, little steps…)
The perfectionist in me really yearns to frame all this dramatically for a hit of instant gratification — something along the lines of: “I will lose 15 pounds by running four times a week to train for the half marathon; lifting three times a week; doing yoga three times a week; eating a vegan macrobiotic diet; not spending any money; and having an immaculate house.” Honestly, I truly, truly wish I could be so disciplined. At the same time, I long to live life more clearly, cleanly, lightly in the sense that these little things don’t really matter. (Lindsey describes this inner longing much more articulately, here.) However, the older, wiser me will also attempt, in 2009, to start caring about myself a bit more, accepting my love of wine and cheese and shoes and impulsive behavior not so much as flaws but as actions that I may (or may not) want to moderate a bit. Feel free to check in.
Scorpion pose. (Also blatantly lifted from Erin’s site – but what a fabulous bit of inspiration!)
Tags: children's haircut, free dinner, working late, yoga
My week thus far:
I went to yoga for the third time since my “I’m committing myself to yoga” post. It was an hour-long “sunrise yoga” (or something like that) class at this new place on Boylston Street, literally a three minute walk away. Quite convenient, except that the class was form 6:30-7:30 a.m. – again, sort of tricky when your husband needs to leave for work at 7:30. The class was a bit more gentle than I’m used to, but I’m coming off a 10-day cold, so it was perfect. (Otherwise, I have not exercised since the Monday before Thanksgiving. Almost two weeks! My body was basically rigid, so the class was nice.)
I “worked late” for the first time – until 9:30 p.m.. There is a whole culture of “working late,” formerly unbeknown to me, which consists of free cafeteria dinners and free cab rides home. The free dinner starts at 7:30 p.m., and the lines are almost as long as they are at lunch. (What recession? Actually, I wonder what the crowd was like before work became somewhat slow.) Everything – the bags of chips, Gatorades, bottles of water, cookies – is free, so theoretically you can just pillage and keep stashes of food in your desk, although I found that idea a bit unsettling (dishonest?) I saw a few people from the tax department waiting in line for dinner, but in general, I don’t think there’s enough work for people to need to stay late all that often these days. Still, I could see how if you didn’t have a child, or a spouse/significant other, staying late a few nights a week (heck, even with a spouse/significant other) is an attractive proposition: bill your hours, get a free dinner and a free lift home. I knew I was going to work late in advance – part of our new work/life balance initiative at home is that each of us will stay at the office late one night a week, in the hopes of alleviating some weekend stress caused by needing to put in a few extra hours of work in addition to shopping/laundry/family time – and it did make me less anxious all day: I knew I didn’t have to rush anything so that I could be out the door at a certain time. Still, even working 12 hours, I think I managed to bill about 9.5 hours total.
My mother is visiting, which always makes me feel like the weight of the world is off my shoulders. Below, a picture she took on her iPhone (she has one, I don’t! But I’m over it… for now…) during an excursion with the Little Bug (clearly in need of a haircut. But where? How? Suggestions welcome…)
Tags: Baron Baptiste, can you exercise with a baby?, Prana Power Yoga, Shiva Rea, vinyasa yoga
So, despite (or, more likely, because of) all my whining yesterday, I got my butt out of bed at 5:45 (note: I also got my butt into bed at 9 p.m., even though I read for about 45 minutes [yes, an actual novel! And Tom Perotta, whom I stalked the night before, at that...]) and went to yoga. This time, I went to Prana Power Yoga in Central Square. At that time of the morning, it was only about a five minute drive across the bridge and up Mass Ave. The class was from 6:15-7:30, but I stationed myself by the door and snuck out at 7:15. I was home at 7:25. (Missing core work, backbends, and inversions, but at least I was there through pigeon, my favorite…) Tim leaves at 7:30, but didn’t seem to mind too much.
Maybe I need to give Forrest yoga a few more tries, but Prana is what I’m used to now (heated rooms, vinyasa, a million sun salutations…), and I felt much more comfortable and at home there. (As an aside — it’s strange to reread this and realize that this Baptiste-style hot yoga is now my comfort zone. Coming from an ashtanga practice, the first time I went to Baptiste in Cambridge I thought, “This is nuts. I’m never coming back.” The room was 100 degrees, people were sweating all over the floor (eeew), and the vinyasa seemed so quick as to be dangerous, alignment-wise. But the studio was only a few blocks away, and once I got used to the heat, I was hooked. I don’t like practicing without it now. Also, if you would have told me six years ago that pigeon would someday be my favorite pose — I remember literally crying out of sheer frustration in Shiva Rea’s class in Los Angeles during one extended pigeon session — I would have walked out of your yoga studio. Maybe it’s the heat that allows me to enjoy it these days? But I digress. Sort of. )
Tags: fitting in exercise with a baby while working full-time, laywer mom, working out
I have a query for any random Googlers out there who stumble upon this blog (or even my cadre of oh-so-loyal readers): if you are working full-time, and you have a baby, and you have a husband/partner who works full-time, how, when, and where do you exercise?
I feel sluggish and gross if I skip working out more than one or two days. Moreover, the only time I can realistically work out is 5:30 a.m. before anyone else is up. I guess I should suck it up and get my butt out the door, but it’s getting coooolder and daaaarker. (I know: waaaahhh.) Anyway, creative suggestions and stories of triumph and motivation are welcome!
Tags: Back Bay yoga, Baptiste Yoga, Forrest yoga
Note: I have no idea why the fonts are so messed up on this post!
A good friend of mine recently shared pictures of her doing Bikram yoga poses at 39 weeks pregnant. She looked absolutely gorgeous – strong and poised. (As she acknowledged, there are varying degrees of skepticism about doing any sort of heated yoga while pregnant. Her incredible pictures mirrored my own take on it: if it makes you feel good, as long as you’re careful, it is good for the baby. My yoga teacher, Claire, at Baptiste – a former pediatric E.R. nurse – encouraged me with the caveats that I managed my pulse and temperature, positioned myself by the door to get a sliver of fresh air, and modified my poses. So I did heated Baptiste yoga through 37 weeks, and while it might not have translated so much into a calm labor, it did keep me relaxed and ache-free up until the end of my actual pregnancy – no sciatica or lower back pain.) Anyway, my friend had her baby boy yesterday, and after seeing those pictures I was inspired enough to finally get myself back on the mat this morning for the first time in at least four months (but it could very well be more – yikes!)
I went to a Forrest Yoga class at Back Bay yoga at 6:15 a.m. I had done Forrest Yoga just once before, in Los Angeles, when I was a real yoga junkie. I remembered it as being quite centered on strengthening the core and also in a heated room. The first half of class this morning was pretty sedentary – lots of seated and lying poses (albeit with lots of core work), which I’m not used to after years of a vigorous vinyasa practice. I wasn’t sure I liked it. But after a series of arm balances (which I love, and which you don’t get much of in a Baptiste class), I was feeling warm, and only then did we move into sun salutations, followed by deep hip openers. I have been feeling that resonance in my hips all day, reminding me both that it’s been a habitually problematic area, but also a sort of pat-on-the-back that I did manage to get up and do something productive this morning. There’s also an early-morning ashtanga class at Back Bay, but as I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m too out of focus, yoga-wise, to dive off the very deep end back into a Mysore practice, where there’s no one to lead me through the practice but myself.
In the end, though, Mysore may be my only weekday option (or, to be honest, weekly option: getting to a Baptiste class in Cambridge on a weekend just takes too big a time-chunk out of my precious non-working hours…). Unfortunately, though the Back Bay website had the Forrest class lasting for just an hour, in reality it runs until 7:30, which just makes our morning before-work routine too tricky. I’ll have to sneak out the back if I continue to go, which I know from experience is kind of a bummer for the teacher (you think: Did they hate it? Are they bored? Are they hurt?) Mysore starts at 6 a.m. and goes for as long as you want it to: I actually could race through an abbreviated first series and still be home by 7:15. So we shall see – but in any event, I hope this is the beginning of a new commitment. A re-commitment, in fact, to something that has been an important and I think absolutely essential part of my balance.
Tags: GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow, inadequate mother, yoga
So Gwyneth Paltow now has her own website — a guide to being as fabulous as she. It’s called GOOP (a clever acronym? A congealed mess?), and you can sign up to receive Daily Candy-like emails on recipes, hotels, and I’m not sure what else yet (hopefully some decorating advice!), as this is all description she gives so far:
My life is good because I’m not passive about it. I want to nourish what is real, and I want to do it without wasting time. I love to travel, to cook, to eat, to take care of my body and mind, to work hard. I love being a mother who has had to overcome my bad qualities to be a good mother. I love being in spaces that are clean and feel nice.
Over the years I have tried lots of different things. I have made lots of mistakes. But I have figured some things out in the process and I would like to share them with you. Whether you want a good place to eat in London, some advice on where to stay in Austin, the recipe I made up this week, or some thoughts from one of my sages, GOOP is a little bit of everything that makes up my life.
Make your life good. Invest in what’s real. Cook a meal for someone you love. Pause before reacting. Clean out your space. Read something beautiful. Treat yourself to something. Go to a city you’ve never been to. Learn something new. Don’t be lazy. Workout and stick to it. GOOP. Make it great.
I’d like to do all of those things, every day. But will subscribing to this endeavor really make anyone feel anything other than inadequate? (Such as one feels when practicing yoga next to Gwyneth for a few days?) Still, these sentiments do resonate: “I love being a mother who has had to overcome her bad qualities to be a good mother.” and “I love being in spaces that are clean and feel nice.”
A long time ago in, quite literally, another life, I lived in Los Angeles. In Brentwood, on the corner of Montana and San Vicente, with its tree-lined meridian that slopes gently down to the ocean (a perfect six-mile run to the beach and back.) My life happily fulfilled many LA stereotypes: At the Whole Foods across the street, I’d regularly bump into my “neighbors”: Jennifer Garner, or Ted Danson, or Reese Witherspoon, or Brooke Shields (one time when I saw her and happened to be wearing a Princeton t-shirt, I stalked her around the store, hoping she’d start up a conversation, “Oh, what year were you?”) And, of course, at yoga I’d see dozens more celebrities: Kerri Russell, John Cusak, Lisa Rinna (is she a celebrity?), the guy who played Kramer from Seinfeld, and most notably, Gwenyth, who practiced ashtanga next to me for two ego-bashing weeks. I was friends with both an honest-to-goodness raw-food vegan and a successful television writer and producer who threw parties in the Hollywood Hills (where you’d park your car down the hill and a private bus would shuttle guests up and down to the house all night long.) When I catch an essence of Eucalyptus or see a purple that reminds me of the spring jacaranda, I miss Los Angeles terribly – I miss these friends, too, who sadly have slipped away along with this former life.
Many aspects of my life in Los Angeles were pretty fabulous. There was, of course, the wine – $10-a-bottle, incredible wine that doesn’t necessarily get exported out-of-state. I wasn’t working too, too hard at the time. Despite being a high school teacher and/or freelance writer (and despite all the wine), I found plenty of time also to be fabulously in shape. Not only did I run on the beach almost every day, but I spent my weekends hiking in the Malibu hills, I had a twice-a-week personal Pilates trainer (what?), and, of course, I did yoga. Religiously and fervently. I went on yoga retreats to the desert in Joshua Tree and to Brazil. I actually meditated. And for a stretch, I got up every morning at 5:30 for a two-hour Mysore practice. I stopped eating meat, most dairy, and wheat. I read the Bhagavhad Gita. I had a mantra.
Like any other addiction, I suppose, my devotion to/obsession with yoga was filling another hole in my life. But when I left Los Angeles, the hardest thing for me was leaving behind my yoga studio and teachers. When I started practicing again on the East Coast, it was hard for me to abandon the rigors of an ashtanga practice, as frustrating and sometimes un-enjoyable that practice was for me.
I did find a great studio in Cambridge and, for a time, got myself devoted again (sweating through a teacher training retreat in Hawaii, practicing for 40 days straight, volunteering at the studio, going on a fruit fast…). I realized recently, however, that I have not practiced yoga since before the holidays. Getting to and from class is a 2+ hour endeavor. In that time, I could step out my door, run six miles, shower, and still feed my baby. Nevertheless, the words of my aforementioned vegan friend have been circling around me: “When you think you can’t find time for yoga is when you need it the most.” My eight-month-post-baby body is aching (shoulders, back, neck from nursing, picking up an increasingly heavy child, lugging the stroller up and down steps, working, etc. etc., sob sob), I’ve had a low grade cold for a month, and my mind is restless. It’s time to go back, though obviously I cannot commit to a 90 minute class, five times a week. I’ve been focusing on running recently: it’s a quick-fix, an immediate endorphin booster, instant gratification in so many ways, physically and mentally. Is running my new yoga? I hate that time forces me to choose between them (in my Los Angeles days I would practice ashtanga for two hours and then run for another. I was 10 pounds lighter, yes…but – a good lesson learned – certainly no happier…exercise can be an excellent avoidance technique).
When I started this blog, I created a category called “yoga.” But this is the first time I’ve had anything to write about it – two years ago, this blog would have been mostly about yoga: how my practice went that day, what I was eating, what was up at the studio, and replete with links to every yoga publication out there. Yesterday, I posted a query on a mom’s listserve I belong to for a recommendation for a good masseuse or chiropractor for my back. A woman wrote me back a long message about some Eastern treatments she has been getting for similar problems. We began an all-day email exchange about our experiences with alternative medicine. I’ve never met this woman and probably never will, but this serendipitous exchange stirred up something in me. So this evening, instead of hitting the gym for a six-mile run, I may take my mat two blocks further to Back Bay yoga and see what’s up over there. Or I may get real with my current life: 20 minutes on the living room floor will do.