Monday, August 30, 2004

Monday, Monday

Yes, it actually can feel that bad. Today started out in quite the lousy fashion. I'd had an insane week last week, culminating in a two-day, 800-mile-round-trip drive to northern Maine for work. I was looking forward to the time alone - maybe I could do some thinkin' about the job that is driving me slowly batty, and the welter of thoughts around the kid issue.

Instead, I listened to books on tape (Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver, which I read years ago, and Black & Blue by Anna Quindlen. Coincidentally, both involved missing kids. And both cause one to tear up just a tad -- dangerous when passing large logging trucks on windy, wooded roads.) . And I drove. And I drove and I drove and I drove. And that's about all the thinking I did. In the motel room, I painted my toenails and read another Laurie Colwin novel.

When I got home about 4:30 on Friday, S. and T. and cutie-pie C. were hanging out in my backyard, drinking beer. (Well, C. did have a bottle, but hers was full of millk.) And thus began about 44 hours of catching up, teaching C. about the beach and eating. We put a serious dent in this week's veggie delivery, and even made it out to our favorite hippie/gourmet pizza place as C. snoozed in her swanky stroller.

After they headed out on Sunday afternoon, we got some stuff done around the house (ie, D. threw towels in the wash and went grocery shopping, while I read Entertainment Weekly and dozed on the couch), then headed out to see Garden State with some friends. Loved the movie - it was perfect for a gray, foggy August afternoon. As someone somewhere commented, like any first movie, it's got some flaws, but it says some really interesting things about home and family that I thought about quite a bit afterwards.

And, to finally get to this morning - on which I awoke grumpy and irritated, amazed that the weekend could really be done - I was at work early, listening to Lucy Kaplansky and plowing through the 60 e-mails that had accumulated in two days. At the fabulous hour of 8:40, the publisher called me into her office to discuss the new mandate from the board: Expenses bad. Revenues good.

Simple, right? But the problem here is that the editorial department of a publication only directly produces expenses. Yeah, we write good stories that make cool people want to buy the paper, which makes advertisers want to buy ads that are seen by those people -- but directly? All we do is spend money. Which means that I am going to spend the next four months of this Very Crucial year watching every penny in an already miniscule budget. At a job that I am already questioning every day. Not a good turn of events.

D. and I had planned to talk tonight about where we are re: kids. But he had a lousy day, too - so bad that I found him flat on the couch, sniffling with allergies or the start of a cold, watching the E True Hollywood Story. On Justine Bateman. Bad, bad, bad.

As for tomorrow? It starts with a dentist appointment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

And the winner is...

Just a quick update this morning - we are going to press today, and my week has already been lengthy and stressful. But, in happier news, we found out yesterday afternoon that neither of us is a carrier for cystic fibrosis. We had an appointment with the genetic counselors Monday morning, and they were really wonderful. I guess I was expecting something akin to a doctor's appointment - rush 'em in, find out what's wrong, rush 'em out. But the genetic counselor talked to us at length, both about our families' medical history and cystic fibrosis itself. She, and the doctor of genetics who came in for the end of the appointment, were warm and empathetic.

AND they called me on my cell phone - as I'd requested - mid-afternoon yesterday with the results. Very nice. D. and I were far too tired to even discuss this last night, but I imagine we'll be talking more soon about our plans for the kiddies. My current pack of birth control pills runs out at the end of next week. I ordered more last week in case the test turned out to be positive for CF... and hoped I wouldn't need them.

Of course, I e-mailed my parents and my sister with the news - a very succinct message from work basically saying "the test was fine." My mom wrote back immediately - you could almost hear her panting in anticipation - "So, are you going to start trying to have a baby right away?"

This is exactly why I almost didn't tell them about all this. But with the CF coming from my dad's side of the family, I somehow felt it was important to let them know we were being tested. In any case, I wrote her back, asking her to please not write me about this topic at work. For one, no one at work, other than one close friend, knows we're even considering kids. And for another, my job gets so busy during the day that I really don't want to be distracted by being annoyed at my mom for pestering me about babies.

So that's one hurdle jumped. I've got tons more stuff I've been wanting to blog about - including a great book by Laurie Colwin that I just read - but time has been really limited. Tomorrow I leave for a work trip to extremely northern Maine, and then we've got guests for the weekend - S. and T. and 13-month-old C. We haven't seen them since I came down with an evil stomach flu in their little Brooklyn apartment in the spring. With one bathroom in the place - and it being right next to their bedroom - it's a good thing they're close friends. So, more to come as time allows.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Veggie tales

Yesterday was a gray, rainy day, on top of which we were (are) watching Lucy, my sister's giant Airedale/standard poodle mix. Lucy was spayed last week, so we've been instructed to not leave her along for a single minute, to put the horrible Elizabethan collar on her at night, to keep her from running and playing. Let's just say that we've complied with most of those instructions - but once the e-collar began crashing into the bedroom walls last night, we pulled it off her furry head.

In any case, the weather and the need to stay home inspired me to deal with some of the excess produce we have on hand from our farm share. Up here in the frozen North, summer's bounty doesn't appear until mid-August and even early September, so it's just in the last two weeks that the veggies have really started to pile up. So, I decided to blanche and freeze some chard, kale and green beans. The farm had given out instructions in their fabulous newsletter - so I just boiled the greens for three minutes, the beans for two, then plunged them into ice water for the same amount of time. Drained them, chopped them, then stuck them into labeled freezer bags. I don't like to use frozen vegetables from the grocery store very much - but preparing them myself makes all the difference. Last year I froze corn, pumpkin and tomatoes, and we used every last bit of it.

This year I also tried making refrigerator pickles (also a suggestion from the farm newsletter). I sliced up some pickling cucumbers, then put them in a jar with several garlic gloves. Covered the whole thing with apple cider vinegar, some salt and some honey, put the lid on tightly and stuck it in the fridge. I'm not sure how long it will take for them to be ready, but I think I'll give 'em a try this afternoon. (Not exactly patient enough for canning, am I?)

For dinner I made a shredded chicken/soba noodle salad from Cooking Light. I'm usually a strict follower of recipes - as much as I cook, I don't often have the confidence to fiddle with a recipe - but I tweaked this one to make use of some cilantro (instead of basil) and small red cabbage we had on hand. Unfortunately, the farm carrots I'd been counting on using were mushy when I pulled them out of the fridge - I guess they need the protection of a plastic bag to stay crisp.

So, all in all, a successful vegetable day. Today I desperately want to get outside - it's a gorgeous day, and we've got some work to do, cutting back shrubs and weeds that are too close to the foundation of the house, so the painter can work quickly tomorrow. (Did I mention that we're having the house painted? It's a nice, dark green color that I thought would be more olive-y than it is. But it's fine nonetheless.) I'm not sure how we're going to work the Lucy situation, since she's not allowed to loiter around outside for fear of dirtying her incision. My guess is that D. will work outside, and I'll stay in with the pooch; she's my responsibility this weekend, and D. deserves to recover from his hellish week at work with some downtime outside.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The kid thing

I've been wanting to write about our thought process re: having kids, but haven't found a great way to put my thoughts together... until I went to the beach the other day and wrote a letter to my friend K. in Washington state. So in the interests of getting these thoughts down (so I can refer back to them when I wonder what the hell came over me that made me want kids) I thought I'd plagiarize myself and post that part of the letter:

Things have changed quite dramatically for me since I last wrote - though more internally than externally. I began a job search in the spring, then learned that my editor was doing the same - kinda scary on a staff of four. He won the race and was offered a job at X the same day I interviewed at Y. I was offered, and accepted, his job - along with a big raise. The change was satisfying for a while, and still is to some extent. I'm learning a lot about managing people, and about editing.

But at its most fundamental level, the work just isn't satisfying. I keep finding myself writing in my editor's letter about food - not exactly what my business readers are looking for. The good thing about all this is that getting the (previously) coveted title of editor has shown me how relatively unimportant the title is: Nothing really changed. I'm not happier; we have some more money, and so are paying off some debt and spending more on fancy groceries. But really everything is the same.

So somewhere in there my thoughts about having kids changed, too, I guess because I'd always felt my work was so important that I didn't want to accept the inevitable change in priorities that kids would cause. Now, the reverse seems to be true: I'm resentful of work entirely, and look forward to the "excuse" kids provide for leaving work at a reasonable hour. (Why those of us without kids - ie, me - feel so lame about leaving work to do something - or nothing - for ourselves, I don't know...)

In any case, things just kind of clicked for D. and me on the kid thing this summer. I'm scared and excited about the possibility of a little kid who's totally dependent on us. I know D. would be a great father and I think (I hope) I could be a not-too-screwed-up mother. So... we have an appointment Monday with a genetic counselor, since cystic fibrosis runs in my family. We've put discussion of this subject off until the results come back, just in case it turns out to be an issue. (CF is recessive, so we'd both have to have the gene to have a chance of passing it on.) Anyway, if the results come back ok, my guess is that we'd start trying pretty quickly.

[end of excerpt]

Reading that over again, I realize that I may sound as though I just want kids so I can bail out of work before 6:30 on a Tuesday. That's not it at all, but I really have trouble putting into words why I do want to pursue this. It's something about family being higher priority than work, and the ability to bring up a child. Argh. I have got to get over my nervousness/discomfort with saying/writing these things. More on this subject to come, for sure.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The vinegar theory

It's been a slow week for blogging, in large part because of the vast number of guests who've recently traipsed through our house. My parents were here, with Sam the Idiotic Poodle and Gabby the Wacky Spaniel Puppy. My uncle and his new wife - I'm having problems calling her my aunt, in part because it's so odd that the long-time bachelor uncle finally married, and in part because she's only six years older than I am - stayed with us for several days, too. And then my sister and her boyfriend, who live about a mile-and-a-half away, were over much of the time, along with their dog, Gigantic Lucy. So, counting us and Rocky the wonder shih tzu, that makes for eight people and four dogs. Which is a lot.

I got overloaded, as I tend to with that many people around, and turned completely functional: Do we have butter? Who's eating lunch here? Is everyone aware of the dinner reservations? (Yes, the family visit did revolve completely around food.) Spent much of Saturday - a gorgeous day, for once - laying on the couch with my eyes closed. Couldn't figure out if I caught D.'s miserable cold or if I was just playing dead to get some relief from all those people.

But it did lead me to a little epiphany: We tend to just lay around on the weekends, Sundays in particular. I often end the day feeling cranky, disgruntled and foggy, which makes for a lovely last evening before work. What I realized is that all that laying around - while it feels like relaxing - is actually counterproductive. I'd be much happier, and feel much better, if I actually got my lazy butt off the couch to take Rocky to the park or go for a run. So I gotta keep that in mind, starting next weekend.

One smart thing I did was to take two days off following the departure of the relatives. They were all gone by 10 yesterday morning, so I wrote the first draft of my accursed freelance piece and did assorted things that needed to be done - laundry, grocery shopping, ordered a new computer online since this one - made from components and bought from a friend of a friend - is a piece of unmitigated junk, balanced the checkbook and consulted with the guy who's painting the exterior of our house. That leaves today for a shower, a quick chat about the paint color and a trip to the library and the beach. Can't wait to sit by myself on the beach and read...

One last thing: Wanted to recap a bit of the food we pulled together for the hordes, much of which came from our farm share. We belong to a CSA, where we pay in the spring - when the farmers need the money for seed and repairs - and they provide us with fresh, organic vegetables for about 20 weeks starting in late June. We get our share on Fridays, and last week the harvest season really kicked in -- it filled an entire plastic garbage bag. We split the share w/ F. & S., but we still had an amazing amount of produce to use.

Friday night we ordered out for pizza - following our first-ever basement flood, we weren't up for cooking - and I made a gigantic salad, using salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, salad turnips and carrots from the farm, plus an avocado from the store, and an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. The salad turnips were a great addition - they've got a nice bite that contrasts with the sweet tomatoes and cukes.

Saturday we were much more ambitious, and came up with a dinner plan that would make use of lots of our excess. We bought enormous steaks, which I rubbed with a little orange juice and an amazing shiitake mushroom rub we bought from our local spice company. For side dishes, we had grilled squash - zuchini, yellow and pattypan squash - and onions, plus a tangy cucumber salad that used a combination of farm cukes, which were the pickling variety, and a European seedless cuke. We happened to have some really good Spanish olive oil that friends brought us from Barcelona last year, so I tossed the cukes, along with thinly sliced tomato and red onion, with that, salt, pepper and some white wine vinegar that also happened to be Spanish. It was, I thought, a perfect summer dinner - fresh, tasty and very satisfying.

And it reminds me of my sister's theory that, if you have more than three kinds of vinegar, you must admit the fact that you are a yuppie. I can count six varieties without even opening the pantry door - white, cider, red wine, balsamic, white wine, rice - so I guess we are doomed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A visit from the Critic

So I am having a job-hating day. Or, to be more precise, a day in which I ponder the many ways in which my coworkers infuriate me, a day in which I ponder hanging a sign on the back of my chair that says "please do not disturb the editor or she might actually bite you," a day in which I wonder what other careers my writing and sarcasm skills might qualify me for.

This day was preceded by a day in which I decided I am not actually qualified to hold my job. That was a GREAT day, I tell you. One in which Ginga's Critic guy took up residence in my head.

Critic guy caused me to wonder if all the thinking I've been doing lately about kids (ie, having them) just comes from the fact that I'm aggravated with work and looking for a reason to care less about it. Because I must have an ulterior motive for thinking about kids, right? I couldn't just be ready for the whole family thing... I gotta second-guess and analyze and drive myself frickin' insane over it all.

Ok, clearly someone here has very low blood sugar and is in need of snack. And maybe a beer. Actually, my parents arrive for a five-day visit in a matter of hours. Definitely a beer.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Wilco effect

So I'm just back from the Wilco show. Amazing. Loud, raucous, full of feedback... and totally excellent. I've got their songs reverberating through my head. And my brain is racing in a couple different ways.

First, the mostly fabulous husband declined to come with - but only because my sister and her b.f. were up for it. I love D. beyond belief, but sometimes it's such a relief to go to a show without him. I grew up, and survived through a bunch of crap, on music; to him, it's a diversion, something to entertain you if the Sox aren't on. So I'm totally the music geek who knows the names of the people in the band, which band they were in before this, what band that band inspired, etc. And he just sits there, looking pained when it gets too loud. And then, usually, he starts yawning. So it was kinda nice to just go and enjoy - not worry about anyone else.

Then, on top of that, is the apparent return of my Concert Skills. Which include:
~Making friends with tall boys who know the answer to crucial questions such as, Was that an Uncle Tupelo song? Or is that from the new album, to which I have not listened sufficiently?
~Making friends with tall boys who, because you smile at them, let you stand in front of them.
~Making friends with boys who laugh along with you at the ridiculous drunk, groping couple who are about to fall over in front of you.
~And last, but certainly not least, making friends with tall boys who help you strategically inch your way forward throughout the course of the show so that, by the all-important second encore, you have a clear view of the stage.

I have to admit, I was sorta waiting for the moment at which I had to disclose the ring finger on the left hand... but it never came. Still, those minor and totally inconsequential flirtations -- there's something to be said for them. Especially when, at 32, you're at your first rock show in ages and hoping you might not, in fact, be a TOTAL ancient hag.

As for the other interesting tidbit from tonight: I actually know the guy who plays keyboards for Wilco. He was in a band that my friends and I totally dug in college; in fact, I dated the guitar player in this band for quite some time. And if I remember correctly, Guitar Player and I broke up over Wilco Boy's little sister. Somehow, the fact that the keyboard player ended up in Wilco -- the band of whom a local paper said, if you hate them, you are opposed to art -- justifies the summer I wasted hanging out with his arrogant friend. They were good musicians -- that was never a question. Good boys? Not necessarily.

I think there's a whole 'nother post in here somewhere about the total joy of a great summer show, and the way my teenage summers revolved around kick-ass concerts, and maybe another one about the ability of rock 'n roll to quash the memory of even the most evil corporate meeting - and the drive home that took three-and-a-half hours instead of two.

Finally, a random thought: Since when is Jeff Tweedy so damn cute and chipper? I thought he was the king of angst. Guess kicking the painkillers - which, incidentally, he joked about onstage - cheers a guy up.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

If you were a 9.5-pound shih tzu...

... you would know that the safest place in a thunderstorm is in between my feet. While I'm cooking dinner. And that orzo - from the aforementioned dinner - makes for some really nice hair decor. Poor Rocky - it's thundering, she's terrified and I show my sympathy for her plight by over-tossing the orzo so it lands on her little black head. And then call D. over to laugh at her with me.

So, a first in my blog: I Will Now Address All Three Designated Topics in One Post.

Running: Today was to be the day of the easy, post-race run. A nice, steady 2.5 or 3 miles around the neighborhood. But D. couldn't run with me before work, so I slept late. Then he called me at work, and we discussed running after work. For once, we both arrived home when we said we would, and we again discussed running. But the western sky was dark and gloomy, and a colleague about an hour north of us had earlier e-mailed me about the torrential thunderstorms he was experiencing. The ones that were Headed Our Way. You can see where this is going, right?

So we decided to eat dinner early, and then run after the storm passed. That was when D. made his fateful statement: "Would it be bad to have a glass of wine if we're going to run later?"

To my credit, I didn't immediately capitulate. I said, no, let's wait and have wine after we run. We started making dinner, and he strolled over to the window. "Looks like there are lots of storms out there - not just one," he said. Again, I fended off his evil influence: "Let's look at the forecast."

Time between consultation of online forecast ("scattered thundershowers") and wine hitting glass? About 12.4 seconds.

Chance of running tomorrow, with an 8:30 meeting and a 6:30 dinner date at my sister's? Absolutely zero.

Cooking: We're having one of my favorite easy summer meals tonight, orzo with zucchini and feta, with zucchini from the farm and fancy schmancy organic feta. I love the sharp, salty bite of the feta, combined with the warm, crispy zucchini. It's a recipe I think my mom got from Weight Watchers, of all places - you cook the orzo, combine it with quartered, sliced zucchini that you microwave with a tiny bit of water for a minute, then toss w/ feta, olive oil, oregano (also from the farm) and black pepper. If you're D., you also cook a hot dog and then slice that up and toss it in. (Note: I have no objection to hot dogs in any way, especially those that Answer to a Higher Authority. Just prefer my orzo unadulterated.) Anyway, the whole thing is done in about 25 minutes, and it's totally satisfying and yummy. And it goes really well with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Writing: Kinda a big coup for me today. An old editor of mine - someone with whom I'd parted professionally under less-than-ideal circumstances - has a new gig, editing a new magazine published by a non-journalistic organization. I was vaguely aware of this, but hadn't given it much thought. Then I walked into work today to see an e-mail from an unfamiliar sender, but with the following subject: "Old Editor says you have to write an article for the first issue of our new magazine."

That was pretty damn cool. So a few e-mails and one phone conversation later, I got me an assignment to write for the launch issue of this new pub. The turnaround time is quick - 10 days. And the subject is kinda daunting. And I think I'm older than the editor who assigned the piece to me. BUT. The pay? Is awesome. I made D. guess the rate, which is a really mean thing to do to a non-writer, and he didn't even come close. But when I told him, this was his response: "That's a puppy!" Which it is. One purebred, long-haired, half-sibling of Rocky. Wicked cool.

Now I'm gonna drink me some more wine, and get another bowl of orzo. And, in case it wasn't already clear, not run.

Sunday, August 01, 2004


This morning, we ran the 10k, in a mild drizzle under overcast skies. It went about as well as can be expected when you're a mediocre runner - at best - who hasn't trained much. I finished in 1:11:22, which is about five minutes slower than last year. Nothing thrilling, but at least I got it done.

The race is a great one - 5,000 people, with tons of spectators along the way. The two years I've run it, the weather hasn't been great - I can't imagine what the crowds must be like when it's not raining. To have total strangers cheering for you is amazing. After about 3rd grade, when do you ever have random strangers rooting you on? It's really cool.

I walked for about 100 yards between miles 4 and 5 - my legs felt like wobbly bits of rubber, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to finish. But that little rest was all it took - I made my way through the hills from mile 5 on without too much trouble. It definitely helped that D. was running with me. He could smoke this race if he wanted - he's a natural athlete, and he's fast. But he decided to run with me, which was cool. I tend to get surly when I run, and don't treat him very nicely - in part because I don't have much extra oxygen to speak with! - but he's learned that I don't mean anything by it.

Only weird thing was that I came very close to fainting after the race was over - we'd gotten our water, turned in our timing chips and were waiting in line at the food tent when my vision started to recede. I was looking at the ground, grabbing D's hand to keep me steady, and I started seeing weird, almost hallucinatory flashes in the grass. And when I looked up at the crowd and the sky, I couldn't really see them. Scary. But I finally decided to just sit in the grass for a few minutes, and everything leveled out. A nice guy let us back in line - after commenting on my face, which is typically BRIGHT red around the edges and totally pale on my cheeks, causing a nice funhouse effect - and we headed in for juice, a banana and a bagel.

I never really stretched like I usually do after a run, so I've been hobbling around the house all afternoon with sore ankles and heels. We did a quick trip to the grocery store, then lounged around all afternoon reading the paper and dozing. Very nice - except for the insane heat and humidity. I'm so grateful this weather held off until after the race - it woulda killed me. We're thinking about doing another 10k in September - by then, humidity shouldn't be much of an option.

On tap for tonight: "Happy" steaks, as my friend Robin calls naturally raised meat, and kale and potatoes from the farm. It's a long delayed meal - we ended up having pizza three times last week - and I'm looking forward to it. Then some soft-serve, and perhaps the beginning of what D. and I intend to be our own private documentary film festival. There are so many great ones out these days, and I'm woefully behind.